I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy. I especially liked the way she played with ideas about religion, class, and race, and while her plotting is intricate (maybe even Byzantine), her characterization and worldbuilding are compelling enough to support it. She is very good at creating intense relationships, and each book has had a kind of character arc that has been satisfying and has earned its keep.
This third novel, Kingdom of the Gods, though, is a different beast. This novel focuses on the god of childhood, Sieh, a minor character in the other books. The child of Enefa (now Yeine) and Nahadoth, the oldest of the gods after the first three, he embodies youth, mischief, immaturity, tricksiness, play. It’s a contradiction that Nemisin does well.
The book takes place long after the events of the first two novels, and the Arameri are in decline. One day, Sieh is wandering the palace, and meets the latest generation of Arameri scions, named (very unfortunately, if you’re up on the books) Shahar and Dekarta. On a whim, he makes a blood pact with them to become friends, and this pact turns out to be a catastrophe: when Sieh wakes up, part of the palace has been destroyed, the twins have been separated, and he himself, the god of youth, has begun an irreversible process of aging.
Well, if the book had stuck to this — the relationship between Sieh and the twins, and the implications of a god whose power comes from childhood who is rapidly maturing — I think I could have kept the lid on. However, there are about ten other plot lines, including an assassination plot, a brewing war, demons, internecine politics, the creation of a new home for the Arameri, what’s happening with Itempas, and so on. The book is over 500 pages long, and to be honest I lost track. I was interested in some of what was happening, but not all of it. (Some of this was my fault, because the book relies heavily on your remembering the details of plot in the first two novels, and it had been too long since I’d read them.)
I will say, though, that I still liked all the things I liked in the first two novels. Jemisin does a great job of thinking about how gods interact with human beings, and what that power dynamic would be like, in terms of worship and touch and emotion. She also does a lovely job with differentiating cultures in her world. Despite quite some time having passed since I read the first two novels, I remembered details about that world. And I really liked the way the book ended. Jemisin has a sense throughout all three novels that balance is important and that certain ways of being in balance are natural; this played itself out beautifully at the end of the trilogy, with every ending being a beginning.
Overall, I’m glad I read this. I understand from my friend Katherine that The Fifth Season (the first of her Broken Earth trilogy) is absolutely awesome. Has anyone ever read that one, or others of hers that you can recommend?