When a book receives as much hype as The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms has, it can go only one of two ways for me: I either love it to death and can appreWhen a book receives as much hype as The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms has, it can go only one of two ways for me: I either love it to death and can appreciate all the praise it's garnered, or I scratch my head an am left with consumer disillusionment. Unfortunately, in this case it turned out to be the latter.
First off, let's mention the great things about this novel because there are several.
The premise: an outcast warrior princess, suddenly named an heiress to the titular kingdoms, is thrust into the perils of court intrigue in a palace where gods are enslaved and kept on leashes. Pretty cool, right? I imagine that's why many of us picked up the novel in the first place (besides the hype).
I loved the experimental presentation of Yeine's narration and the style Jemisin chose. Psychologically it makes sense, once you figure out what's going on in the story. Disorienting at first? Yes, and maybe a bit annoying, but eventually you see the logic behind the madness. (As for those who don't get all the asterisks: I think they were just used to indicate a scene break where extra spacing could not be observed. If you skip a couple lines in the middle of the page, then it's pretty obvious it's meant to be a scene break. However, if it occurs on the last line of the page, in between pages, then you can't really show this...unless you use something like the asterisks. (You may have noticed they only occur at the top of any given page.) Maybe I'm wrong about this, but that's how I interpreted those little lovelies. I didn't find them annoying so much as a functional issue, though maybe a different method could have been used rather than mixing asterisks with extra spaces. For consistency’s sake.)
I also loved Sieh's character. I think he was one of the more developed characters and most believable. His dual childlike-god nature saturated every one of his actions and lines in the story, making his character consistent. Nahadoth’s character was also very well rendered, and I was left with some very strong imagery of him.
Okay, now for the things I thought could have been done better.
The title actually feels misleading once you start getting into the novel. The name implies a grandness of scope setting-wise, and I don’t think this was reflected in the storytelling. We mostly get a view of Sky the city and a couple of other locations, but for the most part it feels very cursory, as far as worldbuilding goes. (And I think that’s where part of my disillusionment comes from.)
Also, the characters don’t feel very developed. I actually stopped believing in Yeine’s character about halfway in, maybe even earlier. Some of the dialogue just doesn’t feel…true. Emotionally. Somewhere along the line the entire story began to feel too artificial and I just stopped caring, to be honest. Even though I was repeatedly told that Yeine was from a barbarian warrior nation dominated by women, I never really believed this. Hard to pull off a warrior-like mentality and actions when they are not sustained consistently throughout the novel—certainly, not an easy thing to accomplish to begin with.
I don’t know, maybe that’s just me. Though, if I don’t believe in the (main) characters, then you’ve pretty much lost me as a reader, sad to say.
A million things have been said about the “god sex”, so I won’t even go there.
Lastly was the ending, which I won’t spoil, though I will say I was disappointed. It felt like a last-minute copout, even if it was planned.
Ultimately, I was underwhelmed, and I think part of this can be attributed to all the hype that went on before I even bought my own copy—not Jemisin’s fault, but there you go. It’s still a successful effort, in some regards, but overall I felt it could have been so much more. I know how much work can go into a novel, though, and I bet Jemisin put a lot of effort into The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. The story is good, but I don’t think it’s great. Too much untapped potential left over. (If I could give it 3.5 stars on here, I would.)...more
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