Warning Might contain spoilers.

A dramatically better book than The Broken Kingdoms, though more gory and significantly more melancholy than either of its predecessors. It’s a sad tale that only grows more despondent as it progresses. Events endlessly spiral downwards until the protagonist dies. Only then is there a brief pause before the resurrection that balances everything.

The atypical approach leaves me with some questions. Why do they have to wait until Shahar dies before being reborn as gods of a new universe? Why does Shahar dying wake them? (And more in that vein.) I’m also not certain I’ve understood correctly that Sieh was dying because he was becoming a god—maturing, which is against his nature—and so simultaneously growing more powerful and killing himself.

It’s a relief that we don’t see anything of the new Three in their universe: of course this godhood will be filled with incest as well. It’s all very well to say things are different for gods who have existed since before the universe began, but it would be quite another thing to follow a very mortal brother and sister for the entire story then watch them have sex with the justification that they’re gods now.

One aspect of the book I find particularly laudable is how it doesn’t continue any stories but instead naturally follow from what has come before. Sieh is an excellent protagonist, full of life and full of contradictions, with a storied history that provides a rich world of friends, family, and foes, in contrast to the newborn Yeine of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I also have to say that while Enefa may not technically have sexually assaulted him, she very much took advantage of him, and he’s been paying the price ever since.

This is in no small part the story of a much more sympathetic Itempas’s redemption. Glee Shoth and he are both fascinating and insufferable characters. His (repeated) silent tears are moving. The moment when Glee bursts into flames and emerges holding his sword as he gives her advice is a memorable one. I enjoyed the exploration of Ahad and his nature. It’s a pity he hardly interacts with Nahadoth, but I suppose more wouldn’t be pleasant.

Nahadoth himself is incredible and unforgettable. His chaotic nature is evident in his shifting forms and fluid, indefinable gender, the way he melts in or out, his attraction to the Maelstrom, his pride in Yeine’s murderous intent, Sieh speaking of the faces Nahadoth wears for love or when he meant to kill and so on… and his entire history.

Yeine, too, is at her awe-inspiring peak: her casual, unconscious giving of life wherever she goes. The flick of her will to restore En or build Echo for the Arameri. How she gets the Arameri to worship her instead of Itempas in the first place. And the way she reacts to Kahl’s appearance still gives me goosebumps:

Before I could think, however, I was nearly floored by the furnace blast of Yeine’s rage. She wasted no time in deciding to act; the air simply rippled with negation of life.

[…]

Nahadoth hissed, his face twitching reptilian. “The mask protects him. He stands outside this reality.”

“Death is reality everywhere,” Yeine said. I had never heard such murderousness in her voice.

There was a shudder beneath us, around us. The townsfolk cried out in alarm, fearing another cataclysm. I thought I knew what was happening, though I could no longer sense it: the earth beneath us had shifted in response to Yeine’s hate, the whole planet turning like some massive, furious bodyguard to face her enemy. She spread her hands, crouching, the loose curls of her hair whipping in a gale that no one else felt, and her eyes were as cold as long-dead things as they fixed on Kahl.

[…]

Nahadoth, his face alight, laughed as her power rose, even as the inimical nature of it forced him to step back. Even Itempas stared at her, pride warring with longing in his gaze.

Despite that, it’s displeasing to see how far she’s reduced to the character of ‘mother’. It’s her foremost function in the story.