N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a classic underdog tale, set in a completely unique place. Jemisin spends time world-building, creating an epic place with a city in the sky and a palace in that city—both named Sky. And lesser nations where people are radically different in their approach to the state of the world. The various nations are also representative of various races, which gives Jemisin the opportunity to make some subtle social commentary.
While the heroine, Yeine, is young, she doesn’t act like the women of YA fantasy books. She is decisive, strong, and proud. She’s also not familiar with Sky and its myriad of conventions, traditions, and devious inhabitants. Yeine is commanded to Sky by her grandfather, a man she’s never met. And thus begins the epic fantasy.
Yeine gets involved in quite a lot of courtly politics, thanks to her grandfather’s declarations. She has to determine who might be convinced to help her, and who just considers who a pawn in their game. And in the midst of all of this, Jemisin sends Yeine on a very personal mission regarding her mother’s early life in this nation. Yeine is searching for her own identity and place in the world, because everything she knew before has been upended.
Plus, oh yes, there are gods in this world. They are damaged and trying to find a way to right old wrongs, which is an interesting switch from a concept of all-knowing gods. Yeine must determine where she fits among the gods, as well as among the cousins and distant relations.
I listened to the audiobook of this, Jemisin’s first book of The Inheritance Trilogy. Thankfully I had the Kindle omnibus of all three books to use as a reference for the spelling of names and places when the narration was unclear.
In terms of writing style, Jemisin is a writer I’ll read again. First, I’d very much like to know more about Yeine and her world. I like how detailed the characters and the world are. Jemisin does sometimes stray from the main quest, but doesn’t get bogged down in needless information. Jemisin has developed significant backstories, which add a richness and depth to the book. Some of this is contained in the book’s appendix, but most is in the story itself. The layers can be confusing or overwhelming sometimes, although perhaps that was a function of reading via audiobook.
I’m so glad I finally picked up this Jemisin book. The conclusion left me satisfied but wanting more. I’m certainly planning on reading the next book in the trilogy quite soon.