First two books:
Book 1: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Book 2: The Broken Kingdoms
Unlike the previous book, I don’t think you can read The Kingdom of the Gods without reading the first two books in this trilogy. There’s a lot that happens in the earlier books that has an impact on the characters, so if you haven’t read them, I recommend you skip back to my review of the first book.
The Premise: Sieh is the oldest of the godlings – the first child created by the Three. As such, he has loved his parents as gods love one another, but knows that he could never be part of what they have. More and more, he’s felt a loneliness which he cannot fill but tries to keep hidden, and one day during one of these episodes, Sieh returns to Sky, his prison for many centuries. Here he encounters two Arameri children in the now-empty spaces within the palace. This innocuous meeting turns out to have surprising consequences, particularly within Sieh. This is not well timed nor well-advised. The children, twins Shahar and Dekarta, are the heirs to the Arameri throne and not the best playmates for a god. Meanwhile, an enemy Sieh never knew he had is gaining power when Sieh may be at his weakest and most vulnerable.
Read the first three chapters of The Kingdom of Gods: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3
My Thoughts: Sieh was a character first introduced in the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, book one of this trilogy. In that book, Sieh has an innocence that comes from his being seen through the eyes of the narrator, Yiene who has motherly instincts towards the godling. Now, with Sieh as narrator, we get a very different perspective.
Sieh is the embodiment of the abstract concept of Childhood. For a being that is hundreds of thousands of years old, Sieh’s very essence is to be immature, and he does act like it. He considers himself a trickster, but his tricks are the petty pranks of a thoughtless child with a horrifying amount of power. Sieh can only really focus on what’s happening to himself or what is in front of him. He doesn’t pay attention to anything outside that limited view, and so, has a black-and-white view of what happened between his parents. In Sieh’s mind, Itempas was wrong and Sieh cannot forgive him.
This at least the mindset where Sieh starts the narrative with. As the book continues, it becomes apparent that Sieh is no longer what he once was. He has begun to change.
The change begins with Sieh and his unique relationship with the Arameri heirs, Dekarta and Shahar. I looked at the back blurb for this book, and it suggests that Shahar is the main character alongside Sieh. This is sort of misleading. Sieh has relationships with Shahar and her brother Dekarta. It all begins when Sieh meets the two when they are children, makes a profound impression on them both, and agrees to see them again in a year and to grant one wish. That wish is what begins Sieh’s transformation.
When I look at this trilogy as a whole, they’re rather disjointed by the change in viewpoints in every book, but there is a cohesion because each installment does influence the next one. With three narrators telling different parts of the same story, each one of the books in the trilogy has a different feel. This installment feels to me the most character driven. It’s all about Sieh’s growing pains. The current looming disaster that threatens to end the world is part of the story, and it does concern Sieh, but it feels very secondary to the story compared to Sieh’s own issues. Maybe that is intentional – as Sieh grows and matures, the story focuses more on the fate of the world, but before that, it’s all about Sieh.
What’s clever is that Sieh’s problem brings a lot of introspection and interaction with other Gods and godlings. This means a lot of new details about Gods, godlings, demons, and the War of the Gods. I especially liked the worldbuilding here, and I liked that this was a story about the Gods and their evolution. It felt like what began with the death of Enefa was getting a proper resolution in this installment because Sieh has a unique perspective of his parents. I was also happy to get answers to questions I had about characters in earlier books, like what happened to the man who was once Nahadoth’s vessel, and what became of the daughter of Itempas and Oree Soth.
I liked Sieh a lot as the narrator. He doesn’t give off the same grounded feel that the last two narrators did (he’s more of a brat, really), but I liked that we got an unvarnished view and saw Sieh with all his many imperfections. I could see him rubbing other readers the wrong way, especially since he is old enough to know better, but I thought that his selfishness was in character. He is also a god and thinks and acts like a god, even if he looks like he’s eight or eighteen or eighty. He’s more flexible in his ideas about sex for instance (incest is not a problem for gods). There were times that his actions were alien to me, but I empathized with him when things began to go south. I had a suspicion about who Sieh’s enemy was early on in the book (I was right too), and it made me very anxious on his behalf. I lay awake in bed, thinking of the possibilities. There were so many.
I am not sure how to describe what didn’t quite work for me in this story. I think the problem was how the story was laid out – focusing on Sieh for the majority of the book, and then in the last third, on the possible destruction of the world. There was something that felt unbalanced in this, and I would have liked more time spent on the secondary plot. As part of this, the relationships with Dekarta and Shahar felt like it could have been further developed than it actually was. I felt that the love and complicated feelings that Sieh had for his three parents clearly, but I did not feel like I had enough time with Dekarta, and Shahar to be convinced of their bond. Lastly, I found the climax very abrupt. The real ending seemed to happen in a epilogue-ish bit, and I think this just added to my general feeling of unbalance. Even though this book was long, I would have liked a longer ending, if that makes any sense.
Overall: This is just a great series and I’m really happy I read it. Gods as central characters, influencing and wrecking havoc on a world and its people – it’s fascinating stuff. I loved visiting this world and the cast of unique characters, and I’m a little sad that this is the last book. This installment was a little more divided in its focus than I would have liked, but it does satisfactorily conclude the series and tied up loose ends.
Look out for a short story that answered that last lingering question I had after The Broken Kingdoms, and an excerpt from the beginning of Jemisin’s new series.
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
Fantasy Cafe – 7/10
About the doodled appendices at the end of the book
Sieh character study (warning: spoilery)
Shahar character study (warning: spoilery)