THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin [Book 38 of 2010]

So a little bit of housekeeping before I get into this week’s book review.  Alas, no DEAR THURSDAY next week due to Thanksgiving. Also, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I have more book reports due than weeks left in the year, so it looks like we’re going to have to do another BOOK WEEK, so that I can catch up on my 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge. I’m not complaining. BOOK WEEK 1 was so much fun, and now we’re putting aside the week after Thanksgiving for BOOK WEEK 2, so do, do, do come back for that. Meanwhile here are my thoughts on THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin.

Why I Decided To Read It: You know how on Amazon, they’re always telling you if you like this book, then you’ll also like this other book. Well, according to Amazon if you like my favorite book of the year, WHO FEARS DEATH, then you’ll also like THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS. Also it’s black sci-fi written by a woman, which sadly doesn’t happen very often, so yeah, I downloaded it immediately.

What’s It About: Yeine, the biracial daughter of a barbarian father and a mother from her world’s most privileged society is called back to her mother’s kingdom ostensibly to compete with her two cousins to become the heir ftoor her grandfather’s throne. While there, she meets then Enfada (sorry if I’m spelling this wrong, that’s the problem w/ audiobooks), a group of gods who have been enslaved by her grandfather’s kingdom and used as weapons. The father of all these gods, Nahadoth, is pretty much hot sex on a platter.

What Makes It Different: I’ll just refer you back to the “What’s It About” paragraph.

What I Loved: First of all, yay world-building. It was fascinating to get a world from the ground up. Also, I loved that the gods didn’t share any kind of moral code with the humans. They’re all polysexual, which you don’t see very often.

What I Didn’t Like: As with Orson Scott Card novels, there’s definitely an action vs. conversation issue. It feels like we’re watching Yeine have a series of conversations as opposed to living the plot. Lucky for me, the characters are so well-imagined, that these conversations held my interest. Also, the audio reader’s voice wasn’t nearly epic enough for the story she was telling. I found myself wishing that I had read (as opposed to listened) to the book.

Writing Lessons Learned:

You Have No Friends. There’s a certain tension that can be gained by introducing a character into a place where she knows no one. In this case, I start to feel paranoid for poor Yeine and stay completely on her side throughout the novel. Like her, I wondered who she could possibly trust. This was a great way to keep the audience in the characters shoes.

Establish Questions, Then Answer Them. I really enjoyed the relatively simple structure of this book. The first half is spent establishing plot questions (i.e. who killed Yeine’s mother? Why was she really called to her grandfather’s kingdom? Can the gods who ally with her be trusted?), while the second half is spent answering those questions. It reminded me that a good way to drum up suspense is to simply establish a bunch of questions that the main character needs to answer.

Ye gods! As I’ve said several times this year already, I love when an author takes a hoary trope and finds a way to do something new with it. Jemisin’s gods are fascinating and well worth the price of admission to read this book.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Novel: Feminists, Greek Scholars, People Who Loved THE TUDORS (seriously this book has a TON of court drama), Obama (might put Congress in perspective for him).

Click on the pic to buy the book!