Wednesday, May 22, 2013


[Note: This review was originally published March 9, 2011, on]

Rating: 5/5 - So delicious that I read until my eyes went blurry!

Title: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (book one of The Inheritance Trilogy)

Author: N. K. Jemisin

Format: mass market paperback

Published: 2010

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher:  Orbit Books

Landed in my hands: purchased myself

Summary (from opening page and cover blurb):

Gods and mortals, power and love, death and revenge. She will inherit them all.

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.


I have a confession. One of the reasons I’ve had such a fabulous luck with my reads lately is because I follow some book bloggers who have impeccable taste and opinions I can trust. While my own To Be Read pile is pretty steep, it’s nice to have someone to wade through prospective titles before they're added to the tower. Thus, it was through Rebecca’s review at Dirty Sexy Books that my attention was drawn to N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. And once again I owe her a big thank you! (Thanks, Rebecca!)

Godlings chained and a mortal unfamiliar with their complexities and dangers as the source of their hope? — It’s the stuff I drool over, and this book was delicious! I’m surprised I didn’t burp when I finished it, I devoured it so fast. It has so many of the qualities that draw me into the fantasy genre: living myths, intricate world-building, epic danger, and the added extra of an otherworld romance. All well done and combined to create an instant hook for me — this book will be on the keeper shelf!

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for a well-drawn romance (I’ve somehow grown into a hopeless romantic, though I’m not entirely sure how that happened?). And I’m a big sucker for the entanglement the heroine, Yeine, finds herself in: a fierce and dangerous version of Belligerent Sexual Tension (warning: that link is to TV Tropes, and if you’re unfamiliar with this wiki, you might find yourself lost for hours... good luck!). My point being, I eat up those “I love to hate you” relationships that evolve into true romance. I don’t know why, I just do. And poor Yeine is grabbed by a primal lust that leads to a vicious and foreboding partner who is known for killing his lovers. Talk about tension!

In the future I'll probably be rereading this book to look deeper into the gender roles and the way they play out. There was an interesting matriarchal society known as barbarians — of course the source of our heroine. It was so subtly drawn that I didn’t realize there was a female-dominated society until they were speaking of war, when this passage leapt out at me, the leader speaking of amassing an army in preparation, and Yeine’s subsequent observations:

“We’ve resorted to asking for volunteers — any woman with a horse and her own weapons. Men as well, if they’re not yet fathers.” 
It was very bad if the council had resorted to recruiting men. By tradition men were our last line of defense, their physical strength bent toward the single and most important task of protecting our homes and children.

Perhaps it is this straightforward logic to the matriarchal leadership that allowed its existence to slip beneath my notice until this point (it’s just so logical!), or maybe it was the fact that I blew through the story in less than 24 hours. I dunno. It hardly felt like a screaming subversion of the male-dominated generality, and really didn’t feel like a clue by four statement at all (good!) — and this book has some wonderfully strong female characters, even some in absentia. I think it’s simply a testament to Jemisin’s writing that it all feels so natural.

Another (at times polarizing) subject of interest: sexuality. I really enjoyed that The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms contained a variety of pairings, and I took it as a statement about love being above the form you take. Being male, female, god, mortal, or something in between, there’s a place and a someone (or someones) for you. It’s refreshing, and I appreciate a story that exemplifies love as a true virtue, regardless of source. It doesn't scream moral message, and yet, it settles in the soul heavier than if it had been delivered thus... and that’s probably why it resonates so strongly with me.

Now me? Big anti-spoiler flag waver. Not a page flipper. Please don’t tell me how it ends before I get there. I like to savour my books, and with that in mind, I also don’t flip to the back to skim or read how things end. So I didn’t realize going into this story that there’s a glossary of terms hidden at the back. Nothing big, but four pages to help readers with the world-building terms. Having read the book without knowing of the glossary, I can adamantly say you won’t be lost without knowing of it beforehand, but it would have been nice to be aware of its presence, is all I’m sayin’. And that, my friends, is basically my only negative critique of this book, so take that as you will...

Jemisin’s next book in the trilogy, The Broken Kingdoms, is already out, and it’ll soon be parked proudly on my To Read Shelf. I’ve a few other books to read before I’ll get a chance to crack it, but it might just jump the line...

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