9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting absorbing read
This secondary world fantasy is set in a world where gods are trapped in human form and a powerful, tyrannical family uses them as weapons to rule the world. The story is told from the point of view of Yeine, a mixed-race woman who is summoned to the palace of her maternal grandfather after her mother's death. Despite having been a tribal leader in her supposedly-barbaric...
Published on 6 Mar. 2012 by Cathy Hill
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid debut but over-hyped?
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...
Published on 16 Jun. 2010 by A. L. Rutter
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting absorbing read,
This secondary world fantasy is set in a world where gods are trapped in human form and a powerful, tyrannical family uses them as weapons to rule the world. The story is told from the point of view of Yeine, a mixed-race woman who is summoned to the palace of her maternal grandfather after her mother's death. Despite having been a tribal leader in her supposedly-barbaric northern home Yeine is unprepared for the cruelty and scheming of her mother's family and their divine servants.
The book addresses an issue that has been around since ancient times (and is exemplified by the Iliad). How do you create characters that are powerful gods and yet are understandable to your readers? Jemisin's gods are trapped in human form as punishment after the Gods' War. They are massively powerful beings, but not only are they trapped in human form, they are slaves to the family who rule the world in the name of their enemy.
Yeine is not an ingenue, but she is understandably inexperienced and must keep herself safe in a dangerous new world, while trying to find out the truth about the life and death of her beloved but aloof mother. She was an easy character to identify with and her behaviour was understandable if not always particularly smart.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid debut but over-hyped?,
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and decadent fantasy,
I really loved this - I read it a week ago on holiday and none of the other books I read after it managed to make as much of an impression. I kept thinking about it so ended up re-reading on the way home and I'll be purchasing the sequel ASAP.
It reminded me of the fantasy novels I read in my teens about 15 years ago; books by Tanith Lee, Anne Rice, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Patricia McKillip. There was a similar sort of gothic, sumptuous feel to it, which I found a welcome change from the current trend of gritty and 'realistic' fantasy novels.
This was definitely my type of fantasy novel: gods mingling with mortals, characters I cared about and one of the best romantic (without being cringe-inducing) sub-plots ever. I loved the ending and thought it tied things up brilliantly, but also left me very eager to read the next one.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great bridge between YA and Adult Fantasy,
To be honest I was lucky enough to avoid the hype that surrounded this novel when it originally landed from Orbit in the US. What unfurled within was a tale of mystery, of magic and above all a fantasy setting that I really enjoyed spending a few hours within. However what really made this tale pop was the principle protagonista, she was telling the tale as she remembered it often going back to add more detail as it was remembered that gave it a more earthy and realistic feel than a number of static narratives that are out there already.
Add to the mix the twists and turns of the unpredictable gods tidied up with the sheer exuberance of the author and it's a tale that really will please the adult alongside young reader. A great combination and one that will help bridge the gap quite nicely. I look forward to seeing what NK comes up with in future instalments.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the book that the title implies,
I think my chief issue with this book was that it was not the book that I was expecting it to be. The title The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms suggests fantasy of epic proportions, concerned either with a journey through many distant lands or with political intrigue affecting whole nations. In fact, it had a grand total of three different settings (although the palace of Sky is a fascinating one) and any plotting and scheming was secondary to what quickly became the main storyline: the romance between Yeine and Nahadoth. From the moment that Yeine and Nahadoth, on first meeting, both try to kill each other, following which he inexplicably kisses her and both feel a wave of desire it was apparent that this book was not going where I had anticipated. I get the feeling that in some of these reviews I come across as a bit of a prude. I'm not: I have no objections to sex in books, and certainly not to romance in books, per se. What I do object to is romance that comes out of nowhere and sex that feels gratuitous or is poorly written. The sex in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms does have some significance to the whole mythology of Jemisin's world, so it (mostly) doesn't fall into the former category. It is, however, possibly the most overblown, ridiculous sex scene I have ever read (this coming from someone who read a sex scene involving tinfoil penis hats and false moustaches last year), in which Yeine and Nahadoth fly through the sky and see, amongst other strange visions, 'vast, whalelike beings with terrifying eyes and the faces of long-lost friends' (p. 322). Whales! Why whales? I could just about have coped until the whales came along, making me snort with laughter in a way which attracted most unnecessary attention on the train. So, I didn't like the sex and the romance and the fact that this was a large part of the book distinctly lessened its appeal for me, unfortunately.
Characterisation is also an area in which I consider this book falls down. With the exception of some interesting traits which result from being a god, Nahadoth is the stereotypical dark, brooding romance hero. As the novel is written in the first person from Yeine's perspective, it is understandable that he remains a mystery up to a point, but I can only take so much enigma and angst before I find the romance unbelieveable and this book pushed beyond that stage for me. A lot of the other characters are left unexplored, which is a shame as a lot of them have really interesting back stories which could have been fascinating if developed further. The glimpse of Yeine's grandmother is intriguing as are the snippets of information that are gathered about Yeine's parents, but these are left as scraps and fragments. A closer look at Dekarta and what exactly motivates him would also have been interesting. Similarly, Relad had the potential to come across as compellingly conflicted rather than weak and insignificant, and I would have enjoyed Scimina, his rival cousin, more had she not been quite such a cackling Disney villain. On the other hand, I thought that Sieh, the child trickster god, was beautifully drawn. His character was multifaceted and mercurial, changeable in a way which made me wonder what would happen next. I thought that the way that his physical form reflected his state of mind and his strength was a particularly clever touch, appearing as an old man when he is exhausted or in pain rather than his usual childish guise.
