The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemisin

Just finished reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemisin.  Don’t ask me why but I’ve had this book sitting waiting to be read for ages and, in fact, the second book as well, but for some reason – it just didn’t inspire me enough to make it my next ‘must read’.  I don’t know why.  I haven’t read loads about this series so it’s not one of those ‘too much hype’ syndromes.  I think it may have been the blurb on the back which admittedly isn’t the most inspiring.  Anyway, I don’t know why I left this for so long but basically I didn’t go into this with one of those raring to go and ready to be bowled over type of feelings!  How wrong I was.  From the very first few lines I enjoyed the story style voice of the main protagonist and I was hooked.  I simply flew through the pages and found it really enjoyable and original.  I’m basically a sucker for a tale being told in this fashion plus it’s quite cunning of the author.  She basically puts the main protagonist in an unfamiliar situation therefore we learn things in the same way she does – no info dumps!

I’m probably not going to do the story justice here but…  The world created here is vast – read the title if you don’t believe me!  Many different kingdoms all ruled by the one.  No, start again.  Many, many years ago there was a war of the Gods.  The victor, Itempas,  killed one of the Gods and imprisoned the others in human form.  These enslaved Gods were given to the Arameri people who revered Itempas the most and they now rule over all the other kingdoms, sat on high in their rather appropriately named City – Sky.  The enslaved Gods carry out their will and enforce their edicts.  As a result the Arameri people have become haughty, superior and vicious.  Dekarta, the current ruler of Sky, who has lived many years is starting to fade and therefore the competition between potential heirs to take over his seat is about to begin.  There are two main contenders, siblings, Scimina and Relad – that is until Dekarta calls back to Sky the granddaughter he has never seen since her mother married a lowly Darre man and was disinherited as a result.  Confused yet!  You won’t be, don’t worry.  The story flows really well and is told in a beautifully imagined way.

So, the granddaughter – Yeine, is brought back into the fold but there’ll be no celebrations here – she’s going to be thrown in at the deep end.  In order to become the next ruler – it’s highly likely that two of the contenders will die in the process.  On top of this Yeine is far from experienced at court politics and did I mention that the Arameri are somewhat vicious.  In spite of all of this Yeine doesn’t really spend her time trying to win friends and influence people she instead tries to find out about her mother and more importantly who may be responsible for her murder.  She also befriends the enslaved Gods.  However, everyone has an ulterior motive here and on top of that not everyone is what they at first seem.

The characters – on the whole I thought this was a great cast.  The rival siblings were, admittedly, a little flat but Yeine is really easy to read and well fleshed out.  I also just loved the whole idea of the Gods trapped in mortal form, particularly Nahadoth and Sieh.  Dekarta, the sort of character that you can enjoy disliking – although at the end I had a measure of sympathy towards him (I still didn’t like him though).  In fact, now I reflect, there are actually very few characters involved so maybe that’s why they all feel like they have such depth.  In fact the characters, dialogue and wonderful writing are what made this story for me.  There are obvious twists along the way, the mystery of who killed Yeine’s mother and the competition for ruler.  There is also a love story going on which whilst it doesn’t completely take over the story does play a fairly significant part.  Dark, dangerous, slightly sexy – but not overpoweringly what the story is about.  I confess I hadn’t expected that from this story and it was quite a pleasant surprise – although maybe not to everyone’s liking.

The story looks at a number of issues.  The relationship between Gods and mortals and particularly the differences in both given that humans have such short lives.  On top of that there’s the whole slavery issue, not just the issue of the slaves at Sky but the enforced slavery of the Gods. It’s all very thought provoking and well supported with the myths and history of the world in which it’s based.  Mortals, living in the sky like Gods, using Gods as their slaves and weapons!

What’s really surprising about this book is that having thought back about it, there are only a few main characters, the timespan covered is very brief, maybe 2 or 3 weeks, and there are no large scale wars with tens of thousands of people slaying each other for one reason or another.  In fact, there’s no adventure, maps and prophecies, swords and sorcery or rampaging monsters and yet, it feels majestic or mammoth even.  It’s like by a sleight of hand Jemisin has written something that, put bluntly isn’t epic and yet impossibly it feels like it is!

Looking forward to No.2 which I won’t wait quite so long to pick up now!


20 Responses to “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemisin”

  1. nrlymrtl

    Glad you enjoyed this book so much. It was my first Jemisin book a few years ago and I loved it! I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another Jemisin book.

