The Broken Kingdoms read-along END

The Broken KingdomsAnd here we are at the end of The Broken Kingdoms read-along! Our host is Grace from Books Without Any Pictures, so head over there to see what everyone else had to say. Also feel free to leave your link in my comments and I’ll put you on a blog-hop list 🙂

If you’re interested, the read-along for the final book, The Kingdom of Gods, begins on 10 February, but I’ll post the full schedule later this week.

There will, of course, be SPOILERS below.

1.  We finally meet T’vril in his new role as Lord Arameri.  Is he what you expected?
Yes. T’vril’s a smart, organised man and I thought he deserved to be on the throne. He seems to be a good ruler, not crazy, lazy or tyrannical (like Scimina or Relad would have been) I found him a bit harsh in the way he treated Oree and when he cut out Serymn’s tongue, but it’s understandable.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was almost exclusively between gods and the world’s highest-ranking aristocrats, and the society of both books is based on hierarchy. This book is told from there perspective of a commoner. Naturally, T’vril would not treat Oree the same way he’d treat Yeine, and Oree would also perceive T’vril very differently. And of course T’vril sees her primarily as a weapon, given that demon blood has just been used to kill a bunch of godlings and almost brought the wrath of Nahadoth down on Sky/Shadow. At this point Oree presents a danger and an opportunity that needs to be dealt with so I can understand why T’vril is being so severe about it. I thought it was cruel of him to cut out Serymn’s tongue until it became clear that this prevented her from identifying Oree as a demon.

I imagine T’vril hasn’t had the easiest time as Lord Arameri either. He’s not a full blood, he was never in line for the throne, and he only got it because Yeine commanded it after overthrowing Itempas. Obviously the highest-ranking Arameri would not welcome him with open arms, and it’s probably only the magic of his sigil that prevents him from being killed by one of them. He can’t afford to be a nice guy; he has to be strict and ruthless. However, he seems to have some underlying kindness, and is very rational.

2.  Oree is given a choice, to live as the Arameri’s weapon, or to die.  What would you do in that position?
Erm… I don’t think I have an answer for that. The weapon choice seemed ok at first – the idea of getting a salary and living in Sky or somewhere comfortable  without having to work certainly appeals. I could study, paint, work on my magic skills, and every now and then someone would take a blood sample. And I’d be easy to rescue if kidnapped or wounded.

But it’s a leash, as T’vril admits, or a “Golden Chain”, as Oree named the chapter. Being unable to leave with the possibility of being murdered remotely? No thanks. Plus, it would mean living amongst snooty Arameri, or living in relative solitude in some safe location. I’m not the most sociable person, but that sounds like a very lonely life.

It seemed like an impossible situation for Oree, so I was relieved when Itempas came up with a solution that satisfied T’vril.

3.  Do you think that Oree made the right decision by sending Shiny away?  How do you feel about Yeine’s role here?
As much as I didn’t want Oree and Shiny to become a couple, I liked them together. Perhaps because they didn’t suddenly jump into bed while still in Sky but gradually became intimate friends. Oree had time to come to terms with Madding’s death, and eventually having sex with Shiny just seemed like the natural thing to do.

So I was upset when Yeine came in and ruined everything to appease Nahadoth. Nahadoth seems overly cruel, acting too much, as Yeine suggests, like the evil god people believe him to be. Shiny may still be human for hundreds or thousands of years – can’t he spend a few years with Oree?

But Yeine has to balance rehabilitation with punishment. Ten years would be like a few minutes to a god as old as Nahadoth to it would seem like Itempas has hardly been punished at all yet. Leaving Oree seems a small thing compared to, for example, the way Sieh and Nahadoth were tortured and used as sex slaves. And according to book 1, Itempas can shorten his punishment if he learns “to love truly”. I just hope that forcing him to lose a chance at love and be alone again will not be detrimental to his rehabilitation. After all, the God’s War was started because of his loneliness. And as Oree says, it’s natural for humans to love, and mortal lovers may be what Itempas needs.

I think Oree made the right choice. Naturally I’d prefer her to live, and I think she’s right in her concerns about how her death might affect Shiny. I was also relieved that he understood that she sent him away only because Yeine and Nahadoth had forced her to; it eases the pain for them both.

4.  What did you think of the ending of the book? Were you satisfied?
Bittersweet; every good thing has a tragic counterpart. Dateh’s defeated by the dead godlings are lost forever. I was upset that Oree lost her magic, but at least she gets to live on in freedom, even though T’vril and Yeine know she’s a demon. Yeine is content to let Oree live and might even know about the baby, but she also has to keep punishing Itempas for Nahadoth’s sake. I was sad that she had to send Shiny away, but I’m glad he realised why she was sending her away. Also, the prospect of the child is exciting – what will come from a demon/god union? Very promising for the final book. I’m not sure that forcing Oree and Shiny to part was a good idea though. So, not entirely satisfied with the ending, but I don’t think it’s meant to be that satisfying.

It was good to hear the rest of Shiny’s side of the God’s War story. His actions were still contemptible, but it gives a completely different view of his madness, and once again it’s very relatable in human terms. I also liked that his tale provides the link to Shahar Arameri. She was the child who asked Itempas to kill her father and got a knife from him instead (this story was also told in the Appendix of book 1). And then she grew up and became his mad, manipulative, murderous lover. I’d like to read a story about her actually; she sounds really fucked up and she basically created the Itempas we saw in book 1. Fitting origin for the Arameri family.

5.  How did The Broken Kingdoms compare to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms?  Which did you like better?
I think I prefer book 1. Several of the characters I liked in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms were quite harsh and less likeable in The Broken Kingdoms – Sieh, T’vril, Nahadoth and Yeine. I can understand the difference in the portrayal though – this book is narrated by a commoner and I know the characters would be more relatable if we saw more of them and got their stories. But I miss the ones I got to know in book 1. The Broken Kingdoms puts a bit of a damper on my nostalgia.

The first book also had a much more triumphant, satisfyingly happy ending. This one was partly happy, but also quite sad – lots of dead godlings including Madding, Oree loses her magic, and Shiny has to leave. It’s not really a fair way to judge the book, I know, but I will add that it doesn’t make the book any less good, just a bit less enjoyable.