Yeine herself is of course fascinating, and this is primarily due to the wonderful, skillful use that Jemisin makes of her as first person narrator. It is apparent that this is going to be a little bit different from the opening lines of the book. She doesn't just tell the story from her perspective, she changes her mind, she forgets details, she goes back to add things in and tries to puzzle things out as she goes along. It is exactly as though she is a real person talking directly to the reader and I loved it. Admittedly, I wasn't sure about the narrative style at first, as the little broken up paragraphs can feel rather bitty and disjointed, but once I reached longer passages of continuous narrative I realised that this was a deliberate choice and a perfect reflection of Yeine's broken mind. It certainly makes for compelling reading.
I also really enjoyed the mythology that Jemisin has created for this world. It is only revealed in fragments, which can be frustrating, but each detail that Yeine reveals adds to the overall picture of the gods and what happened to them until the reader begins to understand how current situations have arisen. I particularly liked the limitations that have been put on the Enefadah, specifically that they have to obey any order given to them by one of the Arameri clan. The ways in which they can choose to misinterpret these orders and the fact that Yeine deliberately tries to avoid giving them are important points in the development of these characters.
I intend to continue with this series because, although I found the story disappointly not to my tastes, I thought Jemisin's writing was superb, plus I'm intrigued to see how she continues after an ending which is quite so spectacular. Hopefully further installments in this trilogy will develop some of the other Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and some of the characters neglected in this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Original, beautiful and thought provoking!,
If you are not a huge fan of fantasy books don't be afraid to give Jemisin's "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" a go!
The description doesn't actually give away much, so I was pleasantly surprised with some of the most amazing characters I've ever encountered in fiction. The gods in this books really FEEL like gods, they don't think the same way as humans do and are highly unpredictable! The main character is strong, independent and very well developed by the end of the story. And her relationship with the Nightlord - the god of night, chaos, and change - is one of the most complicated and thrilling "love stories" (if it can be called that) you will ever read about. The supporting cast is just as 3 dimensional and interesting and you will find out more about them throughout the trilogy.
What I also enjoyed was the ending of each of the three books. If you think you know where the story is heading for, think again! An unsatisfactory ending can sometimes ruin a perfectly good book, this is not the case with N.K.Jemisin's trilogy.
There are some significant issues discussed in the book that are relevant to our society. It's a story that can be taken very seriously if you wish to, but you don't have to in order to enjoy it.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a fantasy that feels real. Therefore I recommend it not only to people who are fans of the genre, but also to people who are looking for an original, beautiful and thought provoking story!
2.0 out of 5 stars Someone like Mieville is a master at this),
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Disappointing, on a number of levels.
As many have commented, the title is misleading. Why call it The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms? I counted about five, more to the point, the writers strong point is not world-building, which the title would imply. There is no 'heft', none of the plausible little extraneous details that allow you to buy in to the world being described (the 'kipple' as coined by Dick, I think. Someone like Mieville is a master at this). So, off to a bad start.
I felt the general story to be underwhelming, and in quite a few ways a pale retread of the first Stone Dance of the Chamelon book (a series with its own narrative problems, but certainly good a character and world-building).
There is a central romance between the heroine and a fallen god. This will sound patronising, but I am not sure how this can be read with a straight face if you are an adult. It reads like fan fiction. Possibly just not my kind of thing.
The plot was remarkably linear with mostly two-dimensional characters - especially the human ones, oddly enough. Almost everyone could be taken at face value, no growth or surprises in behaviour or motivation. Ok there are some identity reveals but they are pretty signposted. She can be forgiven for the extensive deus ex machina, as that us actually the whole point if the novel.
Won't bother with the next books.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong debut with some unusual ideas,
Yeine Darr is an outcast from one of the barbarian Northern kingdoms. Her mother was an heiress of the ruling race but eloped with Yeine's father and abdicated her position. Now both Yeine's parents are dead and she has been summoned back to the court by her grandfather and named as one of his potential heirs. But two of her cousins have also been named heir and Yeine quickly discovers that no one at court expects her to succeed to the throne or even to survive her time in the city of Sky.
I have to admit that one of the reasons I wanted to read this book was because I fell in love with the gorgeous book cover and I loved the world building in this book; the city of Sky, the gods, the court and the cultures of the different kingdoms.
There is a strong sense of mystery throughout this book. The story is narrated by Yeine but as the opening passage of the book makes clear, she is an unusual narrator who forgets things or misses things out. Why this is so, is something that only becomes clear at the end of the book.
