The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K Jemisin is the last book in this years Hugo nominations for best novel for me to get to. It sounded a bit odd and I wasn’t sure I would like it from the blurb, so I did push it down the list. It turns out I shouldn’t have worried–I liked the book quite a bit. What sounded a bit odd, turned out to be a fairly fresh approach to a fantasy novel.
We join the book with the arrival of Yeine (the narrator) at Sky (the capital city of the planet.) We learn that her mother recently died and her grandfather has summoned her to the capital as an end to her mother’s banishment. Her mother had been a member of the ruling caste and had been banished for marrying Yeine’s father.
Yeine appears before her grandfather in an audience chamber and is (to everyone’s surprise) named a co-heir (there are two others.) So, young woman from the backwaters summoned to the big city into an unknown situation. Where this takes a very interesting departure from the usual fantasy is that it pretty rapidly turns out that the world is dealing with the aftermath of a God War and that the losers of said war have been imprisoned in the palace city of Sky. The losers of the God War are various gods who have been emplaced within mortal flesh and had many of their former powers constrained. These are real gods–beings involved with the creation of the universe rather than just kind of powerful creatures. Most of the book is then concerned with Yeine’s place within the complex plots of both her relatives in the palace/city and the gods.
Jemisin handles the introduction of the world through the first person point of view of Yeine quite well. We gradually learn the details of the world and the relationships of the various parties as Yeine also does. This especially works well in learning about the gods. Rather than seeing them as remote unknowable creatures, we see them first person and learn complexities from the ground up. We get to see transcendent beings from a small point of view that gradually enlarges.
Overall, the story moves along quite quickly and this was a fairly fast book for me (at least) to read. There were a couple of places where internal monologue just started to become a bit dragging, but only just barely.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in fresh new fantasy. This is another good candidate for this years Hugo’s.