This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

24 July, 2012

REVIEW: THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS

Cover art: Cliff Nielsen
Cover design: Lauren Panepinto

THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS
BOOK ONE OF THE INHERITANCE TRILOGY
BY
N. K. JEMISIN

ISBN: 978-1-84149-817-1
Pages: 398 (+ appendix and extras)
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 4 February 2010

On the cover:

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 - a palace above the clouds where the lives of gods and mortals intertwine.


There, to her shock, Yeine is named one of the potential heirs 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 a pair of 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. 

   This novel starts  out looking like standard Epic Fantasy, but it doesn't take long before we are introduced to the gods who make this a departure from the standard Epic Palace Intrigue Fantasy.
   The intrigue of royalty is the starting point of the novel, and through the heroine, Yeine, we are introduced into it. That she is both the narrator and an outsider at the palace is a good choice by Jemisin. We get to learn as Yeine does, and this is handled very well. There is never a feeling of Yeine being clueless just to get information across to the reader, and we in some way grow with Yeine as the story progresses.

   The royals are very much linked to the gods, and they are an integral part of the story. Jemisin handles the gods very well, they come off as very realistic.
   Gods aren't really all that uncommon in Fantasy, and you sometime get the feeling that they are carbon copies of the Greek/Roman/Norse pantheon, that is not the case here. Jemisin's use of gods in the story feels very fresh, and they are a very important part of the story - they are in fact central to it. Since they are gods they are of course powerful, but Jemisin has created a nice twist that limits them and at the same time elevates them to more than "just" gods.
   This is probably the best use of gods I have ever seen in Fantasy, and for those that are interested in gods they alone make the book worth getting.

   The story of this novel is a great journey. As mentioned above it starts out pretty traditionally, but soon takes another turn. There's so many twists and surprising events here, that at times it is almost hard to keep up. This is Jemisin's debut, but she comes off as a so well accomplished storyteller it never really comes across as a first book.
   While the story is, mostly, set in just one location it is an epic one in scope. It never feels constrained by the limited setting, and it doesn't suffer from being deprived of the large sprawling world that we get in most Fantasy. Jemisin instead manages to make this a strength, and although we do get quite a bit of history, this is very much focused on the characters.

   Yeine and the gods are very interesting characters, and the focus on such a small cast of characters makes this feel very intimate. The first person narrative brings us into the head of Yeine, and as we follow her journey we become a part of it. The gods are also well developed, and they are great characters in their own right.

   All in all this is a really great debut. It has a different feel than all the Grimdark, and is a very good antidote for those that feel Fantasy is all about the "gritty". For any fan of Fantasy, and (non-monotheistic) gods in general, this is a must buy. As Fantasy debuts go, this is one of the best.

LINKS: N. K. Jemisin  Orbit

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