The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.
I didn’t really care for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but I think most of the things I didn’t like were personal preference, rather than a problem with the book.
It felt kind of all over the place. There was a lot going on, plot-wise, but nothing ever seemed to happen. The main character, Yeine, was trying to solve too many mysteries at a time, so I felt as though I never had a firm understanding of any of them, even at the end. One second she would be worried about her mother’s history, the next moment about modern politics, and the next about her relationship with the gods. It was constantly jumping around, so I felt confused for literally the entire book.
And part of the confusion was that the world building was weak. Yeine is always going on and on about how the race “The Amn” are evil, or sick, or disgusting, but we never really see anything they do that’s especially bad. She hints at long-standing traditions, but they’re never clarified. The whole world is made to worship by one religion, and that religion is a huge player in the plot and politics, but we never once see a religious ceremony or practice. The physical descriptions were vague, and I never had an idea of what any place looked like. I feel like I was expected to get swept up in the world, but how can I when I don’t know anything about it?
A big personal turn-off, the book was very R-rated, and mostly in terms of sexuality. Not my thing.
Overall, the tone and content of the book was darker than I prefer, but not dark enough to really be called dark. Like, dark enough for me to feel slightly uncomfortable, but not dark enough for that kind of creepy, shivery tone that can be so excellent in a book. Have I said the word “dark” yet enough? Maybe I should say it one more time… dark.
Finally, the “chosen one” trope. I’m over it, and it wasn’t even particularly well-done or fleshed out for me. No thanks.
There were some things I enjoyed, however. It was really nice to read a fantasy from a woman-of-color’s point of view. Yeine’s culture is kind of an Amazon/African-tribal mash-up, which was very cool. And Jemisin’s focus on not just being okay with the way things are was very refreshing. There are so many revolution books out there, but this was different. Things are wrong right to the very foundation of existence. That’s something a white man would never write. And she talks about racism heads-on, rather than dancing around it with a creature metaphor of some sort.
I wouldn’t recommend this book, personally, but if you’re VERY interested in diverse fantasy I guess you might try it.