Although I enjoyed this book, I feel like it's been one of my `guilty pleasure' reads. I felt the romantic relationship that develops between Yeine and one of the other characters is one of those, `man is dark, brooding and dangerous making girl go weak at the knees with desire for him' relationships which always make me roll my eyes but I have to admit that I did get caught up in it and enjoy reading about it. In Jemisin's defence, the end of the book goes some way towards explaining why Yeine has such strong feelings for this person.
This book has grown on me since I read it and writing this review has made me realise that it impressed me more than I realised when first reading it. I would like to reread it to see if all the foreshadowing Jemisin includes matches up to the twist at the end and I would definitely like to read the sequel so I`ve increased my rating to 4 stars. This was far from a perfect novel but a strong debut with some unusual ideas.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and thrilling fantasy debut,
OK, first off it's really hard to tell anything about this book without spoilers! I can't tell you much more than what you can read on the cover: Yeine is the outcast granddaughter of the emperor and within ten pages she finds herself trapped in the very teeth of a familial power struggle that will rock the foundations of the world. Her life is at stake; her peoples' lives are at stake; the nature of the universe itself is at stake. And not for the reasons we first think. Even in the early chapters, there are reversals and surprises at frequent turns, and there are multiple layers of significance, too. The moves being pulled off here are not typical first-novel maneuvers. Do not try this at home unless you really know what you are doing (Jemisin does).
The protagonist is instantly sympathetic because she is an outsider, an underdog, and pretty much clueless and doomed in the midst of a case of sibling rivalry of epic proportions. Yeine really doesn't stand a chance, but she holds her head up and goes forward anyway, never leaving her integrity behind. Her canny social skills, wry observations, honestly-confessed emotional wobbles, her loyalty to her people--and certainly her courage--all carried me along, made me care about her.
From the very getgo the author cultivates a habit of interrupting the narrative to interject bits of history, fragments of stories, information and memories. At first I wasn't sure of the wisdom of this decision, but I changed my mind. As the story begins to gather momentum these digressions actually serve to create an economical narrative architecture that saves reams of intricate worldbuilding. The structure of tell/interrupt/tell is simple enough, but it lends a slightly elliptical quality that, like the rooms-between-walls in Sky itself, adds dimension to the world, significance to the events, and tension to the main storyline. Not to mention surprises.
It has to be said that nothing in this book is understated. And near the end the drama goes so far over the top that it actually comes round again the other side--this seems inevitable given the sheer audacity of the story's emotional scope and the way the characters are pitted against not only one another, but the changing metaphysics of their cosmos. What grounds the story is Yeine's down-to-earth observation of even the most outrageous events. She remains stubbornly human and herself.
The book can be read as a young woman's initiation; it can be read as a spiritual treatise; it can be read as political commentary. But for all its overt concern with the twists and turns of a familial power struggle--its outer coating of political saga--for me the book is most successful as a story about the nature of the human psyche. I found much to consider in terms of archetypes, the Shadow, the coexistence of more than one aspect in a single body, and so on. Don't know if I read it as it was intended, but I found a lot of interesting implied material about identity and the impact of the collective on the shape and health of the soul. There were a number of power relationships that were eventually subverted in interesting ways. There were buckets of ambiguity and irony. Gotta love that.
1) I loved it that so much of the book centered on Yeine's quest to solve the mystery of her mother's life and death and the deep questions of her mother's love, but I never really bought into the Darren women-warrior matriarchy as depicted here. To be fair, it's not been deeply explored in this book, and moreover I'd rather see matriarchy being explored in a way that doesn't work for me than (as is usually the case) not explored at all.
2) There were times when the constant questioning of motives, the he-said-she-said, the 'what shall I do now that I know X is this and Y is that?' of Yeine making her way through the shifting loyalties and startling revelations of past events in Sky...some of this was a little unwieldy. That's just a quibble. Generally speaking, the action and the plot reversals (the latter of which there are plenty) move along at quite a clip, and always the characters are vividly portrayed.
But you know what? Quibbles aside, here's the thing that counts. Jemisin is not afraid to think big. She is bold. She not only takes the bull by the horns but judo-flips it for good measure. This is such a great thing to see, especially in a new writer. I would so, so much rather read a book that takes risks and breaks the mold than--well, than just about anything else, really. Scintillating 'perfection' isn't what it's about. Rather than being carried in a vehicle that corners perfectly and gleams from polish, I'd rather get taken offroad and really go somewhere. This book is going somewhere new, and the author is to be welcomed as a bold and strong new voice in fantasy fiction.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Warrioress meets tall, dark stranger,
I bought this book on impulse, charmed by the title and the cover, and enjoyed it - although I would have to say (as somebody else has commented) that both cover and title are a bit misleading. I too was expecting a big canvas and a sprawling cast of characters. What I got was a court intrigue with a small cast of characters and what was essentially a Mills & Boon romance with a twist - ie. what happens when you fall in love with God? And he looks like Fabio, but with black hair?
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