A quick question.

Those of you who’ve read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (spoilers) —

I’ve seen a few reviews complain that it’s strange for an immortal god like Nahadoth to love a 19-year-old mortal girl. OK, makes sense; he’s incomprehensibly ancient and it’s hard enough to get May/December romances to work, let alone half-a-second/December. But I haven’t yet seen a single review complain that it’s strange for Sieh — also incomprehensibly ancient, however young he looks and pretends to be — to love a 19-year-old mortal girl.

Why do you think this is?

(Not trying to ask any leading questions here; I’m just honestly puzzled by the disparity.)

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39 Responses »

  1. Because Sieh carries himself like a teenager, and Nahadoth carries himself like an incomprehensibly ancient entity.

  2. Personally, I never thought Sieh loved her for herself, but was transferring the love he felt for his mother on to her. The love between two gods is less unusual, especially in a parent/child relationship.

  3. Possibly because Sieh’s relationship with her isn’t sexual? My other feeling is that Sieh explains it pretty well himself, by talking about how he embodies childhood so much, and looks for mother figures, and he sees some of his mother in Yeine. But then, I also feel like people who don’t understand why Naha would love Yeine would miss that too, so I don’t know. It seems like the explanation for Nahadoth is in the text too; it’s partly the pull of Enefa, and partly his own chaotic nature. It never occurred to me to wonder why he would love her, his whole being is made of love as much as it is hatred and darkness and everything else. And then they start working closely together and a relationship forms. It makes sense to me. *shrug*

  4. To be honest, though the concept is a bit weird, you have to look at it in its context. You’ve created these gods that have a lot of layers of depth and are, in part, pretty lonely as well. Perhaps even abused, to a degree. That, in itself, explains the love, for me.

    However, there are also a lot of problems that are a result of the half-a-second/December relationship. The way you have handled these problems seemed very believable to me. If anything, it’s what made me love these books. Never before have I seen gods who are so strange, yet so human as well, but always believable.

    Sieh, though, leads to completely different conflicts. I think they are less alien to us. His character feels, after all, a lot closer to Yeine’s. I guess it’s more a matter of character, than it’s a matter of age or divinity.

    Hope that makes sense. It’s been a while since I read the book. :$

  5. Perhaps because Sieh “acts” young and seems to be looking for a mother figure, it is easier to feel comfortable with this for some people. Although the older man/younger woman theme seems to be very ingrained in our culture, it is also a hot button for many. So it may be easier for some to understand the desire for a mother but also have a button pushed regarding the older man/younger woman issue. I did not have a problem with either, mostly because I assumed/got the impression that for some of the gods/godlings, humans are fascinating and they are “naturally” drawn to them. And, thankfully, Naha is no Hugh Heffner!

  6. Do gods even do age? As a concept at all, or as a concept that affects love/sex/romance/infatuation/whatever? I didn’t come away from the book thinking that Naha was mainly interested in Yeine for any of the normal (mortal) reasons, and I’m guessing social acceptance from mortals isn’t high on his list.

    I’m not sure Naha’s concept of ‘love’ is the same as mine/the reviewers’ either, especially under the circumstances where Yeine is also not-Yeine. If I thought anything was odd about the relationship, it was that Yeine herself wouldn’t attract Naha, but she’s not all Yeine.

    And as for Yeine herself… if you’re getting it on with a god, I’m sure the age difference is the last thing on your mind.

    As for why not Sieh, he didn’t get as many lines of coverage with Yeine, so maybe he just wasn’t identified as her lover, or at least not as strongly. The youth aspect of it probably did play a part for those who did think he was a lover though.

  7. I think Danielle is right.

    Not wanting to explain too much spoilery stuff, but I would think by the end, Naha’s interest in Yeine (who is, lets just say, a lot more mature than most 19 year olds) is pretty easy to understand. But maybe that’s just me.

  8. Hm. If anything, it took a bit more time for me to wrap my head around Sieh loving Yeine as a mother figure as opposed to Nahadoth having her as a lover.

    I feel like the idea of a lonely god who takes comfort with a mortal was pretty prolific and accepted in fantasy (as a general rule), and I felt like it was flushed out pretty well in HTK.

