Character Study: Kinneth

I’ll post pics and shout-outs from RT later this week; it was a lot of fun, but I’m still in the grind on book 3 and now working on copyedits for book 2, so necessarily limiting my blogging time ’til that’s done.

Anyway, Kinneth. I could have — and did, in an early short story that hasn’t been published — written whole additional tales about her, beyond the events of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Yeine is in many ways her shadow, and I don’t just mean in the symbolic sense (i.e., Kinneth was white and Yeine is brown; Kinneth is Arameri, a servant of the Bright, and Yeine is from a “darkling” race and later, the Mistress of Twilight). Yeine is keenly aware throughout the story that she’s a lesser Kinneth, and that much of what she has to do to survive in Sky is a reaction to things her mother did. The easy thing to do would’ve been to write the story from Kinneth’s perspective, given that — but this is a story about legacies, at its heart, and so Yeine’s tale drew me more. We are all, as Nahadoth told Yeine, the sum of what our past has made us.

And Kinneth is very much a product of her parents’ issues. I don’t know much about her mother Ygreth, other than that like most Arameri spouses, she came from some high-ranking Amn family. Since most high-ranking Amn families are also Arameri offshoots, this means that Ygreth — like Yeine — was dragged back into the viper pit of her “family” in Sky, probably without knowing quite what was expected of her. I imagine Ygreth’s relationship with the younger Dekarta was a bit fraught at first; Dekarta was cruel and jaded even back then. Most likely he never intended to love her, and he was probably aware of the dangers of doing so (that is, that he might have to kill her as part of the succession). But love isn’t always a planned, controllable thing — and when the time came for Dekarta’s Ritual of Succession, his mother forced him to make a choice: his wife, or his equally beloved daughter. The whole point of the ritual, after all, is to prove that the heir has the cojones/ovarios to kill even their most beloved fellow Arameri. (Though it doesn’t work quite that way in the case of multiple heirs.) I haven’t written this story yet so none of this is solid in my mind, but I believe Ygreth would have told Dekarta her choice: to become the sacrifice in place of their daughter, and to conceal the truth from Kinneth so that she could grow up without knowing her father murdered her mother. Dekarta did these things to honor Ygreth’s wishes.

But Kinneth was a smart, observant girl, and killing his wife probably had a greater emotional impact on Dekarta than he intended; he didn’t do a very good job of concealing the truth. Kinneth figured it out. And unfortunately for Dekarta, Kinneth had inherited his temper. Everything that followed — Kinneth’s bargain with the Enefadeh, her courtship with Yeine’s father — pretty much constituted her roaring rampage of revenge.

What I’m intrigued by, however, are the moments when Kinneth wavered from her course of vengeance. Dekarta raised her to be devout in her worship of Itempas, and her vow of vengeance actually reflects this; the Itempan faith puts a lot of weight on justice and balance. It’s very much an eye for an eye kind of religion. But she turned away from her faith because that was, ironically, the only way she could counter Dekarta’s power. Also, she genuinely loved Yeine’s father, though she’d initially meant to simply use him — in this, too, she turned out to be like Dekarta. She tried to kill Yeine at birth, knowing that Yeine was to be the instrument through which the Enefadeh might free themselves and touch off another Gods’ War. Yeine speculates that Kinneth decided to let her live only because Yeine had a soul of her own, and therefore should make the choice (to become the gods’ weapon, or not) herself; this is true. In addition to this, Kinneth originally meant to tell Yeine the truth about her other soul someday — but I think that over the years, Kinneth soured on revenge, or at least the idea of using her daughter as a weapon. I think that gradually Kinneth became more a reflection of her mother (protective, sacrificing) than her father (willing to kill even loved ones to achieve a goal), and she chose to keep the truth from Yeine because she just wanted Yeine to be happy.

I can’t say whether Kinneth would be pleased with the way things turned out. Sure, Yeine’s happy, but she isn’t quite Kinneth’s daughter anymore. Like most successful revenge scenarios, Yeine’s ascension represents a bittersweet victory for Kinneth. But I suspect that, once Yeine became the goddess of life and death, she probably traveled to the heavens and the hells to visit her mother’s soul and have a chat about all this. Unfortunately, that’s a story that may never be told.

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5 Responses »

  1. Kinneth was always an interesting character. Even though she is dead she influenced a lot of happenings in the book, and not even realized it. She is a strong character and the one to seemed to have started the ball rolling in a new direction.

