BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Yeine Darr is recalled to her family’s former home in the city of Sky, where she is plunged into a world of gods, politics and larger agendas that will change the course of the world.
PROS: An excellent, intriguing story that is backed by a credible, fantastic world that is both detailed and interesting.
CONS: Character story leaves a little to be desired at times, and at times, the world is just too much for a single book.
N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the debut novel, and first book of the Inheritance trilogy, introducing a fantastic world in which the gods themselves have been enslaved by humanity, in the hands of the ruling family the Arameri. Under this family, the world has known an enforced peace, with the god Nahadoth at their disposal.
Enter Yeine, whose family had been outcast from the Arameri Family and the city of Sky, is designated a successor to the throne, and plunged into a complicated dance of politics, family drama and larger forces at work within the structure of the world.
The strong point in this novel is by far Jemisin’s world building, with an exceptionally well put together world and all of its various forces are set into motion. There is an entire mythology put into place that is fascinating, especially as the gods themselves walk amongst the inhabitants of this world, which in turn helps to push the story forward. At the end of the book, Jemisin provides appendixes, but also a Q&A that details some of her thoughts behind the mythology, demonstrating that this aspect of the story wasn’t put together on a whim, and over the course of the story, it shows. The effort is greatly appreciated.
The Arameri family is a custodian of one of the fallen gods, Nahadoth, the god of the night, and used the power at his disposal to unite the world. As a result, the family has grown, and is full of strife and conflict within the extended family. As the story progresses, this bleeds into the rest of the world, and Yeine finds herself a pawn amongst larger agendas set into motion long before her birth. This too is a part that is well appreciated, with a book that is complex and rich on a number of levels – it provides something for the mind to chew over, to think about and to question, as well as to entertain. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms succeeds greatly on these levels.
When it comes to the characters, the story also largely succeeds – Yeine, the various family members and gods (not to mention the broader character of several nations in this world) – are all well put together, thought out and set into motion in their various ways. Characters move forward in the story on the basis of their own motivations, because of their own past actions, and their interactions with others, which works very well, and given the backdrop of the book and with the world building here, it compliments the other strengths of the book in a grand fashion.
The story itself is a grand one, involving the Arameri family and their captive gods. The blurb on the back of the book hardly does the narrative justice – this is far more than a simple coming of age and fantastical family struggle – there are stories upon stories here. Yeine must navigate the immediate power struggle within her own family as she becomes ready to take the throne amidst her relatives who see her as an outcast, barbarian, weak and ignorant, while also interacting with the gods and their own struggle for freedom and righting of the wrongs that had enslaved them to the family for generations. Together, these stories build upon one another, with some interesting consequences and revelations to all involved.
The one real failing of the book is with Yeine herself. With the clockwork moving around as the novel progresses, the reader learns more and more that Yeine is essentially just a pawn amongst many elements, set into place by her family and the gods to fulfill a number of objectives. Thus, starting out as a greater character story, the book becomes one of realization one’s character and surrender to the currents, rather than becoming a story in which the character realizes that she can affect changes to her own destiny. It’s an interesting change of pace, and certainly isn’t fatal to the book or its story, but I somewhat expected a little more over the course of the story. Still, as this is the first of three entries in the trilogy, it leaves me eager, very eager, to see what happens next, which is ultimately the point of any creative work.