Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Inheritance Trilogy #1
by N. K. Jemisin

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is N.K. Jemisin’s debut novel, and has received a lot of attention on the blogsphere.  So, like Spellwright, I decided to grab it when it made an appearance on the library shelf.

This is a stunning debut.  Other people have said it, but I must concur.  The plot centers around Yeine, a nineteen year old ruler of a very minor country.  Her mother, however, was the only child of the de fact ruler of the world.  Near his deathbed, Yeine’s grandfather summons her to his court and names her a possible heir, along with two vicious cousins.  One more twist, the game of becoming sole heir is deadly not only for those involved, but for anyone or thing the heirs hold dear to their hearts.  Yeine is forced to struggle for a throne she does not want, that she never asked for, in order to save her life and protect her native country.  Her only allies are the castle steward, and four enslaved gods who want to use her to gain their freedom.

What makes this book so interesting is twofold.  First, it doesn’t follow any standard trope that I’ve run into before.  Yes, we’ve heard of the unwilling heir before, but this tale goes someplace completely new with it.  So much so that I can’t think of a comparable title in terms of plot line.  Second is the way the story is told: Yeine is telling the story while she’s recounting it for someone else, and she occasionally breaks the narrative to talk to that someone else, who we don’t see.  This has the effect, in some places, of seeming to break the fourth wall without quite doing so.  This technique could have been uncomfortably awkward, but somehow Jemisin pulls it off beautifully.

The sequel to this book, the Broken Kingdoms, will be released in hardcover on November 3 of this year.  A small sample is included in the back of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and I am eagerly looking forward to it.


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