That said, I found Oree to be a slightly more interesting character than Yeine, and I like her relationship with Madding more than Yeine’s relationship with Nahadoth. I also like learning more about the godlings and their different affinities, and the magic in general is more dynamic. Overall this is a more colourful book. Looking forward to the read-along for the final book!

Other
 – Wouldn’t there be some New Lights who know Oree is a demon? The ones who helped take her blood, for example.

– Lol, I love how Oree’s joke about saving money on firewood by sleeping with Itempas comes true.

Links:
Books Without Any Pictures
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The Broken Kingdoms read-along part 3

The Broken KingdomsHi everyone, and welcome to part 3 of the The Broken Kingdoms read-along. I’m the host for this section, covering chapters 11-16, so be sure to leave a link to your post in the comments and I’ll add it to the blog-hop list 🙂

Spoilers for book 1 are no longer an issue, but there will of course be loads of spoilers for this book, in both the questions and answers.

_____________________

1. Oree chooses not to reveal Shiny’s identity to Dateh. Did you agree with her decision? What might have happened if she’d chosen otherwise?
I really wanted her to tell Dateh the truth, but I guess that’s because I just wanted him to be devastated by it. He probably wouldn’t have believed her though.

But if he did? Well Oree thought it would be too risky to tell “madmen” something so devastating to their beliefs, and she may be right. What if their belief in Itempas proves to be more important to them than Itempas himself? As Oree says about Itempas, “He was never what we wanted him to be”. Dateh’s beliefs have no room for the real Itempas, who was Nahadoth’s lover and loves him still. He’s committed himself to an insanely dangerous and ambitious plan that he cannot back away from now. He might prefer to kill or imprison Itempas than to acknowledge the truth about him.

Now that they’re out of the New Lights’ clutches though, I’m eager to see what happens if (when?) Dateh learns the truth.

2. Madding’s dead 😦 How do you feel about his death? What do you make of his last words to Oree?
Damn it, I was afraid of this. His relationship with Oree was too good, too comforting. It felt like he was going to die, sacrificed to the needs of the narrative. And his death is so very useful. It cements the reader’s hatred for Dateh. It gives us a chance to see what Dateh does with the gods’ bodies (I’d completely forgotten that Role’s heart was missing). It shows how much Itempas cares about his children.

It also introduces so many complications for Oree. She called Madding. Her blood was used to kill him. I wasn’t her fault, but she’s dangerous in ways she can’t fully control.

It was such a sad and touching scene. Madding doesn’t suddenly fear or revile her – he says he always knew she was special and tells her how much he loves her. I also like that he said “Don’t let him use you […] You’re more than just a weapon.” Presumably he’s speaking about Dateh but I actually thought he was talking about Shiny at first, warning her that Shiny might use her as an excuse to hunt down demons again, and he shouldn’t let her.

3. Itempas has seen what terrible things people do in his name. What do you make of Dateh’s interpretation of Itempan faith? Could this help rehabilitate Itempas or will he simply see the New Lights as a delusional sect?
I loved that bit in the dinner scene where Shiny asks how how killing Itempas’s children can be seen as serving him. Here we have a priest lecturing his god, explaining why god would want them to commit these atrocities, when in fact that god only sees his children being murdered.

But Dateh’s idea of things does make sense in a crazy kind of way. The godlings are chaotic; driving them away restores order. Nahadoth is a god of chaos with a grudge against humanity, so why not kill him? Itempas himself set a precedent for such cruelty in the God’s War. And Dateh actually says they worship Itempas because he’s such a great killer. Which is pretty creepy…

I have no idea how Itempas is going to be changed by this. He might want to lay down stricter laws, perhaps make some kind of bible. “Thou shalt not murder my children and eat their hearts.” But hopefully he’ll realise that the Three were meant to  rule together and a faith that will only acknowledge one of them is inherently dysfunctional.

4. After Madding’s death, Oree loses the will to live, except to stop the New Lights. Shiny wants to kill her because she’s a demon. Do you think she’ll survive the events of the novel? Is it safer to wipe out the demons?
Up until the last chapter where Oree’s wounds were attended to, I thought there was a pretty good chance she’d die trying to stop the New Lights. Now, I’m not so sure. She might be willing to sacrifice herself as a kind of response to Madding’s murder, but I hope she doesn’t

On the existence of demons… Yes, they’re a danger to the gods. And more importantly, they can be used by humans as weapons against the gods. So from that perspective it’s understandable that they should be wiped out.

But that’s assuming the gods should not have any threat to their immortality, except for each other, and that they should definitely not have to fear humans. But should the gods be kept sacred in this way? This is a different world and the gods are very powerful beings rather than sacred ones, if that makes sense? Does their power mean they should also have the power not to fear or even care about humanity?

I don’t want anyone – especially people like Dateh – murdering gods. I think the gods are awesome. However, since the gods can very easily kill or harm humans, isn’t it fair for the playing field to be levelled a bit? The gods might be forced to treat humans with more respect. They wouldn’t be quite so intimidating, but I don’t think people would generally go round killing them in the same way that we don’t kill other people just because we can. The world’s societies could become a mix of gods and humans, especially if godlings are allowed to have children with humans again.

Mortality might be a good thing for them too. Earlier in the novel, Oree was recounting a bit of history and said that mortality was considered a gift, something humans had and gods lacked. Demon’s blood is a threat to gods who don’t want to die, but what if one wanted to? If a god got tired of existing, or wanted to live like a human, knowing that death was inevitable? Demon blood could give them that option.

And as Madding said to Oree, she’s more than just a weapon. Just because someone is potentially dangerous – a martial arts expert, for example – doesn’t give us a reason to kill that person. Why should it be different for demons?

5. Itempas shares his feelings about his actions in the God’s War. Have your feelings about him changed at all?
I’ve warmed to him. Not so keen to see him punished as I was before. He’s been more helpful to Oree, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how polite he was to the beggars who helped them.

His account of the God’s War also makes him so much more relatable. He said he loved Enefa. Maybe not in the same way he loves Nahadoth, but he didn’t hate her, which was the impression given in book 1. Deciding to kill Enefa was perhaps a case of him taking his own desire for order too far. Kind of like the New Lights? And like Dateh he chose a path and couldn’t turn back. That would have meant facing up to the wrath of Nahadoth and all the godlings, when it was in his power to subdue them instead. He chose arrogance over humility (no surprise there).

