The Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance Series #2)

The Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance Series #2)

by N. K. Jemisin

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Overview

A man with no memory of his past and a struggling, blind street artist will face off against the will of the gods as the secrets of this stranger's past are revealed in the sequel to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the debut novel of NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.

In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a strange homeless man on an impulse. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. And Oree's guest is at the heart of it. . .

The Inheritance Trilogy
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
The Broken Kingdoms
The Kingdom of Gods

The Inheritance Trilogy (omnibus edition)
Shades in Shadow: An Inheritance Triptych (e-only short fiction)
The Awakened Kingdom (e-only novella)

For more from N. K. Jemisin, check out:

Dreamblood Duology

The Killing Moon
The Shadowed Sun

The Broken Earth series
The Fifth Season
The Obelisk Gate
The Stone Sky

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316043960
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: 11/03/2010
Series: Inheritance Series , #2
Pages: 411
Sales rank: 202,030
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

N. K. Jemisin is a Brooklyn author who won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for The Fifth Season, which was also a New York Times Notable Book of 2015. She previously won the Locus Award for her first novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and her short fiction and novels have been nominated multiple times for Hugo, World Fantasy, Nebula, and RT Reviewers' Choice awards, and shortlisted for the Crawford and the James Tiptree, Jr. awards. She is a science fiction and fantasy reviewer for the New York Times, and you can find her online at nkjemisin.com.

Read an Excerpt

The Broken Kingdoms


By Jemisin, N.K.

Orbit

Copyright © 2010 Jemisin, N.K.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316043960

1

“Discarded Treasure” (encaustic on canvas)

PLEASE HELP ME,” said the woman. I recognized her voice immediately. She, her husband, and two children had looked over—but not bought—a wall hanging at my table perhaps an hour before. She had been annoyed then. The hanging was expensive, and her children were pushy. Now she was afraid, her voice calm on the surface but tremolo with fear underneath.

“What is it?” I asked.

“My family. I can’t find them.”

I put on my best “friendly local” smile. “Maybe they wandered off. It’s easy to get lost this close to the trunk. Where did you last see them?”

“There.” I heard her move. Pointing, probably. She seemed to realize her error after a moment, with the usual sudden awkwardness. “Ah… sorry, I’ll ask someone else—”

“Up to you,” I said lightly, “but if you’re talking about a nice clean alley over near the White Hall, then I think I know what happened.”

Her gasp told me I’d guessed right. “How did you…”

I heard a soft snort from Ohn, the nearest of the other art sellers along this side of the park. This made me smile, which I hoped the woman would interpret as friendliness and not amusement at her expense.

“Did they go in the alley?” I asked.

“Oh… well…” The woman fidgeted; I heard her hands rub together. I knew the problem already, but I let her muddle through. No one likes to have their errors pointed out. “It’s just that… my son needed a toilet. None of the businesses around here would let him use theirs unless we bought something. We don’t have a lot of money….”

She’d given that same excuse to avoid buying my wall hanging. That didn’t bother me—I’d have been the first to say no one needed anything I sold—but I was annoyed to hear that she’d taken it so far. Too cheap to buy a wall hanging was one thing, but too cheap to buy a snack or a trinket? That was all we businesspeople asked in exchange for letting out-of-towners gawk at us, crowd out regular customers, and then complain about how unfriendly city dwellers were.

I decided not to point out that her family could have used the facilities at the White Hall for free.

“That particular alley has a unique property,” I explained instead. “Anyone who enters the alley and disrobes, even partially, gets transported to the middle of the Sun Market.” The market dwellers had built a stage on the arrival spot, actually—the better to point and laugh at hapless people who appeared there bare-assed. “If you go to the Market, you should find your family.”

“Oh, thank the Lady,” the woman said. (That phrase has always sounded strange to my ears.) “Thank you. I’d heard things about this city. I didn’t want to come, but my husband—he’s a High Norther, wanted to see the Lady’s Tree…” She let out a deep breath. “How do I get to this market?”

Finally. “Well, it’s in West Shadow; this is East Shadow. Wesha, Easha.”

“What?”

“Those are the names people use, if you stop to ask directions.”

“Oh. But… Shadow? I’ve heard people use that word, but the city’s name is—”

I shook my head. “Like I said, that’s not what it’s called by the people who live here.” I gestured overhead, where I could dimly perceive the ghostly green ripples of the World Tree’s ever-rustling leaf canopy. The roots and trunk were dark to me, the Tree’s living magic hidden behind foot-thick outer bark, but its tender leaves danced and glimmered at the very limit of my sight. Sometimes I watched them for hours.

“We don’t get a lot of sky here,” I said. “You see?”

“Oh. I… I see.”

I nodded. “You’ll need to take a coach to the rootwall at Sixth Street, then either ride the ferry or walk the elevated path through the tunnel. This time of day, they’ll have the lanterns at full wick for out-of-towners, so that’s good. Nothing worse than walking the root in the dark—not that it makes much difference to me.” I grinned to put her at ease. “But you wouldn’t believe how many people go crazy over a little darkness. Anyway, once you get to the other side, you’ll be in Wesha. There are always palanquins around, so you can either catch one or walk to the Sun Market. It’s not far, just keep the Tree on your right, and—”

There was a familiar horror in her voice when she interrupted me. “This city… how am I supposed to… I’ll get lost. Oh, demons, and my husband’s even worse. He gets lost all the time. He’ll try to find his way back here, and I have the purse, and—”

“It’s all right,” I said with practiced compassion. I leaned across my table, careful not to dislodge the carved-wood sculptures, and pointed toward the far end of Art Row. “If you want, I can recommend a good guide. He’ll get you there fast.”

She would be too cheap for that, I suspected. Her family could’ve been assaulted in that alley, robbed, transformed into rocks. Was the risk really worth whatever money they’d saved? Pilgrims never made sense to me.

“How much?” she asked, already sounding dubious.

“You’ll have to ask the guide. Want me to call him over?”

“I…” She shifted from foot to foot, practically reeking of reluctance.

“Or you could buy this,” I suggested, turning smoothly in my chair to pick up a small scroll. “It’s a map. Includes all the god spots—places magicked-up by godlings, I mean, like that alley.”

“Magicked—You mean, some godling did this?”

“Probably. I can’t see scriveners bothering, can you?”

She sighed. “Will this map help me reach this market?”

“Oh, of course.” I unrolled it to give her a look. She took a long time staring at it, probably hoping to memorize the route to the Market without buying it. I didn’t mind her trying. If she could learn Shadow’s convoluted streets that easily, interrupted on the map by Tree roots and occasional notes about this or that god spot, then she deserved a free peek.

“How much?” she asked at last, and reached for her purse.

After the woman left, her anxious footsteps fading into the general mill of the Promenade, Ohn ambled over. “You’re so nice, Oree,” he said.

I grinned. “Aren’t I? I could have told her to just go into the alley and lift her skirts a bit, which would’ve sent her to her family in a heartbeat. But I had to look out for her dignity, didn’t I?”

Ohn shrugged. “If they don’t think of it on their own, that’s their fault, not yours.” He sighed after the woman. “Shame to come all the way here on a pilgrimage and spend half of it wandering around lost, though.”

“Someday she’ll savor the memory.” I got up, stretching. I’d been sitting all morning and my back was sore. “Keep an eye on my table for me, will you? I’m going for a walk.”

“Liar.”

I grinned at the coarse, growly voice of Vuroy, another of the Row’s sellers, as he ambled over. He stood close to Ohn; I imagined Vuroy hooking an affectionate arm around Ohn. They and Ru, another of the Row’s sellers, were a triple, and Vuroy was possessive. “You just want to look in that alley, see if her dumb-as-demons man and brat dropped anything before the magic got ’em.”

“Why would I do that?” I asked as sweetly as I could, though I couldn’t help laughing. Ohn was barely holding in a snicker himself.

“If you find something, be sure to share,” he said.

I blew a kiss in his direction. “Finders keepers. Unless you want to share Vuroy in return?”

“Finders keepers,” he retorted, and I heard Vuroy laugh and pull him into an embrace. I walked away, concentrating on the tap-tap of my stick so that I wouldn’t hear them kiss. I’d been joking about the sharing, of course, but there were still some things a single girl didn’t enjoy being around when she couldn’t have a little of it herself.

The alley, across the wide Promenade from Art Row, was easy to find, because its walls and floor shimmered pale against the ambient green glow of the World Tree. Nothing too bright; by godling standards, this was minor magic, something even a mortal could’ve done with a few chiseled sigils and a fortune in activating ink. Ordinarily, I would’ve seen little more than a scrim of light along the mortar between the bricks, but this god spot had been activated recently and would take time to fade back to its usual quiescence.

I stopped at the mouth of the alley, listening carefully. The Promenade was a wide circle at the city’s relative heart, where foot traffic met the carriageways and came together to encircle a broad plaza of flower beds, shade trees, and walkways. Pilgrims liked to gather there, because the plaza offered the city’s best view of the World Tree—which was the same reason we artists liked it. The pilgrims were always in a good mood to buy our wares after they’d had a chance to pray to their strange new god. Still, we were always mindful of the White Hall perched nearby, its shining walls and statue of Bright Itempas seeming to loom disapprovingly over the plaza’s heretical goings-on. The Order-Keepers weren’t as strict these days as they had once been; there were too many gods now who might take exception to their followers being persecuted. Too much wild magic altogether in the city for them to police it all. That still didn’t make it smart to do certain things right under their noses.

So I entered the alley only after I’d made sure there were no priests in the immediate vicinity. (It was still a gamble—the street was so noisy that I couldn’t hear everything. I was prepared to say I was lost, just in case.)

As I moved into the relative silence of the alley, tapping my stick back and forth in case I happened across a wallet or other valuables, I noticed the smell of blood at once. I dismissed it just as quickly, because it didn’t make sense; the alley had been magicked to keep itself clean of detritus. Any inanimate object dropped in it disappeared after half an hour or so—the better to lure in unwary pilgrims. (The godling who’d set this particular trap had a wicked mind for detail, I had decided.) Yet the deeper I moved into the alley, the more clearly the scent came to me—and the more uneasy I grew, because I recognized it. Metal and salt, cloying in that way blood becomes after it has grown cold and clotted. But this was not the heavy, iron scent of mortal blood; there was a lighter, sharper tang to it. Metals that had no name in any mortal tongue, salts of entirely different seas.

Godsblood. Had someone dropped a vial of the stuff here? An expensive mistake, if so. Yet the godsblood smelled… flat somehow. Wrong. And there was far, far too much of it.

Then my stick hit something heavy and soft, and I stopped, dread drying my mouth.

I crouched to examine my find. Cloth, very soft and fine. Flesh beneath the cloth—a leg. Cooler than it should have been, but not cold. I felt upward, my hand trembling, and found a curved hip, a woman’s slightly poochy belly—and then my fingers stilled as the cloth suddenly became sodden and tacky.

I snatched my hand back and asked, “A-are you… all right?” That was a foolish question, because obviously she wasn’t.

I could see her now, a very faint person-shaped blur occluding the alley floor’s shimmer, but that was all. She should have glowed bright with magic of her own; I should have spotted her the moment I entered the alley. She should not have been motionless, since godlings had no need for sleep.

I knew what this meant. All my instincts cried it. But I did not want to believe.

Then I felt a familiar presence appear nearby. No footsteps to forewarn me, but that was all right. I was glad he’d come this time.

“I don’t understand,” Madding whispered. That was when I had to believe, because the surprise and horror in Madding’s voice were undeniable.

I had found a godling. A dead one.

I stood, too fast, and stumbled a little as I backed away. “I don’t, either,” I said. I gripped my stick tightly with both hands. “She was like this when I found her. But—” I shook my head, at a loss for words.

There was the faint sound of chimes. No one else ever seemed to hear them, I had noticed long ago. Then Madding manifested from the shimmer of the alley: a stocky, well-built man of vaguely Senmite ethnicity, swarthy and weathered of face, with tangled dark hair caught in a tail at the nape of his neck. He did not glow, precisely—not in this form—but I could see him, contrasting solidly against the walls’ shimmer. And I had never seen the stricken look that was on his face as he stared down at the body.

“Role,” he said. Two syllables, the faintest of emphasis on the first. “Oh, Sister. Who did this to you?”

And how? I almost asked, but Madding’s obvious grief kept me silent.

He went to her, this impossibly dead godling, and reached out to touch some part of her body. I could not see what; his fingers seemed to fade as they pressed against her skin. “It doesn’t make sense,” he said, very softly. That was more proof of how troubled he was; usually he tried to act like the tough, rough-mannered mortal he appeared to be. Before this, I had seen him show softness only in private, with me.

“What could kill a godling?” I asked. I did not stammer this time.

“Nothing. Another godling, I mean, but that takes more raw magic than you can imagine. All of us would have sensed that and come to see. But Role had no enemies. Why would anyone hurt her? Unless…” He frowned. As his concentration slipped, so did his image; his human frame blurred into something that was a shining, liquid green, like the smell of fresh Tree leaves. “No, why would either of them have done it? It doesn’t make sense.”

I went to him and put a hand on his glimmering shoulder. After a moment, he touched my hand in silent thanks, but I could tell the gesture had given him no comfort.

“I’m sorry, Mad. I’m so sorry.”

He nodded slowly, becoming human again as he got a hold of himself. “I have to go. Our parents… They’ll need to be told. If they don’t know already.” He sighed and shook his head as he got to his feet.

“Is there anything you need?”

He hesitated, which was gratifying. There are some reactions a girl always likes to see from a lover, even a former one. This former one brushed my cheek with a finger, making my skin tingle. “No. But thank you.”

While we’d spoken, I hadn’t paid attention, but a crowd had begun to gather at the mouth of the alley. Someone had seen us and the body; in the way of cities, that first gawker had drawn others. When Madding picked up the body, there were gasps from the watching mortals and one horrified outcry as someone recognized his burden. Role was known, then—possibly even one of the godlings who’d gathered a small following of worshippers. That meant word would be all over the city by nightfall.

Madding nodded to me, then vanished. Two shadows within the alley drew near, lingering by the place Role had been, but I did not look at them. Unless they worked hard not to be noticed, I could always see godlings, and not all of them liked that. These were probably Madding’s people; he had several siblings who worked for him as guards and helpers. There would be others, though, coming to pay their respects. Word spread quickly among their kind, too.

With a sigh, I left the alley and pushed through the crowd—giving no answers to their questions other than a terse, “Yes, that was Role,” and “Yes, she’s dead”—eventually returning to my table. Vuroy and Ohn had been joined by Ru, who took my hand and sat me down and asked if I wanted a glass of water—or a good, stiff drink. She started wiping my hand with a piece of cloth, and belatedly I realized there must’ve been godsblood on my fingers.

“I’m all right,” I said, though I wasn’t entirely sure of that. “Could use some help packing up, though. I’m heading home early.” I could hear other artists along the Row doing the same. If a godling was dead, then the World Tree had just become the second-most-interesting attraction in the city, and I could look forward to poor sales for the rest of the week.

So I went home.

I am, you see, a woman plagued by gods.

It was worse once. Sometimes it felt as if they were everywhere: underfoot, overhead, peering around corners and lurking under bushes. They left glowing footprints on the sidewalks. (I could see that they had their own favorite paths for sightseeing.) They urinated on the white walls. They didn’t have to do that, urinate I mean, they just found it amusing to imitate us. I found their names written in splattery light, usually in sacred places. I learned to read in this way.

Sometimes they followed me home and made me breakfast. Sometimes they tried to kill me. Occasionally they bought my trinkets and statues, though for what purpose I can’t fathom. And, yes, sometimes I loved them.

I even found one in a muckbin once. Sounds mad, doesn’t it? But it’s true. If I had known this would become my life when I left home for this beautiful, ridiculous city, I would have thought twice. Though I would still have done it.

The one in the muckbin, then. I should tell you more about him.

I’d been up late one night—or morning—working on a painting, and I had gone out behind my building to toss the leftover paint before it dried and ruined my pots. The muckrakers usually came with their reeking wagons at dawn, carting off the bin contents to sift for night soil and anything else of value, and I didn’t want to miss them. I didn’t even notice a man there, because he smelled like the rest of the muck. Like something dead—which, now that I think about it, he probably was.

I tossed the paint and would have gone back inside had I not noticed an odd glimmer from the corner of one eye. I was tired enough that I should have ignored that, too. After ten years in Shadow, I had grown inured to godling leavings. Most likely one of them had thrown up there after a night of drinking or had spent himself in a tryst amid the fumes. The new ones liked to do that, spend a week or so playing mortal before settling into whatever life they’d decided to lead among us. The initiation was generally messy.

So I don’t know why I stopped, that chilly winter morning. Some instinct told me to turn my head, and I don’t know why I listened to it. But I did, and that was when I saw glory awaken in a pile of muck.

At first I saw only delicate lines of gold limn the shape of a man. Dewdrops of glimmering silver beaded along his flesh and then ran down it in rivulets, illuminating the texture of skin in smooth relief. I saw some of those rivulets move impossibly upward, igniting the filaments of his hair, the stern-carved lines of his face.

And as I stood there, my hands damp with paint and my door standing open behind me, forgotten, I saw this glowing man draw a deep breath—which made him shimmer even more beautifully—and open eyes whose color I would never be able to fully describe, even if I someday learn the words. The best I can do is compare it to things I do know: the heavy thickness of red gold, the smell of brass on a hot day, desire and pride.

Yet, as I stood there, transfixed by those eyes, I saw something else: pain. So much sorrow and grief and anger and guilt, and other emotions I could not name because when all was said and done, my life up to then had been relatively happy. There are some things one can understand only by experience, and there are some experiences no one wants to share.

Hmm. Perhaps I should tell you something about me before I go on.

I’m something of an artist, as I’ve mentioned. I make, or made, my living selling trinkets and souvenirs to out-of-towners. I also paint, though my paintings are not meant for the eyes of others. Aside from this, I’m no one special. I see magic and gods, but so does everyone; I told you, they’re everywhere. I probably just notice them more because I can’t see anything else.

My parents named me Oree. Like the cry of the southeastern weeper-bird. Have you heard it? It seems to sob as it calls, oree, gasp, oree, gasp. Most Maroneh girls are named for such sorrowful things. It could be worse; the boys are named for vengeance. Depressing, isn’t it? That sort of thing is why I left.

Then again, I have never forgotten my mother’s words: it’s all right to need help. All of us have things we can’t do alone.

So the man in the muck? I took him in, cleaned him up, fed him a good meal. And because I had space, I let him stay. It was the right thing to do. The human thing. I suppose I was also lonely, after the whole Madding business. Anyhow, I told myself, it did no harm.

But I was wrong about that part.

He was dead again when I got home that day. His corpse was in the kitchen, near the counter, where it appeared he’d been chopping vegetables when the urge to stab himself through the wrist had struck. I slipped on the blood coming in, which annoyed me because that meant it was all over the kitchen floor. The smell was so thick and cloying that I could not localize it—this wall or that one? The whole floor or just near the table? I was certain he dripped on the carpet, too, while I dragged him to the bathroom. He was a big man, so that took a while. I wrestled him into the tub as best I could and then filled it with water from the cold cistern, partly so that the blood on his clothes wouldn’t set and partly to let him know how angry I was.

I’d calmed down somewhat—cleaning the kitchen helped me vent—by the time I heard a sudden, violent slosh of water from the bathroom. He was often disoriented when he first returned to life, so I waited in the doorway until the sounds of sloshing stilled and his attention fixed on me. He had a strong personality. I could always feel the pressure of his gaze.

“It’s not fair,” I said, “for you to make my life harder. Do you understand?”

Silence. But he heard me.

“I’ve cleaned up the worst of the kitchen, but I think there might be some blood on the living-room rugs. The smell’s so thick that I can’t find the small patches. You’ll have to do those. I’ll leave a bucket and brush in the kitchen.”

More silence. A scintillating conversationalist, he was.

I sighed. My back hurt from scrubbing the floor. “Thanks for making dinner.” I didn’t mention that I hadn’t eaten any. No way to tell—without tasting—if he’d gotten blood on the food, too. “I’m going to bed; it’s been a long day.”

A faint taste of shame wafted on the air. I felt his gaze move away and was satisfied. In the three months he’d been living with me, I’d come to know him as a man of almost compulsive fairness, as predictable as the tolling of a White Hall bell. He did not like it when the scales between us were unbalanced.

I crossed the bathroom, bent over the tub, and felt for his face. I got the crown of his head at first and marveled, as always, at the feel of hair like my own—soft-curled, dense but yielding, thick enough to lose my fingers in. The first time I’d touched him, I’d thought he was one of my people, because only Maroneh had such hair. Since then I’d realized he was something else entirely, something not human, but that early surge of fellow-feeling had never quite faded. So I leaned down and kissed his brow, savoring the feel of soft smooth heat beneath my lips. He was always hot to the touch. Assuming we could come to some agreement on the sleeping arrangements, next winter I could save a fortune on firewood.

“Good night,” I murmured. He said nothing in return as I headed off to bed.

Here’s what you need to understand. My houseguest was not suicidal, not precisely. He never went out of his way to kill himself. He simply never bothered to avoid danger—including the danger of his own impulses. An ordinary person took care while walking along the roof to do repairs; my houseguest did not. He didn’t look both ways before crossing the street, either. Where most people might fleetingly imagine tossing a lighted candle onto their own beds and just as fleetingly discard that idea as mad, my houseguest simply did it. (Though, to his credit, he had never done anything that might endanger me, too. Yet.)

On the few occasions I had observed this disturbing tendency of his—the last time, he had casually swallowed something poisonous—I’d found him amazingly dispassionate about the whole thing. I imagined him making dinner this time, chopping vegetables, contemplating the knife in his hand. He had finished dinner first, setting that aside for me. Then he had calmly stabbed the knife between the bones of his wrist, first holding the injury over a mixing bowl to catch the blood. He did like to be neat. I had found the bowl on the floor, still a quarter full; the rest was splashed all over one wall of the kitchen. I gathered he’d lost his strength rather faster than expected and had struck the bowl as he fell, flipping it into the air. Then he’d bled out on the floor.

I imagined him observing this process, still contemplative, until he died. Then, later, cleaning up his own blood with equal apathy.

I was almost certain he was a godling. The “almost” lay in the fact that he had the strangest magic I’d ever heard of. Rising from the dead? Glowing at sunrise? What did that make him, the god of cheerful mornings and macabre surprises? He never spoke the gods’ language—or any language, for that matter. I suspected he was mute. And I could not see him, save in the mornings and in those moments when he came back to life, which meant he was magical only at those times. Any other time, he was just an ordinary man.

Except he wasn’t.

The next morning was typical.

I woke before dawn, as was my longtime habit. Ordinarily, I would just lie there awhile, listening to the sounds of morning: the rising chorus of birds, the heavy erratic bap-plink of dew dripping from the Tree onto rooftops and street stones. This time, however, the urge for a different sort of morning overtook me, so I rose and went in search of my houseguest.

He was in the den rather than the small storage pantry where he slept. I felt him there the instant I stepped out of my room. He was like that, filling the house with his presence, becoming its center of gravity. It was easy—natural, really—to let myself drift to wherever he was.

I found him at the den window. My house had many windows—a fact I often lamented since they did me no good and made the house drafty. (I couldn’t afford to rent better.) The den was the only room that faced east, however. That did me no good, either, and not just because I was blind; like most of the city’s denizens, I lived in a neighborhood tucked between two of the World Tree’s stories-high main roots. We got sunlight for a few minutes at midmorning, while the sun was high enough to overtop the roots but not yet hidden by the Tree’s canopy, and a few more moments at midafternoon. Only the nobles could afford more constant light.

Yet my houseguest stood here every morning, as regular as clockwork, if he wasn’t busy or dead. The first time I’d found him doing this, I thought it was his way of welcoming the day. Perhaps he made his prayers in the morning, like others who still honored Bright Itempas. Now I knew him better, if one could ever be said to know an indestructible man who never spoke. When I touched him on these occasions, I got a better sense of him than usual, and what I detected was not reverence or piety. What I felt, in the stillness of his flesh and the uprightness of his posture and the aura of peace that he exuded at no other time, was power. Pride. Whatever was left of the man he’d once been.

Because it was clearer to me with every day that passed that there was something broken, shattered, about him. I did not know what, or why, but I could tell: he had not always been like this.

He did not react as I came into the room and sat down in one of the chairs, wrapping myself in the blanket I’d brought against the house’s early-morning chill. He was doubtless used to me making a show of his morning displays, since I did it frequently.

And sure enough, a few moments after I got comfortable, he began, again, to glow.

The process was different every time. This time his eyes took the light first, and I saw him turn to glance at me as if to make sure I was watching. (I had detected these little hints of phenomenal arrogance in him at other times.) That done, he turned his gaze outward again, his hair and shoulders beginning to shimmer. Next I saw his arms, as muscled as any soldier’s, folded across his chest. His long legs, braced slightly apart; his posture was relaxed, yet proud. Dignified. I had noticed from the first that he carried himself like a king. Like a man long used to power, who had only lately fallen low.

As the light filled his frame, it grew steadily brighter. I squinted—I loved doing that—and raised a hand to shield my eyes. I could still see him, a man-shaped blaze now framed by the jointed lattice of my shadowy hand bones. But in the end, as always, I had to look away. I never did this until I absolutely had to. What was I going to do, go blind?

It didn’t last long. Somewhere beyond the eastern rootwall, the sun moved above the horizon. The glow faded quickly after that. After a few moments, I was able to look at him again, and in twenty minutes, he was as invisible to me as every other mortal.

When it was over, my houseguest turned to leave. He did chores around the house during the day and had lately begun hiring himself out to the neighbors, giving me whatever pittance he earned. I stretched, relaxed and comfortable. I always felt warmer when he was around.

“Wait,” I said, and he stopped.

I tried to gauge his mood by the feel of his silence. “Are you ever going to tell me your name?”

More silence. Was he irritated, or did he care at all? I sighed.

“All right,” I said. “The neighbors are starting to ask questions, so I need something to call you. Do you mind if I make something up?”

He sighed. Definitely irritated. But at least it wasn’t a no.

I grinned. “All right, then. Shiny. I’ll call you Shiny. What about that?”

It was a joke. I said it just to tease him. But I will admit that I’d expected some reaction from him, if only disgust. Instead, he simply walked out.

Which annoyed me. He didn’t have to talk, but was a smile too much to ask for? Even just a grunt or a sigh?

“Shiny it is, then,” I said briskly, and got up to start my day.



Continues...

Excerpted from The Broken Kingdoms by Jemisin, N.K. Copyright © 2010 by Jemisin, N.K.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The Broken Kingdoms 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 106 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a well written, witty, insightful, intelligent. Great entertainment. Looking forward to reading more from this writer as soon as more is available.
BookShelfReviews More than 1 year ago
The Broken Kingdoms takes place years after the events of the first book. The main character, Oree, was certainly much different than Yeine of the last book. She is a blind painter, which seems ironic but for the fact that she's no ordinary blind woman. She can see magic, glowing in godlings and magic-wielders, and she uses that ablity in a way that reminds me of how a bat uses sonar to detect its surroundings. I thought that this was a fascinating talent, and it really made Oree a unique character who was interesting to read about. I love my strong female characters, and even though Oree is blind she is in no way helpless. While I didn't like the new supporting characters as much as the old ones from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms , I felt like there was sufficient follow-up to the original for this book to not seem too incongruous. The love story was alright, forming somewhat of a triangle, and in this instance I bet on the wrong horse. Oree didn't end up with whom I personally thought she was suited for, and that sort of put a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the book. And I've said it before, but I really love Jemisin's take on the idea of gods and their descendants. The mythology is expanded upon quite nicely in this book and gives us more of a glimpse into the three "creators" and their motives behind everything that has happened to the world. It also gives insight into the importance of Oree and her abilities, all the while introducing an interesting new creature and antagonist to the mythos. The Broken Kingdoms was a great sequel, and though it does not quite live up to its predecessor, it still shines with originality. It expands upon ideas introduced in the first novel in a way that is exciting and rare for a sequel. Jemisin's knack for poetic prose is really a treat to read, and I look forward to reading the final book in the series.
Jabari Parker More than 1 year ago
It stands on its own as a complete story but it is greatly enhanced by reading the hundred thousand kingdoms first.
terilhack More than 1 year ago
Are you looking for something new and amazing? Here is a trilogy, which is really more like one intertwined tale woven through three books. If you have not read the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, I so hight recommend it. You can just pick this book up and read into the tale though. Broken Kingdoms brings us into the viewpoint of Oree, a blind but able to see godslight woman who holds her own in the lower part of the city. She brings in a man who she names "Shiny" who is really a fallen God cast back to the Kingdoms. Brining a whole new host of problems into this girls life and yet enabling her to change more, the God is a trial for everyone. I cannot say how much I love this book, this series. The author is amazing. She opens up a whole new world written so beautifully, and not written too much that I skip pages. I read the books at least twice to absorb all the story. The characters are amazing, their speech, thoughts and feelings are so well portrayed in this book. If you want a truly amazing new read, from a new author and a new series, pick of N.K. Jemisin.
nookcolor42 serial# More than 1 year ago
writing this on the nook color so i will be brief. this is a completely engaging, amazing book and i loved every second of it. buy it now.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Book 2 of "The Inheritance Trilogy". Set ten years after the first book, this takes up with a new viewpoint character, the strangely-blind Oree. Oree is beautiful, except that there is something disturbing about her eyes, which are blind to everyday light but see magic in all its manifestations, including gods; indeed, her lover Madding is a godling. Oree lives in the city of Shadow (which used to be called Sky), making a living selling her crafts. She also paints, but only in secret. As the story opens, Oree discovers a man in a trash bin, but with hints of magic about him. As she watches he dies and then comes back to life. She takes him in, feeds him, gives him a place to live. But he does not speak. A few weeks later, Oree stumbles upon the body of a dead godling in an alley. This is, obviously, a bad and tricky situation. Nahadoth (god of darkness and change; one of the Three) declares that, unless the murderer is found and punished within thirty days, there will be Hell for Shadow to pay. It's also bad for Oree's business. None of her crafts sells until her silent friend (whom she calls Shiny) is taken by the Order Keepers, a sort of church police. Looking for him with Madding's help, she finds herself among a disturbing gathering of godlings, who have just killed the Order Keepers. Those had just beaten Shiny to death, but he gets better. The godlings know who Shiny is (and so by now does anyone who has read the first book), but choose not to enlighten Oree. Oree, not entirely knowing why, begins drawing in her stall, and is quite surprised when it attracts more customers than she can satisfy - and even more surprised when the picture opens and closes a gate, chopping several Order Keepers in half. That would be in the first ninety pages or so; then the pace picks up. _The Broken Kingdoms_ is a complex whirlwind of plot and counter-plot, with a faction that threatens to destroy not only godlings but the Three. The reader barely has time to respond to one plot twist than the next comes along. To call it a roller-coaster ride is to underrate Jemisin's pacing. I'm well into book 3 already...
willowsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jemisin's debut novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, was one of my top reads of 2010. I was glad that I had forgotten much of the plot, though, before I started the second of the trilogy...because the 'antagonist' of THTK was the mysterious friend of the protagonist in The Broken Kingdoms. Confused? Like I said, I was glad much of the first novel's salient plot details didn't come back to me until I was about 2/3s through this novel. Don't mistake me, I really enjoyed this novel, and especially the relationship between the blind street artist and the mysterious, mute, only-godly-when-he-resurrects suicidal man she rescues from (literally) the trash. It was just...difficult to reconcile this new version of 'Shiny', as he is now called. I recommend this if you've read Jemisin's first novel, but...just go into it with an open mind! The world has changed greatly in the ten years difference between the two books...
timothyl33 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Book 2 of The Inheritance Trilogy, "The Broken Kingdoms" is set 10 years after the events in Book 1, "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms". Although a sequel, the story is written as a self contained story so that those who have not yet read the previous book will still be able to enjoy it.But since it still builds upon the events from the previous book, those who have read Book 1 will find that Book 2 doesn't quite achive the same level of tension, nor the sense of wonder of a brand new world as in "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms". But the plot itself still manages to give enough of a twist to make this a story worth enjoying.
arhowell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not as good as the first one--but still a good read.
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary: Oree Shoth is blind. Or, rather, she's blind to the mundane, but she can see magic. That wasn't a particularly useful ability in her small hometown, but now that she has moved to Shadow - the city at the base of the Arameri city of Sky, and at the base of the newly-grown World Tree - there is magic everywhere. Shadow is filled with godlings, and Oree can see them, and their workings. Which is a dangerous position to be in, especially when one of the godlings is found murdered in an alley near the market where Oree sells her art. To further complicate matters, Shiny - the silent yet strangely magical man she lives with - becomes involved as well, killing some of the priestly guards who are sent to investigate. Oree never wanted to mix in the affairs of the mighty, but now she is caught in a vast struggle, involving powers beyond even her comprehension.Review: The Broken Kingdoms takes place ten years after The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and while it doesn't feature the same (mortal) characters, neither is it exactly a stand-alone. On the one hand, Oree doesn't know much about the events that happened at the end of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and Jemisin summarizes / re-does her worldbuilding well enough so that a new reader wouldn't be missing any crucial information. On the other hand, however, the most interesting part of these books is the relationship between the gods, and the portrayal of the Gods' War in this book is much richer for having already heard about it from an opposing perspective in the first book.On the third hand, though, having read the first book means that the reader spends the entire book two and a half steps ahead of Oree. Surprisingly, I didn't find this as annoying as I might have predicted; for example, I figured out who Shiny was very, very early on (at least from the first time Sieh shows up, if not before), but the point was not who he was so much as what he would do, and how he interacted with Oree. And that part was fascinating. I'm a big sucker for fiction about religion, and mythology, and what happens when gods interact with mortals, so Jemisin's plots are right up my alley. I kind of love the fundamental question of what happens when you meet your god, only to find out that he's a sullen jerk? Do you still reflexively pray to god when he's sitting at your kitchen table? Where does religion stop and your actual interaction with your god begin? Jemisin hints at these questions without belaboring (or even answering) them, which adds a wonderful layer of depth that you don't always find in the average fantasy novel.However, while intellectually I really enjoyed this story (which was more streamlined and flowed better than that of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and the story kept me engaged and wanting to listen to more throughout, I never got as emotionally involved as I would have liked. I never quite clicked with Oree - not that I didn't like her, or empathize with her, but for some reason her feelings never became my feelings. That's probably totally idiosyncratic; I doubt its the fault of the writing, which was powerfully evocative in places. (Particularly the scenes involving Madding, Oree's godling ex-lover. Jemisin did make my heart break a bit... but for Madding himself, not for Oree.) So ultimately, while this book probably isn't destined to become a favorite, it was certainly a worthwhile listening experience. 4 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: Recommended for those who like their gods interacting directly with mortals, and unique secondary world fantasy novels more generally. It can be read independently of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, although I think they're richer if read in order.
VivalaErin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Normally, books that tend to jump back and forth and have a narrator who says "I know now but I didn't then" tend to irritate me, but not with this (or the first book either). Oree's blind abilities are a little hard to follow at the beginning, but it gets better once you get used to her mind. She speaks of the events in almost the same tone as Yeine in the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but she is not quite such a captivating character. Unlike Yeine in HTK, Oree actually behaves more like a real human; she gets injured and has to recuperate, which makes her more "natural" (that's the best way I can describe it). She has to make up for time lost while sleeping and healing. Loved the book anyway; read it in one sitting. It definitely helps to have read the first book first, not only for a bit of background on Jemisin's world but I rather enjoyed connecting the dots on my own. I knew who shiny was immediately, and it took a while for me to figure out why I should Hado. Oree is a complete outsider to what happened ten years earlier, and it is interesting to see her take on everything outside Sky the palace.
salimbol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another excellent fantasy from Jemisin, cementing her in my eyes as an author to watch out for. This one is an interesting sideways step from the first volume of The Inheritance Trilogy, introducing us to a satisfying collection of new characters while letting us know a little of what the characters from the first book have been up to (all done without reams of exposition, too). It's fascinating to see how the world has shifted in the ten years since Book 1, and also to get a new perspective on the world's history. I also think the pacing in this novel was a little smoother than in the first, and Oree certainly made for an interesting protagonist (and her blindness was treated intelligently, IMO).
VeronicaH. on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As the title suggest, this is the second book of the Inheritance Trilogy (not that Inheritance trilogy). As middle books go, this one is fairly good. There were times where the narrative felt too choppy and things didn't quite seem to mesh well. Working with extended dramatic irony can be difficult, and there were times where my patience with characters' discovery wore thin. This book takes place about 10 years after the events of the first, and those of the ruling class and religious order would have the population believe that not much has really changed since the Gray Lady's rebirth. Godlings now mingle with the general population, having been allowed into the human dimension after Itempas's fall. Only The Three are allowed to kill these godlings, who are their children, and only The Three and other godlings can actually kill them. They are being murdered however, and central to the novel is finding out by whom. The main character, Oree, is a blind artist who can see magic. Since Shadow is the most magical city in the world, she leaves home at a young age and goes there to make her fortune. You will remember that Shadow is the city beneath Sky, and was mentioned but never visited in the first novel. There is another reason it's called Shadow now, however. A giant tree has grown over and through both Sky and Shadow, cutting off what little light there used to be. I wish more had been done with this, but we are to simply take for granted its creation by the Gray Lady and its existence. There is a romantic element to this novel, as there was with the first, but it feels less central to the story than it does in the first. Oree and her friends are sympathetic enough, and the plot is, at heart, a mystery novel. having spent so much time in Sky with the horrid back-stabbing, political maneuvering nobility, it was refreshing to see how the rest of the people lived. I think I liked this world, and its protagonists better, and I look forward to the third book (out sometime soon, I believe) as it deals with the last of the three and takes place, to some degree, in the realm of the gods where the Maelstrom looms large. I like Jemsin's writing and world building; it's complete, but it's not as overwhelming with place names, lengthy histories etc. as other fantasy series can be. I'm excited to have discovered her, and I look forward to whatever else she may write.
TheDivineOomba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I actually liked this book better than the first in the series... I found the characters to be more rounded, more real. I think it was how the west and east shadow felt like a real place, rather than an unreal fantasy palace. one thing I love about this book (and the last one too). Is how modern the world feels. Oh, it doesn't have modern electricity or the Internet, but it doesn't feel like a typical fantasy novel either. The magic is low key With definite rules. A lovely book that doesn't disappoint.
mpho3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This second of installment of Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy stands up well to the first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Like Book One's Yeine, one The Broken Kingdom¿s Oree Shoth, is a woman of great inner strength though often underestimated by her antagonists. Oree is literally blind but can see the magic radiated by the gods, godlings (children of gods), and scriveners (mortals who have studied the language of the gods) and this hidden talent serves her well. She earns a modest living by making and selling art to tourists and has a pretty low key existence, but that all changes when she finds a homeless vagrant who¿s in pretty rough shape. She takes him in, cleans him and up, and soon finds that her house guest has a death wish that is supplanted by an unusual and seemingly unwanted ability. This is only the tip of the mystery iceberg. Someone has been killing godlings. Supposedly immortal godlings. Broken Kingdoms isn¿t your run-of-the-mill whodunit, though. It¿s certainly a fantasy novel set in a wonderfully depicted fantasy universe, and though there are more than a few mysteries at the heart of it, it¿s also pretty philosophical, getting at the notions of love in its many incarnations, power, and the shades of grey between good and evil. In that sense it¿s a bit of a morality play, and one that plays on the reader by sometimes coaxing us to sympathize with unlikeable characters before we¿ve even realized we¿ve done it. I am similarly impressed by Jemisin¿s ability to show rather than tell this story. Her skill in that arena is put to good use, impressively fleshing out the world she introduces in Book One. In fact, a couple nights in a row I had bad dreams influenced by a particular section of the book taking place in a place aptly called The Empty. Obviously it is so vividly and well described that it got attached to my subconscious. Thankfully it¿s gone now : )Though Broken Kingdoms could be read as a standalone work, I think readers of the preceding novel, set 10 years prior, will perceive an even greater richness in the unraveling of the more enigmatic aspects of the tale, especially as a few characters from Book 1 have ¿cameos¿ in this sequel. One comment about structure: while The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is definitely Yeine¿s story, Oree narrates The Broken Kingdoms, but she¿s not the story¿s only axis. Her POV matters, but she¿s as deeply caught up in the mysterious narrative as we are. Good stuff. 4 stars.
jmaloney17 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the second book in the Inheritance Trilogy. It was just as enjoyable as the first. This is a great fantasy series. I encourage others to read it. I think you may want to read them back to back. Though the book stands alone, some of the gods cross over and I had a difficult time remembering what was their importance.
ronincats on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jemison's first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, was nominated for the Nebula Award this year. I enjoyed it but thought there was some unevenness in the story-telling. However, the originality and creativity of the world-building was outstanding. This second book in the trilogy picks up where the first book ended, but with a different focus, another mortal woman who ends up interacting with the gods. I think this book is stronger, and it is very good story-telling. A very engrossing read!
g33kgrrl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A follow-up to Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms descends from Sky and takes place in the city below, ten years later. The story follows a narrator that can see magic and who consorts with godlings, and shows what kind of upheavals happen after the world gets changed so completely as at the end of the last book.I very much liked the protaganist, Oree Shoth, and found her incredibly likeable - someone I would want to spend time with. I also liked her friends, mortal and godling, and probably would have understood the story a lot better a lot earlier if I hadn't completely forgotten what happened at the end of the last book due to extreme busyness on my part (it is fully explained eventually so don't worry if you have also forgotten). The plot is fully compelling and drives the story along very well. I very much enjoyed this book.
AlexHaist More than 1 year ago
I skipped the first book in this trilogy, and as an introduction to the world and overall plot, the second book works just fine. The viewpoint character and narrator, Oree Shoth, doesn't know much about the gods and godlings, so the reader gets to follow along with her discoveries. And the discoveries are worth making. The Broken Kingdoms not only has one of the more original fantasy worlds, but one of the most culturally complex and magically interesting. And Jemisin uses the world. One of the most outstanding qualities of this book is its exploration of how power differences affect relationships, for better or for worse, and for how those are negotiated. In order to demonstrate those effects (rather than preaching them), Jemisin had to create a world with plausible depth, and she pulled it off. The theme of power in relationships is everywhere in this book--in the opening scene, in the interaction between Oree, a street artist, and a worried and entitled tourist, in how the police force treat Oree and her fellow artists, in how the godlings treat mortals, and how mortals view godlings, and so on. Moreover, Jemisin handles all of these relationships with remarkable deftness, showing even unsympathetic characters' motivations in such a manner that they are understandable and highly individual. If you are bored by puppy-kicking, sociopathic evil, then Jemisin is a great read. She shows how people can do awful, insensitive, cruel things for what they consider excellent reasons, given their contexts. In a similar vein, she does not pull her punches in terms of the consequences of her characters' actions, and I love that kind of follow through. Highly recommend.
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Suzume_Suzuki More than 1 year ago
Outstanding second book. She brings new characters and new ideas in without abandoning what made the first book so enchanting.
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