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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - N.K. Jemisin This book ate one whole day out of my weekend. I could not put it down. I thought I'd read a couple chapters before bed—I ended up reading 14. The next day, I finished it. Literally did not do anything except sleep and eat breakfast between both readings. If that’s not an endorsement of how enthralling the world in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is, I don’t know what is.

Interestingly, though, the beginning didn’t hook me right away. For one thing, I'm not generally a fan of first person stories (I know, I know, I keep saying this lately—but I’m really not!).

Secondly, the main character seemed a little flippant to me at first. I felt the author intrude when the narrator starts Chapter 3 by saying "Should I pause to explain? It is poor storytelling." I was thinking, why yes, it is! And if the author knew that, then why did she do it?

Perhaps it was just me reading the book more as a writer at that point than as a reader. Perhaps I still wasn’t fully immersed in the world yet. But I think it's one of the few flaws of this book: How frequently the beginning flips back and forth between present action and exposition.

Another thing I had a little difficulty understanding at first was how many personalities Naharoth had. He was a monster, then he seemed conscious enough but attacked another of the gods, then was tender toward Yeine, then imperious. It was only later I understood that he had two distinct forms.

The culture is interesting, because everyone in the city is related. Even the servants are relatives of the rulers. Now that I think more about it, I'm kind of puzzled by it, like why the author chose that detail. Not that I had a problem with it or that it jolted me out of the story or anything, but now that I think about it, it didn't seem to have a strong purpose to the central happenings of the story. Yes, only the full-bloods could command the gods, but it could just have easily been only the royal bloodline could control them, not any normal people. Especially since the real control seemed to be in their sigils, not in their actual blood. Some people were not considered Central Family, even though they had the bloodline.

Or maybe, having read it so quickly, some of the subtlety was lost on me. I often find that a bit of time to reflect between readings lends a little extra depth to the story. Although there were a few occasions during the story that I did look up from the book and try to puzzle something out. For instance, (major spoiler) when she realizes Viraine only warned her off Sieh, not Naharoth. That made me think Viraine was using Sieh for nefarious/sexual purposes, but later we learn that Viraine was actually Itempas all along. So wouldn't Itempas warn her off Naharoth, his lover? He may have hoped Naharoth would destroy her, but I think Itempas knew she was carrying Enefa's spirit. A little confused about that.

One of the reasons I like this book so much is because it's about betrayal and revenge. I love revenge stories. (One of my favorite scenes in Dune by Frank Herbert... When Alia meets her grandfather and exacts revenge!)

I especially enjoy stories where you're not sure who your enemies and allies are. Stories where a friend becomes an enemy are interesting for the betrayal. But even more interesting, to me at least, are stories where an apparent enemy is actually an ally. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms features all of the above.

Random spoiler... I love how Yeine feels awe that she's going to see Itempas at the end, then realizes how silly that is. She's been raised in a culture that worships Itempas as god, so she momentarily forgot that she's been living among gods already, including one of the Trinity, essentially, the Nightlord himself, the first being.

Anyway, I could go on and on about things I love in the story, but the best thing to do is to pick it up yourself! I haven't devoured a book this quickly in years. I can’t remember the last time I read a book in a day, so yeah. Stop reading this and get thee to a local library/bookstore!

Cross-published to my blog.