The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance Trilogy) by N K Jemisin

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The Hundred-Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance Trilogy) by N K Jemisin

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Superbly written fantasy with enough romance and political intrigue to appeal to a wide variety of readers.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841498171

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A month after her mother's death, outcast Yeine Darr is summoned by her grandfather, king of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, to come to the palace of Sky. There named one of his three heirs, along with her feuding cousins, she quickly realizes that without allies she will surely lose the contest for the throne. Thus begins an epic quest to find her mother's murderer, save her own life, and fulfil a destiny she never knew she had.

I was expecting this to be a fairly standard swords and sorcery type of fantasy novel, and while there are definite similarities with many previous books in the genre, that description doesn't even come close to doing the book justice. I'll try my best to explain the main themes and characters without giving too much away…

Once upon a time there were three gods, bright Itempas, the Lord of Day, Enefa, giver of life, and Nahadoth, the Nightlord. After his siblings tried to overthrow Itempas, Enefa is dead, and Nahadoth imprisoned in a human body, given along with his children to the Arameri, ruling family of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, to be used as weapons.

Almost immediately, Yeine's cousin Scimina allows her 'pet' Nahadoth to chase Yeine, but when he finally catches her, he kisses her instead of attacking – and a superbly portrayed romance starts, Nahadoth is a stunning anti-hero, reminiscent of Raistlin Majere from the original Dragonlance Chronicles, which is still my favourite fantasy trilogy of all time. This central romance is a major focal part of the novel, and really makes it stand out from others with less developed characters.

One of the best-written characters of all is Yeine herself, whose narrative voice is superb – particularly as a revelation midway through the novel makes it worth rereading the first part almost immediately, to appreciate this narration even more. While the cast is fairly small, they're all – especially the main two I've just mentioned, Nahadoth's son Sieh the Trickster and Yeine's cousin T'vril – fleshed out really well, with their own personalities and motivations.

Another really strong point of the book is the description of Sky itself, and the social order formed by its inhabitants, including those like T'vril who serve their cousins. The book is focused very clearly on Sky, with minimal descriptions of other times and places, allowing NK Jemisin to show how well she's crafted the society of the floating palace.

Most of the few parts which take place outside of Sky itself are flashbacks to the time of the Three gods, before the death of Enefa and the fall of Nahadoth. These are especially well-written, as piece by piece, we find out more and more about this time, and the personalities of the Three.

Author NK Jemisin pulls off an astounding feat in managing to combine fantasy, romance, political intrigue, and superb writing here. Right from the opening paragraph I am not as I once was. They have done this to me, broken me open and torn out my heart. I do not know who I am anymore. until an unpredictable ending, my attention was captured completely. Although the finale means this could definitely be read as a stand-alone novel, it's actually the first of the Inheritance Trilogy – and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing where Jemisin goes with the second book, due out later this year.

High recommendation to all, especially fantasy fans. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag. We also have a review of The Inheritance Trilogy: The Broken Kingdoms by N K Jemisin.

Further reading suggestion: For a slightly slower paced, but still worthwhile, fantasy read, try Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley.

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