Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
NK Jemisin

I originally picked this book up several years ago at the library and closed it after less than two chapters. It wasn't the kind of book I was ready to read when I grabbed it the first time, but I've been finding that a lot of the novels I didn't like before I'm liking now, so I thought I would give it a try. I'm so glad I trusted my judgement and didn't wait a moment longer because I think this may be one of my absolute favorite books.

First of all, the premise of this book is amazing. The world of this book revolves around the religion in that the gods take on physical bodies and are very active. There are three main gods- but one, Itempas, is in charge: he killed his sister-god and punished his brother-god, sending him to the earth and forcing him into a mortal shell to serve as a weapon along side three of their children. Let me tell you- that description does not even do this premise justice! Nor does it do the characters of the gods justice (more on that in a moment). While the world itself is not explored at large, and the lack of a map is definitely a negative (you know I love maps), but I didn't feel the need to see the wider world. It wasn't as relevant, or as interesting, as what was happening in the city of Sky and what was happening with Yeine. I will say that it did get confusing early on with all the gods (there aren't that many but introductions were a tad messy) and the countries/continents being named and many of the seemingly sounding the same in my head. I did sort all this out once I got into the plot proper but it was definitely something that came off as initially confusing. I didn't, however, think it took away from the book as a whole.

If you know me you know I value characters higher than any other aspect of a book. Characters are the heart and soul of any story and when I find a book with characters I can both connect to and obsess over then I know I've found a good book. And, yes, this is definitely one of those books. I loved everyone! Okay, not everyone, but Yeine, Nahadoth, Sieh, and T'vril were MVPs the whole time. All of them have made it into favorite character slots that I keep in my heart (does that make sense??). Besides raving about them for the rest of this review, though, I must go on. I want to touch lightly on the aspect of sex in this book- there's a bit of it, and it's fairly kinky, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Now, it's not erotica, but it is erotic, and that's definitely something to warn readers of.

What really clinches this as a good book is the prose. It's very simple but also very beautiful. Certainly it's not everyone's taste, and the story itself feels a little jarring once you jump in (but that's on purpose I promise and it turns out to be a very neat trick in the end) but I was completely charmed by it. While it's definitely an epic fantasy book it also reads like some high-brow literary fiction (which is not a bad thing in my opinion). 
TL; DR? Simple but pretty prose, paired with amazing, multi-faceted characters, and a unique world, equals one of the best books I read this year and I wish I hadn't waited so long.
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.
N. K. Jemisin lives and works in New York City.

Cover linked to Goodreads; cover, book description, and author bio taken from Goodreads.

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