Literature / Inheritance Trilogy

For Christopher Paolini's series with the similar name, see Inheritance Cycle.

There were three gods once... the god of day, the god of night, and the goddess of twilight and dawn. Or light and darkness and the shades between. Or order, chaos, and balance. None of that is important because one of them died, the other might as well have, and the last is the only one who matters anymore.
Yeine, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Inheritance Trilogy is a series of books by N. K. Jemisin (website here) about a world where gods walk the earth alongside mortals (though, in general, not voluntarily). The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms; both came out in 2010, and the third and final book, The Kingdom of Gods, came out in 2011.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms details the life of Yeine, a noblewoman from the northern continent of Darr. She is called to the aptly-named capital city of Sky where she is unexpectedly made a candidate for the title of Arameri family head, or emperor of the world. Not all is as it seems, however, as petty squabbles break out, Living Weapons act friendly, and the time of the coronation draws ever closer...

A major subplot of the book deals with the war of the Three, the tribunal of creator gods; their children; and its aftermath. One of the Three, Enefa, was slain, one, Nahadoth, was imprisoned, and the third, Itempas, took over the world. Various lesser gods are imprisoned along with Nahadoth and take up the name of Enefadeh, or "we who remember Enefa."

The story continues in The Broken Kingdoms, set ten years after the first book, and starts off with the blind artist Oree Shoth finding a dead god in her rubbish... who isn't so dead after all, and proceeds to cause a whole lot of trouble for her. Oree and her intensely irritating new lodger have to navigate their way through a maze of former lovers, past crimes and timeless sorrows, in order to get to the bottom of why someone is killing godlings and making an attempt on the existence of one of the Three.

And the story is concluded in Kingdom of the Gods when Sieh the Trickster, firstborn of all the Three's children, forms a tentative friendship with the twin heirs to the Arameri — and it all goes disastrously wrong. (Or right.)

A fascinating tale of what could happen if the gods created humans in their image, humans turned on them, and by extension, the gods had all the faults that humans do.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Itempas to all the Godlings, but the Enefadeh in particular.
    • Nahadoth to the demons.
    • Shahar to Shinda.
    • Enefa to Kahl and Sieh.
  • Action Girl: Yeine, Glee, Kitr, Nemmer.
  • All There in the Manual: Want to know about Itempas and Shahar's son? Check the author's blog.
  • And I Must Scream: Being trapped in a mortal body is this to the gods.
  • Apocalypse How: Class X-5 ("Multiversal/Physical Annihilation") as the Maelstrom comes for Kahl.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence:
    • Yeine, when she takes the place of the Goddess Enefa at the end of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
    • In book three, Sieh, Deka and Shahar become a second version of the Three, and set out to create their own universe.
  • Barbarian Tribe: Subverted. The Amn consider the races of the High North continent to be this, even though the High Northers were forcibly civilized centuries before. Turns out the Amn themselves used to be cannibals.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: T'Vril is one of the most well adjusted and generally human members of the Arameri family. He also rips out the tongue of a rebellious family member with a pair of tongs.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: The Darre tribe is a matriarchal society where a woman must beat a male fighter in a wrestling match to come of age. Usually the family picks out kind of a wimpy guy, but heirs like Yeine have to beat a genuine warrior. If the woman wins, she rapes him. If the man wins, he rapes her.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Everything that happens in the trilogy is the result of ongoing clashes between the big, screwed up Arameri and divine families.
  • Bi the Way: Nahadoth and Itempas were lovers with each other along with Enefah.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kingdom of the Gods. Sieh is dead, but he is reborn fifty-two years after his death as a god in his own universe with Deka and Shahar.
  • Blood Magic: Demon blood kills gods. Big in the backstory and book two.
  • Brick Joke: At the ending of Broken Kingdoms, Oree imagines that, when Itempas comes back to her and their daughter, he'll have learned enough manners to wipe his feet and hang up his coat. At the very, very, end of Kingdom of the Gods, a hundred years later, Itempas has, indeed, learned some manners.
