Disclaimer: I know and like the author. Also, this write up is even more outside the norm in that I read a draft for the book in 2010.
The back cover copy says that this book is about Shahar, the current heir to the Arameri throne, but it really is about Sieh and his godling-ness. I knew this going in, given the draft I had read, but I'm still a bit disappointed, since I would very much like to read the book that the back cover copy describes.
The Kingdom of Gods is largely about wrapping up the fallout that begins with Book 1 of the trilogy, although thankfully, each book can be read by itself. As previously mentioned, it follows Sieh as he adjusts to some odd changes in his situation, starting with his befriending the young Arameri twins Shahar and Deka.
Sieh was one of my favorites from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and although I still like him a great deal, I'm not sure the decision to write the book from Sieh's POV entirely worked for me. You see, Sieh is the god of childhood, so despite his millennia of being and his vast amounts of power, he gains the most power when he is truly embodying the spirit of childhood. Unfortunately, I don't think the narration quite captured that. I very much loved Jemisin's voice in the first book of the trilogy, was a bit meh about it in the second, and I'm a bit meh about it here as well. I think she writes elegant, high fantasy voice extremely well, but I didn't completely buy street-smart Oree or childish Sieh. Sieh's voice in particular feels too deliberate for me; even the bits of childish retorts or brattiness don't read as very spontaneous.
The politics are much more interesting, although I was frustrated at being limited to Sieh's POV. The Arameri hold on the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is falling apart, and although Sieh does have some hand in this, his emotional ties to the situation are fairly weak.
Sieh is much more concerned with his aging, and while it eventually does get tied back into the rebellion against the Arameri, we don't really find this out until much later. And even then, I wasn't particularly satisfied by the major villain of the book, who mostly seeks to destroy the universe out of vengeance because... he is the god of vengeance. I think I may have bought it more had there been more development of the villain, but because of the Sieh POV and Sieh having forgotten about his child, we don't get very much.
I also think that although the period Sieh spends with Ahad is better than it was in the draft—I realize this is a completely unfair comparison, but it's hard to make yourself mentally unread something—I still don't really understand Ahad as a character. It doesn't help that Sieh isn't particularly invested in preventing the fall of the Arameri, and because Sieh doesn't much care, the entire section reads as more of a waiting game than anything else.
All complaints aside, this was still a very engaging read for me. I heart Shahar to pieces, and I very much love the first section of the book, up to Shahar's betrayal of Sieh. And Jemisin is extremely good at epic fantasy set pieces: the fall of the World Tree, the creation of Echo, the sigils carved on Deka's body, Shahar flying Echo across the world, the hidden maskers in the crowd, Glee Shoth a white streak in the sky as she wields her father's sword.
And I can't tell how much of my analysis has to do with the fact that I was much more interested in the side relationships and characters: Shahar and Remath and Deka, Remath and her brother, Remath and her lover whose name I forgot, what I assume are various shifting alliances among the rebellion, Enefa and Sieh, Yeine and Sieh and Nahadoth, and of course Yeine and Nahadoth and Itempas.
Overall, the book combines a mortal political plot with the political plotting of the gods, as do the other two in the trilogy. I still think the first book ties the two strands together best; many of the weaknesses in this book come from both sides of the plot not being developed enough. We don't get enough of one or the other, so although they're both interesting, they feel in need of fleshing out. Still, it's a really interesting trilogy, and I suspect Jemisin will work out balancing different aspects of a novel over time.
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