Green Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)


Title: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms: Book One of the Inheritance Trilogy
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Pages: 448
Genre: Fantasy
Standalone/Series: Series but easily read as a stand-alone.
Release: Out Now in Paperbackk
Publisher: Orbit

Synopsis

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky – a palace above the clouds where gods’ and mortals’ lives are intertwined. There, to her shock, Yeine is named one of the potential heirs to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with a pair of cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history. But it’s not just mortals who have secrets worth hiding and Yeine will learn how perilous the world can be when love and hate – and gods and mortals – are bound inseparably.

Comments/Thoughts/Analysis

Where to start the world building, the myth, the main character, the voice? This has got to be one of the strongest debuts I’ve read for a while.

I tend to lower my expectations and criticisms when reading a debut. It’s generally unfair to pour those kind of things over a novice it only leads to disappointment and frustration but from the from page I was captivated.

Jemisin managed to keep me in the palm of her hand until the end. I’d have followed her anywhere. I had total confidence that she knew exactly what she was doing and the story was going to come to a proper and surprising conclusion.

Now there aren’t a lot of writers you can say that about.

I think the way the story is told will either captivate or infuriate readers. It’s full of asides. All relevant. All needed but they might be considered storytelling fluff by those who like their narratives and characters more straight forward.

I don’t. I like my characters to feel like they are thinking and feeling. I like to know that they are affecting events and that events are effecting them.

Yeine is a good character to introduce the reader to the city of Sky. She is an outsider but has to be treated as an insider because of her instant status. Though that is a double edged sword. I guess a complaint could be that she is so wrapped up in your own problems and the problems of her people in the North that she doesn’t explore the world of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms enough.

But that’s for another tale and another time.

That isn’t the focus here. The focus is about who rules this world and the gods that are imprisoned in Sky. Much bigger things are explored in Yeine’s story.

We do find out some interesting things though. Yeine’s own people are led by women and a woman’s status is above man who seem to only be asked to fight when brute strength is needed rather than for their brains.

Her people are thought of as Barbarians but the more you flashes of them it’s hard to not to see the ruling family in Sky as the barbaric race and they have had it right all long even if that does mean they had to brick up what could reflect harmony in this world.

Im Sky indulge themselves (sometimes perversely), they inbreed and rule with a cruel and iron fist. It’s hard to see how Yeine could change this world even if she ened up winning.

But the changes she needs to make have a long history. They start for her with her mother. Who is now dead and the reason that a contest is needed.

Though it starts earlier than that with three gods, one know rules, one is imprisoned and one is dead. And that balance is central to the struggles that take place.

Jemisin has an amazing world creation myth and a solid foundation for her world that it’s hard not to see it as real especially when you get to see how the ending and it’s consequences will play out in a very real way for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

It’s a self contained story but I defy you not to want to read the next one when you see what happens in the finale.

Summary

A confident, mature, powerful, feminist, and entertaining debut in fantasy. And in the running for The Reads Top Five  2010.

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