It’s very cowardly, but very human. How often do people try to avoid facing up to the mistakes they’ve made? Or get arrogant and aggressive as a defence? Sometimes it seems easier to live with the consequences of your mistake – even if that means being miserable – rather than admitting you were wrong and setting things right.

6. There’s something odd about Hado. Shiny says to him “You are not quite yourself. […] Something of him lingers.” Oree notes that Hado’s shadow is darker than the non-magical things around him. Could he be more than just a spy, and if so, what?
Perhaps he’s allowed himself to be possessed by a god or godling, to help take down the New Lights.  Since his form looks so dark to Oree, maybe it’s a child of Nahadoth, or even Nahadoth himself. Which would be great, because then he knows about Dateh’s plans. However, I’m not sure if Nahadoth would be so willing to work closely with the Arameri after being their slave for 2000 years, so maybe it’s someone else.

Other

– It’s weird that Oree still prays to Itempas, even when he’s standing right next to her. She still thinks of herself as an Itempan (albeit a lapsed one) and of Itempas as her god even though she now knows what he’s really like.

– If Shiny can use magic to defend himself – like he did with the Order-Keepers – how come he hasn’t been able to use it against Dateh and the other New Lights when they kill him?

– I’ve been wondering about the extra limbs Oree sometimes sees on Dateh. Could be the result of eating godling hearts, which he says is the seat of their divine essence when in human form. Perhaps the remainders of the dead godlings are contained within him?

– Can’t Oree or Itempas pray to Nahadoth and tell him about Dateh’s plot that way? Unless Itempas has already done this.

– Yay, so glad we get to see the altered Sky palace! So cool how Oree can now ‘see’ because the walls are made of magical materials.

Links
Dab of Darkness
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The Broken Kingdoms read-along part 2

The Broken KingdomsI’m really enjoying this book, and I find myself completely invested in Oree and Madding’s relationship, while getting quite anxious about the fates of the characters. So let me get on with today’s section, so I can get back to reading. Part 2 covers chapters 5-10 and our host is Susan from Dab of Darkness. Head over to her blog to leave your link and hop through the other posts.

Once again, I’ve put spoilers for book 1 in white text. However, since we’re halfway through the book now, spoilers for The Broken Kingdoms will be plentiful.

 

1) We learned some tidbits about Oree’s father in this section. Who, or what, do you think he was and what do you think of the suspicions about mob madness that Lady Serymn brought up?
Oree’s father says that she uses paint to open a way to the power within her. I assume that his singing does the same for him with sound. I think he and Oree are probably part demon (see question 5).

Damn Serymn. I know she’s trying to manipulate Oree, but her argument about Nahadoth influencing the chaos and anger of a mob makes sense. It fits in perfectly with Jemisin’s complex characters and the Nahadoth we met in book 1. I liked him a lot, but he was – and probably still is – very dangerous.

Oree only knows him as an evil being, so I hope she’s not persuaded that killing him would be right or acceptable. But she knows that Shiny loves him. And at least it’s common knowledge that the destruction of Maroland was the Arameri’s fault. Anyway, Madding told her that the world would be destroyed if one of the Three died; I hope she hasn’t forgotten this.

 

2) Shiny has some stern views about the relationship between Oree and Madding. What do you think of him testing her love for Madding? Do you think she said yes to Madding for the right reasons?
Shiny’s attitude makes perfect sense in terms of [his feelings about Nahadoth, as described in book 1. In that read-along I mentioned that Itempas was so insanely jealous and monogamous that he chose to murder Enefa, start the God’s War, and then enslave Nahadoth and the other Enefadeh for thousands of years rather than share Nahadoth. His idea of a perfect world is to be alone in the universe with Nahadoth].

Clearly, he can’t even fathom the idea of loving and lusting after more than one person, and this is a major part of what makes him so dangerous and dysfunctional. I was worried for a moment that Oree would take his criticisms to heart, but she’s not some small-minded Itempan – she’s strong-willed, she can think for herself, and understands the complexities of love. Unlike Itempas.

Did Oree choose to stay with Madding for the right reasons? Well I don’t think she has the luxury of acting according to the right reasons at the moment, or if she can think in terms of right and wrong reasons at all. I don’t see anything wrong with her reasons – caring about Madding, wanting to protect him, wanting to protect herself, wanting to be free and independent, wanting to be safe. The problem is that she can’t have all of those things at once.

I think Shiny’s behaviour makes her feel more resolute about her love for Madding, rather than guilt-tripping her into staying. She stays because she cares about him and the anguish he’s suffering. And since they’re both in danger anyway, being together will bring them some comfort. Oree is sacrificing her independence, but it’s her choice, and she believes Madding understands the significance of that choice.  At any rate, I was happy that she made that decision because I just love them as a couple, and I wanted them to be able to stay together.

Of course, having the holes open up shortly after changed everything.

 

3) The House of the Risen Sun has some followers with skills. What do you think of the holes, The Empty, and what has happened to Oree’s friends, both mortal and immortal? Shiny?
Have any of you ever experienced sleep paralysis? It’s happened to me a few times in my life. I sleep too much and then find myself awake, but unable to move or speak. It’s horrible, like having your mind trapped in a dead body, so I make what feels like a huge mental and physical effort to move or make a sound. It’s extremely difficult and quite scary; I’d going insane if stuck like that (although it’s very effective at making me get my lazy ass out of bed once the paralysis is over).

I imagine that the Empty is an even more torturous version of that, and Oree’s attempt to resist by creating a space she can perceive requires the same kind of mental effort it takes to throw yourself out of sleep paralysis.

It’s scary to know that Dateh has such power and that the godlings are trapped in The Empty; I hope they have the fortitude to withstand it. I’m particularly concerned about Madding. Is Shiny in there too? The New Lights don’t know he’s Itempas do they? In which case they’re torturing their own god. I’m still enjoying the irony rather than feeling sorry for him.

 

4) Are the ambitious plans of the House of the Risen Sun justified? Noble? Or is there a particular follower you already want to see tossed into The Empty for a spell?
I can understand why they see Nahadoth as a threat. They’re don’t have all the information (like the fact that killing one of the Three would destroy the world), Nahadoth has a frightening reputation, and reasons to be very very angry. But I don’t think murdering him is a good idea. If they fail, he’ll be even angrier. If they kill him, the Gray Lady might take revenge. It seems like an overambitious plan where success might be just as bad or even worse than failure.

