The Kingdom of Gods

by N.K. Jemisin

Cover image

Series: Inheritance #3
Publisher: Orbit
Copyright: 2011
Printing: April 2012
ISBN: 0-316-04394-X
Format: Mass market
Pages: 567

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The Kingdom of Gods is the third and final book of the Inheritance trilogy and rests very heavily on the events of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms. I think it's the best book of the trilogy as well, but this isn't the place to start. The build-up from the previous books is very important to this story.

The first book of this series followed Yeine in her introduction to the highly political, abusive, and exploitative world of the Arameri, and her deeper introduction to the complex theology and mythology of Jemisin's constructed world. The second involved fewer theological fireworks and more day-to-day decisions, but it followed the implications of the first book's climax and revealed another important lurking weapon from the past. The Kingdom of Gods returns to a theological focus, this time putting Sieh front and center, and is once again concerned with the fate of the entire world, or even reality itself.

Sieh played a significant role in the first book, but only seen from Yeine's perspective. He's the trickster god, the god of childhood, of play and whim and unfairness and practical jokes, of all the chaos and lack of impulse control and impudence of childhood. The Kingdom of Gods opens with him encountering two Arameri children in the abandoned areas under Sky and making an unlikely and impulsive pledge of friendship. One that leads to an unexplained catastrophe, a long blackout, and possibly the end of his existence, since Sieh starts aging. And growing up directly undermines his power.

One of the two children turns out to be the heir of the haughty, devious, and deeply racist Arameri, whose position atop the hierarchy of the world has been weakened by earlier events but not shaken entirely. Her relationship with Sieh is much more fraught and complex when both of them are teenagers and Sieh is struggling badly to remain true to himself. But what drives the plot is a deadly new form of magic that is targeting the Arameri family and threatening to bring back world-wide war.

This is my favorite book of the trilogy, not so much because it brings a relatively satisfying conclusion (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms wasn't bad at that either), but because for once I like all of the main characters. Yeine and Nahadoth are hit and miss (the second two books of the trilogy make it clear that Nahadoth can be a real asshole), and as mentioned in the review of The Broken Kingdoms, I found Shiny exasperating. But Sieh is fun, even when he's being obnoxious, and both of the kids he befriends are complex and multifaceted. Shahar, with her hard and complex relationship with her mother, is probably my favorite character in the book, but her brother certainly has his moments.

I did not like Sieh's maturation process. There are parts of this story that are squirm-inducing, and not in a good way (at least for me). And he does tend to get whiny in places. But he knows everyone in Jemisin's complex mythology, he has a great first-person narrative voice, and there are some very fun moments of interaction with his sibling gods. It says something that I really enjoyed this story even though books about slow, ongoing illness and diminution are rather far from my favorites (and Sieh's aging falls into that category).

While there are some beautiful set-pieces here once the shit starts to hit the fan in earnest, the concluding fireworks didn't really work for me. The final confrontation was too abstracted, too indescribable, and too full of ancillary carnage to be the ending I was looking for. (Perhaps because of what I've been playing recently, I keep thinking of it as one of those chaotic, floating, dream-like cut-scene disasters in a Final Fantasy game that's trying to hint at indescribable magic.) But the denouement made me happy, and it fit the characters. And don't miss the glossary at the end of the book that Sieh has scribbled all over.

This book includes, as a bonus, a short story:

"Not the End": This is the ending that The Broken Kingdoms actually needed. It (plus some key bits in the rest of The Kingdom of Gods) made me feel much better about the end of that book, and added a much-needed light note to the rather heavy bits at the end of this book. And I do love Oree. It's very short, and it's not in any way a standalone story (more of a belated epilogue to the previous novel), but that's all that was needed. (8)

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2016-12-26

Last modified and spun 2016-12-26