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

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
N.K. Jemisin
February 2010
ISBN: 978-0-316-044392-2
395 pages
accquired: purchased 

The blurb from Goodreads:
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.

The review:
The protagonist in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is Yeine, leader of the Darr people–a people considered by the ruling Arameri to be barbarians. (Much as the Greeks and Romans considered anyone not them to be barbarians.) Yeine is unique because while her father is Darr, her mother is the self-exiled daughter of the king, and a member of not only the ruling Arameri culture, but a member of the ruling family.

Yeine’s mother dies under suspicious circumstances, and Yeine is summoned to the capital city of Sky to have an audience with her grandfather the king. As the back of the book says, she is named as one of his heirs, and she’s immediately plunked into a power struggle with her two cousins who have already been vying for the throne. I mention these things because I think it frames who Yeine is: in her home state/kingdom of Darr, she’s the leader, but thanks to her mother’s heritage she’s always a little bit Other. In the capital city of Sky, she’s half Arameri, yes, but noticeably Darr in her heritage, too. Again, she is Other. Yeine never quite slots in comfortably in either society.

There are many things I liked about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms: Yeine, while very different in temperament and  training than I, was easy for me to relate to and cheer for. The overall societal structure was easy to understand; mostly I related it to Rome and her subject states or European imperialism (that is, an overarching powerful culture that subjugates all surrounding, less powerful cultures). The conflicting desires of the characters–Yeine, her grandfather and cousins, the gods–wove together brilliantly, sometimes logical and sometimes not, as emotional beings are wont to do.

The narrative structure of the book, too, is something that I liked, though not at first. At first it feels disjointed, moving from second person to first, and it wasn’t until roughly halfway through the story and the pieces started to come together that I said “oh!” and got it; thereafter I appreciated the particular asides that break away from the main narrative. Before that point, though, they tended to take me out of the story because I kept wondering why there was this shift.

My favorite aspect of the story, though, is Yeine’s voice. There’s something about her narration, practical attitude and attempts to straddle two different cultures and families, navigate the minefield of politics, assist her friends, and find justice for her mother that resonated with me.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the first book of a trilogy, The Inheritance Cycle. Book two, The Broken Kingdoms, is out in trade paperback and e-book format. Book three, Kingdom of Gods, releases in October this year.

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About Jessica

Dork extraordinaire, that's me! An unhealthy knowledge of Star Trek, a love of books, a fondness for purring cats.
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3 Responses to Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

  1. ~ap~ says:

    I’ve just ‘borrowed’ this one from Kia and I’m trying to squeeze it in my reading queue somewhere. If I could just go with no sleep, perhaps I could get to all of the books I want to get to! :o)

    • Jessica says:

      Sleep? Who needs sleep? You could also just ignore your kid and read instead. 😉 I’m suuuuure that would go over well. Ha.

      I say that, but I slept for the better part of ten hours last night and did no reading at all yesterday. Ugh.

  2. Ari says:

    I have both of these books and I need to hurry up and get to them! I want to review them along with Who Fears Death.

    I’m always fascinated by books in which the gods interfer in our lives. And oo quests for justice are always fun/emotional depending. Can’t wait to see which way this one goes

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