Review: “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms,” N.K. Jemisin

Pros: Stunning plot, characters, and worldbuilding!
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Book 1 (The Inheritance Trilogy) is so good that I suspect once I’ve read the other two books in the trilogy–if they’re even half as good–I’ll be declaring this a new addition to my “favorite series” list. Yeine is–or was–a chieftain of her people at 19 years old. Then her grandfather, who rules the kingdoms from the city of Sky and who tossed her mother out for falling in love with her father, demands her presence in Sky. She makes the journey, only to find out that Dekarta, her grandfather, has named her his heir. The only catch is that he has also named two other family members as heirs, and some mysterious competition between them will determine who inherits his position as the “uncrowned king of the world”. Yeine rightly suspects her rivals will probably just kill her, but things may be more complicated than that. The Arameri, her mother’s people, keep four once-gods as captive “weapons,” a fate those gods suffered for battling Itempas, the day-god. Those Enefadeh have a plan for Yeine–but that plan may be even more dangerous than the situation she already finds herself in.

It’s hard to sufficiently sum up the plot, because there’s just so much to it. Yet I never felt confused or lost–it was written so elegantly and well. I love how the Enefadeh are presented–they can be so easy to develop feelings of one type or another for, but they’re also so very dangerous. Any of the Arameri can command the Enefadeh, but they have to be very careful of their wording, because the once-gods can take the wording very literally. (I did feel that this should lead to tragedy more often than it sounds like was the case, but that’s my only tiny gripe in such a wonderful long book that I almost feel bad mentioning it.) Also, while the Enefadeh may seem somewhat human–after all, they created humans in their own image–they’re very alien underneath. I loved watching Yeine try to navigate this minefield even as she becomes close to a couple of the Enefadeh.

The worldbuilding and character-building are just. So. Beautiful. Since there are once-gods walking the world, the line is blurred between history and folklore. And thanks to something happening to Yeine herself, she ends up having visions of things that came before, allowing us to glimpse the events that shaped the world as it is now. Two of the Enefadeh, Sieh (a childlike trickster) and Nahadoth (the Nightlord) fascinated me in particular, although Yeine is still my favorite character. Yeine has to come to terms with the fact that she expects to die soon, and she ends up having to focus on what she wants to do despite that. It’s fascinating to watch. I should note that N.K. Jemisin is a black author, and Yeine is black as well. I note this so that black readers will be aware that they can find representation here. Please note that there is sexual content.

I was so riveted by the events of this book that I stayed up a couple hours late just to finish it. I couldn’t put it down once I started! Now I’ll have to read the next two books in the trilogy, but I’ve already started recommending it to friends!

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