The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

N. K. Jemisin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Cover

Original and compelling


Oh my, what a refreshing and original fantasy novel this turned out to be. If you find the book's description somewhat underwhelming, like I did, fear not: this is a compelling and engaging fantasy story, with a unique setting and some crisp plotting and prose.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms takes place in Sky, the world's capital, a city that wields enslaved gods as weapons. This unique relationship between the world's ruling people and their god powers the story throughout, and it's original and interesting.. It's impressive to realize how carefully balanced everything is in this tale. Things here are complex and intricate, in all the right ways.

This story is told in first person narration, which is an unusual choice for a fantasy story. Fortunately, the main character, Yeine, is interesting and complex enough to carry the story. Her narration hesitates and sputters in parts: hers is no perfect recollection, but a painful tale that unfolds at its own pace. Yeine is a really compelling character: she's strong, compassionate, easy to anger, cruel when needed, clever and foolish at once. She's a strong female character the likes of which we see too little in modern fantasy. Instead of being predictably acclimatized to the brutality of her world, she shows compassion many times, and dares to speak up when she sees injustice. She's a powerful figure, and I was sad to let go of her by reading the last page of the book.

I have to admit that given the setting, I initially expected this story to be about political intrigue and machinations for the throne. There is a bit of that, but it's not the heart of the story. This story is about the unique relationships between mortals and their enslaved gods, rather, that take center stage. A big part of that is a romance arc. I'm not a fan usually, but here the romance is done with enough tension and uncertainty that it didn't bother me. I'm usually a fan of more cold-blooded machinations, but I'm happy for the change of pace, here. There is still plenty of dramatic tension and mystery to be found in Yeine's tale. It's certainly a nice change from the rote sword and sorcery rape of other popular settings.

Looking forward to the sequel!