This book ate one whole day out of last 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.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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. I’m kind of puzzled by 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.
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.
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 is Alia’s 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.
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!
And if you’ve read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms already (how did I go for two years without reading this book!?!?), please leave me your thoughts here at Worldbinding, or contact me on Twitter or Google+. If spoilers, please leave them as a reply to the blog so you don’t inadvertently ruin it for someone!
2 responses to “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms review”
I also had to get into the book before I really understood it. I actually put it down after the first chapter or two at first, but then read it won a lot of awards, so I gave it another go. I'm glad I did. The second one is also excellent. N.K. Jemisin does a good job with first person.
Yes, for a fantasy novel, it certainly had a steep "learning curve" for the first few chapters! Comparable to some sci-fi novels. I'm looking forward to reading the second book. Thanks for stopping by, Kathlyn.