THE KINGDOM OF GODS
N K Jemisin (2011) ISBN: 9781841498195
The last of N K Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy, The Kingdom of Gods follows trickster god Sieh as he forms a complicated relationship with the descendants of his former slavemasters, the last Arameri heirs.
Set some hundred years after the events of The Broken Kingdoms, this novel features a world teetering on the edge of political and social collapse. The Arameri dynasty has, without its god-slaves, fallen into decline and struggles to retain power and influence through other means. In this respect, The Kingdom of Gods is very interesting. Medieval Stasis is one of my least favourite tropes, and the feverish efforts of the remaining Arameri to hold onto the dregs of their empire strike a realistic chord. Unfortunately, in most other respects I found this book the least enjoyable of the series.
N K Jemisin does not seem to put great stake in making her characters likeable. I find this refreshing, especially when it comes to woman characters, because while male anti-heroes are common in fiction it is still rare to find a woman anti-hero or even an unlikeable woman protagonist. I thought the characters of the previous two books, Yeine and Oree,* engaging and interesting, if not the most sympathetic people one could read about. However, even appreciating for his inhuman nature, I found it difficult to relate to Sieh at all and so did not feel much invested in his story. The other characters, too, seemed less well drawn than in the previous books, with one notable exception.
The novel’s central conflict obeys the rules of sequel escalation. Sieh starts to lose his god powers and to age; mysterious masked villains are murdering the last of the Arameri; the Universe itself comes to serious risk. The pacing seems a little rushed and does not have the emotional resonance of the previous books. Even the complicated relationship that forms between Sieh and Arameri heirs Shahar and Dekarta, did not compel me. This is disappointing, because the open, fluid sexualities and gender-identities of many of Jemisin’s characters should be praised. It is exceedingly rare in any genre to see bisexual, polyamorous romances portrayed as part of normal life and culture.
I felt The Kingdom of Gods is the weakest in the trilogy. It explores a number of fascinating concepts, but the execution of the story itself is poor in comparison to the two previous books.
*Yeine more so than Oree. Both are products of their environment, histories and upbringing. Yeine, being from a cruel family and a warlike society, is far more abrasive than Oree.