  • Brother–Sister Incest:
    • The Three (a brother and a sister and a genderless "Naha") are basically a polyamorous relationship; their godly children get their share of hanky-panky with each other and their parents. The mortals who witness it have to frequently remind themselves that it's different for gods. Lampshades Greek, Egyptian, and other real-world mythologies in which incest happens frequently.
    • In a human, subtle, and squicky example, Relad enjoys sexual romps with women who look like his twin sister.
    • Shahar and Deka's father, Remina, is their mother Remath's half-brother.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Tempa, when he is trapped in mortal form, and Sieh, when he becomes mortal himself.
  • Butch Lesbian:
    • Subverted. Yeine has short hair and is flatchested, and is 'often mistaken for a boy'. However, she has sex both with T'vril and Nahadoth, and shows no interest in women, though lesbianism is apparently common in her homeland. Specifically subverts No Guy Wants an Amazon.
    • Lesbian Remath hits the "short hair" part of this, but she's also described as more busty, hip-y, and generally feminine than her daughter Shahar. She is in a serious relationship with one of her female servants.
  • Character Development:
    • The point of Nahadoth and Yeine sticking Bright Itempas in a human body. It works very well in this regard—majorly thanks to Oree and later her daughter Glee Shoth, Itempas learns to love truly and stops thinking of mortals as beneath him. He also learns some manners, as Oree finds out in the short story Not The End.]]
    • Sieh in the third book has this in bucketloads. After he befriends Shahar and Deka, Sieh finds himself truly caring for them, despite having always hated and thought bitterly of the Arameri. Then he is changed into a mortal, which terrifies and almost breaks him, but he becomes more used to the idea as time passes. And thanks to Glee Shoth, Sieh is forced to look at the causes of the Gods' War in a whole new light (in which all the gods shared some blame, and not just Itempas, as Sieh likes to believe), and it is because of this that Sieh finally begins to forgive Itempas for what he did and let him into his heart again.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Glee's knife.
    • The mask "decorations" that Sieh sees in a pub in book three.
  • The Church: The Itempan Church, led by hateful priestess Shahar Arameri, used the Enefadeh to completely reshape the world after the gods' war. It collects taxes, provides extensive social services (universal primary education, food and housing for the disabled, public sanitation, etc.), and imposes a theological injunction against the chaos of war. The Church, with the guidance of the Arameri family, gave the world an unprecedented 2,000 years of stability and prosperity — on the backs of the enslaved Enefadeh, and after multiple genocides and crushing local religious traditions. Also supporting the Arameri's tyrannical rule, ruthlessly executing heretics, and carefully controlling the populace with propaganda. In Yeine's opinion, and that of other Darrens, the "peace" is nothing but everyone being too crushed to do anything, and benefits no one but the Arameri.
  • Complete Immortality: Nahadoth and Itempas; it's implied that they can be Killed Off for Real, but doing so would end the universe. Enefa on the other hand shows more of a Body Backup Drive sort of immortality. She died, she's gone, and now Yeine has her place, but her power and place are never completely gone because it would also end the world.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The Stone of Earth, which is vital to the ceremony that crowns the new Lord Arameri, is actually the last remnant of Enefa's body and power. Word of God says it's an ovary.
  • Cosmopolitan Council: Established at the end of book three.
  • Creation Myth: Nahadoth, god of night and chaos, was the first to emerge from the chaotic Maelstrom. Then came Itempas, god of light and order, and finally Enefa, goddess of twilights and life. The three of them fashioned the world and mortals.
  • Did the Earth Move for You, Too?: When Yeine and Nahadoth do it, their passion engulfs the entire universe.
  • Disability Superpower: Oree is blind, but she can see magic.
  • Divine Date: Everywhere.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Nahadoth is wild and destructive, but also deeply loving and empathetic. He balances out Itempas' rigidity.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Sky the palace.
  • Did You Just Romance Cthulhu?: Yeine is seriously attracted to Nahadoth, even though he's so powerful that he routinely kills his mortal lovers by mistake.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: There are the Three full gods who made and manage the world. They have children called "godlings" who each have a strong nature (eg Lil's nature is hunger, Madding's is obligation, etc) that attracts worshippers seeking blessings in that area, but the godlings tend to mix and mingle more freely with mortals.