Why not try appealing to the Gray Lady? They don’t have to worship her, just call to her and discuss the issue. On the other hand, I guess killing Nahadoth is also their attempt to help Itempas reclaim power, making them more powerful in the process. Oh, the irony. Nahadoth is the only thing Itempas loves, and his worshippers want to murder him. Will this help Itempas understand what he’s done? How he’s spread hatred and intolerance throughout the world?

I can’t stand the New Lights. I’d toss them all into the Empty, including that snotty little initiate Jont. Some people deserve a taste of the religious beliefs they force on others.

 

5) Lord Dateh, the Nypri, requested a bit of Oree’s blood for study. What do think he will do with it and what part do you think the House of the Risen Sun hopes Oree to play in their plans?
Oree explained that humans acquired through the demons – the children of gods and mortals, who then mated with humans. The flip side is that mortal blood brought death – all the demons were mortal. And [the blood of demons was fatal to the gods, which is why they were all hunted down and killed, and why Itempas kept one aside to poison Enefa. But a few probably survived, or at least their bloodlines trickled through the general human population.] Since Oree has such powerful magical abilities, she’s probably part demon. [Which means her blood could be used to poison gods and godlings, and the New Lights could use it to kill Nahadoth.]

 

Other

 – I absolutely love Oree and Madding. That one scene in his house was even hotter than the scenes with [Yeine and Nahadoth, especially since the sex can just be fun, casual and loving rather than being potentially fatal and destroying all the furniture]. They also have quite an unusual interracial relationship, not just because it’s between a human and a godling, but because Oree’s black and, in her magical sight, Madding is a kind of greenish sapphire colour.

– I thought it was funny that Madding complained that Oree’s bed gives him a bad back. Can an immortal godling have a bad back? Mind you, he’d probably let himself have a bad back as part of his way of playing at being human.

 

Quotes
“[…]they follow the creed of the Bright: that which disturbs the order of society must be eliminated, regardless of whether it caused the disturbance.” She rolled her eyes. “You’d think they’d get tired of parroting Itempas and start thinking for themselves after two thousand years.”
I love this assessment of the Itempan’s rigid, narrow-minded faith. I think it also functions as a criticism of the monotheisms in our world. There are plenty of parallels between Itempas and the Christian/Muslim/Jewish god – he’s very jealous, very petty worshipping any other god was often met with persecution. And today, loads of people stick blindly to ancient rules made up by people from societies that we can barely even conceive of any more.

 

Blog Hop!
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The Broken Kingdoms read-along part 1

The Broken KingdomsI read some really bad and boring books over the past few weeks, so returning to the Inheritance Trilogy felt like going out for drinks and dinner with a good friend after spending way too much time at work. Part 1 takes us from the Prologue through to the end of Chapter 4: Frustration (watercolour). Our host is Grace from Books Without Any Pictures, so head over to her blog for links to the other participants, and be sure to leave your own in her comments and mine 🙂

I mentioned in the introduction that this book can be read as a stand-alone, but I hadn’t realised how that would complicate things in this read-along. Grace’s questions are free from spoilers for book 1 (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms), so it’s a good thing she was first instead of me, because it might not have occurred to me to be so careful!

I have included some HTK-spoiler content in my answers, but I put that in white text so you don’t accidentally read it if you don’t want to. If you’ve read book 1, just highlight the text to see it. If you plan on reading the comments, be warned that you might encounter HTK spoilers there. Since this is only part one, I’ve kept the main text free of spoilers for The Broken Kingdoms.

1.  What do you think so far of Oree Shoth?  Do you like her as much as Yeine?
I like her just as much, and I admire her even more. She’s blind, but I don’t think of her as disabled – she’s so adept at getting around, completely independent. I’m amazed at how sharp all her other senses are – how she feels people’s movements, detects subtle differences in sound, and can even distinguish different colours of chalk by their smells! Jemisin doesn’t reduce Oree to her blindness though; like Yeine and other major characters, you can’t think of Oree only in terms or one or two characteristics because there’s so much more to her. I particularly like how openly sexual she is; she’s even had a serious relationship with a godling. While I don’t like romance, I do appreciate it when an author takes this sort of approach to a character’s sexuality – making it an important and multi-dimensional aspect of their lives, but without defining them in terms of one all-consuming romance.

While Yeine could have been described, in part, as a woman [used by gods], Oree describes herself as “a woman plagued by gods”. The mortal/god relationships of the previous book was part of what made it such a great read, so I’m curious to see how that plays out here.

2.  Sky is now referred to by its inhabitants as Shadow, and we get to see the city from the perspective of the commoners rather than the ruling Arameri.  What do you think of the book’s setting?
I like the change of perspective. At first I thought that the city had turned into a tourist attraction or pilgrimage site after the growth of the World Tree and other changes, but then I realised we didn’t see the city at all in book 1, so the pilgrims and souvenir traders probably aren’t new. It’s just changed now that there are two more gods to acknowledge and a whole bunch of godlings living among the mortals.

The city is also so much more lively and colourful than the palace, especially with all the new religions clashing and seeing how the World Tree has become part of the city structure. I’m slightly surprised to find that [the Arameri are still so powerful and apparently stable. I thought they might get ripped to shreds after the Enefadeh were freed. Is T’vril still ruling? Whoever’s in charge seems to be doing their job well.]

Curious to see how the various socio-political aspects of the city play out – the fact that it’s illegal for commoners to use magic, the new religious sects that are emerging, clashes with the barely-tolerant Itempan priests, the strange presence of godlings as both gods and citizens, etc.

3.  The gods play a much different role in this book than in “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms,” and spend their time interacting with the people of Sky/Shadow.  What do you think of the gods and godlings that we’ve met thus far?  Who are your favorites?
This is so much fun – the godlings can be friendly, helpful, terrifying, playful, sexy, quirky. They have jobs, or at least do the kinds of work that humans do. They’re chaotic and unpredictable. Even gross, like when Oree talks about how she’s used to seeing “god leavings” – a splash of bodily fluids left by a godling getting used to being in human form or just amusing themselves by adopting the bodily functions of humans. It’s such a stark contrast to the first book. Before, there were just four gods kept on a tight leash; now there’s a riot of them.

