Book Reviews

[Review] N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

So this week, I made headway into my unread shelves. Or rather, I made headway into my comic book shelf, and read a book that I had sitting on my bookshelf, but had not actually been a part of my unread shelf. Makes much more sense.

In any case, I told myself that I would review the book, so here’s me doing that.

In N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Yeine Darr hasn’t been allowed to properly mourn her mother’s death before she is summoned to visit her grandfather in the Arameri stronghold, Sky. Upon meeting her grandfather, she is told that she is now in competition with her cousins to become the new leader of the Arameri. She must now find a way to win, whilst learning the dangers of the world that her mother left behind.

I’m still working on my summaries.

I picked this book because everyone seemed to want to call this a POC-fantasy (because urban fantasy makes it sound like it’s set in a modern-day city), but there’s not a lot of people of color running around. However, this novel is written by a black author so there’s that. For the most part though, majority of the people in this book are some type of white. I’m not knocking the book for that, but don’t waste your life if that’s the only reason your reading. Yes, the main character is mixed, but we spend majority of the book around white people.

So, what I liked about this book was that Yeine comes from a female-dominated society, but at no point treats men like you would have expected a man from a male-dominated to treat women. Where she comes from, men aren’t expected to do any of the fighting or ruling, but they treasure their sons. Yet, when she goes to the Arameri, Yeine does not immediately devalue someone because they are male; everyone is dangerous regardless of their gender. Sex is a matter of pleasure and a right of passage. Love is a powerful – and powerfully motivating – emotion.

As far as the plot, Yeine does not rise into nobility, she rises in her level of nobility. We are made aware that she is capable, but don’t expect her to suddenly be great. The events in this book take place over a two week period, and it is told realistically from that standpoint. Still Yeine surprises you. With the lengths she’s willing to go and the the way she reads people, this girl cannot be considered naive.

What I especially like is the way that the author chooses to use religion. In this world, the gods are very much hands on. You do wonder about what would happen if they were not, but that doesn’t seem to be a future anyone wants to be a part of. It is acknowledged that with the gods being present and accessible, one should not need magic users. However, even gods need help with the small things. And there is only one true god . . . but there used to be three, except now there’s only two and it’s complicated. I love it.

This novel is written in a way that might seem weird to others, even a bit jarring, but to me it’s very relatable. The whole thing is written in first person, or rather it’s written in first body with two souls. So there are interjections. Nothing so spontaneous that it takes you out of the book – everything adds to the plot. However, be aware that this book will stop you for a minute, give you some needed information, then continue on. As I’ve said, I love it.

All in all, I would recommend The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to anyone who asked. It’s not the greatest story ever read, but it’s definitely nothing like any fantasy fiction I’ve ever read.

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