I’m not quite sure where to begin talking about N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I guess I should start with my pre-reading impressions. This book came recommended to me from a few here at Fanlit, and from many authors and blogs, but I resisted reading it for quite some time. There was nothing in the descriptions that really caught my fancy. It sounded like a typical high or epic fantasy, and even the title, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, seemed to confirm my initial thoughts. I kept thinking, a whole hundred thousand? Will there be a hundred thousand royal family members with a hundred thousand titles? How about a hundred thousand political squabbles? I’m not a big fan of the type of fantasy with long lists of families and loads of political intrigue, and I was so sure that The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was going to be just like that. I was an idiot.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the first person account of Yeine Darr. Yeine is one of three heirs to the Arameri crown. After her mother’s death she was whisked away from her northern barbarian home to the capital city of Sky. She is to compete with the two other heirs for the right to succeed the reigning king, Dakarta. No one knows why Dakarta brought Yeine out of the rural north to be a part of the succession events. You can imagine what would happen in a game of deadly politics between a highly intelligent and savage young lady and the spoiled and educated master schemers of the royal family. To say the least, things quickly get interesting.
The most amazing part of this book is Yeine herself. She is one of the most engaging and charming characters I’ve ever read. She is the sole voice of the story and always stays in character while describing the events of the story.
There are also plenty of gods with unique personalities who each bring something different to the table. There are only a few characters who Jemisin spends a lot of ink on, and the rest are left a little underdeveloped. The world itself is also left a little unexplained. The story’s focus is on the capital city of Sky, and the Arameri family that resides there, so the other lands and peoples, except Yeine’s homeland of Darr, are left in the background. I hope that will change in the sequels.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is beautifully written and I enjoyed the story a great deal. The fact that this is Jemisin’s debut novel is disgusting. That one person could contain this much talent is a crime upon humanity. Jemisin will join Pat Rothfuss on my “List Of Disgustingly Talented Authors Who I Should Hate From Jealousy, But Can’t Because They Are Too Awesome Not To Love” (The LODTAWISHFJBCBTATANTL, for short). Seriously, the writing is both vivid and entertaining with a very reader-friendly pace and I appreciated that there was none of the hoighty-toighty self-indulgent Arthurian hooey in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
I listened to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms on Brilliance Audio CD. It was narrated by Casaundra Freeman. Casaundra was amazing. It’s extremely important that the voice actor of a first-person story become that character in the reader’s mind. If a voice is too different than what you would imagine then it is difficult to become engaged. That is definitely not a problem in this version of the book. Ms. Freeman is Yeine, and a delight to listen to. I highly recommend this version, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting the sequel, The Broken Kingdoms coming in November 2010.