It’s rare that I read a fantasy novel and when I do, I strive only to read the best. I prefer novels cut from fresh cloth. I don’t like to see elves and dwarves or wizards casting fireballs. N. K. Jemison’s Kingdom of Gods is the final volume of her Inheritance trilogy and here we have a rich world of varied cultures ruled by a single dynasty, the Arameri, servants of Intempas, a god of order and light. Their long rule and ruthless peace has been known as the Bright and it is coming to an end.
This concluding volume centers around the Sieh, the god of childhood. Sieh is the oldest of the godlings, a child of the Gods. As the novel opens, he is bored and lonely. Returning to Sky, the Arameri palace, he befriends the last heirs of the family, Shahar and Dekarta. Over a series of yearly encounters they form a strange, desperate friendship. This, of course, changes everything.
Kingdom of Gods, like the novels before it, has a love story at its heart. These are also tales of change and redemption and forgiveness. The more typical fantasy themes of martial conflict, betrayal, ambition and revenge are all there too, but they lurk in the background, allowing the plot to arc through them and move on.
Jemison’s characters are full of humanity and show strength and weakness in ways that only made them more so. Her portrayal of gods is enigmatic, but holds an internal consistency that makes them feel a part of the world that they have created.
This is not a fantasy full of swords and sorcery, trading them for mysteries and intrigues, yet somehow this does nothing to diminish the qualities of epic fantasy. Vast magics still shake the world and our protagonist still manages to accomplish the impossible in the face of overwhelming doom.
I’m beating around the bush with this because I really don’t want to reveal much. This is a novel that is a bit too wonderful for me to spoil it by laying the plot bare in a review or even exposing it’s fantastic by telling you about my favorite parts. This is a book that you should read, especially if you like smartly written fantasy along non-traditional lines.
Anyway, enough of my rambling. Go buy this book.