I’d wanted to learn more about them, and I find it interesting that they can be more powerful by being true to their affinity. Sieh, for example, is powerful because he’s made an effort to be childlike all the time, for thousands, perhaps millions of years. I suppose the human version might be becoming confident and successful by learning to take advantage of your strengths. I like that the godlings can’t just be powerful but have to work at it.

I like all the major ones so far. Madding is sweet, although a tad sleazy as a god of obligation, who works as a usurer (“investor”) and drug dealer (“independent apothecary”). Lil is fantastically creepy. And it was wonderful seeing Sieh again. I like that we saw the spiteful, cruel side to his childish persona as well. It barely emerged in book 1. The scene where his treatment of Shiny swings between violent rage and unhappy petulance was fantastic. I love the way his emotions shift when Yeine pitches up. At first he’s angry, but when his mother is there he reveals the vulnerability beneath that anger.

4.  Any predictions on who or what could be killing the godlings?
Not really. Given that both Shiny and Oree both have magical powers that they cannot fully control, perhaps one of them might have unintentionally played a part. Or maybe someone is channelling their power, kind of like [Itempas used Enefa’s power to bind the Enefadeh]. The murder (will it be murders?) might be the result of religious fanaticism – perhaps Itempans with a grudge against the godlings whose presence is an insult to what used to be a hegemonic monotheism. Itempas is all about order; the godlings are chaotic, and probably confusing to the Itempan faith. Which is probably why they weren’t allowed on the mortal plane when Itempas ruled solo.

Anyway, I wouldn’t bet on anyone or anything just yet.

5.  For everyone who read the last book, Shiny’s identity should be relatively easy to guess, even though it hasn’t been explicitly stated yet.  Do you think his punishment is suiting, or is it too much?  Is there any chance he’ll come out of this as a normal person?  How do you think Oree will react when she finds out?
[Too much? No way. That crazy fuckwit is getting exactly what he deserves. You know what one of my favourite parts of this section was? Sieh taunting Itempas and kicking him until his bones broke. At the risk of sounding like a complete sadist, I relished Sieh’s petty vengeance, mostly because of how I feel about Itempas, and but also because of how it builds on Sieh’s character:]

Why shouldn’t I kick him to death now and again? He’s not even trying to fulfil the terms you set. He might as well entertain me.

[And I just loved the irony of Itempas’s own priests dragging him away to be beaten to death. This is the kind of fucked up institution you made asshole!]

However, Oree’s friendship makes me more sympathetic. I dislike Shiny, but I could start caring about him because she does. Already I feel a teeny bit warmer toward him because he’s become some kind of companion to her, doing nice things like cooking breakfast and going out to buy her favourite fish. The way he stormed in to rescue her from the Order-Keepers seemed very impressive, at least until it became clear that he was compelled to do so because of the rules of his punishment. A scary possibility is that he might actually come to enjoy seeing Oree in danger because it means he experiences a temporary glow of magical power.

I don’t know about him being normal. [Can a god ever be ‘normal’? Rather I would hope for him to be… well-adjusted? Sane? Dignified?] I assume that his experiences as a mortal will eventually change him, but I don’t know how. Learning humility would be a good start.

I don’t know how Oree will react, but I can’t wait to find out 😀 What will be particularly interesting is how she reacts to [the fact that he’s the god of the Itempans, a sect that Oree knows to be violent and authoritarian]. Also curious to see how the readers who don’t know Shiny’s identity or history will feel about him.

Quotes:

He was always hot to the touch. Assuming we could come to some agreement on the sleeping arrangements, next winter I could save a fortune on firewood. 😀

Naked before Madding, I felt for the first time that someone saw the whole of me, not just my parts. He found my eyes fascinating, but he also waxed lyrical about my elbows. He liked it all.

Other:

– I like the way the chapters are all categorised according to a style of painting or artwork. It emphasises that this is Oree’s depiction of events, much like Yeine’s backtracking and side comments personalised her narrative in HTK.

 – Interesting that people not only form couples but “triples”. I like that. I wonder if the city has any other kinds of sexual partnerships.

– I wonder why Shiny is magical at dawn – [that was Enefa/Yeine’s time of day, not Itempas’s]

– Strange image when Oree is in bed with Madding and she can see him because he glows with magic, but she can’t see her own body except when parts emerge as a dark shape against Madding’s light.

– Wow, Oree at the end of chapter 4! Surely she can’t go back to the city after that? This is the kind of thing that makes read-along schedules tough, especially since I make myself wait until Friday to start the next section!

Blog Hop
Books Without Any Pictures
Dab of Darkness
Tethyan Books
All I am, a redhead

The Broken Kingdoms read-along: Schedule

The Broken KingdomsI enjoyed The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms so much that before I’d even finished the book I signed up as a read-along host for the rest of N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy. I’ll be joined by Susan from Dab of Darkness, and Grace from Books Without Any Pictures. However, we still have room for one or two more hosts, so if you’re interested, let me know!

If you want to blog along or just read along, then leave a comment and I’ll add your email to the list so you’ll get the discussion questions on the Saturday before the posts go out. And don’t worry if you haven’t read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – the books in the trilogy are all connected, but you can read them on their own.

Here is the schedule:

The Broken Kingdoms – 396 pages
Week 1 Prologue – Chapter 4 (96 pages) Jan. 6th Books Without Any Pictures
Week 2 Chapters 5-10 (105 pages) Jan. 13th Dab of Darkness
Week 3 Chapters 11-16 (98 pages) Jan. 20th Violin in a Void
Week 4 Chapter 17 – END (96 pages) Jan. 27th Books without Any Pictures

The Kingdom of Gods – 575 pages
Week 1 Prologue – Chapter 4 (104 pages) Feb. 10th Dab of Darkness
Week 2 Chapters 5-10 (115 pages) Feb. 17th Violin in a Void
Week 3 Chapters 11-13 (119 pages) Feb. 24th Books Without Any Pictures
Week 4 Chapters 14-17 (117 pages) March 3rd Dab of Darkness
Week 5 Chapter 18 – END (116 pages) March 10th Violin in a Void

As I mentioned, there is still room for one or two more hosts as it won’t be a problem for one of us to give up a session or two. Either  way, we’d love to see you in the comments!

