Friday, December 16, 2011

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
NK Jemisin
The Inheritance Trilogy #1

I started this book a few months ago, but after reading the first 50 pages or so, I got distracted by something else and never picked it back up again. However, since it was my Dusty Bookshelf Challenge for December, I figured I'd give it another try, and I'm glad I did. While it still wasn't the most riveting book I've ever read, the story did end up being fairly interesting.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not in the gritty modern fantasy category (e.g. A Song of Ice and Fire) or even the epic, dozen-book saga with detailed magic system category (e.g. Wheel of Time). Although the title references a hundred thousand kingdoms, the book only really mentions a handful, and all but two or three of those merely in passing. Magic plays an important role, but Jemisin doesn't go into a great deal of detail about how it works. Instead, this story focuses on the mythology of the world and the consequences of certain actions.

Protagonist Yeine Darr narrates the story, which begins when she is summoned to the capital of the empire, Sky, after her mother's untimely death. In Sky, she's forced to deal with political intrigue and the plots of imprisoned gods. The background was interesting if not terribly unique, and Yeine was a good narrator in that she knew almost as little about her maternal family's customs and roles as the reader, so everyone could be introduced to things together. However, there were some odd places where, right when something important was about to happen, Yeine would suddenly remember something less important that happened previously that she needed to share before she got to the point she was originally making, which was a little irritating at times. The narrative was also occasionally punctuated by odd, unexplained conversations that I didn't understand until about three-quarters of the way through the book. Despite those issues, the story flowed fairly smoothly and the pacing was reasonable, though not really fast or action-packed.

The plot featured themes, on various levels, of the effects of imperialism and imprisonment and the corruption of power. All that was fairly well done in numerous interesting ways. There was a plot point regarding the contest to become heir to the empire that I thought kind of got lost without any real explanation (and I think it would have made a better story to have at least tried to include it), and there was rather less intrigue than I expected from a notoriously intrigue-obsessed capital, but other than that it was a good story.

Quality: Acceptable
Enjoyability: Acceptable

If you liked The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, try:
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
The Immortal Prince by Jennifer Fallon

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