  9. Is it possible that those reviewers complaining about Nahadoth don’t perceive Sieh’s emotions as having the same kind of intensity? I don’t really know, just guessing here; personally, I didn’t have a problem with it, in view of the fact that it was, um, half-a-second but also sorta December/December romance…

  10. Naha could be seen as more of the “chaotic” type, the one that might be less associated with sentiments and feelings of love, any kind of love or care. Sieh for all his trickster ways puts me as reader in mind more of the potential for caring, right from the beginning. Naha does not so much, until far along in the story. At least, that’s how I would parse it. Having said that, I have no complaints with either, the characters are designed too complex to just say “one is chaotic, one is order” etc. Well done.

  11. But she is sharing the soul of another (somewhat) immortal god(dess), which influences her character and appeal, no?

    That said, possibly it is that it is more believable to some people that an immortal being could have an innocent love for a mere mortal female than a sexual love. Because Sieh puts so much into being child-like, he takes on the innocence, and maybe vulnerability, of children in some peoples eyes, maybe. I don’t know, because I don’t see it myself. I wonder, though, if the reviewers would feel the same way if the mortal in question were male, and the gods female. Perhaps their perception of male superiority is such that a normal man and an immortal female are somewhat close, but an immortal man and a mortal female are impossibly far apart. I may be over-thinking this, though, since I thought innocence in a female sexual partner was considered a good thing.

    I think a lot of it is the convincingly childlike demeanor that Sieh has for most of the book. Children tend to love unconditionally, especially someone they see as their mother in some way, so it doesn’t matter what qualities she actually has, to some extent.

  12. Because people think that old dudes with hot young chicks is creepy? It is for me IRL, when it’s a ninety-year-old dude and an eighteen-year-old ninny.

    As for it being weird in 100K: I didn’t think so. I didn’t think that Nahadoth wanted Yeine for Yeine, though, but for Enefa-within-Yeine. So IMO he wasn’t really in love with a nineteen-year-old girl, but a bajillion year old goddess wearing a nineteen-year-old-girl suit.

    But you know me, and I’m cynical about romance :)

    As for Sieh: as Emily points out, his love for Yeine/Enefa wasn’t expressed sexually (whether or not it was sexual in his mind), so it gets deemed more appropriate.

  13. I’d have to say it’s because Sieh is so well portrayed as a child. Though he has tremendous power he still operates with (seemingly) childish emotions, and a child’s love is far less likely to be questioned.

  14. I reckon it’s for the superficial reason that Sieh acts like a child, as others have suggested.

    I don’t get why people would have trouble believing the Nahadoth/Yeine thing to begin with. Gods have been doing this in religions all over the world for all time. Haven’t these people ever read a Greek myth? I MEAN ANY OF THEM, JUST PICK AT RANDOM.

  15. Wow. For someone to point that out seems a bit nitpicky. First off, it is fantasy and if you’re going to read it, you have to be prepared to suspend a certain about of disbelief. Second, it’s not like you had their love for one another drop out of nowhere. Everything is pretty neatly explained from their first…uh second meeting to where they become close. It’s hard for me not to get into the spoilers to really say all that I want to say. >_<

  16. Done in one. Danielle nailed it.

  17. Well, what Danielle said, of course. But not only because Sieh’s self-presentation as a teenager makes less of the age difference. Also because it’s easier not to take teenagers’ love seriously, as a mature emotion, so we don’t have to wrestle with the implications of Sieh actually being immeasurably old. And because self-presentation as a teenager kind of rules out Sieh ruminating in a mature way on what that teenaged cover does to the ancient consciousness, whereas Nahadoth is so very aware of what being imprisoned in a sexy body part of the time does to his idea of himself. So Nahadoth talks a lot about the implications of things, which makes us as readers (me as a reader, anyway) think his relationships through very minutely. And Sieh avoids the question.

  18. I tend to think that complaint sounds in general like complaints I’ve heard in re: every series I’ve ever read featuring romances between a human and a vampire/god/name-your-immortal-or-superpowered-thingy-of-choice. Some people, I think, fundamentally do not believe in the possibility of romances between two people that they perceive as too power imbalanced. And since romances of that ilk are all over genre fiction, they end up seeing a lot of them, which, if it’s not to the reader’s taste, I could easily see making people less and less patient with them.

