Nikki's Reviews > The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
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Jul 03, 10

bookshelves: fantasy, lgbt
Read from July 02 to 03, 2010

I picked this up due to glowing reviews from various people whose taste I trust. I didn't quite expect it to be as good a match for me as it was, I think -- but I was glued to it. It was the kind of book I would have stayed up late to finish, if I had to. The kind of book I didn't want to put down. It has a lot of the elements I recognise from other fantasy fiction: corrupt politics, struggles between gods, an outsider coming to court for the first time, etc, etc. But it made something different, for me. I felt like I was reading something new.

The book is written in first person. The narrator, Yeine, is the central character. The style of the narration is quite oral, in the sense that the story unfolds as if someone is telling the story aloud, and can't go back and edit themselves, but goes backwards and forwards, pauses to give extra information, etc. I can understand people not liking the style, but it worked for me. Yeine as a character is interesting: there's a streak of ruthlessness in her that somewhat surprised me, because so often the outsider thrown into the middle is utterly unsuited for the game they're playing. Yeine isn't utterly unsuited, though the reason she gets as far as she does is because she doesn't play the game by their rules, and it's not simply that she's nicer than them. She isn't, really. I liked the contrast in her nature: the ruthlessness, and yet the regret, the way she doesn't want to become just another one of the ruling family.

I loved a lot of the other characters as well. I like Sieh and his boyish nature, but the fact that he has to work on it, has to choose it and take himself back to it. I like Nahadoth and his chaos. I found it believable. Despite knowing that for the book to carry on he would have to do the sensible thing, I could believe in his chaotic nature, that he would do something unpredictable, destructive, even detrimental to his own cause. Nahadoth is probably my favourite character, for all the contradictions of him.

The mythology was something I found intensely interesting -- what was, and what was not, new about it. How fresh I found it, despite my general feeling that gods have been Done To Death in fantasy fiction until there is nothing new. This book made me feel like it was something new.

I found it satisfying in itself -- a complete story, with a fitting ending -- but also want more, more by this author, more in this world.

Perhaps a mark of my enthusiasm over it is that I'm probably going to buy copies for a lot of my friends. I can see in some ways why it might leave people cold -- the narration and the relationships between the gods spring to mind -- but it was immensely satisfying for me.
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