Many fantasy fans loved N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms. Yet, a lot of these readers were put off by The Broken Kingdoms being set a decade later with an entirely new protagonist. Indeed, The Broken Kingdoms almost seemed like a stand-alone novel set in the same world. Fortunately, it wasn’t so. The story in The Broken Kingdoms was spun forth from the events of The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms, and while offering a new perspective, it couldn’t exist without the first.
Much the same can be said about Jemisin’s latest novel, The Kingdom of Gods. This intriguing ending to The Inheritance Trilogy is set some hundred years after The Broken Kingdoms, but unites both stories in spectacular fashion. The viewpoint is that of Sieh, the trickster child godling who appeared in both previous books. After successfully writing the viewpoint of a magical blind woman, Jemisin now proves that she can also pull off a convincing first person perspective of a god.
Jemisin’s trilogy seems to be shaped after Greek epics—with seemingly separate stories telling one big, epic, overall arc—and Jemisin’s gods seem to share their nature with those from Greek mythology. There are a great many of them, all related in one way or another. They hate each other and they love each other. They wage war on each other and work together when it suits them. From the perspective of Sieh, we get a deeper insight into these divine relationships. These gods aren’t human. Humans were created in their image, definitely, but there is something very different about the gods, each with their own aspects from which they derive their power. For Sieh, this is the nature of a child and trickster, and he grows powerful as he does childish things but weakens as he is forced to deal with maturity—an interesting dynamic that receives all the attention it deserves.
With the skill of an artist, Jemisin relays these aspects, turning The Kingdom of Gods into an exploration of the divine. It is an almost reflective, philosophical journey into the many elements of the immortal and mortal realms alike. For gods, time does not pass the way it does for us, and this shows in The Kingdom of Gods, making years pass in the blink of an eye while mere moments last minutes or even hours when enough happens. This is no shallow story, but an introspection of the way us humans deal with war, stress, love, and treason; thus I felt like I could relate more to the narration of Sieh than that of Oree or Yeine before him.
An evolution of sorts
Of course, The Kingdom of Gods again utilizes those elements that made its prequels such wonderful reads. Honestly, I’m a slow reader. An average novel usually takes me a couple weeks to read. When I finished The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms in under four days, I was surprised. It was only after reading the last page that I realized what a page turner it truly was. Though The Kingdom of Gods is a much larger novel—at 575 pages, it is Jemisin’s longest story to date—I again read it in mere days. These books aren’t page turners because of their extreme suspense, though there definitely is some of that. Instead, it is the easygoing focus on characters combined with the marvelous, almost poetic prose that make these such easy, engrossing reads.
The Kingdom of Gods is an evolution of its predecessors in other ways as well. As already mentioned, there are the deep and multifaceted characters, both human and divine. The atmosphere and setting in this third volume are equally as brilliant and colorful as those in The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms. Lovers of magic, too, can rejoice, for while the previous books introduced us to an interesting and creative magic system, The Kingdom of Gods finally truly explores this magic in all its forms and glory.
Don’t expect a story as well-paced as The Broken Kingdoms, however. The Kingdom of Gods is much like Jemisin’s debut, a story of a character thrust into an unlikely situation against his—or her, in the case of The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms—will, where he is faced with dilemma, mystery and deathly secrets, the outcome remaining uncertain until the very end of the novel. No worries, though; near the end, the pacing truly picks up when a series of exciting events lead to a thrilling conclusion. With that knowledge, I would say The Kingdom of Gods is better than Jemisin’s debut, and almost as good as The Broken Kingdoms. It is definitely a masterpiece that exceeds the fantasy genre and enters literary fiction with genre-bending and artistic creativity. I often got the impression that every word Jemisin writes serves a higher purpose, and all events throughout her story have meaning. The only exception, perhaps, is the exorbitant foreshadowing toward a certain revelation.
Why should you read this book?
The Kingdom of Gods corroborates what those who read its predecessors already surmised: N. K. Jemisin is a true superstar of fantasy literature. The Inheritance Trilogy may well be the single most intriguing fantasy series I have ever read, and I cannot wait to see what Jemisin has in store for us in her future novels. If you were let down by the change in viewpoints between books, I urge you to give The Broken Kingdoms a chance anyway. If you haven’t read The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms yet, you should probably run off to the bookstore or library right now. And if you have read these books, The Kingdom of Gods will simply be all that you expect it to be: an amazing reading experience that will leave you yearning for more. Oh, and don’t forget to check the glossary at the back when you’re done. It is hilarious!