This is the sequel to one of my top 10 SFF books, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms,
and I have no idea why I delayed reading it for so long. May be I wanted to save it for some rainy day, and indeed, it brought me out of my recent SFF jadedness with a wham!
It helps if you have read its prequel, because in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
, the stage gets set for – spoilers ahoy!
– the murder of goddess Enefa by one of the other two gods, Bright Itempas. Itempas is the god of the light and order, but as punishment for his heinous mad deed, he is banished from the god world, stripped of his powers, and is cursed to live among the mortals (whom he so disdains) for the rest of, well, for some undefined time till he learns his lesson. This second book in the trilogy thus gives us a deeper look into the world where the power basis of religion has been shifted, i.e. into the “broken kingdom”.
Itempas learns his lessons – unintentionally, of course-- by the hands of a blind mortal woman, Oree Shoth, who takes him, in his suicidal, sorry state, without knowing that he is, was,
a god. I find Oree to be one of the most fascinating characters I have ever read. She is accessible to her reader, in the sense that she is a brilliant mix of logic and emotion (very different when juxtaposed with the arrogant god she has sheltered), and though she thinks herself powerless, she is the pivotal point in the struggle born of old hatred. Itempas was never a kind, benevolent god, and was never a likeable character, but the course of redemption in the book was something quite marvellous. He gets “humanized” and yet gets glorified in the book in a way that makes me speechless with wonder.
The book seemed to be a lot about genocide and the inevitable repercussions of thoughtless racial murder. It also seemed, to me, to revolve around the curious relationship between gods and their worshippers, how a god’s powers are dependent on his/her worshippers’ devotion. Without faith, a god too becomes powerless to act. For that is Itempas’ fate. There are godlings (children of the gods) being murdered all over, to investigate which incidents the aristocratic, autocratic priests come down, and in which madfare, Oree Shoth gets embroiled. Itempas is obliged to protect Oree with his measly powers, though really, its Oree doing all the protecting. There is a scene where the priests turn against him to attack him, not knowing that he is the very god whom they worship. It's appalling and so well-written; god proposes, man disposes.
Once again, Jemisin wows you with her amazing world-building. The mythology is detailed and intricate, and even a few words on the page pull you into a new realm of imagination: the World Tree, the void, the floating city of Sky, the Shadow worlds… I am sure there are other reviewers who have done more justice to the imagery in the books.
You have got to read this series (or hear its audiobook brilliantly narrated by Casaundra Freeman
Rating: A stupendous 10 out of 10