I was looking for a fantasy novel that included gods as characters and happened upon N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. As someone who is always on the hunt for something different in the fantasy genre, I found this an intriguing novel that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The main character, Yeine, is considered a barbarian outsider to the cultured aristocracy of Sky, the seat of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and the home of her mother’s family, the Arameri. Her mother was the heiress of this most powerful family, but abdicated her position to be with her husband in his land far to the north.
After her mother’s sudden and suspicious death, nineteen-year-old Yeine is called to Sky by her grandfather and shocked to discover she is named one of three possible heirs to her grandfather’s position. But she learns that the Arameri have elevated cruelty to an art and if Yeine wants her grandfather’s position, she must fight for it, for only one can live to secure it.
Yeine also discovers the complicated but loving mother she remembers is nothing like the cold, cruel aristocrat that the Arameri highly regarded before her unexpected abdication. She is sure that someone in Sky is responsible for her mother’s death and the who and the why of it make for an interesting twist.
In my opinion, however, this human story serves as the scaffolding to the story of the gods. In Yeine’s world, some gods live amongst the humans and are bound in human form. They’re pissed off. And they have a plan.
Once, there were two gods: dark, wild Nahadoth and bright, ordered Itempas. They both loved and hated each other. Then, Enefa, the creatrix, was born to bridge their differences. In her need to create life, she was more compatible with Nahadoth, but found she also liked Itempas’ discipline and tried not to tread on his toes. However, Itempas was appalled by Enefa’s changes and her creations. She had ruined his nice, neat universe.
To put it simplistically and bluntly, Itempas killed Enefa and imprisoned Nahadoth and became the supreme god.
In the palace where the Arameri reside, some of those gods that opposed Itempas – Nahadoth and his three children – are virtually (but not quite) slaves at the mercy of the Arameri. They are very much a part of the story, and they plan for Yeine to help them break from their imprisonment. What they plan neatly brings together all the different story strands.
I found this to be a quick read. It’s written in first person, so the scope is controlled. Some may complain about its lack of depth. Could the author have gone into more detail of the political maneuverings, Arameri family history, and the characters themselves? Well, yes, but we are given all the information required for the story. I find it a nice change of pace from the ginormous fantasy tomes I usually read and I’m willing to follow where this author takes me.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was N.K. Jemisin’s first published novel. It’s sequel, Broken Kingdoms, is also out and on my to-read list. The third book, The Kingdom of Gods, is set to be released in October.