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Solid debut but over-hyped?
on 16 June 2010
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin is listed across the blogosphere as one of the most hotly-anticipated debuts of 2010, and, as a consequence, I bumped it to the top of my reading list. Well, I tried to. I actually started this book a couple of times before, but put it down to deal with other books that I felt more interested in. It took an effort to finish the book, which I felt very surprised by considering the almost-universally warm reviews it has been receiving.
Now that I have finally finished The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, my overwhelming impression is that this book is well-written, with some memorable characters, but I am not left yearning to read any more in the world created by N. K. Jemisin.
I am not sure whether the unbelievable hype that this book is garnering left me unable to read it without thinking that it *should* be the best book ever. If so, then that is a fault of mine rather than the book - I do know that it didn't grip me in the same way that other reviewers have indicated. I did like it. I just didn't love it. I didn't feel that this novel would be going straight onto my 'keeper' shelf.
The parts of the book that I did enjoy included the warm manner in which Jemisin wrote about the characters - her prose was smooth and delicious, with truly lovely descriptive passages (particularly about Nahadoth - with whom I think most female readers will be just a little in love).
I felt that the gods were written in a compelling manner - in fact, the whole mythology was handled in a skilful way that left it feeling very 'real'. All three major gods - and all minor gods - had extremely distinct characters and roles that leapt from the page.
What I didn't enjoy was the jumping around of the narrative. I hate this type of foreshadowing (used extensively in The Book Thief as well, a book I also enjoyed but didn't love); it really doesn't agree with me. Give me anytime a coherent and linear timeline without a character self-consciously telling me that she's forgotten something and really needs to interject it NOW.
And that brings me, finally, to my other big issue. I didn't actually like Yeine, which is always going to make loving the book written in first person perspective a big ask. I cannot even clearly tell you why I didn't like her, which indicates to me that, once again, this is more a fault of mine than the book itself. I know that other reviewers have adored Yeine's rather scattershot approach to narrating the story - it just wasn't for me.
In conclusion: I'm pleased to have read this book and consider it a very solid debut, but I suspect it will not be my personal favourite of 2010.