Book – The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Author – N.K. Jemisin

Year – 2010

Pages – 412

Genre – Fantasy

Series – The Inheritance Trilogy

As I am writing this, the lockdown is in easedown. There is more imperitive to return to work and get things moving again. But it has been an unusual time. I started lockdown reading pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Then I lost the impetus to do so a little. Then the BLM movement exploded in the way it did, and I questioned a lot about what I could do. The answer is very little, but what I can, I must. As an avid reader, I felt that this was a thing to do, and so – when they came back into stock – I bought some of the books that I think are probably important to read.

But important to read does not always equal easy to read, and the one I started with – which I will get to reviewing in the end – was not easy on many different levels, and I have been reading it for about six weeks now with no real end in sight. I will make it through – there are enough books on this blog that are considerably worse than the one I am reading that prove that – but I needed something to kickstart my want to read again.

N.K. Jemisin was the person for the job. She had tweeted during the protests that a great way to support black writers is to buy books by black writers. Such a simple suggestion, but one that I didn’t do nearly enough. Cue me going and buying her first book. I mentioned when I reviewed Tomi Adeyemi’s book earlier this year, that I was sad I had not read more fantasy by black writers (second book in that series arrived at the same time, so expect that relatively soon), and Jemisin is a very well regarded writer in that field, so this seemed a good way to get back in the reading train.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is set after a destructive war of the three major gods. Itempa won, killed his sister Enefa, and enslaved his brother Nahadoth, the Night Lord, to be beholden to the ruling race of the world, trapped in a mortal body. Yeine is called to the capital and unexpectedly named as a potential heir to the throne of the world, but must compete with rivals, captured godlings, and her family history if she wants to survive.

The imagination in this book is incredible. The concept behind the Battle of the Gods is good, but it is the characters themselves – and particularly the eternally powerful Nahadoth, trapped in the body of a mortal man, but with much of magic still intact, however forced to do the bidding of those around him – that are of an obviously impressive mind. Yeine is rather stock as leading powerful figures in a fantasy book go, but that works to the advantage of the book. It gives us time to think about the others that we meet, and I found that they were certainly fully formed in the mind of the author – although I am not always positive that she has fully decided the best way to present them to the reader at every point. This is her first novel though, so there is always time for that development, and if the interest in her writing is as worthwhile as it seems (she tweeted the other day that every book she has ever written is currently optioned for film or TV) then that is something that she comes to grips with.

It is not a flawless book, and I feel there are either some slight flaws in the plot, or maybe in how they are conveyed to us, but generally I found myself totally sucked in. The tone is a little darker than I generally enjoy in a fantasy book, and that put me off a little at first, but I quickly came round to appreciate even that.

What is exciting is that there is something about Jemisin’s style that is interesting beyond the basics, and the weird snapping through time using a narrator, and the clouded supporting voice that she has are simultaneously a little confusing and wholly interesting. I look forward to reading even more by her in the future.

Two final little things I hope to see change: I don’t like the title – it is not enough to do with the book. And it needs a map! A fantasy book always needs a map! Two more in the series, so I really hope we get one!