Wanting to read more books this year (2021) and pledging to do so by deciding to no longer feel obliged to blog individually about every book I read, I immediately (stupidly) picked up the second biggest volume of non-illustrated literature I possess. The only bigger one is the Bible.
The Inheritance Trilogy technically contains four books in a single volume, though, so I can happily plough through this safe in the knowledge that some kind of long enough blog post will find its way out of me by its end.
A post about one book: terrifying. How strange this should have become so.
I can no longer create or pitch or edit or submit or finalise work; a post about five books, or four books, or nine or even ten books (those are planned, not guaranteed yet), that’s easy. If I’m still blogging, I still exist. If I’m blogging less, I exist less. Christ
Today is Monday 4th January. No one has reviewed the pleasure of regret yet, and though it’s not my first small book published by a small press, it’s still a little I dunno disappointing to have it ooze out without I dunno I dunno I dunno
I’m typing this in a launderette.
I’m typing this on a Monday.
It’s 2021 and the world is in (or near) lockdown again.
This will be another year like the last. And I just don’t fucking know if I can deal with being this fucking bored for that much longer. (Please note this isn’t a “cry for help”: I’m not suicidal, I’m bored bored bored bored bored bored bored.)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
This is the first book of N. K. Jemisin’s first trilogy, originally published in 2010 and published here in this 1500 page brick in 2014 with the other two books of the trilogy, as well as a sequel novella “set in the same world”.
While The Fifth Season (the first book of Jemisin’s second trilogy) – which I read last Summer, which feels both days and decades ago – left me wildly desperate to continue reading its narrative in The Obelisk Gate, this one didn’t have that effect on me at all.
I suppose, tho, that’s a good thing.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms has a clear and satisfying arc and conclusion, though aside from this structural element (I associate cliffhangers with plot and plot with trash and trash with genre lololol) it far more how I imagine fantasy to usually be.
This is a book about ancient religions based around worshipping gods who 100% exist and these gods interact with – including (as gods are wont to do) fucking – humans. There’s magic and dynasties and the main character is a young girl from the provinces brought to the big city because she’s the secret granddaughter of the ageing monarch…
It’s fun, and engaging and has a very clear linear structure: early on, the protagonist discovers she – as a close blood relative tho one whose mother was disinherited – is to be sacrificed in two weeks as part of the symbolic blood ceremony transferring the king’s power to either his dickhead niece or his dickhead nephew.
Yeine thus has two weeks to find out what happened to her mother, what is going on all the diminished, no-longer-warring gods and try to see if there’s a tiny loophole allowing her to escape the fortnight with her life. Oh, and she has to try and stop an army from destroying her homeland, sent by one of her dickhead cousins-once-removed as a distraction while all the bullshit with the sacrificial ceremony is happening.
It’s good. It’s silly. The protagonist fucks a god and she likes it.
Christ. I feel like a fucking baby writing about magic and spells, but if I wasn’t a baby I wouldn’t be sat in a Canadian launderette at noon on a Winter Monday.
I’d be somewhere warmer, much less bored.
Books like this aren’t quite distracting enough for me, as they’re just so unrealistic.
In terms of the events, not the emotional narrative or characters which, as with Jemisin’s other trilogy, are all fully rounded and knowable people.
The Broken Kingdoms
It is now the Friday following on from that Monday (January 9th) and in the interim America has fallen apart, again.
Who knows what will have happened down below the border by the time I finish reading this giant fantasy omnibus?
The Broken Kingdoms was excellent.
Maybe I’m just more tolerant of genre than I was a while ago, but I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and thought it was the most fun Jemisin I’ve read to date. This one plays with genre even further, and tho is set in the same world (and specifically the same city) as The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, it is not a sequel in the traditional sense of a sequel, in that it doesn’t continue the narrative of the main character of that book.
Many characters recur, of course, but the main character this time is Oree, a 30ish y.o. woman who moved to the city of Sky (now known as Shadow) following the events of Book One, when magic and gods returned openly to the world and Sky turned into a massive giant tree.
Oree is blind, but able to see magic, something she is told by her father – who was also secretly magical – to hide.
The novel opens with a minor god – a “godling” – being discovered murdered dead, and so The Broken Kingdoms functions as a riff on a serial killer crime novel for a large portion.
It’s a lot of fun, Jemisin’s characters navigating a changing and changed world, where new dangers and new pleasures are everywhere. In tone, it’s different to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and tho there is good pacing and lots of death, it doesn’t have the pounding sense of dread that permeates Yeine’s narrative as she waits to be sacrificed.
There are twists and turns but, as above, it has a satisfying resolution by the end and would, again, work alone, I think.