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms read-along: THE END

The Hundred Thousand KingdomsAnd so ends our read-along of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I’m so glad I took part in this and I’m particularly glad to be your host for the last part, because it was EPIC and so much of it took me completely by surprise. This last section covers everything from chapter 23 onward and I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did 🙂 If you have a post, be sure to leave your link in the comments so I can add it to the blog-hop list and check out what you had to say.

Since I have a ton of things to say, I’ll jump right into the discussion:

1. Yeine shows us the meaning of esui when she summons Nahadoth, makes an offering of herself, and asks him to make love to her like the god he is. What did you think of her decision and the scenes that followed? Cosmic sex or verging on comic? What importance does sex has for their relationship?
Well, it certainly was dangerous. Yeine’s going to die anyway, but if Nahadoth had, umm, fucked her to death, she wouldn’t have freed the gods, avenged her mother’s murder, or saved Darre. She would have died for one night of divine sex, which, despite the thrills, would have been a waste.

I can understand the temptation though 😀 The sexual tension between Nahadoth and Yeine has been building since she stabbed him in the chest and he responded by kissing her. It was all the more exciting because of how much Nahadoth wanted her. The way he changed to fit her fantasies was pretty damn hot.

But as the sex scene escalated, I kept thinking of the stupid cliche of the earth moving, of the way sex sometimes gets hyped up to absurdly grand proportions. And then, when Yeine woke up to find that they’d trashed the room, I’m sorry to say that it made me think of the Twilight series (which I loathe).

However, it’s sex with a god, so it has to be over the top. It’s also about far more than just pleasure. Nahadoth needs that bond like humans need food or water, so much so that his children even become his lovers to prevent him from going insane. As goddess-Yeine says later, the Three were made to be together, not alone. The sex scene gives us a better idea of who Nahadoth is and how much he’s suffered. Although Yeine is looking for pleasure, she also shows Nahadoth how much she cares by taking this risk. Later, Enefa also says that Yeine “defeated” her. Perhaps the sex was part of that?

2. Relad makes a last-minute play for succession by offering to help the Darre. Are you satisfied with his role in this book or do you think he should have had more of a presence? What do you think of his strategy to get Yeine to choose him over Scimina?
Relad’s manoeuvre came out of the blue. He’d done absolutely nothing to compete with Scimina for Yeine’s vote, and his plan to help Darre seemed a like it was added because it doesn’t make sense of Relad to just go calmly to his death (he suggests Scimina will kill him if she wins). I would have preferred him to play a bigger role, especially since he seems to be a nice guy at heart, unlike his evil sister.

That said, I like that he understands Yeine – that she and her people are warriors and it’s not a war that troubles them so much as an unwinnable war. He doesn’t try to save her and her people, and anyway the idea of being saved by a man – particularly one Yeine does not respect – goes against Darre culture.

3. The final chapters show us more of Dekarta’s character than the rest of the book. How do you feel about him now, knowing the truth of his motives and of Kinneth’s death?
I thought Dekarta became more relatable. On the downside, he brought Yeine to Sky just to kill her in a religious ceremony. It’s also a macabre attempt to restore order. Kinneth broke from tradition and forced Dekarta to find new heirs. By making Yeine the sacrifice, Dekarta was bringing her wayward bloodline back into Arameri tradition.

On the other hand, Dekarta only does this because he loved his daughter and thought he was the one taking revenge on her murderer. It doesn’t quite make sense that he didn’t question this assumption when Yeine first accused him of murdering Kinneth earlier in the book, but I’ll overlook that for now. He acknowledges his mistake, and apologises. He doesn’t try to make rectify his error, but Arameri leaders are leaders because they’re ruthless, and anyway the ceremony is about to begin. I wouldn’t ask a mad god to reschedule either.

And when Dekarta learns that the god he worshipped was the one who killed his daughter, I think he’s devastated, and does not cling stupidly to his faith. He handles the changes that follow with dignity, and I respected him for it.

4. The Succession Ceremony: Absolutely nothing turns out the way anyone thought it would. Did any of it match your expectations? What are your thoughts on what happened?
The only thing I expected was for this ceremony to be epic, and Jemisin really delivered! Almost everything else about it surprised me. I was totally wrong about T’vril playing a part. I had no idea what would happen when Yeine transferred the sigil, but I thought she’d at last be able to get that far. The Viraine/Itempas thing completely blindsided me. I didn’t think Scimina or Relad would play a significant role, and I was right about that, but I was a bit shocked and saddened when that psycho bitch murdered her brother. I can’t say I was sad that she ended the novel collared and leashed at the mercy of the god she’d made into her whore.

I hated Kurue for betraying the Enefadeh and her attempt to side with Itempas. However, she does make a good point – what might have happened if the four Enefadeh tried to go up against Itempas? Enefa would not have been restored in that scenario, so she would not have been able to help them. They might “end up enslaved again or worse”, as Kurue suggests. I also like that she said this:

Our mother is dead, Sister. Itempas won. I hate it too – but it’s time we accepted this.

It made me see a sad, dysfunctional side to the Enefadeh – they can’t get over their mother’s death, and they’ve gone to desperate measures to get her back. Humans have to deal with death and an attempt at resurrection would be pathological. But the gods are immortal, and can’t handle such loss.

5. We finally meet Itempas, a mad god whose overpowering love and hate caused all this suffering. What did you think of him?
So glad we get to meet him 🙂 I hate him, but I love fucked up characters and he’s really, really fucked up. So insanely monogamous that he went to war for it, and would rather enslave Nahadoth than share him. So insanely jealous that all he really wants is to be alone in the universe with Nahadoth. I mean, I like things to be orderly too, but that’s just nuts.

I hadn’t even considered the possibility of Itempas inhabiting a human body, even though both his siblings had done so. The crazy stalker aspect of it is so creepy:

disguised by Viraine’s mind and soul, Itempas could watch Nahadoth like a voyeur. He could command Nahadoth and thrill in his obedience. He could pretend to be doing Dekarta’s will while manipulating events to exert subtle pressure on Nahadoth. All without Nahadoth’s knowledge.

