Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wednesday Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Book 1 (The Inheritance Trilogy)


AUTHOR: N.K. Jemisin

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 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.

 N.K. Jemisin's THE HUNDRED-THOUSAND KINGDOMS (Book 1 of The Inheritance Trilogy), is a good debut novel told in first person with the "finished" feel of a seasoned pro. To start with the cover is beautiful and compelling, which even though it shouldn't matter, is always a plus. The story is about, Yeine Darr, whose mother was the disowned daughter of Dakarta the ruler of the world, and Dakarta's choice to draw her into the contest to see which of his three (including Yeine) chosen relatives will be his heir. Yeine as a ruler of a small provincial kingdom seems outmatched by the cleverness of her sophisticated rivals form the capital city, not to mention unskilled in managing the enslaved gods that roam the corridors of the colossal Sky Palace--where nearly all of the story take place--gods who are subject to the will of anyone bearing Dakarta's bloodline, but  who dream and scheme to be free again.

The story hums along at a good pace as Yeine fends off the schemes of her rivals, while struggling  to unravel the mystery of her mother's life and death and to deal with her ever growing attraction to dark Nahadoth, the God of Chaos, and her love for Sieh, the Child-God. Soon she comes to learn the Gods, though enslaved now, were never meant to be, and no mortal mind can encompass their true desires.

For me the only weakness in the novel comes not in the novel itself, but in the expectation created by the title which. for me, conjured images of an epic "world at war" in line with Erikson & Esselmont's MALAZAN books or George R.R. Martin's A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE series. To be fair there is a war involved, but nearly all the story's action takes place in the Sky Palace itself and is conflict on a personal level rather than grand battles.

Incidentally, this novel is written by a women of color and the protagonist is a woman of color, which I point out as that is a rare twofer in the world of speculative fiction. I recommend this novel for those who enjoy Jacqueline Carey's KUSHIEL series, and "Epic" fantasy that is focused on personal relationships, romance, and intimate intrigues rather than warfare.

Reviewed by Carlyle Clark


Terri-Lynne said...

The cover of this book goes down in my own personal list of "best covers of all time." It remains one of my all-time favorites.

I have to admit, this book has been on my shelf since it came out. I think it's time to move it to the TBR pile. Thanks for another great review, Carlyle!

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Hello, Lyle!

Another great review.

I read this late last year and really enjoyed the complex world create by N.K. Jemisin, with its highly stratified society and enslaved gods. But the story itself disappointed me on a couple of fronts.

First, the roll out of Yeine's character. She showed so much promise in the opening chapters, but in the end came off as a very passive player in the larger scheme of things.

Also, the rather literal use of deus ex machina to bring the story to a close really bothered me. Too many cliched moments in those last chapters. Given everything Jemisin delivered in setting up the world and this story, I think she could have been a little more creative in crafting the end as well.

None of this would keep me from recommending the book to other readers, especially fans of paranormal romance. And I do think the novel is well worth the read just for the opportunity to explore Jemisin's very original and extraordinarily crafted world.