The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N. K. Jemisin, Orbit, ISBN 978-0-316-04391-5, $13.99, 412 pgs.

Yeine Darr is an outcast, barely accepted in her village in the far Barbarian North, she is brought to the city of Sky where things are much worse. Darr’s mother was the daughter of the King but fled Sky when her marriage to a common man was forbidden. She fled, with that man, to the far north, hoping to live in obscurity. Her mother’s death, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, initiates a chain of events that threaten her very being.

The city of Sky is a huge artifice, designed to reiterate to everyone just what their place in society is. The city is as structured and rigid as the castes which inhabit it and the king who rules it. Everyone has a place and knows it, even the gods who have been fallen to unwanted service. Yeine finds that her grandfather is a devious old man. Upon her arrival he names her heir to the throne, shocking all. The problem is that there are already two named heirs, cousins of hers who have grown up in Sky and are much more adept at the politics of the city and the gods who wander there. Yeine is out of her league and confused about why her grandfather has, essentially, recalled her to the city to die.

Yeine meets her cousins, who are nearly opposites although both quite bloodthirsty, meets some of the gods, and is introduced to like in Sky by servants who, she discovers, are also relatives. Everyone in Sky, it seems, is related to everyone else in some way, shape or form. Yeine is a quick learner but with the day quickly approaching when the heir, most likely the surviving heir, will take the throne, there seems to be just too much she has to know for it to make any difference at all. As the political maneuvering beings, Yeine discovers that all in Sky is not quite as ordered as it seems. Everyone has a history that drives numerous plots, including he gods themselves.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is Jemisin’s debut novel. And a very complicated novel it is. There is a depth to the universe that Jemisin has created that is presaged by the title. While we never actually learn much of the hundred thousand kingdoms the world operates as if they exist which creates a layering of plot and story that constantly leaves the reader thinking that there is more here and more going on than visible within the words used. This layering is used within the social structures as well with the gods, the elites and the servants all moving in a complicated dance of status and position and ranking. Throwing Yeine into the mix allows Jemisin to explore the universe and explain the world.

I liked this novel and while I did find myself scanning in a few areas where it seemed to lagged, the fact that this is a debut novel overcomes any paltry issues I might dredge up. It’s a good book, an interesting read and a fascinating and complicated world that Jemisin has created. Definitely recommended and I look forward to seeing her revisit this place again.

You can buy the book here: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy) ;

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About damnaliens
Writer, reviewer, home provider to the Damnaliens

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