    I would love to read a story from Kinneth’s view point. I think she could shed a lot of light on many different things in the Amn culture along with her actions setting up for Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

    Thanks for this insight!

  2. I have to say that I found the character of Kinneth to be very perhaps the most interesting of the book, her never appearing alive on-screen notwithstanding. She had that super-evil Arameri upbringing and yet she turned her back on all of it and rebuilt herself from the ground-up into this loving and relatively humble and moral person. Yes, it all started for revenge, sure, but from all Yeine’s memories I certainly got the impression that it didn’t stay that way.

    I have to say that until the revelation, I thought that Kinneth commited suicide, because if she’d somehow known that Dekarta was failing, she’d have expected him to fetch both her and Yeine back and to try to force one of them to kill the other. So, it would have fit if Kinneth decided to spare Yeine that choice and/or spare herself witnessing Yeine being killed for refusing to murder her beloved mother.
    Basically, Dekarta had all the cards there and Kinneth couldn’t win. By removing herself, there was a chance that Dekarta would leave Yeine alone, since he couldn’t make Kinneth suffer anymore.

    For that matter, was the whole “kill a loved one” an established Arameri ritual, or was Dekarta’s mother particularly evil? It doesn’t seem that something like that would be conducive to having a pool of qualified possible heirs to choose from – as indeed it wasn’t in this case, as Dekarta had only one and when that one bailed on him, he was left with very unpromising prospects.
    And given that, Dekarta gunning for Yeine to have posthumous revenge on his renegate daughter seemed like a breach of duty, IMHO. Being prepared to kill a loved in the name of duty is well and good, but only if a ruler isn’t all too ready to abandon duty for other personal motives, like petty vendettas and leave the rule of the world to Caligulas.

  3. Hi Isilel,

    Again, some stuff that I think you’re misunderstanding. Dekarta went after Yeine to avenge Kinneth, because he loved Kinneth and blamed Yeine (and her father) for taking Kinneth away from him. All Dekarta ever wanted was for Kinneth to come back and be his daughter again. It was wholly Kinneth’s choice to stay away from him; if she’d ever asked to come back, Dekarta would have accepted her. He would even have tried to love Yeine, if Kinneth had required that of him, as he says at the end of the book. He would’ve done anything for her. Much of his behavior in the book is simply the manifestation of his grief.

    Also, as I mentioned in the Dekarta character study, the “kill a loved one thing” is an established Arameri ritual because the Arameri must all be able to kill their loved ones, should Itempas ever call on them to wield the Stone of Earth.

    Hope that clarifies things!

  4. Yes, my name is Kinny. And one of my very best friends calls me Kinneth. I am dead serious. I can scan my birth certificate for you if you don’t believe me. Reading your book, as magnificently and beautifully written as it is, is very unnerving for me every time I see the name. I’m about half way through, and only read the first paragraph of this blog before realizing this could possibly spoil some things for me. So! I will finish the book, come back and read this, and hopefully post a more discussion-based comment. Though whether you want that or not, I’m not sure. You must be crazily busy.

    I have a question– is Yeine black? I have an image in my head of the Darre people being black, and the Amn being white. Of course, it states in the book that the Amn are pale, but there isn’t much description of Yeine besides her brown curls and eyes. Hopefully this isn’t mentioned later in the book and I’m making a fool of myself by asking.

    And, I suppose since I’m already here typing this, I have another question/suggestion. I feel you should put a pronunciation in the back of your book, or the front, or somewhere- anywhere. I’ve spent the past couple of days trying to figure out how to pronounce Yeine’s name, and I finally decided on ‘yane’ because that was the most appeasing to me. But I’d really like to know the actual way to say it, along with Scimina (skih-mee-na or shuh-me-na or something else entirely?).

    Hmm I suppose that’s it. Hopefully by the time I finish The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, I won’t startle every time I see ‘Kinneth’.

    .Kinny

  5. Very very very belated,

    Hi, Kinny. :) No, Yeine’s not black. She describes herself in the first chapter as brown-skinned, but that covers a lot of racial territory. Most Darre (unlike Yeine) have straight black hair and black or brown eyes, and they tend to be stocky. The closest analogue they would have in our world would be the Inka (Inca); I tried to make this clear by describing Arrebaia (the Darre’s capital city) as being very similar to Macchu Picchu. And the Amn are closest to northern European — Sweden, Norway, etc. So Yeine is half Indian and half white European, if that helps.