The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the first volume in the The Inheritance Trilogy and the debut of N. K. Jemisin. This review has been written for the David Gemmell Morningstar award.
Yeine Darr, ruler of her people is still mourning the untimely death of her mother when she is summoned to the magnificent and beautiful city of Sky by the king, her grandfather. He names her his heir but has already assigned that role to both his niece and his nephew, setting all three against each other in a deadly power struggle for the throne. The city Sky and it's palace are not without their own dangers, host to fallen gods trapped in mortal form.
Narrated from the first person perspective of Yeine in a friendly and easy going manner it's very difficult not to like this novel. The author has that rare ability that surpasses that of writer and becomes that of storyteller, her voice is distinct and voluable while the prose feels so fresh you could be forgiven for thinking there aren't thousands of stories set within the same genre.
Sometimes while reading I was of reminded a little of David Eddings work, it's got the same easy style that manages to create a vision on a grand scale where god's walk without losing the personal touch and incidental details of the main characters. Where this does differ is that we get treated to the exploration of the various god's psyche (albeit in a diluted mortal form). There is also the a slight nod to Patrick Roffuss in the way the protagonist is largely narrating the story in the past tense. This isn't in any way diminutive of The Hundred thousand Kingdoms, it has a very strong sense of style all it's own.
The world building is handled very well, with bit's and pieces given out at timely intervals, meaning that it doesn't drag down the plot or otherwise divert the readers attention but does manage to add to the incredibly rich mythology of the main story. The only slight negatives I have was that for me the romance was a little on the heavy side, although I am sure that many readers will disagree, and in some ways Yeine seemed a bit too naive to have ruled a Kingdom, highlighted with her reaction when she stumbles across her grandfather metering out justice to a guilty terrorist.
The plot is both light enough to keep the pace fast and detailed enough that most won't guess what's coming next, or indeed the ending. Much of the book focuses on Yiene finding out who her mother really was while the rest deals with the god's and the race to the throne.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a richly detailed, lively and incandescent high fantasy tale as told by a true storyteller.
Written on Thursday 24th February 2011 by Antony.
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