Book Review: The Kingdom of the Gods by N.K. Jemisin

The final book in a series always seems to be the most difficult to review.  They tend to be a mixed bag of emotions. Happiness because the ending truly does the series justice, combined with the touch of sadness because it has come to end. Or disappointment, combined with a dash of anger if the less than stellar final book has tarnished the memory of earlier, better books. Kingdom of the Gods falls somewhere near the middle of this spectrum for me, but leans more towards the former. It has many of the same qualities I loved in the first two of the series, great writing and compelling characters, but it lacks some of the magic, especially when compared to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

In Kingdom of the Gods we get a story from the perspective of the oldest godling Sieh, god of childhood and mischief. Without giving too much away, I can say that the plot revolves around Sieh befriending two mortal children. Two Arameri mortal children, descendants of those who kept him enslaved for centuries. This friendship ends up of having a ripple effect across both the god’s realm and the mortal world, as well as irrevocably changing Sieh.

Sieh was a favorite character of mine from the first book, so it was fun reading a story told from his perspective. Shahar and Deka, the aforementioned children, are interesting as the strong willed sister who vows to be a good ruler and the quiet, kind hearted brother who must learn to protect himself. Though they could have been developed a little further, especially Deka. These three provide the sexy undertones that we’ve come to expect after the first two novels of the series. The best part of this novel however, is the way it brings the series full circle. The mythology of the world is explored more deeply, and there is a recreation of several elements from the first two novels, which is a joy to see played out.

The plot does drag a bit more than the previous installments of the series and there are some bits towards the end that are slightly convoluted, but N.K. Jemisin’s writing is so lovely, and the world she has created so magnificent, that these faults can be easily overlooked. All in all, the final installment of The Inheritance Trilogy left me feeling quite satisfied. And I would certainly recommend the series as a whole to fantasy fans, lovers of great writing, and anyone who likes their stories a tad sexy.

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Book Review: The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

The Broken Kingdoms, book two in the Inheritance Trilogy, resumes the story ten years after the events in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. This time our protagonist is Oree Shoth, a young blind woman living in the Shadow, a city filled with godlings and priests, heretics and pilgrims. Oree may not have the power of sight, but she does have the ability to see magic and create a bit of her own. When she lets an odd, quiet man with strange magic into her life she becomes embroiled in a plot involving the murder of godlings. Along the way she learns the secrets of her own magic, and finds that she may be the only one to stop these murders before all of Shadow pays the price.

Now the big question regarding any sequel, is it as good as the first? Not quite. But I still immensely enjoyed this novel. The writing style is similar to the The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and still lovely, but it’s slightly more contained. It’s first person again, with the same mix of plot narrative and stories of Oree’s past, but it has a little less of the ‘stream of consciousness’ style of the first novel. I still love N.K. Jemisin’s writing, but I think I preferred the more wild, uncontained style of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Now when it comes to characters, The Broken Kingdoms does well in matching its predecessor. Oree is an interesting and unique protagonist. She may have a disability, but she is just as capable as any other heroine. She fights for for her independence and freedom throughout the novel. Plus, she is comfortable with her sexuality and her body, which is so refreshing to see in any work of fiction. Anyone who read the previous novel will immediately know the true identity of ‘Shiny’, Oree’s mysterious new companion. He is not that likeable and certainly not a hero, but he sees immense growth throughout the novel. By the end of the story he has changed, while still holding on to the core aspects of himself, or perhaps by returning to what he once was. There is a fun new set of secondary characters, mostly godlings with a wide array of powers and traits, as well as appearances by characters from the first novel.

With the shift to a new heroine we get to see the events from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms from an outsider’s perspective, and with the jump forward in time we get to see the effect those events had on this world. Where the first novel is dark and sexy, this novel is more of a slow burn. The tone of each novel is truly an embodiment of the god at the core of each story. If you liked the world and writing style of the first novel, I think you will enjoy The Broken Kingdoms. In fact, anyone who had problems with the writing style of the The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms will most likely enjoy this novel more. In the end, The Broken Kingdoms solidified my new found fandom of N.K. Jemisin, and I cannot wait to read the conclusion of this epic fantasy.

Book Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

For me this is one of those books. I stayed up far too late to finish it, I fell asleep thinking about it (I am fairly certain I had dreams about it), and now it is well into the next day and I still cannot get it out of my head. So what else is a girl to do but write a review? The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms has a setup that may feel familiar to fantasy fans. Yeine, still reeling over the recent death of her mother, is summoned by her estranged maternal grandfather to the seat of the kingdom, where he rules with ruthlessness and a set of very powerful weapons. There, he names her as one of his possible heirs. Intrigue, political maneuvering, betrayals, and ultimately self discovery follow.  Include a mythology about the Three Gods and their fate (a war, resulting in one dead, one enslaved, one left to rule alone), make those gods central characters in the story, and you have The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I am greatly simplifying here, but those are truly the key points you need in order to know if you will be on board with the story, and the key points necessary for this review.

What is it about this novel that did it for me? There are many things, so I will try to keep it to a short few. First, there is the writing, both the prose itself (which includes lovely passages like, “I am not as I once was. They have done this to me, broken me open and torn out my heart. I do not know who I am anymore. I must try to remember”) and the structure of the narrative. The story jumps backwards and forwards in time and is told in a mix of styles, plot narrative, childhood stories, and inner thoughts. This could have resulted in a confused jumble, instead it all comes together in an incredibly beautiful way. The world building specifically, an element so crucial to fantasy, is dealt with mostly in the form of the stories and myths Yeine has been told throughout her life. This is what hooked me immediately, the lovely writing combined with intense, first person storytelling.

Next, this story is sexy. No, sexy isn’t the right word, perhaps sensual is better. Whatever you want to call it, it really works. The love story, though it seems too simple to call it that, is wonderful. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and it’s a bit different than anything else I have read, even in fantasy. One of the reasons this sensuality and romance works so well is the characters. Yeine is both a great protagonist and a good audience surrogate. She is an ideal combination of strong and smart, but also lost and trying to find her way in this world, which is in some ways as new to her as it is to the reader. The cast of secondary characters adds a wealth of depth both to the world and to Yeine’s character (especially Sieh, the centuries old godling who takes the form of a child). The counterpart to Yeine is Nahadoth, the Nightlord, who is probably the most intriguing  character in the entire novel. I won’t say more than that he is both hero and villain, and I found myself devouring each of his scenes. There is also a bending of gender stereotypes and a defiance of heteronormative culture embedded in the DNA of this story. Add all of this up, and you have one sexy, or sensual, tale.

Some may find the structure of this novel confusing or distracting, but if you are willing to dive into this world, I think that the way the story is told will only add to your enjoyment of the novel. The only disappointment I felt was near the end of the story, when it became apparent that this set of characters would likely not be central to the next chapter of the series (though I am certain/hopeful that they will resume a larger role in the final installment). I found myself wanting more of these characters, for the story to continue exactly where this one leaves off, but I am definitely willing to settle for more of this world and more of N.K. Jemisin’s compelling writing style. I will be eagerly picking up the next installment, hoping that it can recreate the magic of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.