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N. K. Jemisin – The Broken Kingdoms

May 28, 2012

53. The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin (2010)
The Inheritance Trilogy, Book 2

Read my review of book:
1. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Read By: Casaundra Freeman
Length: 11h 31min (411 pages)

Genre: Fantasy

Started: 04 May 2012
Finished: 14 May 2012

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I liked The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms well enough, and had heard that this book was even better.

Oree may be blind,
but she can still see when she’s
in over her head.

Summary: Oree Shoth is blind. Or, rather, she’s blind to the mundane, but she can see magic. That wasn’t a particularly useful ability in her small hometown, but now that she has moved to Shadow – the city at the base of the Arameri city of Sky, and at the base of the newly-grown World Tree – there is magic everywhere. Shadow is filled with godlings, and Oree can see them, and their workings. Which is a dangerous position to be in, especially when one of the godlings is found murdered in an alley near the market where Oree sells her art. To further complicate matters, Shiny – the silent yet strangely magical man she lives with – becomes involved as well, killing some of the priestly guards who are sent to investigate. Oree never wanted to mix in the affairs of the mighty, but now she is caught in a vast struggle, involving powers beyond even her comprehension.

Review: The Broken Kingdoms takes place ten years after The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and while it doesn’t feature the same (mortal) characters, neither is it exactly a stand-alone. On the one hand, Oree doesn’t know much about the events that happened at the end of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and Jemisin summarizes / re-does her worldbuilding well enough so that a new reader wouldn’t be missing any crucial information. On the other hand, however, the most interesting part of these books is the relationship between the gods, and the portrayal of the Gods’ War in this book is much richer for having already heard about it from an opposing perspective in the first book.

On the third hand, though, having read the first book means that the reader spends the entire book two and a half steps ahead of Oree. Surprisingly, I didn’t find this as annoying as I might have predicted; for example, I figured out who Shiny was very, very early on (at least from the first time Sieh shows up, if not before), but the point was not who he was so much as what he would do, and how he interacted with Oree. And that part was fascinating. I’m a big sucker for fiction about religion, and mythology, and what happens when gods interact with mortals, so Jemisin’s plots are right up my alley. I kind of love the fundamental question of what happens when you meet your god, only to find out that he’s a sullen jerk? Do you still reflexively pray to god when he’s sitting at your kitchen table? Where does religion stop and your actual interaction with your god begin? Jemisin hints at these questions without belaboring (or even answering) them, which adds a wonderful layer of depth that you don’t always find in the average fantasy novel.

However, while intellectually I really enjoyed this story (which was more streamlined and flowed better than that of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and the story kept me engaged and wanting to listen to more throughout, I never got as emotionally involved as I would have liked. I never quite clicked with Oree – not that I didn’t like her, or empathize with her, but for some reason her feelings never became my feelings. That’s probably totally idiosyncratic; I doubt its the fault of the writing, which was powerfully evocative in places. (Particularly the scenes involving Madding, Oree’s godling ex-lover. Jemisin did make my heart break a bit… but for Madding himself, not for Oree.) So ultimately, while this book probably isn’t destined to become a favorite, it was certainly a worthwhile listening experience. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Recommended for those who like their gods interacting directly with mortals, and unique secondary world fantasy novels more generally. It can be read independently of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, although I think they’re richer if read in order.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Dear Author, The Discriminating Fangirl, Fantasy Cafe, Jenny’s Books, Stella Matutina, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
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First Line: I remember that it was midmorning.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2012 9:27 am

    I read the first book in the trilogy and it was way over my head so I’ll skip this one.

    • June 15, 2012 5:47 pm

      Kathy – I’m surprised you even gave the first one a shot, these are pretty far not up your alley.

  2. May 28, 2012 8:45 pm

    I really must get around to this book. I liked the first one.

    • June 15, 2012 5:49 pm

      Kailana – I was a little ambivalent about the first one, but I did like this one better, so hopefully that means you’ll find it extra good!

  3. Ryan G permalink
    February 10, 2017 11:29 am

    I’m curious if you were a bit disturbed by Yeine’s actions in The Broken Kingdoms, particularly at the end. She tries to justify her willingness to kill Oree as a means of protection for humankind, but I didn’t buy that one bit. Godlings are everywhere in Shadow. What happened with Oree and Shiny could, and probably would happen again. I think Yeine was willing to kill Oree because it would make Nahadoth happy to see Shiny suffer more pain. It seems like Yeine has lost a good deal of her humanity in ten short years as a goddess. I lost a good deal of respect for her after that scene.

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