Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

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.

Pages: 427
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Add It: Goodreads
Series: The Inheritance Trilogy (#1)
Publisher: Orbit
Rating: 4/5

N.K. Jemisin is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the fantasy genre. Her ability to craft an exciting and imaginative fantasy world is evident from the very first. The story of the gods is both unique and unpredictable. I would venture to say it is the most original use of gods in a story that I have ever seen. Jemisin's gods are everything you would imagine a god to be. They do not get weighed down by humanity because they are not human. I think this is one of the book's greatest strengths.

Another credit to Jemisin, and perhaps the biggest one, is her ability to write. This woman can write the pants off of many fantasy writers and many writers in general. Her phrases are lyrical and raw and inspiring. I immediately wanted to write them down and share them with others. The stream of consciousness style of writing was the novel's greatest strength and its greatest weakness. I thought it was strongest when Yeine's narrative was being overtaken by Enefa.

I gather her body to mine and will all of creation to make her live again. We are not built for death. But nothing changes, nothing changes, there was a hell that I built long ago and it was a place where everything remained the same forever because I could imagine nothing more horrific, and now I am there
Then others come, our children, and all react with equal horror
in a child’s eyes, a mother is god
but I can see nothing of their grief through the black mist of my own. I lay her body down but my hands are covered in her blood, our blood, sister lover pupil teacher friend otherself, and when I lift my head to scream out my fury, a million stars turn black and die. No one can see them, but they are my tears.

I also found the stream of consciousness style to be frustrating and melodramatic at times. Yeine would often begin a story only to swear she'd come back to it later and start telling another one. While it certainly was a unique way to tell the story, it was also very distracting, and confusing for me as a reader.

While I think that this novel was beautifully crafted, and such an original addition to the fantasy genre, I didn't absolutely love it. In fact, I found myself uncaring about the outcome and the fates of the characters and the plot. I think this is because the characters never felt relatable to me, and I couldn't say that I truly liked any of them. Sieh seems to be a favorite among readers but I thought he was actually a little creepy and unpredictable. I suppose that's as it should be, since he is a god, and they live their lives in shades of gray. I think that it was just hard for me to get outside of my own head and view the gods as non-human creatures who clearly don't play by our rules. If I had been able to do so his behavior would not have seemed so odd to me.

Yeine was my favorite but there was something about her that always kept the reader at a distance and didn't allow for intimacy. Perhaps it was because she was slipping away? Characters seem to make or break novels for me. If you can make me care deeply for at least one character then you've got me, but if you can't, then it's going to be hard to grab my attention much at all.

I'd definitely recommend this to fans of the fantasy genre looking for something worthwhile and unique.


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