Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"The Kingdom of Gods" by N.K. Jemisin

Though I had read some negative and middling reviews online, I enjoyed the last book in Jemisin's trilogy, The Kingdom of the Gods, no less than its predecessors The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms. Whereas the second book takes place in the same world as the first but with almost completely new characters, the third book picks up characters from the first and second, giving it a greater sense of familiarity. In this novel, the protagonist is Sieh, the trickster boy godling who played an important role in Yeine's life in the first novel. Sieh becomes involved with two Arameri children, Shahar and Dekarta, and inexplicably begins to become mortal. Though this theme is repeated from Broken Kingdoms, in which the god Itempas lived life as a mortal man, Sieh's transformation and relationships with others are significantly different, and his story feels different too.

The tagline on the cover of this book is "Gods and mortals. Power and love. Death and revenge. She will destroy them all," which doesn't make a lot of sense. The only "she" it could possibly refer to is Shahar, which overstates her importance. This is a book foremost about Sieh, which makes it the first of Jemisin's books to be narrated by a man and by a god. Sieh lives in an interesting world--though he's powerful as an ancient godling, he also is not part of the three gods (Yeine, Nahadoth, and Itempas) and thus feels loneliness, made even more acute by his character as a youthful childish boy. Other reviewers have found him dislikable, but I didn't find him so; he's not perfect, but that's in keeping with who he is. I also enjoyed his relationships with Shahar and Dekarta, even though the intensity of his relationship with Deka comes rather suddenly.

The gods are somewhat more human in this book than in others, likely because we see them through a godling's eyes. Both Nahadoth and Itempas are less standoffish and more caring, though they perhaps lose some of their mystisticism because of it. The gods also play a more direct role in human affairs, which is somewhat of a shame, since mortals did so much on their own in the previous two books.

The climax did seem to come a bit suddenly, and the "surprise" of the villain was a bit contrived. Nonetheless, in the end, I found Kingdom of Gods a satisfying conclusion to a series I've greatly enjoyed.

***This book qualifies for the POC Reading Challenge.

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