The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. ★★★★
I really enjoyed The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. It was a quick read, especially compared to most other epic fantasy out there. The narrator has a very compelling voice, and the book played with time and storytelling in some interesting ways. I got sucked in almost immediately.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is about a young woman named Yeine Darr, who’s the granddaughter of the man who rules. When her mother dies, Yeine is unexpectedly brought into the fold of the world’s most powerful family and named one of three heirs. While Yeine may not care for the throne, she’s now at risk in the deadly power struggle.
Except… while that’s all true, there’s much more to the book than that. You see, Yeine’s grandfather controls the world because he control’s four of it’s gods. A long time ago, way before the beginnings of the novel, there was a great battle between the gods of night and day. The loser and three of his children were bound to mortal form and forced to serve the high priest and her ancestors, the head of which is Yeine’s grandfather. And when Yeine begins to find out that the gods have their own plans for her…
Also, it wins points for diversity – the characters are all different skin tones and body types, with Yeine herself being “short and flat and brown as forestwood.” Race is one of the themes dealt with in the book, along with slavery and class.
However, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not without it’s flaws. While it is mostly well written, whenever it got into a romance scene it had a tendency to head for purple prose. After a while I started skimming those sections or skipping them outright. I don’t think I missed much – if the other reviews are anything to go by, skipping these sections probably improved my overall impression of the book. The entire romance plot set up was very cliched in the first place. The “misunderstood, totally powerful, bad-boy love interest” has been done so many times before.
Anyway, I overall liked The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and would certainly recommend it to any fantasy fans, particularly those looking for something a bit different than the usual run.