I was expecting to love The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. I love stories that mess about with gods. It tells a cool origin story. There’s interesting magic that comes from writing. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve met her and been tantalized by the prospect of reading the stories she wants to tell. I really like that you can’t trust these gods, and while the book seems to have a happy ending, I’m not so sure that it’s the best things that could have happened to this world. So, yes, I enjoyed this book.
Yeine, daughter of Kinneth, daughter of Dekarta Arameri, ruler of the world is called from her homeland Darre. Her mother died a few months ago, murdered Yeine suspects. Dekarta has summoned her to be the third candidate heir. Although Yeine seems the most upright character, tempting the reader to hope, the self-presumptive heirs, Scimina and Relad, have been scheming against each other so long it’s not clear why they haven’t already settled the matter in blood.
This is exactly the sort of palace politics that I’m not so keen on. They always seem to be about people who shouldn’t be allowed to have any power fighting each for the sake of power. I usually feel unconvinced by the lone outsider coming to court motif (the one exception being Dianora in Tigana). How could Yeine have no allies, no advisors, no peers?
The power they are vying to control comes from gods who have been enslaved by a conquering god. Their seductive powers appear to be so great, Yeine never seriously questions whether they should be freed. After all, the inherent injustice of slavery and the way the Arameri treat them make you want to see them set loose. But is that such a great idea when you’re dealing with a set of powerful beings who just might want to indulge in a little vengeance?
The gods themselves are great characters. I liked the magic they worked. I liked the dirty parts. I liked the Romantic feel of the story and the digressions, going back and forth, as if we are watching Yeine dictate her memoir, changing her mind and crossing things out and bringing new understanding to others. And in the tradition of the modern epic fantasy, there’s a generous amount of supplementary material at the end. But I’d rather read the next book.