I wonder if Itempas ever tried to have a sex with Nahadoth or Naha while in Viraine’s body…

6. As a goddess, Yeine makes some dramatic decisions and changes, like altering Sky, killing Kurue, and trapping Itempas in mortal form. How do you feel about this new goddess-Yeine? Would you have down anything differently
Yeine’s transformation was surprising, and pretty awesome 🙂 I was glad that Enefa ended up dying for good, partly because it meant that Yeine got to live. I also liked that her death fit her nature as a goddess. Life exists because of her, but death is a part of life, so it makes sense that Enefa would live and die, but give new life in the process. She has a different kind of immortality, and I imagine goddess-Yeine will one day die too, and create a new goddess in the process. It reminds me of the Darren Aronofsky movie The Fountain, where the main character learns that eternal life is not about one person living forever, but about life going on forever and constantly changing form (eg. a tree grows on a grave).

In light of that it would be too simplistic to kill Itempas as an act of revenge. The gods were meant to be three, so Yeine has to find a way of reuniting them, despite Itempas’s jealousy and Nahadoth’s anger. A family squabble, as she once called it 🙂 And because she’s Yeine, not Enefa, she doesn’t hold a grudge against Itempas for killing her. Enefa herself may have been too angry to reunite the gods.

i like the punishment/rehabilitation Yeine chooses for him. It’s apt, after forcing Nahadoth and his children to live in mortal form. Hopefully the experience will humble him and he’ll have a kinder view of the human race when Yeine restores him to his true state. However, I do wonder if he’ll hate humanity even more after this. I’m curious to see how the laws that Yeine lays down for Itempas will play out:

You will wander among mortals as one of them, unknown, commanding only what wealth and respect you can earn with your deeds and words. You may call upon your power only in great need, and only to aid these mortals for whom you hold such contempt. You will right the wrongs inflicted in your name.

The way Yeine transformed Sky was amazing, from a sterile pearl-white building to a lush jungle palace within a World Tree (as it’s called in the blurb for book 2). That’s something I would love to see on film. Can someone please give Jemisin a movie deal?

Killing Kurue was a bit harsh, but Sieh mentioned that Enefa sometimes killed things. And Kurue may have been a danger because she resented Nahadoth for his decision to fight against Itempas.

I felt happy for T’vril, when Yeine ordered Dekarta to make him heir. He’d be a good ruler, although I feel sorry for him having to handle the inevitable conflict that will follow the events of the failed Succession Ceremony.

7. Wrapping up: What did you think of the ending and of the book as a whole? Any loose ends you’d like tied up? How might the world be changed by these events? Will you read the next book to find out?
I loved this book. And to think I was a bit apprehensive about reading it because I’m not a big fan of epic fantasy 🙂 The only issues I have with it are fairly minor – the issues I mentioned above and questions I thought were left unanswered (or that I missed the answers to). For example, what exactly was the purpose of the sigil Zhakkarn gave Yeine at the beginning? Why did Kinneth leave her love letters in Sky? Where do the “lost ones” that Sky ‘eats’ go? With Enefa’s soul, Yeine was Kinneth’s best chance of getting revenge on Dekarta, so why did she not want the baby to be born and then try to kill her? Also, the details of the Succession Ceremony were a bit unclear. I think everyone in this read-along expressed some confusion as to how it works.

But none of that bothers me too much; it just feels a bit untidy. I was keen to read this whole series after just a few chapters and the ending was so satisfyingly epic. I love the characters, the world, Jemisin’s ability to intrigue and surprise me, and her epic ideas. I was happy to sign up for another two read-alongs to finish the series.

It’d be interesting to see what these events do for Darre. Their ennu became a god and in human form is dressed like a Darren. Zhakkarn, goddess of war, personally went to save them from attack. Yeine mentions at one point that the rest of the world isn’t as green as Darre, which means that Darren land is most akin to the sense of life that Yeine/Enefa embodies. They will go from being the most disregarded nation, to the one most favoured by the gods.

And religion will undergo massive changes. Imagine if, in our world, the Christian God was revealed to be mad, Satan was revealed as the good guy who’d been betrayed by God, and Satanism became the new Christianity (but not in an evil way). It’d be chaos!

Other
 – I love the last scene between Yeine and T’vril. Sweet and affectionate. I’m glad he turned out to be a friend.

– Really enjoyed reading the two Appendices. You can see how Shahar Arameri influenced Arameri culture – paradoxically, she made them the most powerful family in the world by neglecting family in favour of aiding and dying for her god. The textbook-style info on the gods was cool too, particularly the stuff about the nature of Zhakkarn. I’d happily read more on the other gods as well.

See what other bloggers thought
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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms read-along part 3

The Hundred Thousand KingdomsThings are getting really twisted and tense in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and as usual there are a ton of things to talk about. Our host this week is Andrea, the Little Red Reviewer, and I’m going to get straight into her questions without further ado. SPOILERS everywhere, obviously.

1. T’vril takes Yeine to the servant’s party. What did you think of that party, and of Sieh’s part in it?

“we can celebrate without highbloods coming here to ogle our ‘quaint common-folk customs’ like we’re animals in a zoo.”

I like this. Coming from South Africa and living in Ethiopia, I often see people treating traditional customs and the people who participate in them as tourist attractions. I’ve done it too, although I try not to. There’s nothing wrong with taking an interest, but it can easily turn into objectification. I imagine it’s particularly bad in the tiny, hierarchical Arameri society. I love the party as a bit of rebellion against the highbloods, and I wonder what other things the servants do.

It’s so in character for Sieh to do something like this – thoughtful and unifying but mischievous. I wonder if the other gods are involved though – he says they owe it to the servants, but he seems to be the only one helping with the party.

The difference in his appearance is interesting. He reverts to a twenty-something when weakened, and later becomes an old man when tortured. Yeine wonders what his default state is, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple. It seems more like the child state reflects his ideal image – playful, impulsive, affectionate. When weakened, he projects something more representative of his true age and experience – a bitter twenty-something. When tortured he becomes the complete opposite of his ideal: a broken old man. It’s like a god’s version of showing different moods. As humans we can seem like different people when we’re happy, stressed, in pain, etc. Or like Kinneth. we’re different people in different contexts. I think Sieh is the same, embodying change, which was also Enefa’s reason for creating him.

2. Yeine presents herself as such a nice, compassionate person. Did your feelings about her change after the meeting she and Nahadoth had with Gemd?
No. She is a nice, compassionate person, but usually in comparison with the Arameri or the gods, who don’t exactly embody kindness. I don’t see Yeine as being much nicer than the average person, but rather as someone who will speak out or take action in the face of cruelty or injustice, whereas most people would be too cowardly to do so.

