Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) For two thousand years the Arameri family has ruled the world by enslaving the very gods that created mortalkind. Now the gods are free, and the Arameri’s ruthless grip is slipping. Yet they are all that stands between peace and world-spanning, unending war.
Shahar, last scion of the family, must choose her loyalties. She yearns to trust Sieh, the godling she loves. Yet her duty as Arameri heir is to uphold the family’s interests, even if that means using and destroying everyone she cares for.
As long-suppressed rage and terrible new magics consume the world, the Maelstrom — which even gods fear — is summoned forth. Shahar and Sieh: mortal and god, lovers and enemies. Can they stand together against the chaos that threatens?
Thoughts: I would like to start off by mentioning the utter squee reaction that I had when I realized that the narrator of this book was Sieh. From early in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (review here), he was one of my favourite characters, and so getting to see part of this epic tale told from his perspective was thrilling!
Sieh’s narrative was endlessly interesting. He’s a study in opposites, really, with his eons of experience going hand-in-hand with his childlike nature, and then the inner conflict of finding himself mortal and aging when in his mind he was meant to be the eternal child… It made for a fascinating read, very thought-provoking, and would have been page-turning enough even if it wasn’t for the engaging plot and mystery surrounding all events.
The plot itself it was a little slow in places, ranging from excitement and action to a step back with character introspection and reflection. Though the story still flowed well and was a treat to read, I did find myself wondering on occasion when things were going to pick up again and move the plot along a little more, rather than see Sieh have another argument about the same things he’s been arguing about for the entire book. Definitely provides greater insight into the character, there’s no denying that, but the way the pacing went up and down made for a bit of tedium at times.
As always, Jemisin did a wonderful job of expanding the world that she set down in the first book of the trilogy. More of the universe and history is revealed as we read through each of the books, leading to a wonderfully complete view of the gods (as much as you can ever get a complete view of gods), the world they’re a part of, and the people surrounding them. None of these things lack for development, and this book held some of the most interesting concepts I’ve ever seen played with in fiction involving deities. Sieh’s development (and especially his relationship to Yeine, Nahadoth, and Itempas), the interesting political play and evolution of the Arameri family, Kahl’s insane plan to essentially change the very fabric of the universe. It’s all deep and wonderful stuff, the kind that leaves you with plenty of debate and discussion with other fans of the series.
(This is one of a few books — series, really — that has resulted in me walking down the street and carrying on active conversations with friends over the personalities and natures of the gods, and debating what they might do in certain situations. Possibly one of the most interesting conversations overheard in McDonald’s…)
If you’re about to read this book for the first time, I urge you to remember just who it is that’s telling the tale. Sieh starts off by telling us that there will be no tricks. Can you really believe a narrator whose very nature involves trickery? The whole story is a trick, a tale that is nothing like what it first appears to be, with more layers and subtext and insight than you’d think it’s possible to cram into a single novel. But Jemisin, with her imaginative voice and incredible sense of style, manages it. This is one series that you will not find yourself disappointed for having read.