The Awakened Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin

The Awakened Kingdom is another Kindle-only novella, following the Inheritance trilogy (of which The Kingdom of Gods was the third book). Thanks Pops for clueing me in!

As is more or less usual, this review contains spoilers for previous books (all three novels in the trilogy) but none for The Awakened Kingdom itself.

This was great fun and went by quickly, and I am quite entranced by the narrator’s voice (I seem to like each better than the last). It takes a little while to figure out who is speaking to us, because they leap right in with great enthusiasm, shouting in all-caps and with exclamation marks: this is a brand-new, infant godling, who is still learning about the world and their own powers and (not least) how to tell a story.

I am born! Hello!

Many things happen.

The end!

(Then our child-god gets some lessons in storytelling from Papa Tempa, or Itempas, who you may remember is the god among other things of order. Later the narrator will also indulge in some Mama Yeine-style storytelling, with the disjointed chronology that characterized the first book in this series. It’s quite cute like that.) We eventually learn that the speaker is more or less female (using ‘she’ pronouns), and 40 days old when we meet her; she does not have a name until she gives herself one, which I’ll use here in the interest of clarity and because it gives nothing huge away. Our narrator is Shill. She was conceived as a replacement for Sieh, the Eldest godling and Trickster; she is frustrated early in her life, though, because she’s terrible at being Sieh. So begins the familiar challenge of becoming, instead, herself.

Shill finds herself attracted to the mortal realm, and travels to one continent in particular where she’ll meet her sibling-god Ia, a captivating young mortal man named Eino, his powerful grandmother Fahno, and the two women who both hope to marry him. In Eino’s society, women hold all the power. They fight and protect, support their families and rule politically. It is men’s job to have beautiful hair and clothing and smell nice – to be decorative, to raise children, and to serve their wives. “Women risk their lives enough to bear children and provide for them by tool or by blade; the least men can do is handle things after that.” This reversal is quite a revelation for me: it’s refreshing in some ways, shocking in others (the patriarchy is so ingrained that it’s hard to grasp), and makes its point so well that it’s almost nauseating – that is, it’s easy to see how unjust men’s degradation is in this fictional world, so what the hell is wrong with this real one, y’all? All of this is fascinating, and it takes Shill – naïve though she is – about a millisecond to see the problem. What she’ll do about it – and what Eino will do, because despite being just a boy he is quite impressive – will change everything.

Shill’s narrative voice does mature some as she does – the exclamation marks fall away and the feelings get a little less toddler-temper-tantrum. But she retains a disarming, downright charming, innocent regard for things being right and just. “ALL EXISTENCE WAS WRONG AND TERRIBLE AND IT SHOULD BE BETTER!” Tell them, Shill! The two high points for this novella, for me, are that voice, and the eye-opening problem of misandry. The Awakened Kingdom is a delight: entertaining, fast-paced, deeply charming, and also thought-provoking. I wish I could read it again for the first time, immediately.

And so, good news: there is more Inheritance! I’ve just loaded up Shades in Shadow, a triptych of short stories from the same world. Hooray and keep writing, Jemisin.


Rating: 9 serry-flowers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: