This is how you do a novella, people. I bought this on release day, actually, and I’m not sure why I waited to read it. I loved Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy, and even now after reading this, I still want more from this world. But I just finished The Fifth Season over the weekend, and then I had a bad experience with another novella read for the Hugos, and this was just the perfect antidote to both of those. The Fifth Season was wonderful, but so, so dark, and Binti was just extremely disappointing. This book, though, is a bubbly fountain of joy and wonder and imagination and I fell instantly in love with it. Sometimes you do that in the first few pages and the book disappoints you in the end, but The Awakened Kingdom was good the whole way through. It made me want to do cartwheels.
(I refrained. It would only have ended in injury.)
“I did not mean to break that planet it was just in the way when I came into being and I fixed it and I said I was sorry and the planet said OK so since I’m supposed to learn from stuff like that I will tell you don’t break planets, especially the ones with living things on them, or at least fix them if you break them. Also, don’t go in black holes, no matter how much they look like cute little Nahas. They are not cute! They are actually very bitey and kind of mean. Also just OK I do not want to talk about any of this anymore.”
That’s Shill. She’s a newborn god, the first to be born in a long while. She is adorable and an incredibly engaging and entertaining narrator. Jemisin absolutely nails her personality within about five sentences, and she maintains that characterization over the course of the novella, even as Shill grows and changes and realizes her true nature.
If you haven’t read Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy (and why not? It’s great! Start with The Hundred Thousand Kingdomsand thank me later), in this world, gods have natures, but most don’t know those natures right away. It’s Shill’s arc in this novella to find her nature, and her antithesis (that which is her opposite and negates her power). To find her identity, essentially. (Also, to grow up. One of the brilliant things about it is the way that Jemisin has Shill’s narrative voice reflect directly her maturation. The above excerpt is from the beginning when she is still very new.) Her parents are two of the three main gods, and they still mourn for her lost sibling (again: read the original trilogy). She keeps trying to fit herself into the hole he left behind, but it’s not working, so she seeks out the mortal world, hoping to find what she’s looking for there. What she finds is a brilliant reversal of some things I don’t want to spoil, but the whole thing made my insides squishy with love and friendship.
I’m not sure this would play as well for people who haven’t read the original trilogy first, but I’m convinced even people who haven’t will succumb to the charms of Shill. Why wasn’t THIS book nominated for a bunch of awards, huh? WHY. Because it’s seemingly light and silly? Because funny can’t be serious at the same time? Well BOOOO. BOO TO THAT. This novella was awesome. Five stars easy.