Why I Read It: After enjoying the hell out of the first two books of the trilogy (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms, respectively), I knew I couldn’t wait too long to get my hands on the third and final installment, and thankfully, I received it as a gift for my birthday. So I was more than happy to pick it up after bouncing off of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and found myself a little surprised by the story itself, but in a good way.
The premise: ganked from BN.com: The incredible conclusion to the Inheritance Trilogy, from one of fantasy’s most acclaimed stars.
For two thousand years the Arameri family has ruled the world by enslaving the very gods that created mortalkind. Now the gods are free, and the Arameri’s ruthless grip is slipping. Yet they are all that stands between peace and world-spanning, unending war.
Shahar, last scion of the family, must choose her loyalties. She yearns to trust Sieh, the godling she loves. Yet her duty as Arameri heir is to uphold the family’s interests, even if that means using and destroying everyone she cares for.
As long-suppressed rage and terrible new magics consume the world, the Maelstrom — which even gods fear — is summoned forth. Shahar and Sieh: mortal and god, lovers and enemies. Can they stand together against the chaos that threatens?
Includes a never before seen story set in the world of the Inheritance Trilogy.
Spoilers, yay or nay?: Yay, as I’m trying to work out a few things in my head, and there WILL be spoilers for the first two books, so if you want to remain completely spoiler-free, just skip to “My Rating” and you’ll be fine. Everyone else, onward!
Discussion: First thing to get out of the way: this backcover blurb horribly misrepresents the book. You’d think that Jemisin was following the pattern of the previous two novels by giving us a new heroine who falls in love with a god, right? Wrong. Our actual narrator is Sieh, which is a startling but nice departure from the norm, and how his relationship with the twins Shahar and Deka changes who he is and how his changing ends up affecting the world around him. Kind of.
What I’ve heard happen was that when Jemisin first started writing this book, the narrator WAS Shahar — hence, the blurb. But the blurb was never fixed, despite the book’s obvious evolution. I’m not sure what happened there or why, but everything from the backcover blurb to the tagline on the front cover (she doesn’t destroy anything), misrepresents the actual story in the pages, and that’s unfortunate, especially if there were any readers getting tired of the heroine falls in love with a god, chaos ensues storyline.
That said, getting Sieh’s POV was a delight. His voice was utterly different from Yeine’s and Oree’s, and I’ve got to give Jemisin mad props for being able to take the first person POV and keep the voice unique to character, because it’s too easy to let first person POV be the AUTHOR’S voice, and that can be a problem when the author has several different first-person narrators.
I also liked the tone of Sieh’s narrative, especially from the start. Not only did the childish immaturity fit his character, but it gave the author a new outlet to answer criticisms of the previous books without outright addressing those criticisms. The very first page of the first chapter is a great example of that:
There will be no tricks in this tale. I tell you this so that you can relax. You’ll listen more closely if you aren’t flinching every other instant, waiting for the pratfall. You will not reach the end and suddenly learn I have been talking to my other soul or making a lullaby of my life for someone’s unborn brat. I find such things as disingenuous, so I will simply tell the tale as I lived it.
That said, this idea that Jemisin is using the character voice to respond of criticisms of her earlier books is sheer fancy on my part. I could completely be on crack, because it’s not like I’ve got proof or anything, it’s just something that struck me while reading. Mind you, this doesn’t bother me either. It gave me a little unexpected humor to the narrative that I wasn’t expecting, and all of that is in keeping in line with the Tricker’s character.
And believe it or not, those were the only two notes I made while reading. Once I started reading, I pretty much got wrapped up in the story and wasn’t concerned about making notes or any of that sort of thing, which is always a good sign.