    For what it’s worth, I thought Naha’s comment that humans were made in the image of the gods, so why be surprised about all the sexings and jealousies and emotions and such, was one of the most insightful things I’d ever seen in fantasy, and would have by itself sold me on the plausibility of their relationship.

  19. Perhaps it’s Nahadoth’s personality? He seems more dour, closed off, and also way more dangerous than Sieh.

  20. Yeah, I would say that they simply perceive Sieh as having the mentality of a child and loving Yeine as a child looking for a mother, whereas Yeine and Naha’s relationship is more of pursuer and pursued which becomes sexual. That Enefa had sex with her children is overlooked, that Sieh is able and more than willing to have sex with Yeine is overlooked, especially since Sieh seems to be less happy in his older forms. They dismiss Sieh as a sexual being and so he’s ignored. They also see him perhaps as a sexual victim, not partner, as he is made to have sex in young and child forms by the inhabitants of the palace. Yeine is an adult, but a lot of fantasy fans also maybe aren’t comfortable with what they see as a teen put into a sexualized situation with an older person, which is how they are viewing Naha.

    But in a sense, Naha can’t avoid loving Yeine because he automatically becomes what people want him to be/look like, and Yeine wants and needs him to be in love with her. She also impresses him with her spunk, and he’s likely to lose control and kill her accidentally (which probably also makes some people uncomfortable,) but he shapes himself to please her.

    Me, I really liked it when Sieh kind of offered to put himself at whatever age/form would work for Yeine to have sex with him. It made me like him much more, whereas sometimes the child aspect was a bit more annoying (but then children can be annoying.) The gods weren’t fixed — they shifted and changed. That was one of the most interesting things about them. So even though Naha is the first thing ever created, at the same time, he’s also younger and more innocent than even Yeine in some ways.

  21. I think it’s mostly what Danielle said, but also partly that some people are seeing a pattern they object to in current popular fantasy (most obvious in Twilight) of an incomprehensibly older man inexplicably into (and into in an angsty way) a teenage human girl.

    I think this is pretty unfair to 100K Kingdoms because the relationship between Naha and Yeine isn’t just that, as other commenters have pointed out, but a surface-level reading of the novel might get their relationship tarred with the same brush, and just HEARING about the novel definitely would.

    The relationship with Sieh is NOT one seen very often in fantasy, so nobody has any go-to complaints about it. ;)

  22. Conversely, I wonder if people would have pointed out the same thing if it were an ancient goddess falling for a young man.

  23. I am with Laurie on this one.

    Having read Greek myth since I was 10 years old, the concept of a mortal/ immortal pairing didn’t even send a blip on my weirdness radar. In fact, I admired how you were able to add so much depth to the dynamic. I loved that it wasn’t just a rape scenario (and especially not a beastial rape scenario)– Yeine was the pursuer, and Naha was cool with it.

    I also liked the implication that there was more to Yeine than meets the eye. She was worthy of love from both Naha and Sieh. That’s powerful in terms of characterization.

  24. Good discussion, but I have a slightly different thought, I think, though KatG and I are working in the same area.

    The idea that Nahadoth and Yeine are in a December/May relationship took me by surprise: OK, she’s 19. But he’s an immortal god who has been around a gazillion years. To his godlike perpspective, what difference is there between a 19 year old and a 59 year old in terms of the mayfly mortals who blip past a god’s radar.

    While a lot of the patriarchal mythology has male god/young female human (fitting nicely the needs of male patriarchs, i.e. power being the major thing a Leader needs and not the young’n’sexy), so I second those who note that it’s odd to question N/Y–BUT I think that this relationship is not like those.

    For one thing though people keep forgetting it–Naha is a deity of chaos. He manifests in different forms and could presumably manifest in many more (I’m not feeling any need to write fanfic in your storyverse, but on an intellectual level, I can see MONDO ways to have fun with Naha because of what you put in the text). In theory, all those other gods can take any form, but you know, rain of gold, bull, blah blah Zeus. At one point we see Naha’s female-ness, if I recall correctly (please note brain is blitzed with too much grading and work left to do).

    Sieh is fascinating because of that youthful exterior, that principle, so to speak, but I like the hints that there’s much more behind/around/underneath him (brain blitz remember, but somebody talking about how he has to work to keep that view?).

