5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Not the book that the title implies,
This review is from: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance Trilogy 1) (Paperback)
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.