    And, yeah, that love story on the side – slightly dangerous. Uh huh! Really enjoyed that little complexity to the story.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, Nahadoth – he’s very easy on the brain!!
      Lynn 😀

  2. Nathan

    No start again…

    I am halfway through this one and like you, wondering why I waited. Especially since I knew I liked the author after her amazing Dreamblood duo.

    • lynnsbooks

      Ohhh, ‘amazing Dreamblood duo’ goes away to look that up…..
      Lynn 😀

      • Grace

        I have the first Dreamblood book and need to get around to reading it. The Inheritance Trilogy pretty much blew my mind with awesomeness, and I want to see more of Jemisin’s magnificent writing.

      • lynnsbooks

        I’m going to have a couple of months before I pick up No.2 just to pace myself but I really enjoyed this one – really imaginative and original.
        Lynn 😀

      • Grace

        You can do that with this series too cause each book has a different protagonist and a self contained plot, so it’s incredibly easy to jump back into.

      • lynnsbooks

        I did wonder about that. Good to know.
        Lynn 😀

  3. Lynn E. O'Connacht

    Glad to hear you enjoyed this so much! Like nrlymrtl, this was my first introduction to Jemisin’s work. It’s been a while since I read this, but I enjoyed it so very much. I hope you’ll enjoy the second book equally much! I’d advise you give yourself a little time between them just because it’ll help strengthen the in-story time gap a little more if you’ve got a bit of distance between the two. But that’s just my opinion and I admit I’d struggle to follow my own advice in rereads. ^-~

    • lynnsbooks

      Yes, I’m planning on a bit of a break – maybe three of four months. I like to space myself.
      Thanks for the advice though – I’ve not even looked at the cover or the blurb on No.2 so I have absolutely no idea where things move on to but I take it time will have passed?
      Lynn 😀

      • Lynn E. O'Connacht

        Yep! I think it’s about ten years since The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but I’m not entirely sure. That isn’t spoiler information, though, no worries. ^_^ It’s either in the blurb itself or comes up very early on in the story as an explanation for… Well, you’ll see what for. XD (That’s not a spoiler either, but I think it’s lovelier to discover it through reading anyway. Far more magical and awesome.)

        The second book will stand on its own just fine, as well. ^_^ It’s really neatly done. I hope you’ll enjoy it when you get to it! ❤

      • lynnsbooks

        Ohh, I’m really curious now! But, like we discussed I am going to have a bit of a break first.
        Lynn 😀

  4. hlmorris85

    The cover blurbs on all the books in the series seemed really…wrong when it came to what the stories were actually like. I’m wondering if that’s just because the plots were so intricate that they were hard to capture. But if I had gone by the blurbs I probably would never have read any of them. It’s a great series, though. You’re right that the action is localized, but the incredible mythology and worldbuilding were refreshing in a genre that gets stale sometimes.

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s a great story and I loved it, it’s not ‘epic’ in the way of LoTR for example but it’s got such a lot going on at it’s definitely refreshing.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Two Dudes in an Attic

    This make my best reads list for last year, thanks to a read along that I failed to participate in. One of the best fantasy books I’ve picked up recently.

    • lynnsbooks

      I don’t believe it – I also picked this up as a result of a readalong that I failed to join! I really enjoyed it and funnily enough I knew that I would right from the first page. Sometimes you just get a feeling for a book, that’s not to say that it can’t let you down, but this one didn’t.
      Lynn 😀

      • Two Dudes in an Attic

        It was probably the same read along. I saw Broken Kingdoms at the library yesterday, but have too much of a backlog right now to get more.

      • lynnsbooks

        I actually had book one from the library – I decided to join the readalong and so reserved it but then didn’t have the time to take part. I’ve been renewing the book all this time which is very bad but nobody else had a reservation so I guess it doesn’t matter too much. Anyway, it’s read now and I actually own book 2 – that was part of my motivation in the first place. The fact that I already had the second book.
        Lynn 😀

  6. ‘The night’s as hot as hell. It’s a lousy room in a lousy part of a lousy town….’ | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] The hundred thousand kingdoms by N K Jemisin – The City of Sky – this is an awesome book with great world building. […]

  7. “Our lives are all different and yet the same.” (Anne Frank) |

    […] The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemisin – Yeine is half Arameri and half Darre – born to a mother disgraced and cut off from her own royal beginnings for marrying beneath her status.  Yeine is looked down upon and despised by her Arameri relatives who consider her to be little short of a barbarian. […]

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