  • Flying Dutchman: Itempas's plot through book two and into book three.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Come on, everyone except Oree, even the readers, knew that 'Shiny' was really Itempas.
  • From a Single Cell: The Enefadeh are somewhere between these. They're bound to serve the Arameri for all time (at least until Itempas is overthrown at the end of book 1), and not even killing themselves will stop their bodies from regenerating.
  • Gambit Pileup: The end of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a mess of plots, human and divine family power struggles with world-wide consequences.
  • God in Human Form: The Enefadeh, Itempas, Sieh.
  • God Is Flawed: And the Three made humans in their images, so Humans Are Flawed, too!
    • For a double-whammy, the gods and godlings can sense and change to the expectations and desires of others, both physically and mentally. As a result, some of the gods' flaws have been magnified by how they are reflected back upon them by their own flawed human creations - particularly Nahadoth's reputation as a capricious and monstrous seducer among his mortal captors.
  • God Was My Copilot: It sure is a surprise to Oree and Sermyn when they find out who "Shiny" really is.
    “You knew he had been overthrown, Serymn. You’ve seen many gods take mortal form. Why did it never occur to you that your own god might be among them?”
  • Going Native:
    • Kurue, who turns against her fellow Enefadeh in hopes of winning Itempas' favor.
    • Yeine fears she will go native among the people of Sky, and her Darren countrywomen fear the same about her.
  • Good Is Not Nice: T'Vril makes a much better ruler than his predecessors, but at the same time he is still very much an Arameri in some respects. This is particularly obvious when he rips out Serymn's tongue - not only to punish her but also to prevent her from revealing the truth about Oree to the gods - and then delivers her up to the mercy of Nahadoth. Who is not feeling very merciful. T'vril's trying to get rid of his 'too gentle' image.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Nahadoth and Yeine, Shiny and Oree, Madding and Oree.
  • Green Eyes: A major plot point in book one — Yeine, Enefa, and Sieh's "faded" green eyes.
    • Also big in book three.
  • Harmony Versus Discipline: This is the major problem caused by Enefa's death. With her there, the world had harmony. With her gone, Itempas simply enforces brutal order in which it doesn't matter what kind of atrocities the Arameri commit so long as it keeps the world neat.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the first book, Itempas knew where Enefa's soul was, and could have ended her at any time. But he just had to kill her in the presence of her remaining divine power - thus triggering her rebirth.
  • Human Resources: The primary antagonist in the second book gains power by eating the hearts of godlings.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The Arameri and the New Lights, at least.
  • I Have Many Names: After Nahadoth is unchained and Enefa is reborn as Yeine, the old Itempan church starts referring to them as the "Lord of Shadows" and "Gray Lady" to avoid sounding like they've completely backtracked on the "Enefa and Nahadoth are traitors you shouldn't pray to" bit.
    • Naha/Hado/Ahad/Beloved (who also has one name that Glee gave him which he never shared with anyone).
  • Immortal Immaturity: Sieh, the fourth oldest being in existence, and God of Childhood.
  • Incest Is Relative: The Three are siblings who do it three ways; in fact, it's implied that Itempas killed Enefa primarily out of jealousy.
  • Inner Monologue: The three books are first-person pieces. The first is narrated by Yeine, the second by Oree, the third by Sieh.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Nahadoth and Itempas, at least in their backstory. Their relationship is something of a Masochism Tango.
  • Interspecies Romance: Mortals, gods and godlings and various pairings thereof.
  • Jerkass Gods: Potentially, all of them. But specifically in the first book, Itempas.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch:
    • It's hard to really feel sorry for Scimina when she gets handed over to Nahadoth to torture and eventually kill.
    • It's also hard to feel for Serymn when she gets her tongue ripped out by T'Vril, and then also gets handed over to Nahadoth to torture and eventually kill.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Sieh. Multiple references are made throughout the series that Sieh, the god of childhood, is one of the most thoughtlessly cruel of the godlings.
    • The first Shahar murders her dad. The second one isn't cruel, but sure is bratty.
  • Kill the God: The villains from The Broken Kingdoms attempt to kill Nahadoth and do succeed in murdering several godlings.
  • Kneel Before Frodo:
    Serymn looked, radiating disdain. “Is there something I should be seeing?”
