Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by J.K. Jemisin

Looking for a page turner? Look no further. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin is a fantasy novel that pulled me in to its strange world and had me returning as often as I could spare a minute to pick up the book.

Summary from Shelfari:
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 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. 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.

The title of the book is somewhat misleading, in my opinion. I thought this story would be an epic, a story that traversed a vast kingdom. But the majority of the action takes place in the castle-city of Sky. So, I was disappointed in this respect.

The beginning was set up well. The politics and intrigues of the royal family are quickly reveled as are the gods trapped in mortal bodies who are at odds with the royalty. I thought that this conflict between the royalty and the gods was the main point to the story. While it is important, the plot actually turned into a romance between Yeine and the dark lord, Nahadoth. I don’t mind political intrigues with a little romance but this story was a romance with a little political intrigue. The romance between Yeine and Nahadoth was interesting with his split personality, but the romance was overdone for my taste, particularly because I wanted more of the original plot and kept waiting for the epic to begin.

The story is told in first person by Yeine and it is Yeine’s personality, strong and inquisitive, along with Jemisin’s writing ability, which kept me turning pages. I wanted to see Yeine solve the mystery about her family and was never sure how things were going to play out. I appreciated the humor which offered the right amount of comic relief.

The relationships between the gods were more than a little weird. Jemisin draws from many myths about gods to bring hers into creation. While most of the gods’ back story was interesting there are some parts about their sexuality that the reader is supposed to accept as normal for the immortals that was just disgusting. This is not a focus of the novel but I don’t understand what purpose mentioning these relationships served. I think mentioning the sexual relationships between family members could have been left out. It certainly didn’t make me want to see Yeine hook up with one of them.

While reading I kept making comparison to Stephanie Meyer’s sci-fi novel The Host. Both novels explore the idea of having two personalities within oneself or being inhabited by another entity or personality. They explore the ideas of one’s conscious and subconscious and what makes a person’s identity. They look at how we go about choosing what kind of person we want to be. I wasn’t a big fan of The Host and think Jemisin’s writing is way better but, if you liked The Host, you may appreciate The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

If you’re looking for a fast read, a romance or a new look at mythology this novel might be for you. I enjoyed the pacing that kept things escalating right up to the end. Some of the answers I saw coming, some I didn’t. While this is the first book of a trilogy I felt The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms stands well on its own. Overall, I liked this book but could have done with less romance and more action and adventure.
Publisher: Orbit, 2010     Pages: 228     Source: IC Public Library
Rating: 3 Stars     Recommended Age: adult

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this one and agree with you that Yeine's character makes it worthwhile. I also loved Sieh (who's just adorable) and Nahadoth. I really didn't see the ending coming though! Great review!