Welcome to part two of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms readalong. Today’s discussion questions are written by Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings.
1) We’ve started to learn about a side of Yeine’s mother that Yeine can barely believe existed. No one in this story seems all that capable of telling the objective truth, however, so who do you think Kinneth really was? A devoted mother? A traitorous schemer? Evil and cruel?
All of the above. She’s a complex character who has good sides and bad sides, strengths and weaknesses, just like any of us. I see her as an Arameri who fell in love despite her better judgement. She made some questionable decisions out of love for her husband without thinking about how they’d affect her child, but then she tried to find a loophole to get out of her side of the bargain. Once she realized Yeine was her own person and not just Enefa, she learned to love her as well, and became a devoted mother. People in general aren’t purely good or purely evil, but Jemisin touches here on the fact that sometimes we create idealized pictures of people we love rather than seeing them as multifaceted or as capable of the darker sides of humanity.
2) Wow major plot reveal Batman! Finding out about Yeine’s second soul was not something I saw coming at all. Did you suspect? Have any other theories? What do you think of this major plot development? What do you think Yeine should do?
It’s just as shocking the second time around, but it makes a lot of sense. We see the way that Sieh dotes on Yeine, and the way that Nahadoth watches over her. All of the Enefadeh still have feelings for Enefa, and it must be really hard for them to see Yeine who houses her soul but isn’t her. I think that Yeine should do exactly what she’s doing. See my next question for more on that.
3) We’ve gotten to know a lot more about Darr in this section and their traditions have both good and bad sides it seems to me. What do you think of their coming-of-age ritual for the women? What about women soldiers and men being left to protect the children? Any other traditions that struck you?
I thought it was interesting to see familiar attitudes toward gender (men are the strong muscular ones, etc.) play out in such a unique way within the Darre society. The fact that women are warriors so that the men can be the last line of defense for the children is intriguing, and shows that despite the fact that the Darre seem straightforward, they’re more strategic than they appear.
As far as the coming of age ritual… it’s definitely gruesome. However, it’s Yeine’s reaction to it that struck me the most. She didn’t play by the rules, but rather stepped outside the confines of the game and did something completely different. That’s how she’s going to handle the Arameri contest too. She’s not going to blindly accept and conform to certain behaviors just because it’s expected of her.
4) The Walking Death played a pretty big role in the past given none of this would have happened if Yeine’s father hadn’t gotten sick. There was discussion in the previous section about how the Death only infects commoners and those of high-birth aren’t affected. What do you think the Death really is? Any theories on why it infects only certain people?
I wonder if it’s inflicted by the Enefadeh as a punishment from the Arameri. It wouldn’t affect the Arameri because they have the sigils, but it would get a message across to anyone who even thinks of disagreeing with them.
5) Finally, we’ve learned a lot more about our enslaved gods between getting to know Nahadoth better, finding out what is up with Sieh, and seeing a rather bitter side of Kurue. What do you think of all these revelations? Has your favorite god changed?
I find myself liking Nahadoth even more. His dark and dangerous demeanor seems like a way of hiding sensitivity and emotional pain. Being confined in a mortal body that gives him a split personality makes a foil for Yeine with her two souls.