2014’s The Awakened Kingdom is a sequel to N. K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.
Years after the events of the trilogy, the Gods Itempas and Yeinne make a godling, one who might fit the place left empty by the late Sieh. Being gods, they raise their child Shill in the manner befitting gods, which is essentially to kick the kid out the door and hope for the best.
Godlings are durable, mortals considerably less so. Hoping to grow into her appointed role, Shill heads for the world that played such a huge role in Sieh’s life, the Planet Where Gods Die. It’s a world filled with mortals, a few Godlings, and the offspring of mortals and the divine, the demons. It’s one of very few places a being like Shill could actually be killed.
Its inhabitants die all too easily and the presence of gods often makes the odds of a sudden, unpleasant demise much higher. After millennia of suffering through the god’s games, the mortals got the gods to agree to certain rules. One of them requires Godlings like Shill to have a mortal mentor, someone to teach them on how to behave without inadvertently levelling cities or turning mortals to a fine pink mist.
Shill isn’t much interested in being tutored by any of the candidates presented to her. Instead she becomes intrigued by young Eino’s travails. If Eino lived in any nation but the one to which he is native, he might have been Shill’s teacher. In Darr, he is denied rights and aspirations. Instead he is chattel, expected to submit to whatever choices the women of his family deign to make for him.
How lucky for Eino that he has a young god in his corner. It is less lucky that she has very little idea what she is doing.
I would have reviewed The Awakened Kingdom before now, but I only discovered that this existed a couple of days ago. How, you may ask, could I overlook the existence of not one but two (I also failed to spot 2015’s Shades in Shadow) works by a Hugo-winning author? All I can say is a lot of people have let me down here.
Some sources call this book 3.5 of the series, while others call it book 4. The author seems very firm that this is not the fourth book in the trilogy, which says to me that 3.5 is the right solution. Although maybe there’s a third option I have not yet envisioned. And really, once I admit there could be at least one option I missed, that basically opens the door to an infinite number of unknown solutions, each superior to the previous. Thank goodness I am not the sort of person who obsesses over details like this.
Shill is endearingly naive and unlike a lot of other characters in Jemisin’s books, takes very little time to start seeking ways to limit how much chaos and death she inadvertently inflicts on the puny humans. Empathy isn’t necessarily a virtue for gods, but Shill has it. The downside is that the more she identifies with humans, the more she will want to get involved in their affairs. But I am sure it will all work out of the best.
Although I don’t think it’s intended as a young adult book, it may well appeal to teens and whatever they’re calling twenty-somethings not yet trusted by the parents to travel alone. Readers looking for an enjoyable, essentially upbeat — setting aside the rampant gender-based social inequality and the ever present danger that the gods might start dabbling in mortal affairs again — should enjoy this work, particularly if they read it as a chaser after Jemisin’s somewhat less optimistic Broken Earth series.