    The Lord Arameri rose and descended the steps. At the foot of the steps, he abruptly turned toward us in a swirl of cloak and hair and dropped to one knee, with a grace I would never have expected of a man so powerful. From this, he said in a ringing tone, “Behold Our Lord, Serymn. Hail Itempas, Master of Day, Lord of Light and Order.”
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Sieh starts out the third book by promising the reader that he'd pull no narrative "tricks" by revealing that he was, say, talking to his second soul or his unborn child—the Framing Devices for the first and second books, respectively.
  • Light Is Not Good: Itempas.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Nahadoth to Itempas. Because Itempas was so totally focused on order and unyielding sameness, when Naha started to spend more time with Enefa than him, he couldn't deal with feeling alone for the first time since time began and just went totally nuts.
  • Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: An issue for Nahadoth and Yeine, as well as Madding and Oree.
    • Scimina suggests this is Nahadoth's "favorite" way of killing Arameri - he seduces them until they give him too much freedom in exchange for a night of passion with a god. His human form Naha mentions in quiet horror the number of dead bodies he's woken up next to over the centuries.
  • May Fly December Romance:
    • Yeine and Nahadoth. Yeine is only nineteen in mortal years in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, while Nahadoth has already lived since before the beginning of the universe.
    • Oree and Madding, though Madding is one of the youngest godlings. He's still thousands of years older than her.
    • Oree and Tempa. Again, same as above.
    • Glee and Ahad
  • Meaningful Name: Maroneh girls, Oree included, have sorrowful names, while Maroneh boys have vengeance-oriented names. It's Nahadoth's fault.
  • Mixed Ancestry:
    • In book one, Yeine is half Amn and half Darre, though she looks mostly Darre and thinks of herself as Darre. Also, T'vril, who is half Amn and half Ken.
    • Also in book one, the Arameri have rankings of how close to the family you are; the most distant relatives (from the main family) are servants. Many of those lower rankings are gotten through being born of an unapproved union, like infidelity or relations with someone not Amn. So all of the mixed race people in Sky the Palace are servants except for Yeine.
    • In book two, Oree and Dateh who are descendants of demons, the children of Gods (specifically the Three) and mortals.
    • In book three, Shahar and Deka, who are one-eighth god from great-grandpa Ahad, and Glee, Itempas and Oree's slightly-more-than-half godly daughter.
  • Monochrome Casting: Averted, sometimes subverted. This world is a multiracial, multicultural world, with even the gods taking widely different appearances. Because of the way he is depicted in Amn art, there is an expectation for Itempas to be pale like them, but in actuality he takes the appearance of a Maroneh (black) man.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink: Each book reveals more and more about characters who seemed to have been established as bad, good, or grey. In the second book, Itempas becomes much more sympathetic; in the third, we learn that the Big Bad was created by a cruel decision of Enefa's (who had previously been presented as, though imperfect, the best of the Three) and that, for all his hatred of what Itempas did during the Gods' War, Sieh was actually a major cause of said war due to his thoughtlessness and dismissive stance on mortals. Also, it's accepted that as evil as the Arameri were, they are kind of necessary to keep the world from descending into all-out war.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: Intentionally averted. Enefa, creator of life, is also the goddess of death, and is ruthless about offing substandard creations. Itempas and Nahadoth got most of the stereotypically emotional "motherly" aspects.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: One of the reasons Itempas killed Enefa.
  • Mystical White Hair: White-haired Viraine is a Scrivener, who can wield magic power by using the gods' language; he's also the earthly vessel of Bright Itempas.
  • Nay-Theist: The primortalist movement from The Kingdom of Gods.
  • Offing the Offspring: The demon holocaust. Shahar. Itempas during the Gods' War. Sieh and Kahl.
  • Oh My Gods!: An interesting example in that characters frequently utter the phrase while in the presence of actual gods. Including the gods themselves.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Maskers.
  • Parental Incest: The Three had sex with many of the Godlings on top of eachother. Enefah and Sieh's having sex is a plot point later in the series.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Covered or made of demon blood.
  • Power Trio: The Three.
    • Sieh, Deka, and Shahar.