    Any relationship between an immortal and a mortal will have the time imbalance as well as the other power imbalances (though as others point out, she’s also embodying in some ways their missing Goddess). But I agree with KatG–Yeine’s courage and her response(s) to him when they first met made her stand out.

    I can see the concern with the pattern of older male/younger female out there–but I don’t see your story fitting into them because, by the end, Yeine’s a Goddess/equal in a complex group…I know there’s a term for a gathering of deities but darned if I can remember it.

  25. I have no idea, other than all the reasons that have already been posted. That being said, if I tried to understand everything and everyone in my life, little own everyone on the Internet my head would implode. I had no problems with that god/mortal thing at all.

  26. Oh, but most people have no problem with a certain vampire hooking up with a certain teenager whose name starts with B. (Oh wait, I think I just described two popular things there.)

    That’s perfectly reasonable! Or several other vampires and immortals I can name.

    But it probably has to do with the gods’ mindset. If you’re thinking Serious Adult Angsty Universe-Changing thoughts most of the time, versus someone who’s more into fun and experiencing new/different things .. it’s easier to see the latter person enjoying spending time with a young mortal woman. That they’d have more to talk about and be able to connect better.

    Or maybe the people who have said this just forgot how ancient he was. Do people ever stop to consider that Peter Pan is rather more than 6?

  27. I’m more skeptical in general about romantic love than friendly or familial love. First, because romance is predictable – I expect the main character to fall in love, I don’t expect her to, say, adopt a son or gain a best friend or bond with an enemy, etc. Second, because there’s a cultural perception that’s difficult to shake of romantic love being more important than other kinds of love, especially for women. Sieh’s relationship with Yeine may be taken less seriously than Nahadoth’s simply because it’s not sexual, and therefore people have lower expectations for it. (I take Sieh’s love more seriously *because* it’s not sexual, but like I said, I’m skeptical).

    And finally, I think Sieh is easier to like than Nahadoth, who’s fascinating and enigmatic, but not very personable or fun-loving. Like Danielle said, Sieh can fake mortality better than Nahadoth, even though it is fake nonetheless. I’m looking forward to his perspective in the third book.

  28. Wow. I meant to respond to these, but things got hectic for the afternoon and only just settled down now. But now I’m kinda glad I left the conversation alone.

    Too many folks to reply to individually, but let me just clarify one thing — I don’t have a problem with reviewers having a problem with Yeine/Nahadoth. That’s why I read reviews, honestly, to try and understand how readers are reacting to my work. (It’s also why I participate in a writing group, talk with my editor, and so on.) It was just that this was something I didn’t understand, and I’ve seen it several times now (people saying they didn’t like the Y/N relationship but did like Y/S). So that’s why I asked.

    I think I’ll refrain from sharing my own thoughts on the matter, because there’s such good stuff here and I don’t want to influence or alter that. Thanks again, folks, for helping me figure this out! And please feel free to continue.

  29. J. Andrews—that was exactly what I thought. Ancient, wealthy vampires falling for high school students is normal!

    On that note, I wanted to say how much more compelling/believable I found Nahadoth’s feelings for Yeine than….er….others….mostly because the way he’s developed as a character, and because he has all those murky alternate motives.

    And I agree with the comments here about Sieh’s affections not registering as weird because he embodies childhood and latches onto Yeine that way. He’s ancient, but he’s also a kid.

  30. It never occurred to me to wonder about the relationship. Having lived for eternity, I think 19 or 90 are pretty much the same to a god.

  31. My perception is that you either buy into the idea of gods hooking up with mortals or you don’t. As has been stated — 19 or 59, makes no difference when the number on the other side of the equation is a jillion. Mortals are all dying children, from that point of view.

    But to speak to Naha and Sieh specifically — Sieh doesn’t only seem to be young, he doesn’t seek a sexual relationship with Yeine. (Well, not in the usual way.) I think he’s far more pushy, openly manipulative and occasionally deceitful, but there’s no penetration involved, and it’s the penetration that usually freaks people out.

    By contrast, Naha, for most of the 100K storyline, is at least a little angry-aggressive-dangerous in his relationship with young Yeine, and there is always a sexual undercurrent to their relationship. The power of the bloodline to command the Gods is clearly the only thing that’s keeping Naha from doing tremendous damage to them all, rape not the least of which. And Yeine is told repeatedly that falling in love with him, or having sex with him, will almost certainly lead to her death or the breaking of her mind, so bound into the relationship is this ever-present, barely-restrained threat of force and violence.

