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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 29 March 2017
It has virtues. The viewpoint character is well drawn as are a few of the gods. The metaphysics (for want of a better world) are also interesting and original to me. I find the plotting only so so - i just don't believe in the accession ceremony as being at all convincing - and the background characters very one dimensional. Perhaps the feeling of depth picks up in later books. I just couldn't feel very involved in this and it didn't feel like there was much behind things. A hundred thousand kingdoms, felt like a few dozen at most, and most of those sketched in with a breazy hand. ... Perhaps I am being too hard. The book is quite well written and interestingly develops the female viewpoint character which I think is not so often done in this genre. That said the drawn to the darkness element seems a little too Emily Bronte goes fantasy for me. I guess the lack of involvement is the real thing though. I found it difficult to really care about the non-god characters at all as they were drawn too thinly. Post George RR Martin you really want these characters to have engaging inner lives. That's not how it felt too me here.
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on 9 February 2017
A unique writing style and vivid world that had me hooked. A unique writing style and vivid world that had me hooked.
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on 12 August 2017
It was so good (it deserves a better word that I am unable to think of currently) that I've read it at least times in probably 2 or 3 months. Would recommend!
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on 21 July 2017
A gripping and eloquent story unlike any other fantasy novel I have ever read. I cannot wait to read the rest of the trilogy- devoured this one in a single sitting.
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on 18 May 2015
It's incredibly rare that I start a book and can't finish it, but that's what happened with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I just didn't care. I didn't care about the main character, I didn't care about her life or her mom, I didn't care about what was going on in the palace or whatever it was called. I didn't care about any of the characters introduced. I don't get the impression that the main character cared, either. I waited and waited for it to pick up but it didn't, so I put it down.
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on 6 March 2012
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.
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on 26 January 2011
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.
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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.
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on 21 March 2011
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.
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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.
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