Review: “The Broken Kingdoms,” N.K. Jemisin

Pros: I just can’t get over how amazing this trilogy is
Rating: 5 out of 5

N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy, Book Two) is a wonderful follow-up to her The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Oree is a blind artist who can only “see” magic. However, she lives in Shadow, the darkened area beneath the city of Sky. It’s ten years after Yeine’s ascension to godhood, and many lesser godlings have returned to the world. For the moment, they’re restricted to Shadow. Because Oree can see magic, and thus can see the godlings (even when normal people can’t see them), she’s become involved with them. In particular Madding, who has her heart, and the seemingly-mute “Shiny,” who lives with her and helps her out from time to time. She’s still not sure whether Shiny is really a godling–he only shows up to her magic sight at sunrise and when he returns from death–which seems to happen often: “He simply never bothered to avoid danger–including the dangers of his own impulses.” One day, a godling is found killed, and not by her fellow godlings–something that shouldn’t be possible. She isn’t the only one to vanish, and Nahadoth, the Nightlord, one of the Three, gives the city 30 days to find out who is responsible. The Itempan Order-Keepers question Oree, who found the godling’s body, and Shiny steps in to protect her, earning the attention and ire of the Order-Keepers and sending Oree and Shiny on the run. Unfortunately, the Order-Keepers aren’t the only ones who want to find Oree–there’s a cult that has some frightening designs on her unusual abilities.

Oree narrates this tale, and it has a lovely conversational tone. In that it resembles the previous book, but despite the first-person narration and conversational tone, Yeine and Oree have very different voices. It’s pretty impressive. Some characters from the first book return as side characters. It’s interesting to get a mortal’s-eye view of the Three and their children; Oree is more removed from the Three than Yeine was. We meet so many fascinating godlings, each with an affinity of their own. Oree’s beloved Madding, for example, is the god of obligation, and that displays itself in interesting ways. It’s also interesting to see how the godlings relate to each other; Madding has a handful of his brothers and sisters working for him. Some of the godlings are even picking up worshipers of their own.

I don’t know how Jemisin manages such a smooth narration by a character who can only see magic, without being inconsistent or failing to make things visually interesting and clear. Such skill on her part! It really goes to show that a good writer can write a disabled main character in a way that actively adds to the story. I hope more writers will consider doing things like this.

I got so caught up in the narrative. I found myself pushing my fist against my mouth through certain events, and I shed a few tears near the end. There’s so much tension, and a definite skein of horror, going on. Once again there is some mild sexual content in here; it’s quite lovely.

Now I need to go read book three in this trilogy–I’m going to be so disappointed when it’s over!

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