  • Primordial Chaos: The Maelstrom, from which the gods were born.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Yeine and Usein.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Yeine ends up having accurate visions of things that happened in the past. Originally justified in that Enefa's soul, and by extension her mind, is part of her but, as Nahadoth points out, Enefa was already dead by the time half of Yeine's visions took place. Then again, Enefa's soul has been 'drifting' all this time, ostensibly soaking up the sights in the meantime, which would make this more of a Zig-Zagging Trope.
  • Really 700 Years Old: All the gods and godlings.
  • La Résistance: Usein Darr's High Norther movement.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Yeine tries. And there are apparently a number of Arameri who actually do try to something useful in the world, but overall they are not actual contenders for the throne.
  • Sanity Slippage: At the start of the book, the audience is told that Yeine is telling her story so that she can remember it herself. As time passes, this seems to be more and more necessary, as Yeine is apparently going mad (at one point, she says "Once upon a time there was a" several times in a row before catching herself). At the end of the book, it turns out that all of this was due to her soul merging with the soul of the goddess inside her, allowing her to ascend to godhood.
  • Save Your Deity: Yeine to Naha in book one; Oree to Tempa in book two.
  • Semi-Divine: Demons are the descendants of both god and mortal, and include Oree. Since demons are themselves mortal, but also partake of godhood, their blood is the only thing that can kill the genuinely-immortal gods.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: In Darre. Or rather, fighting off a rapist as rite of passage.
  • Sexual Karma: Yeine and the rest of the Three get heavy doses of this, it seems. Though, to be fair, when the people in charge of karma are the ones in the relationship, it kind of makes sense.
  • Shining City: Depending on whose point of view you're talking about, Sky, where delegates of the eponymous "hundred thousand kingdoms" meet and, more importantly, the Arameri family head lives. Later it becomes a Holy City and pilgrimage destination.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Itempas and Nahadoth. The former is the god of day, light, and order. The latter is the god of night, darkness, and chaos. Their love for each other is matched only by their frustration with each other.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Sieh acts like one on a regular basis, murdering dozens in his temper tantrums and regularly threatening to do horrific things to others with little evidence of regret. Which makes complete sense, since he's the God of Childhood and both sociopaths and children are severely lacking of empathy and forethought.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: At the end of The Broken Kingdoms it turns out that Oree's been telling her story to Itempas's unborn daughter, conceived after their one night of passion.
  • Storming the Castle: Maskers in Sky.
  • Straight Gay: Deka is this, though he's never shown to have any interest in anyone except Sieh.
  • The Time of Myths: Potentially, the whole trilogy.
  • Time Skip: Ten years between book one and two, and a century between two and three.
  • World Tree: After the Enefadah are freed, Yeine creates a big ass tree to hold up Sky, which had previously been held up by the Enefadeh's powers and a very tall very thin pillar.
  • Yandere: Itempas. He murdered Enefa and then started a huge war and imprisoned Nahadoth in human flesh... because Nahadoth paid more attention to Enefa then to him for a little bit. In The Broken Kingdoms, it's explained a little more in-depth: Itempas didn't mind Enefa and Nahadoth being together. The problem was that for a moment, they forgot him and thought only of one another, making him alone for the first time in his entire existence- and being alone was his personal antithesis, literally wounding his soul. That, combined with his mortal lover murdering their son while he was still weakened, drove him to do what he did prior to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms- murdering Enefa because when it was just him and Nahadoth, he was never alone. And then there's Deka in the third book, who basically invented/discovered a new kind of magic, inked it on his own body, and is quite willing to rearrange the universe just so he can have Sieh. And Deka is Arameri, and even though they're not as powerful as they were by the third book they are still very strong and scarily brutal.
  • You Know What They Say About X...: Racism is alive and well in this world, shown mostly by the Arameri's reaction to any mixed-race member of the family.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: A miniature one almost killed Yeine's father (the "almost" is because the Enefadeh intervened in exchange for putting Enefa's soul into the as-yet-unborn Yeine). They're never actually called zombies in the book, but the Arameri basically had the actual zombie apocalypse weaponized. As in, they could direct it, and turn it on and off at will. And yes, they did use it. Never on-page, but frequently before the start of the book.

Alternative Title(s): The Inheritance Trilogy