The Kingdom of the Gods, N. K. Jemisin

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 disingenuous.

I have this imagined thing when I’m trying to read more authors of color where I worry that I’ll reach a point at which there are no more books by authors of color that I want to read. I’ll just be gazing at my TBR list, and absolutely everything on it will be by white authors, and I’ll have to face the fact that my author-ethnicity pie chart is going to become a closed-er and closed-er mouth Pac-Man of whiteness.

This is a crazy fear for a number of reasons, not least of which being that I control what goes on my TBR list so I can definitely avoid this outcome long before it happens. But it’s sort of functioning at a lower level of consciousness where I don’t fully articulate it to myself but I do ration out the books I read by authors of color I already know I like, so that if this baleful circumstance should come to pass, I would still have at least three books loaded up in the chamber ready to save my stats.

As this is objectively deranged, I reminded myself to borrow one of the NK Jemisin books I hadn’t read yet from the library prior to setting out for India. I read it on a cross-country train trip. Whiskey Jenny was sick, and we were both exhausted and filthy because we had done a bike tour of Jaipur in the morning and embarked on a 36-hour train ride in the afternoon without any opportunity for a shower, and people kept stopping by our train car to peer at us, and we were paranoid about it because a tour guide had recently mentioned to us how slutty people in India think American girls are and followed that up a really scary story about a Japanese tourist getting raped as she endeavored to navigate public transportation in Jaipur. Under these circumstances, a lovely fantasy novel like The Kingdom of the Gods was a wonderful escape from reality.

If you’ve read the prior two novels–well, you should definitely read the prior two novels. Jemisin explains what happens in them, but still, you’ll get more out of this one if you’ve read the other two. It’s about Sieh, the god of childhood, the trickster god, who comes to love two mortal children and then, without warning, finds himself suddenly mortal, suddenly subject to aging. Lacking his powers and getting older at an unpredictable rate, Sieh must ally himself with godlings, gods, and mortals to stop another gods’ war more horrifying and fatal than the first.

I love to see writers growing as I progress chronologically through their work. N. K. Jemisin won me over with her worldbuilding and her command of a unique, startling narrative voice. Both those things are still on offer here, but The Kingdom of the Gods also has a more suspenseful and engaging plot than the previous two books in the series, such that I had a hard time putting it down even to go to the loo. (Though in fairness: We were on a train. Nobody wants to use the loo on a train if they do not have to.)

  • First… I totally have the problem you have – I always worry that my stack of POC authors will dry up. In fact, I have hit that point a few times in the past, when I finished reading all the POC authors in my list and didn’t have any more to read. Then I started finding more blogs written by readers who read a lot of POC authors, bought quite a few random books, etc. So hopefully, that won’t happen for a long time.

    Second… I’d love to hear about the India trip you made! And that ogling you mentioned – oh yeah, people stare at foreigners like they are zoo specimens. It’s both hilarious to see it and pretty embarrassing too.

    Oh, and I have the first book in this series in my TBR. Need to bump it up – finished series are always so much fun to read!

    • Gin Jenny

      Yeah, I think bloggers are making more of an effort to read POC authors, which helps, and I also think that just keeping your eyes open for POC authors is a help. When I’m at the library, I’m much more likely to check out a book on the “new books” shelf if it’s by a POC author, and I’ve made some excellent discoveries that way!

      My India trip — I know, I know, I need to go through my pictures and write a proper post about it! I loved India, is the short version!

  • I like disingenuous authors, although I also like the way this one sets me up to think that maybe I don’t.
    And yes, we need to hear more about India.
    When I was 11 and my brother was 8 and we were in Hawaii, we got a lot of requests from Japanese tourists to be photographed with him, because he was so blonde.
    The last time we were in Hawaii, we got a request from some Japanese tourists to be photographed with Walker, because they’d never seen anyone so tall. He’s 6’4″.

    • Gin Jenny

      I will truly try to write more about India soon. Writing about travels is surprisingly hard! Without becoming boring!

  • I just stopped and added The Inheritance Trilogy to my list. I’ve never read Jemisin, but I looove the excerpt that you’ve included!

    • Gin Jenny

      She’s an excellent writer. I was captivated utterly by an excerpt from her first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and I’ve loved her work ever since!

  • I read the first one in this series and it seriously rocked. I need to get going on the rest! Sieh was a favorite character.

    • Gin Jenny

      Well, there you go! This one’s all about Sieh! And I hear good things about her other series as well, AND she’s got a new book coming out this year. Or is already out. I can’t remember.

  • Bookgazing

    I do this too, especially because a lot of the chromatic authors I want to read (YA, SFF authors) are from America so sometimes it’s harder to get their books for a while. This week I made a shelf with all the books by chromatic authors that I own that I want to read really soon so I could see the untruth of my brain and know that I have lots of books to read and so don’t have to ration them.

    More related to you post – you should read her SFF duology now.

    • Gin Jenny

      I know, I want to! I’ve got a ton of other stuff checked out of the library now, but the next time I’m in a specfic mood, I do want to read her other two books (plus the brand new one).

  • Oh, you went to India?! I had no idea. I am insanely envious, and I too would like to hear more, although poor Whiskey Jenny being ill.

    Your fear about running out of books by people of colour is scary; you may feel it’s irrational, but it certainly reflects poorly on the publishing business.

    I hear you about loos on trains. However, loos on buses – are worse.

    • Gin Jenny

      India was BRILLIANT — it’s where I went on my hibiscus. Whiskey Jenny was my gracious hostess, and we podcast-field-tripped all over the place. Whiskey Jenny took many wonderful pictures, including my sidebar one of the Water Palace in Jaipur. Pretty, no?

      Loos on buses are worse AS A RULE, but in fact I think the loos on this train were as bad as any bus loos I have encountered so far.

  • I have the same fear about running out of books by people of colour – my friend once told me it’s a ridiculous fear, but when I amended my words, adding “…that I’d like to read” she agreed with me, because I’m picky about genre. I’m afraid that this also causes me to hog books I think I’d love, though – saving them on my TBR “for when I need them”. I’m trying not to do this anymore.

    And, India – I’m jealous and curious to know more!

    • Gin Jenny

      Well, as I’ve given more attention to finding books by authors of color, I’ve found that “that I’d like to read” is less of a concern than I thought it would be. But then, I am not super picky about genre.

      India! More! I promise! (I hope.)

  • So I read the first book and while I thought, wow she’s a great writer, I also thought, wow I didn’t enjoy that as much as I thought I would. I don’t really enjoy reading about gods and their hijinx. Since then I haven’t been able to force myself to read the next two books, though I am continually reminded by posts like this that I really should get over it and just try.

    • Gin Jenny

      Or maybe try her other series? The Killing Moon and whatever the second one is called? She’s an excellent writer, so maybe you just need another world of hers to splash around in.