N. K. Jemisin – The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Read By: Casaundra Freeman
Length: 11h 52m (432 pages)
Started: 14 August 2011
Finished: 23 August 2011
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I’d seen it talked up all over the place by people who know from good fantasy.
Hard to say who is
causing Yeine more trouble:
the gods or mortals.
Summary: Yeine is the granddaughter of the current Arameri emperor, but she’s lived her entire life out in the barbarian lands of her father after her mother was disinherited before she was born. So it comes as quite a surprise when she is summoned to the Arameri palace of Sky in order to become one of the potential heirs of her grandfather’s rule. Suddenly forced to deal with not only scheming cousins (her rivals for power) as well as the deposed gods who are forced to use their powers to maintain Arameri supremacy, Yena must think on her feet if she is to stay alive, let alone unravel the mystery surrounding her mother’s death.
Review: When it first came out, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms got a lot of positive buzz, and it certainly has a number of elements that show a great deal of promise. Disappointingly, though, I never felt like those elements came together in a cohesive novel that really grabbed my attention.
The number one point in its favor was definitely its originality. The set-up of Jemisin’s world, both political and metaphysical, was very creative and unique. The underlying plot structure of “gods interacting with and occasionally needing help from mortals” did have some shades of Tamora Pierce to it, but it’s not something I’ve come across often in adult literature. (And adult it is; I don’t remember Tamora Pierce’s novels having quite a whole lot of on-screen sex.) It’s a world rife with possibilities, and the glimpses we get into various bits of worldbuilding backstory are fascinating.
Unfortunately, we don’t get a lot of those glimpses, nor are they particularly cohesive, because there is just so much else going on. There’s the succession, and the mystery of Yeine’s parents, and the God’s War, and Yeine’s relationships with each of the gods, and their relationships to each other, and her scheming cousins, and the situation in Yeine’s homeland, and navigating around Sky, and its servants, etc., etc.; by the time I figured out which pieces were most relevant to the plot, they’d already passed. There are also a huge number of characters, both divine and mortal, and there were a number of them that I couldn’t keep straight, not only in terms of names but even in terms of motivation and actions.
My main problem, though, was that I never really found the story that absorbing. It held my interest well enough while I was listening to it, and I was never tempted to abandon it, but neither was I ever in a big hurry to go back and listen to more. I never really connected with Yeine, whose characterization doesn’t extend particularly far beyond “feistily stubborn heroine.” And again, while individual scenes or pieces of the story were interesting, by the time they’d caught my attention, the book had already moved on to something else.
As I said, Jemisin’s got potential: the idea was creative and the prose was smooth and unobtrusive. I just think she tried to do too much within a single book, without making sure that all of her pieces were well-developed and cohesive. I’m interested enough in seeing how Jemisin develops her world that I’ll probably still read the second book, but it’s not going to be at the top of my list. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: For fans of unique secondary-world fantasy and stories that involve interactions between gods and mortal, this first book is probably at least worth checking out; others may find the multitude of characters and plot threads more satisfying and less distracting than I did.
Other Reviews: Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog, Good Books and Good Wine, Jenny’s Books, The Literary Omnivore, Mervi’s Book Reviews, My Friend Amy, Stella Matutina, and many others at the Book Blog Search Engine.
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First Line: I am not as I once was.
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