However, I think she can be utterly ruthless when she needs to. She mentioned that her initiation ritual (where she murdered a man) taught her to do whatever was necessary to get what she wanted. When she met Gemd, she needed a show of power to save her people. She would have chosen something less brutal, but Nahadoth is her only means of showing power, and “the Nightlord cannot be controlled. He can only be unleashed”. Once the men start turing to diamond, she can’t show weakness or she will betray her cause.

But she’s not heartless. She acknowledges the cruelty, and feels remorse. There’s a little interlude where Yeine’s sort of trying to convince herself that the men got what they deserved, but she fails, knowing it was too much. If not for that uncertainty, I might have changed my opinion of her.

3. on page 230 we learn about the Darre concept of “esui”, of attraction to danger. Have you ever experienced Esui? did it help you, or hurt you? Do you think it will help Yeine, or hurt her?
Don’t we all have at least mild esui? The urge to do something thrilling and reckless? Or just stupid but exciting? Like drink to much, drive too fast, fool around with the wrong people, push someone (or yourself) too far. Things you might regret forever or remember with a satisfied smirk. You never know if it will help or hurt but it’ll probably do both.

For Yeine… Well, calling Nahadoth in the middle of the night while her other lover slept in the next room totally seemed worth it 😀 But I’m worried. In this book, sex is always associated with danger, rivalry, and/or manipulation. “Pleasure is often used as a weapon” Zhakkarn tells Yeine. What consequences could come of having sex with Nahadoth? Or – and this could be quite cool – is Yeine playing Nahadoth? Even more dangerous.

I’d also like to think that Yeine and T’vril slept together just for pleasure and comfort, but in this context…. In chapter 17, Yeine perceives that T’vril supports her as part of his own rebellion against the vile Arameri. This is great, although I keep wondering if he’s using her in a more sinister way. I hope not, I quite like him.

On another note, I wonder why Yeine chose to mention esui in the middle of the horror in the oubliette.

4. What did you think of the reveal regarding Ygreth’s (Kinneth’s mother) death? Was it something you expected?  How does being forced to do something like that (or knowing you’ll be forced to) shape a person?
I didn’t see that coming at all! But it feels like a missing puzzle piece fell into place. I had the sense that Kinneth was planning something big, but I couldn’t imagine what because I didn’t know why. I’m still wondering why Kinneth never told Yeine about this, never even told her her grandmother’s name.

This creates such a major parallel between Yeine and Kinneth – both are looking for revenge because their mothers were murdered. Last week I wondered if Kinneth had actually used her own death as a strategy, and this supports that theory. Kinneth knew what effect a mother’s murder could have on a child. Could she have arranged her own ‘murder’ to motivate Yeine to complete her revenge? When Yeine learned that the gods wanted her to die for them, she agreed specifically because it would give her the chance to take revenge on Dekarta, the man who supposedly murdered her mother, and sacrificed Kinneth’s mother.

How could the sacrifice shape someone? Knowing you’ll have to make a sacrifice like that might actually make it easier. If you know about it for years in advance, you’ll be thinking constantly about your choice and then start deadening your feelings for that person. Or not have close relationships at all. This seems like the path Scimina and Relad took.

On the other hand, someone might be so dedicated that they’d actually cultivate their love for the person they’d want to sacrifice, to make it more sincere. Like in a biblical animal sacrifice they’d slaughter the best animal, not a skinny sickly one no one wanted.

And actually I think that could give you an incredible kind of strength. A terrible, fucked up strength, but one that shapes you into a ruler, and gives you the determination to make extremely difficult decisions. Or carry out the will of a god with serious emotional problems.

5. If I’m reading it correctly, the ceremony can require a human sacrifice (to show that the heir is strong enough to kill anyone, if asked).  Who might Scimina sacrifice? Who might Yeine sacrifice?
The only decent candidate I can imagine for Scimina is Relad, although I’m not sure she cares about him much. For the god’s plan to work though, she’d have to pick Yeine wouldn’t she? Which she might do, just to be cruel.

The only person I can imagine for Yeine is T’vril. Which makes me wonder if he wants to be her sacrifice, and that’s why he’s being so nice to her. For a moment he will be one of the Three, and perhaps he has his own plans for this.

6. The ball is only a few days away. What do you think will happen?
Something epic 😀 I feel like all sorts of plans will reach their conclusion or climax – Dekarta’s, the Enefadeh’s, Yeine’s (if she has her own), T’vril’s, Kinneth’s. They may even bring the Sky down.

Other
I could write another blog post just for all the other things I’d like to mention! But I’ll cut it down to a few 🙂

– I’m a bit confused about how the ceremony works. Yeine said that in exchange for her life, she wanted to win the contest. But if she wins, she won’t be the sacrifice who briefly becomes one of the Three and transfers the ruler’s sigil. Unless she wins and then chooses someone else? And what if the winner doesn’t choose Yeine as the sacrifice?

– I like the surprisingly affectionate scene between Nahadoth and a younger Sieh in the dream sequence at the beginning of chapter 17, particularly the bit that says love is their defence against the pain they feel. It’s a completely different side to Nahadoth, especially since he tried to strangle Sieh the first time they were in a room together. Again, we see how complicated Jemisin’s characters are.

– About Enefa and Sieh:

“She was going to… kill you?”
“Yes.” He chuckled at my shock. “She killed things all the time, Yeine. She was death as well as life, the twilight along with the dawn.Everyone forgets that.”

I like the parallel between Enefa and Kinneth here – neither were as nice as Yeine believed, and neither conform to the ideal of motherhood. They’re so much darker and more complex.

– Wow, Yeine has T’vril AND Nahadoth in one night! Just when I thought she would never get lucky.

– The Arameri eat human flesh as a delicacy?! Mind you, cannibalism doesn’t even seem shocking after Scimina’s use of torture, and the horrors Viraine performs for the high blood’s amusement at parties. Honestly, this might just be the most fucked up family I’ve ever read about.

What did you think? Leave a comment, and if you have your own post leave your link as well so I can check it out!

Here’s what others had to say:
Little Red Reviewer
On Starships and Dragonwings
Dab of Darkness
All I Am, A Redhead
Books Without Any Pictures
Many a True Nerd