I should probably read something else, something a bit more real, before continuing with this giant book (thematically, there isn’t quite the wide-ranging allegory of The Stone Sky trilogy, but that’s fine, I suppose: cults and beliefs and ideologies are discussed and relevant to reality, but the powerful discussion of identities and gender that underpin Jemisin’s second trilogy are not as developed here), but I won’t because that’s not the way I do things.
It’s minus seven degrees outside. I need to shave, shower, then walk my cheeky cheeky dog.
The Kingdom of Gods
What I forgot to mention, however many days ago it was that I wrote the above, was that The Broken Kingdoms was – at least for the first third or half – what that awful, dire, shite novel American Gods promised to be.
I forgot about that observation when I slurred the above comments. I don’t know why I wrote slurred, I wasn’t slurring. Slurring is fun… this is just waiting waiting waiting, still, waiting for a pandemic to be over.
I know I read too much and I know that I read as a crutch to get through the difficulties and disappointments of life, but it’s now 6pm on a Monday evening (January 11th) – only one week on from last Monday – and I spent five or six hours today reading N. K. Jemisin.
I mean, I wanted to do that.
No one was forcing me to read N. K. Jemisin, of course, but whether it was sitting in my kitchen or on my sofa or beside my dog on the bed or walking to the supermarket to buy a hundred dollars’ worth of vegetables and oat milk, all I did today was read.
I didn’t write (this doesn’t count, this is blogging), I didn’t do any chores, I didn’t do any editing, I didn’t submit any poems or any pitches for any writing, I didn’t practice a foreign language or exercise or tidy or do laundry or anything else that could have improved the quality of my life in the short term and the medium term.
All I did was sit and read hundreds of pages of an – engaging, emotive and exciting – fantasy novel about warring gods and magic assassinations and romantic relationships more complicated than those of my grandfather’s parents (my grandfather’s parents were an inter-war thruple).
I took a day off, I properly took a day off.
I relaxed,I read some “escapist” fiction.
I don’t think it was right of me – right for me, I mean, I’m not making a bizarre moral absolute – to read the three novels of this trilogy in a row. By the end, by this afternoon, I felt guilty for having gone ten, twelve, days without reading anything “serious”, without getting stuck into a text that, I dunno, hurt…
It’s excellent, of course it is, and though having read the other two novels from this trilogy immediately prior, Jemisin’s plot structures and thus twists had become somewhat easy[er] to predict, but that didn’t matter.
In a big, complex, terrifying fictional world, I cared about what happened to these characters, cheering (under my breath but (whoops) loud enough for my lover to hear) when people reappeared from earlier in the series. I was relieved and moved by the Coda at the end, which fast-forwarded thru the remaining lives of the characters who survived to the trilogy’s finale (which wasn’t many of them tbh).
Anyway, I know I shouldn’t do what I’m about to do, I know I should do something more improving, but I’m going to stay in the same position I’ve been for the last few hours and read the “bonus novella” that completes this giant fucking book.
I’ll likely be back later tonight.
The Awakened Kingdom
And with that, it is over. It’s another day. One more day.
I had a panic attack for the first time in a while this morning. A big one, a long one, a hard one. Another classic scott manley hadley year begins!
I went to work, getting thru another day without being laid off but feeling no security (there’s a pandemic going on, hello!) and aware that I don’t have skills or experience that help me make money for other people when events spaces and restaurants are closed.
I should try and write things.
I should pursue reviews for my most recent book.
I should work on edits for my next one and seek out another person to write an introduction for it. I want an introduction for my next book, which is lighter, mostly, than the last one.
The Awakened Kingdom is a novella, just over a hundred pages (the other texts in this novel were 400ish to 600ish) and it is much less serious in tone. A dessert, I suppose, a nice little treat for someone who has enjoyed being in Jemisin’s fictional world. It’s set after the other books (spoilers, innit, the universe doesn’t end) and is about a new god, a young god, an inexperienced god learning about the world.
It’s fun and silly and the peril is lesser than before: it’s about identities and personal ideas of selfhood, which tho more weighty in a non-fantasy novel, as an addendum to a three-volume epic about gods and magic and life and death and mortality, it’s light in comparison.
It’s fun (yes, I know I’ve said that), and it was nice to be in Jemisin’s world with the lightness that petered out when The Broken Kingdoms started ramping up the stakes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this series of books, and I’ll likely read more Jemisin again, particularly in a shorter volume; I don’t want to limit myself to genre texts for ten days again.
Today is January 12th, I don’t feel very optimistic about the year to come. Hahaha.
I will keep reading, tho,and keep collecting thoughts here, even if they’re not very perceptive literarily and not very positive personally.
I’ll lighten my own mood by listening to the sleazy country song I gifted my lover as an Xmas present. That should cheer me somewhat.