    I think you handle the N/Y relationship arc really well, but there was a point where I was hoping they’d have sex while at the same time thinking there was no way it was going to happen and not be icky on some level… but by the time it did, it wasn’t — you completely won me over through the natural progression of their storyline. The relationship arc was more powerful (imo) because of that original this’ll-never-work tension. However I can see where someone with different sensibilities than mine might hit that conflicted moment, decide it was *always* going to be wrong, and not get over it. I disagree, but the criticism you speak of might have it’s origins there.

    But in any case, your Gods may be ancient, but they all clearly get something out of existing in the mortal plane and interacting with mortals — that’s not an aberration on Naha’s part. Naha in particular created the Universe so he wouldn’t be lonely, and I have no problem with him seeking out companionship, particularly the companionship of the re-born lover that he lost. One of the strongest themes in both 100K and Broken is the pain of lonliness and how screwed up the Gods (and people) get when they’re left alone. I think Naha’s (and Sieh’s) longing for Enefa is a palpable force in 100K, and in the face of that, Yeine’s age isn’t remotely an issue.

  32. It didn’t even cross my mind that it was weird. While the gods are certainly ancient in terms of years, I don’t think that their mindsets are necessarily bound by time.

    Sieh’s love for Yeine seemed to me a non-sexual thing: just like a kid, he likes to cuddle with people that he likes. I don’t know if Nahadoth really loved Yeine, but it seems to me he certainly cared a lot for her, and even if that’s weird to some people – well you know, love and feelings don’t care about age. As for Yeine falling in love with Nahadoth – it’s not like he looked elderly and walked with a crick in his back. He constantly radiated power, sexual prowess, passion, angst… all kind of things that in my mind coincide with younger people. Really, there was a spark there and that’s all that really mattered to me.

  33. I initially assumed their attitudes towards Yeine to be explained by the fact that she (probably alone of the inhabitants of Sky) didn’t view them as monsters or slaves, but took them at face value and treated them with some amount of respect.

    Also, Nahadoth being the creature that he is, I just sort of assumed he would make passes at every vulnerable female that showed up, not that he was in love with Yeine in particular.

    When Yeine turned out to be who she was, of course, everything made even more sense.

  34. Maybe some people disliked the Yeine/Nahadoth relationship as being more predictable than the Yeine/Sieh relationship, which was less so, more original – as someone did say earlier in the comments – ?

    It didn’t bother me because of the way you told it, but that type of relationship IS a pretty common trope (antagonists that fall for/ally with each other – even if both are not exactly that at the beginning, they’re not friends anyway). It all depends how you tell it, of course.

    Another thing is that Yeine/Nahadoth becomes overtly sexual while Yeine/Sieh does stay sexually neutral. May be it resonated for some people in a negative way ?

    Anyway, it’s still surprising as reactions go, since Sieh does openly say he loves Yeine many times and even acts at times in a way that could be misinterpreted. I remember there was usually something that steered safely away from those scenes becoming more suggestive, but I do remember too that for me, Sieh always stayed just under the line of becoming ambiguous. I always felt there was a little vibe of him “almost” playing with incestuous thoughts. Which would be moot since Yeine isn’t his mother anyway, but…
    Maybe it’s just me having a slightly twisted view of the character.:)

  35. I would have to agree with what has been said already. Being a reader of many myths it did not even occur to me to think of it as a May\December, because of what has been explained above by others, 19, 90 900? what does it matter.

    I would question more if the reviewers where this was an issue are more used to standard fantasy (I do not include the newer vampire fantasy Romances in this) where the main young characters are less sexual, and or if they are it is usually in a much more naive and innocent way of 2 young people falling in love …..

    If that is your “standard” for fantasy then one might have issues with the relationship.

  36. Great discussion. I love all these thoughtful answers.

    Personally, I didn’t even question the N/Y relationship as it made sense to me on multiple levels for reasons folks above have already touched on. Sieh likewise.

  37. It’s FANTASY ! :-) To quote another immortal, ” …’Nuff said !”