Hello Humans! Welcome back to another book review. Those of you who watched my recent reading vlog may have seen this one coming – but it’s finally time to review N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I picked this up after Gollanczfest last October (which feels aeons ago at this point) so it was about time I read this!
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 was nervous going into this book for a number of reasons. Historically, I do not have the best track record with books that feature a lot of political infighting, particularly ones that are in court settings. I don’t know whether it’s my inability to keep hold of people’s names and/or the various alliances and grievances that usually emerge in these kinds of stories. So once I got my head into the first few chapters of this book I made sure I took things slow, trying to minimise the chances of me getting completely lost! See I am learning from my reading mistakes of the past.
But it isn’t just my careful approach that made me enjoy this book, while this book starts off as a political fantasy, it quickly morphs into something that, typically of Jemisin’s work, crosses genres and mixes them up into something new. Is it an epic fantasy? Is it a romance? Is it something else entirely? I’m not sure I can tell you, but what I will say is that I definitely enjoyed the experience of reading this.
The fact that I managed to keep this book straight in my head at the same time as reading The Kingdom of Copper, which is a very different book but does have similar ‘families with grudges’ themes, is a testament to the tight hold Jemisin keeps over the story, and how good she is at putting in those subtle reminders that make sure you keep a handle on what is happening. It’s also possible that the fact that the focus isn’t entirely on the politics, particularly in the latter half of the book, prevents the story from getting bogged down.
So where does the story go? Well, one of the avenues which it explores is one of romance. Now I was particularly pleased with this particular romantic storyline because it felt refreshing to read a romantic plotline that was not love at first sight. The romance in this book initially comes from a much more…casual place which is not something I’ve seen much in fantasy (certainly not when I used to read YA where instantaneous love is the norm). I liked that this book explored a relationship from that more relaxed standpoint (even though the relationship itself is far from relaxing for the characters involved!
I’ll definitely be working my way towards reading the next two books in this trilogy, which I wasn’t necessarily expecting. I suppose that’s my biggest takeaway – that this book surprised me. I don’t know why I keep being surprised by Jemisin like this – at this point, I should be expecting it!
My rating: 4/5 stars
I bought this book myself, all opinions are my own!
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What say you? Have you read this series – what did you think? Let me know in the comments below!