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, seat of the ruling Arameri family. 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.
I have been following the career of author Jemisin for a few years now, even though I’ve only just gotten around to reading her debut novel. I’m a big fan of her short stories and when I heard she had a novel coming out, I very much hoped it would reflect her other writing which I very much enjoyed.
As a whole I remain undecided. There were a lot of great things about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and there were several things that irked me or that I disliked.
First off, I enjoyed Jemisin’s choice in writing her novel from a first-person point-of-view in the main character of Yeine. Her voice was very real and had a lot of individuality and personality–always ideal in a protagonist. I was on her side and I rooted for her, and even though this was a fictional character in a completely different world, I feel like if I met her I would have no problem talking to her about anything. Jemisin’s descriptions of the world of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was also vivid and engaging–I appreciated her world-building and I am interested in reading more about it.
However, aside from our protagonist Yeine and maybe 2 other major characters, I wasn’t a big fan of her cast. Most of them were merely 2-dimensional, flat, and stereotypical, with only a couple traits that the author emphasized over and over again. The biggest problem with characterization came in the gods of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Sometimes I thought Jemisin was really going some place good with these gods, and other times I thought it was ridiculous, or I didn’t care for them at all (a problem, as most of the main characters are these gods). As well, the climax of the novel was not especially surprising or even a big deal to me as a reader. I wasn’t floored, or impressed by the plotting; I wasn’t emotionally involved enough.
All fantasy novels must have some aspect of, of course, fantasy, which usually manifests in the form of some kind of magic in the world of the novel, something that doesn’t exist in our world. It is up to the author to make the reader believe in the rules and the form of this magic. It must make sense, it must resonate with people, it must remain constant throughout the story. I can usually tell by the time I’m a quarter of the way into the book whether or not this “magic” is working for me. Most often it fails when the author introduces too many rules, then breaks them as an “exception” for the protagonist, and then remakes the rules, over and over again. There’s no continuity or believability in that. Unfortunately I felt that Jemisin’s brand of fantasy didn’t really work out for me. I didn’t feel it, or believe in it (in the context of the story) and therefore I had a hard time staying interested in the novel at times.
I had high hopes for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but in the end it wasn’t as good as I had been expecting. I’m still a fan of Jemisin’s, especially her writing style, and I think I will continue to read what she publishes. As this was her debut novel, I think she has a lot of room for improvement and I’m sure it’ll happen.
Note: I became a fan of Jemisin’s after the first time I read one of her short stories, titled Cloud Dragon Skies, which you can read here at Strange Horizons.
How did I get this book? I purchased it from Amazon.
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Author Website (including excerpts): www.nkjemisin.com