I put this on my to-read list almost a year ago. Then this spring I found out Nora would be the guest of honor at a conference I'd decided to attend.I put this on my to-read list almost a year ago. Then this spring I found out Nora would be the guest of honor at a conference I'd decided to attend. I figured it was time to pick it up.
First and foremost, I adore this cover. It's beautiful, ethereal, epic and dark all in one go. It's also unique - and I'll be honest, that holds it own appeal. I get a little tired of 'faceless girl with a sword' covers, after all.
Second, do not read the blurb on the back of the book. That blurb? It will set you up with all sorts of expectations that this book will not - does not even TRY - to meet. Whoever wrote that blurb was aiming for the sensational, and in the process probably set more than a few readers up for disappointment. This is NOT to say the book is bad. It's not. I very much enjoyed this book. What it means is that the actual manuscript and that blurb are two very different stories. You have been warned.
Now. How to describe... The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms focuses on the story of a young woman named Yeine Darr, who is summoned to the capitol city Sky and named one of three heirs to the throne. I know, it sounds very "there can be only one", and there is this idea running through the text, but for me at least, this wasn't really the book's focus. From the moment Yeine hears this announcement, she knows that even as a leader among the Darre, she's no match for the political machinations of her two co-heirs. She knows, from the moment she's named, that she will not survive. So in the end, the story isn't truly about that power struggle. So what is it then? Well, it's also to some degree a murder mystery, as Yeine struggles to figure out who killed her mother and why - not to mention who her mother really was as a person. After all, Sky changes a person. But that's not really the whole of the story either. In fact, it's not entirely Yeine's story at all - though it's seen through her eyes. It is the story of the gods around her, gods who have been made slaves to men. Think about that for a moment - gods kept as slaves, as weapons. Barely contained, deadly dangerous even to their masters should you ask the wrong thing... and aching for freedom. Oh yes, this is their story.
The story structure itself is beautiful. It's twisted and strange and drags the reader through Yeine's tangled, troubled, and fractured thoughts as she tries to put her own story together. And while I loved this strange, leaping narrative from Yeine's perspective, I think my biggest issue is with Yeine herself. She often reads very passive throughout the novel, a person to whom things happen, an object being acted upon. Her own agency feels supremely limited. And while we can piece together much of her history, we almost feel... removed from her and her actions. It wasn't until after I finished the book (stayed up til 3am at the conference, thank you very much), until I stopped and thought about it, that I was able to see that her own circumstances certainly limited her ability to act - but she claimed as much agency as she could. She was in over her head, trying not to drown. Even so, I had trouble becoming attached to her as a person. There's this moment of clarity for her, this moment when she becomes determined to fight... but nothing really comes of it, no real fight arises. Her plans are small, and never really about winning - they're more about her people than herself. Which is fine, and probably the sign of a good leader - but it also left me struggling to care for the woman who is supposedly the book's main character.
Maybe that's why I decided she wasn't. Maybe that's why I decided the book wasn't really about her, but about those amazing, intriguing, dangerous gods. I loved their story. I loved the unweaving of the mystery tying Yeine to them. And in spite of my issues with Yeine, I loved this book. Go read it. Seriously. ...more
I'll begin by saying that this book gave me pause on multiple occasions in the early pages. I felt myself get frustrated almost right off the bat, theI'll begin by saying that this book gave me pause on multiple occasions in the early pages. I felt myself get frustrated almost right off the bat, then felt my frustration grow. To begin, the book itself is introduced with a young woman one hundred years after the events of the book. We read two pages or so before we are pulled away from her and into the past. I was annoyed by this introduction: by giving me a character that I can begin to sink into, that I can feel in the weave of the story... and then removing her completely and giving me... Dennon Lark, the most annoying awful protagonist. He rubbed me wrong from the very beginning, and I resented it. Still, I decided to push through, to see if it would improve.
And it did.
Did Lark continue to frustrate me? Yes, but he got quite a bit better. I know the author wanted us to follow this man on his transition from ass to... not-an-ass, but still. I just didn't have fun with the former. And though I loved the story itself, that detracted a bit for the first... quarter or so of my reading.
That being said, once Lark did begin to improve, I had a lot more fun with the book. The story felt both old and fresh at once, with strands of myth woven into the history Lark and his comrades were living. I'm a big sucker for mythology and religion, so... that didn't hurt my enjoyment of this book at all.
As for Lark's companions, I really enjoyed most of them too. There were a few that felt a bit two-dimensional, whose motivations were too easy, to worn at the edges from overuse, but for the most part, I felt that the women with whom he kept company were strong, flawed, 3-dimensional individuals who lived and breathed. I enjoyed reading about them quite a bit.
That being said, from time to time both the plot and the characters felt too... easy, too predictable. I was able to predict a lot of what happened in the book, things like who would live and who would die, or even the whole overarching plot, the whodunit if you will.
But even through that predictability, it somehow... worked for me. I really enjoyed it, and I'll read more from the author to boot.
This is NOT a complete story. I liked it, I did - but it's not a complete story at all. It ends with a major cliffhanger and as such, I'd suggest waitThis is NOT a complete story. I liked it, I did - but it's not a complete story at all. It ends with a major cliffhanger and as such, I'd suggest waiting until book 2 comes out to read it. I'm a little sad that I have to wait two more years until I can finish (or... at least get a little further in) the story....more
Okay, so I was pretty young when I read this, but I remembered loving it. For one thing, the sense of what magic can do (what this coin in particularOkay, so I was pretty young when I read this, but I remembered loving it. For one thing, the sense of what magic can do (what this coin in particular can do) felt so unique to me, and very well defined.
I haven't read it again any time recently of course, but it was a good read as a little one....more
I read the first few pages while sitting in a bookstore a month or so back, and loved it. The writing is dark and twisted and flowing, just my style.I read the first few pages while sitting in a bookstore a month or so back, and loved it. The writing is dark and twisted and flowing, just my style. It is occasionally hard to hold on to, and I'll go ahead and say it - the prose is purple. But if you let yourself sink into the writing, it becomes a piece of beauty.
Palimpsest is the story of four individuals who have found their way into another world through sex and have been bound together in that world. Those who have found Palimpsest are marked by it, somewhere on their body. The mark is dark, like a tattoo, but strange and twisting, like veins. It's organic and foreign. But time in Palimpsest is limited, for people of our world - one night in the arms of a similarly tattooed lover will bring you into Palimpsest for a night, forcing you to seek out another lover tomorrow. In case you hadn't gotten the picture, there's a lot of sex in this book, so don't read it if that's an issue for you (though the sex is interesting - it's raw, and dark and real, but the descriptions are all very brief. Sex is the door, not the point.) But there are rumors of a way to STAY in Palimpsest... and these four individuals are trying to discover how.
Palimpsest is not a world of magic - it is merely different. It's hard to keep this fact straight, when the things you see in it are like magic... but time and again the denizens of Palimpsest make this point: their world is like our world, it's just that we're strangers there.
As a medieval studies person, I loved - loved! - the allusions to manuscripts and palimpsests (and religion) throughout. picking up street names, etc. added a layer of knowing to the story.
I deeply enjoyed this work and will seek out more by Catherynne - I even know one or two folks I'll recommend this book to. ...more