The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
|Book Name:||The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms|
|Author:||N. K. Jemisin|
|Formatt:||Paperback / Audio Book / eBook|
|Release Date:||February 25, 2010|
What happens, when the god of change and chaos goes to war with his orderly brother? Well, he loses the fight, earning himself a prison of human flesh and full obedience to mere mortals, the worshippers of his enemy. Fast-forward some thousand years, and he is quite angry and bored of his situation. Still serving the now absolute power-wielding Arameri family, he would clearly love to throw off his chains, and destroy all of them in a quest for revenge.
His masters literally stand at the top of the world, ruling from their palace, Sky, which offers a nice view on all the hundred thousand kingdoms they oversee – meaning the entire world. With so much influence, they can afford to shape the public’s lives around their whims and sadistic wishes, abusing the power of the chaos god and his children, who stand at their mercy, just like everyone else. The Arameri are cruel, cold and mean death to those threatening their power and beliefs even the slightest bit. Yet, these highborn full-bloods also like politics, bloody messes, and intrigue (especially within family), so when an upcoming succession is at hand, everyone is eager to see who will live and who will die. And what happens when a not so distant relative of theirs, living in a rather barbaric and peculiar environment gets thrown into all of this?
Suddenly named as an heir to her grandfather, right after her mother’s mysterious death, Yeine is all but collected and patient. She is set on finding out who shattered her life. But having to deal with her two absurd cousins (both potential heirs, as well) and the gods who live in the palace and seem to have taken an interest in the newcomer, leaves her with little time to puzzle together the pieces behind her misery.
Book one of The Inheritance Trilogy focuses on the relationship between the gods and the upper circles, meaning the Arameri family’s few important players – everyone else is a puppet to them, and to the story itself. N. K. Jemisin took snippets from a vast variety of cultures, religions, ideas, and theories – thus she shaped and formed a whole new world with a lovely back-story involving three gods, who battled each other in the past. According to the priests’ teachings, Itempas, the god of light was betrayed by his siblings Nahadoth, the god of darkness, and Enefa, who portrayed balance. After the latter two lost, Enefa was killed, and Nahadoth and his children were forced into human (but not mortal) bodies. These immortal beings all represent an archetype with extreme traits and unusual behaviours, making them colourful and interesting to observe. They feel just like their human creations do, though with more depth and understanding, as a result of their age, suffering, and unique nature.
Then we have the Arameri. We are only introduced to the current head of the family, Dekarta, along with Yeine’s cousins, Scimina and Relad, followed by two other Arameri, servants rather than equals to them. Scimina represents the evil, cold-blooded lady of the court, who isn’t afraid to go to severe lengths in order to obtain more power. Relad is somewhat opposite, favouring drinking and women to the troubles of highborn schemes. Yeine has to maneuver between these two and her old, but wary grandfather in order to survive. Only the enslaved gods provide our protagonist with (somewhat ambiguous) aid, pushing her forward during hard times, and guiding her in the incoherent darkness of conspiracies and trickery, which the Arameri family impose on their “newest” member.
The question of what is right and wrong; morality and immorality appear from time to time. Is it okay to use magic? Not, if abused. Does giving something evil a more subtle name make it any less inappropriate? Most likely not. What happens, when balance ceases to exist and the world turns black and white? Trouble.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is written in the first person and some people consider Jemisin’s unordinary punctuation a pain to read and comprehend. I didn’t mind it, at all. In fact, I believe it suits the book well enough. It serves its purpose: to depict how Yeine takes in the happenings around her; the unusual memories, which every now and then storm her; her relationship with the gods and the Arameri family; and the small bits of information that fall into place one by one, revealing more of her past, present and future. The pacing’s linearity is often interrupted by sudden flashbacks and inner dialogues, which force you to speculate, and judge how these will influence the upcoming events.
Because we only get to see the events from Yeine’s perspective, the world unfolds slowly, leaving many unanswered questions and several vague details without exposing all the promising possibilities the universe bears. However book two will delve into the common folk’s difficulties and probe the changes they are going through (due to book one’s final outcome), so I wouldn’t point this out as something negative. It just takes time to explore every corner, and the only way to follow that journey through is by reading the next books.