The Broken Kingdoms review

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Broken Kingdoms is the follow-up to the great fantasy debut novel by author N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. The ultimate book of the Inheritance Trilogy should be out later this year and is named Kingdom of Gods.

Oree is a blind artist selling trinkets to tourists visiting Shadow, the city standing at the base of the World Tree, formerly known as the city of Sky. Even though she can't use her physical sight, she has the special ability to see magic. In a city populated by free Godlings pouring magic everywhere, this can be quite useful, more so when your lover or your roommate is a Godling or sort of. However, she will eventually attract the unwanted attention of the Order of Itempas and only trouble will ensue. With the addition of the death of a Godling and her special powers, she will be lead toward an unreal tale where Gods, demons and mortals fight for their very existence.

As was the case with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the narrative is set with a first person perspective. I mentioned in my review of Jemisin's first book that I was eager to find out how she would deliver another story in that narrative mode while taking into account the ending of the first novel (the review is still spoiler free, if you haven't read THTK, it's not what you think). The tale is again told for someone but this time the comments toward the figurative reader/listener are less frequent. I appreciated that decline in interaction since it keeps you more focused on the story itself.

The whole God/Godling/demon mythology is relatively expanded in The Broken Kingdoms. Therefore, mixed with the many Godlings Oree encounters, which is almost the double from THTK, the world created by Jemisin feels richer. The action is centered mostly on the city of Shadow and an intrusion into or unto the tree itself, creating a viable surrounding for the blind heroine (remember, she needs magic to see). It's not an easy feat to describe the background, people and the atmosphere surrounding that type of character. The author handed this difficulty quite remarkably even though there were some minor slips.

For me, Oree is not as fascinating as Yeine, the previous heroine, although I would still cheer for both. Nonetheless, she's a compelling character with an interesting ability, luckily because without a strong protagonist the whole thing would simply have crumbled. My main problem with Jemisin's second opus, and this could be directed at Oree, is the first hundred pages or so. I don't usually like when an author puts too much information about the previous story in a follow-up and that's not actually the case here but the problem is related. Oree doesn't know what really happened ten years ago and I grew annoyed to see her in the blind (figuratively) for so long, mostly in the case of Shiny's identity (her roommate). This Shiny is a mystery to her even though she is affiliated with many Godlings. By the way, the incarnations of those last are always a welcome addition to the cast, more so since Nahadoth, another star character form the first novel makes rare appearances.

When things get into motion, the story present an elaborate scheme with a slightly faster pace. The 'so to speak' villains are motivated by greed for Godly power and in this kind of world it's quite conceivable. Oree adventure becomes more dangerous, heartbreaking and personal. Sadly, at the head of this band of conspirators is a one dimensional evildoer. Nevertheless, it's Oree who we follow and she's more than meets the eye. Hopefully, we also get to encounter many of the characters from the first book.

Then, there's the ending. The conclusion is fine, not quite a big surprise but still somewhat unexpected. The choices made by Oree throughout the tale are always consequent with her nature. That's a great asset for a central character of that magnitude. However, I felt the closure came too soon. A large part of the book is like a long epilogue. I enjoyed knowing what became of her in the aftermath but I would I have preferred a bit more 'adventures' or a more concentrated outcome. That aspect is not a huge downside since I think that Oree had to live through that, is was just coming too slow for my taste.

Although I have mentioned a couple of negative aspects for the novel and didn't like it as much as the first, I still find it worth the time. This series is about the complex relationship developing in a world where gods mix with mortals in a unique magical setting. The consequences on Jemisin's world for the next novel are again quite important and we ought to be grated with a grand finale. Moreover, the strong feminine characters created by the author feel more real than most of the women protagonists I've read about of late.

Technically, I find the Orbit covert art to be gorgeous or as Naomi Novik states on the cover (I know it's about the book and not the cover) "Lush and evocative". No map of the city of Shadow is included, sadly, but there's a glossary at the end of the book that can be useful. The paperback Orbit edition stands at 384 pages.

The Broken Kingdoms review score :

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

Overall (not an average) 7.5 / 10


N.K. Jemisin page
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms review


Alberto said...

Great blog!! =)
I follow you
Come to my blog that is in spanish, but have a translator.

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