The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by NK Jemisin

>> Wednesday, April 25, 2012

TITLE: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
AUTHOR: NK Jemisin

PAGES: 432

SETTING: Fantasy world
TYPE: Fantasy
SERIES: First in the Inheritance Trilogy

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 don't read as much straight fantasy (as in, fantasy outside the romance genre) as I would like, and this one sounded interesting. Yeine Darr's mother was cast out by her powerful ruling family for marrying the wrong man. Her mother has now died, and her grandfather has commanded her to come back, intending to name her as one of his three potential heirs. The rub, however, is that only one can inherit, whichever one can survive being basically hunted down by the other two.

I read about a quarter of this before I gave up, so I gave it a good shot. On the plus side, I was quite intrigued by the mythology Jemisin creates, which has very real gods mingling with the humans. The gods have been enslaved by Yeine's family to be used as weapons, and from the bit I read, it's clear that they are not content with this situation and that their struggle will involve Yeine in some way.

The negative side was bigger, however. My main problem was that I just couldn't settle down and enjoy Jemisin's voice. It's very distinctive and different. I'd be the first to note that there's nothing objectively wrong with it, but I just didn't click with it. It meant that I found it a struggle to get into the story. It also felt very distancing, even though the book was narrated in the first-person by Yeine.

It also didn't help that I find books where everyone is evil a bit of a bore. Yeine is, from the very first moment, plunged defenseless into a really horrid situation, where the people around her would just as soon kill her as look at her, and I didn't want to spend any more time there with her. I might have waited a bit longer to see if things improved if Jemisin's voice had been more to my liking, but with both those things together, it wasn't worth it.

So, DNF. There are too many potentially great books in my TBR for me to waste my scarce reading time on something I'm not enjoying.



Darlynne,  25 April 2012 at 17:47  

I'm about to start the third book in this series/trilogy and completely understand why you didn't finish. It's not an accessible or comfortable read, but I was utterly captivated by the writing and mythology. The gods behave rather capriciously, which sort of fits my view of immortal, immensely powerful beings. None of the characters is purely good, but many are so very evil, and even that gets turned on its head going into the second book.

I was just lamenting over at Dear Author how so many books seem put together as if on an assembly line. Perhaps that's why these books appeal to me, in spite of the need to work at reading them.

Samantha 25 April 2012 at 17:48  

Sorry to hear this book didn't work out for you! I have a hard time getting into straight fantasy too. Even though, I'm tempted to give the Game of Thrones series a shot since I've been hearing a lot of good things about it, but I'm still unsure.

Rosario 26 April 2012 at 07:08  

Darlynne: I'm also always looking for original books, so I was really sorry not to be able to finish this one. I don't think it was that the writing was difficult (although I agree that Jemisin doesn't make it easy for the reader), it was more that it didn't click with me at all.

Samantha: It would be great to hear how you do with it, if you do decide to try it. I haven't even watched the TV series, so I might start with that!

Anonymous,  7 May 2012 at 10:36  

Oh! I tried to read that at the urging of other readers last year, but I couldn't get into it. I blamed it on the fact I don't read fantasy, though.

-- Maili

Rosario 7 May 2012 at 12:37  

Maili: Well, I'm not a huge fantasy reader, either, so that might have been an issue as well. The main thing for me was the voice, though, no question.

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