CKL, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by CKL)
I don't read a lot of fantasy (I'm more of a science fiction guy), but picked up this book because it was one of the 2011 Hugo nominees for best novel--and I loved it. The second book is also excellent, albeit very different; and the third is already on my bookshelf, waiting for me. Highly recommended.
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I'm generally someone who chooses robust character development over well-crafted language, but Jemisin uses her elegant style in service of the plot, making the choice unneccessary. Her world is fully formed without being overly detailed, and the plot is complex and engaging, but never intricate for its own sake.
Yeine, the protagonist, balances being fiercely independent with growing into herself. In general, most of the characters have a level of detail and nuance that make the book unusually deep and satisfying, and it's one I would recommend to anyone who likes speculative fiction (as well as a fair number of folks who just don't like it *yet*).
Teri Crosby, January 3, 2011 (view all comments by Teri Crosby)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a new debut author release from NK Jemisin. The world building portrayed throughout this book is fantastical and the characters and how they relate to each other was such a breath of new life to the genre that I was totally absorbed in the book for an evening. This book is fantastical with a brand new host of characters that do not involves ghosts, angels, or vampires. We have a hierarchy if humans and their class issues and then we have a host of gods and godlings. There is just enough back story to love and not to much that you want to skip lengthy descriptions of the world. You get a taste of the different lives but are totally drawn into the main characters.
If you want an epic fantasy/scifi read full of new life, pick to up. You will not be disappointed.
For me, the prose was the major selling point; that along with the angst and audacity of holding gods captive. Jemisin's prose is, put simply, gorgeous. It has a rhythm that effortlessly drew me into the fantasy world she created. Never once did I doubt Yeine's voice, and every sentence made me crave more of it.
Yeine is young - not yet twenty - but before the novel begins, she's chief of her people in the matriarchal country of Darr. She's also grieving for her mother, whose recent unexpected death was suspicious. Now she's a stranger in a strange land, given privileges she didn't expect, doesn't want, and distrusts. There's a lot in this novel about privilege: privilege granted by the gods' favor, privilege of wealth and attendant political power, privilege of social rank. The human privilege on display interacts with the implications of captive gods in ways I found fascinating.
So far as the plot went, Yeine's cousin and grandfathers were in opposition to her, but to me they weren't the point at all; the point was Yeine's developing relationships with two of the captive gods, Sieh and Nahadoth, and even more importantly, Yeine's coming to terms with her mother and the choices her mother made. Those relationships were incredibly deep; the gods in this novel have the same depth and complexity as gods taken from "real world" mythology - Sieh is a child god, but also a trickster, and an adolescent torn by grief and doubt, and an old god borne down by grief; Nahadoth is darkness and glory and fear and danger, but also poignant grief. Yeine's mother was just as complex and contradictory, both a loving mother and a ruthless politician, and in some ways more privileged than the captive gods, because she had power over them.
All in all, a wonderful book, and one that I think will reward rereading.
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Grief; Loss; Death of a parent; Kings; Grandfathers; Cousins; Power struggles; Heirs; Family secrets; Family rivalry; Succession; Family histories; Gods and goddesses; Racism; Political intrigue; Betrayal; Slavery
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Convoluted without being dense, Jemisin's engaging debut grabs readers right from the start. Yeine desires nothing more than a normal life in her 'barbarian' homeland of Darr. But her mother was of the powerful Arameri family, and when Yeine is summoned to the capital city of Sky a month after her mother's murder, she cannot refuse. Dakarta, her grandfather and the Arameri patriarch, pits her against her two cousins as a potential heir to the throne. In an increasingly deep Zelaznyesque series of political maneuverings, Yeine, nearly powerless but fiercely determined, finds potential allies among her relatives and the gods who are forced to live in Sky as servants after losing an ancient war. Multifaceted characters struggle with their individual burdens and desires, creating a complex, edge-of-your-seat story with plenty of funny, scary, and bittersweet twists." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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