N. K. Jemisin – The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

rave reviews and Luke’s rant (mostly about the audiobook narrator).

THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS
by N. K. Jemisin

publisher: Orbit, 2010
ISBN: 0316075973
pages: 432
copy: ebook
series: Inheritance #1

my rating: 8/10

first sentence: I am not as I once was.

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. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress 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 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. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate – and gods and mortals – are bound inseparably together.

This is a world where gods walk among mortals. To be more specific, gods have been enslaved by the ruling Arameri family to serve as weapons. The city of Sky – which is basically Cloud City from Star Wars – holds the seat of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and serves as prison to the gods. Yeine is thrown into this world of court intrigue and tries to stay alive among gods, cousins, and the truth behind her mother’s murder.

There is a lot of mythology in this novel and for the most part, I really like it. The idea of a God’s War that happened in the past and has repercussions throughout the world was quite intriguing. However, it is only bit by bit that we learn what happened and make sense of what the characters already know. The disruptive narrative made it even more confusing. (Personally, I found most of the names intuitively easy to pronounce (I do have a background in language study, though) but for those who are confused and want to know how the author pronounces her characters’ and places’ names, check out the pronunciation guide over at her webpage. ) All the confusion is forgiven though, because I fell in love with N. K. Jemisin’s writing. Her prose is both lyrical and precise. My eyes were glued to the page and sometimes I caught myself with my mouth hanging open – for disbelief or pure enjoyment.

In a child’s eyes, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe.

It is here that I have to mention that The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms features what is probably one of the best sex scenes I have ever read. This is a vision of sorts the protagonist has and it’s from quite early in the book (so no spoilers, really):

I saw myself on the green grass again, under him, pinned by him. I saw myself on a bed – the very bed on which I sat. I saw him take me on my mother’s bed, his face savage and his movements violent, and I did not own him or control him. How had I ever dared to imagine that I might? He used me and I was helpless, crying out in pain and want. I was his and he devoured me, relishing my sanity as he tore it apart and swallowed it in oozing chunks. He would destroy me and I would love every minute of it.

You can tell at once that Yeine is drawn to him as well as terrified – and so was I. After tons of bad YA romances, it is refreshing and amazing to read a book that actually makes me yearn for the male lead. Nahadoth has a magic that has nothing to do with him being a god. He is alluring, dangerous, and vulnerable at the same time – what’s not to like? I admit, he made my inner fangirl come out and wipe the drool off my chin. There were some heart-stopping moments involving Naha that made the whole novel worthwile. Two enormous, godly thumbs up for that.

Squaling girliness aside, I do have some critique. Yeine, eloquent narrator that she is, was too passive for my taste. Throughout the whole novel, she almost does nothing but ask questions. She reacts but is supposed to be from a kingdom of warriors who value strength above all things. Which leads me to my second biggest pet peeve. The nation of Darre – Yeine’s home – is threatened in the novel and Yeine tries everything (but not really too actively) to protect it. Her despair and hope for her home are stated several times, yet I as a reader, did not care one bit for Darre. We do not learn enough to care about the nation. Apart from Yeine’s memories, few as they are, we have no reason to sympathise with one people more than with another. A big flaw in my eyes that took even more drive out of the plot.

The ending was partly predictable, partly surprising, but altogether not very satisfying. I won’t spoil it but I think in the end the wonderful complexities of the gods’ characters were dropped in favour of an easy solution. Sure, you can argue that it’s not easy for some characters but overall, I would have hoped for more despair and doom. The overall tone of the novel was working towards that and I’m not saying it’s a super happy ending, but it didn’t really live up to my expectations.

THE GOOD: Beautiful prose, amazing side characters and an interesting take on mythology and gods.
THE BAD: Super passive protagonist, confusing narrative at times, slightly unsatisfying ending.
THE VERDICT: A fresh new fantasy, recommended to women especially (though definitely not exclusively) – Nahadoth alone is worth the read.

RATING: 8/10  Excellent book

The Inheritance Trilogy:

  1. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
  2. The Broken Kingdoms
  3. The Kingdom of Gods

What other people thought about this book:

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