The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms review

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is Nora K. Jemisin first novel. Prior to this release, she used to write short fiction. The second book in the Inheritance Trilogy is named The Broken Kingdoms and is coming out in fall 2010. The working title for the third and final book is Kingdom of Gods.

Yeine Darre is the granddaughter of Dekarta, the ruler of Sky, a city build by subjugated gods as the center of power for the hundred thousand kingdoms. After the mysterious death of her mother, she is summoned to be named as heir to the Arameri rule. Her two cousins, Scimina and Relad will scheme to keep themselves ahead of the crowd while she tries to find out what happened to her mother and what led to her homecoming. She will discover that everyone has a secret agenda and that she's the master piece behind all the manipulations.

Primarily, the element that stands out from this read is the choice of narrative mode. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is written in a first person perspective. To add even more to the relationship between the reader and the central protagonist, it feels like if we are reading someone personal journal instead of the tale simply being reported by the narrator. Hence, I found myself feeling really close to Yeine in the end and it was probably the author goal to do so; achievement completed successfully.

Mixed up with the story of the rulership of Sky, is the investigation by Yeine to find out what happened to her mother. This is also a significant part of the narration and it makes us care even more about this young lady. During that search, she will find out that the situation involves something even bigger than her small universe, where gods are used as weapons and very practical servants.

Mythology, and more particularly the gods, is at the heart of the story. The interaction between the hero and the gods (or their avatars) creates a beautiful opportunity for the author, enabling her to abundantly give us details on the creation of the world and the past of the various nations. The use of the latter is skilfully done, and since those are submitted to the Arameri family (descendants of first priestess of Itempas, the Bright Lord), originality is achieved.

Among these gods, I liked Sieh who is the incarnation of youth but especially Nahadoth, the first of the gods. Even if we only skim the surface with him since our only source of information is what Yeine perceives, he is still the most compelling character. Underneath his shadowy and nonchalant attitude (he's the Nightlord), there's a complicated being longing for his past life with his siblings. The relation that eventually develops between this mythical entity and Yeine, which at the beginning seemed far from probable, finally becomes very plausible.

Although the environment in which the story proceeds is circumscribed around the city of Sky, I would say that all the elements necessary for worldbuilding in such a novel are present. The inhabitants are almost alien in this magical place. Nevertheless, I almost had a feeling of science fiction and not fantasy during my reading. As regards to the magic system, in addition to the gods and their powers, there exists some kind of sorcery in the markings done by scriveners, writers of the god language. In any way, this is not really essential with to the tale told here.

By the way, I have to admit that I realized I had not read a book written by a woman since Robin Hobb. A shame I think, but it was not intentional. Good thing I picked up this one, nice debut. The only problem I found about the follow-up to this novel would be a spoiler. Let me simply say the second book can't be anything like this one...

Technically, I think the Orbit cover by Cliff Nielsen is perfect for the book, I wouldn't change anything about it. The paperback edition of the novel is 398 pages. There's no map in the book but in this case that was not necessary as much of the action takes place on Sky. There's an appendix with a couple of useful information at the end.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms review score :

Characterization............. 8.5 /10
World building............... 7.5 / 10
Magic system................. 7 / 10
Story.............................. 8 / 10
Writing........................... 8.5 / 10

Overall (not an average) 8 / 10


N.K. Jemisin page


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

I loved this cover as well. I am looking forward to book 2, and especially curious after reading the excerpt in the end of the book. I think it's the third book, that will be from Sieh's view point. I think that is what the author is working at and mentioned at the Barnes & Noble forum site. I could be wrong, but if my memory serves correctly I think so. But, since the books not done it could change.

I really enjoyed the gods and godlings. I liked the mythology behind them. Glad to see you enjoyed the book too.

Phil said...

I haven't read the excerpt... and I had no idea that the next novels were not going to be with Yeine as the PoV. Interesting.

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Wanted to mention quickly the new blog look is very nice. I like it.

There was an excerpt in the back of Hunderd Thousand Kingdoms for The Broken Kingdoms. I am not sure who the characters are though. The main girl is blind but can see the gods or godlings. And the one god she sees in her alley and then takes in her home is suicidal. I'm not sure if this is Itempas or one of the hundreds of godlings running around now in the future(from HTK) world. You'll have to take a look. I hope your book has the excerpt for you to read.

Also, Jemisin did a post over at her blog that this cover isn't finalized yet. I hadn't realized this until I read her post. There may still be changes done to this cover, but I have to say I really love it. It goes so well with her scheme. Also, in this post she did, the head in the sky is... did you know or believe this... Naha! I didn't know that.

a Fantasy Reader All rights reserved © Blog Milk - Powered by Blogger