Just read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin


I don’t quite know what to make of it, to be honest. I’m a big fan of worldbuilding, and I set out in this novel with great enthusiasm. I loved the fact that the city of Sky was described as being ‘like an altarskirt rose’ and then they went on to describe what an altarskirt rose was and how many of the failed blooms are disturbingly horrific. I liked the unexpectedness of that, and I see – now that I’ve reached the end – that it was a presage of pretty much everything to come.

Short summary (contains spoilers) – young woman journeys to the capital city of her world in order to find out who killed her mother. When she arrives, she is named one of the three heirs of the kingdom. Only one of the three can eventually inherit and live. So here she is in this dissolute courtly setting, a naive ‘barbarian’ among worldly and cruel aristocrats who are so cruel and so powerful they have even made the gods their slaves. Our heroine befriends the gods, finds out their stories and basically ends up engineering a new age in which they are freed.

Put like that, I should have really liked it, but ugh… I didn’t. I didn’t massively dislike it either, but I was bored.

I don’t know. The ‘cruel aristocrats who amuse themselves by torture’ has been somewhat overdone. If I had a god for a friend, there are so many things I would see or do–planets to visit, lava to swim in, flight to experience, continents to shape etc, etc. It seemed a huge waste of power to use them either to have sex with or to kill one’s enemies.

I’m sure I would have liked the book more if I had fallen in love with Nahadoth, the Nightlord, as the heroine did. I believe I was supposed to. Much of the book revolves around ‘I wish I could have sex with him, but I can’t because it would kill me, oh well I’m going to do it anyway.’ And I think as an asexual person, the appeal of that plot thread is just lost on me.

The emotional entanglements between the three highest gods, who were siblings who both loved and hated each other were also kind of tedious to me. I didn’t honestly like any of them, and because of that it didn’t matter to me what happened to them. I also didn’t really like the protagonist or anyone else. (Other than Sieh, and he’s a strange case. I have a weakness for Trickster gods, but although Sieh was supposed to be a trickster, he was actually the most straightforward of all the characters. I found it very relieving that there was one person capable of the human emotions of affection and friendliness in the book, even if that person was one of the few inhumans.)

I don’t know, I don’t know. I have a strong feeling that this might be wonderful for somebody else. But it’s just not my own cup of tea.

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