This book takes place some time after The Broken Kingdoms, and all the events of the first two books come to a head, as does the history of the gods and the godlings and why everything happened the way it did. In some ways, I feel like this book answered questions, but the funny thing is I don’t know what those questions were. I’ve read this trilogy over the course of a year, but in terms of really appreciating the details and who betrayed who and how and why, I feel like I’d get more out of this trilogy if I were to sit down and read these books back-to-back-to-back. That being said, there were some surprises to be had. One was the notion I got that the whole reason that Itempas was called away from his first human family (that started the shit to begin with) was because Sieh played a trick and lied about Itempas’ actions to Naha and Enefa. Could be wrong about that… Jemisin has a way of writing around an issue and even interrupting herself, so it goes a little beyond showing instead of telling. She implies, and you need to pay attention and even then, I find it easy to doubt what’s being implied. I think that’s a personal thing: I like strong telling voices (not info dumps, there’s a difference) that give me definitive answers, and that sort of thing can be frowned upon. At any rate, I think a lot of the whole God’s War started because of a trick Sieh played, and when it ultimately backfired with Itempas killing Enefa, Sieh was outraged. At himself, I believe, but because he’s the essence of childhood and immaturity (some of which he chooses, mind you), he had to create an object for his hate and anger, and Itempas was an easy target.
Sieh’s relationship to Itempas was a fascinating development of this book. I really liked the strained relationship, the theme of imperfect fathers and what that could do to someone. Again, that’s probably where the book touches me personally more than others, but I can’t help but think it’s done well regardless.
And speaking of fathers, I’m not sure how hard Jemisin wanted to hide the fact that Sieh was actually a father, but once the possibility came up, the official reveal wasn’t all that surprising, because I’d already pieced it together. That said, I liked the concept of what it meant if the god of childhood actually fathered a child. Talk about an oxymoron. I also liked the misdirection of what happened to Sieh himself. We’re lead to believe that the mixing of his blood with Shahar’s and Deka’s is what caused his accelerated aging and his loss of godhood, only to learn at the very end that Sieh was finally growing up and becoming a god (as in, one of the Three) in his own right. That being said, that moment where Sieh, Deka, and Shahar joined hands to try and stop the destruction of Sky, my subconscious noted the use of three (two men, one woman) and started to wonder if they would replace the current Three of Yeine, Naha, and Itempas. That ended up not being the case, that they started their own universe essentially, but I liked that I’d already started thinking in that direction, because it made me fear for the literal lives of Itempas, Yeine, and Naha.
My Rating: 7 – Good Read
As a whole, I’m really happy with the conclusion of this trilogy. Misleading blurbs aside (we get the godling Sieh as a narrator, not another heroine who falls in love with a god), Jemisin seems to be improving as a writer and the world-building really gets fleshed out. Questions get answered, and there are a few surprises to be found along the way. I still would like to re-read this trilogy back-to-back so I can’t forget quite so many details and so that I can appreciate the intricacy of the world-building, but that being said, I still feel like Jemisin’s improving. Even her ending, which in the previous two books felt a little nebulous in terms of visualizing the action, was quite concrete and I had no trouble visualizing what was happening and why. Sieh’s a great departure from the previous two narrators, because while he can be frustrating (that’s the nature of his character), we definitely get growth and change, and the story-arc, which is admittedly not as cohesive as it could be, as it’s essentially two different story-lines that are forced together by the end, allows Sieh to bring the book to a cohesive whole and provide a nice closure. An added bonus is the short story found at the end of the book, entitled “Not the End,” brings a lingering question from The Broken Kingdoms to a close as well. Also added is the usual glossary of terms, but “defaced” by Sieh, who adds his own commentary and drawings. Cute, and in keeping with his character. Fans of the first two books should be pleased with this one, and those who liked the world-building but were tired of the heroine meets god formula of the first two books should enjoy the differences this final installment has to offer. I look forward to seeing Jemisin’s next project, the Dreamblood series, which starts with The Killing Moon and comes out in June next year.
Cover Commentary: There was a part of me that was hoping they’d go for another color scheme for this third and final cover, because while this is a dark blue, Orbit still went with blue for the second book, so now the first book is the odd one out, given it’s reddish/brown color scheme. That said, the covers have remained consistent in the design, and I’m particularly fond of how the floating city ties into events in the book. But who is that in the background? I suspect Sieh, but it’s hard to tell.