That probably is a strange thing to say considering that this is book two of a trilogy. And with the second book there tends to be fewer surprises, more exposition. Frankly, book twos have often been a bit of a letdown.
But in The Broken Kingdoms, Jemisin took me by surprise. She more or less picks up where she left off in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, ten years later (which as you may recall, I Loved). But she brings in a new character, Oree Shoth, a blind artist who sells her wares in the city of Shadow and who stumbles across a dead godling. Oree is a woman “plagued by gods”:
“Sometimes they followed me home and made me breakfast. Sometimes they tried to kill me. Occasionally they bought my trinkets and statues, though for what purpose I can’t fathom. And yes, sometimes I loved them.
I even found one in a muckbin once. Sounds mad, doesn’t it? But it’s true. If I had known this would become my life when I left home for this beautiful, ridiculous city, I would have thought twice. Though I would still have done it.”
The godling in the muckbin becomes an important part of the book, but that’s all I should tell you about.
Oree is more certain than Yeine (from the first book), and there’s less backtracking in the storytelling, probably because there’s less need for the explanation of the gods-mortals relationship now. But like Yeine, she is more or less drawn into situations that are beyond her control.
I really appreciated that the story, while set in the same world, is told from a completely different viewpoint. Sky was where the ruling Arameri family lived (even the servants were Arameri). Shadow, beneath the leaf canopy of the World Tree, is where the regular folk live – some are pilgrims and worshippers, some priests and many, like Oree, are just working hard to make a living. And like many other regular folks, isn’t all that sure about what had happened those ten years ago up in Sky.
“I’m just an ordinary woman with no connections or status, and no power beyond a walking stick that makes an excellent club in a pinch. I had to figure out everything the hard way.”
I’m looking forward to seeing what Jemisin has up her sleeve for the third book.
“But once there were only three, most powerful and glorious of all: the god of day, the god of night, and the goddess of twilight and dawn.Or light and darkness and the shades between. Or order, chaos, and balance. None of that is important because one of them died, the other might as well have, and the last is the only one who matters anymore.”
And it was with a little sigh of satisfaction and a sense of fullness (but not to the point of being overstuffed) that I finished this book.
Perhaps there was a feeling of relief too. Because it had lived up to my expectations. And oh, were my expectations high. Largely because of Eva’s review and her link to this article in Salon. Plus the fact that it won the 2011 Locus Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Crawford, Gemmell, Tiptree and World Fantasy awards.
I love going into a book, especially fantasy and SF, not knowing much about it. And what a ride this was. But perhaps you might need a tidbit. This is a world of gods and mortals, and features an incredible character in Yeine who comes from a matriarchal warrior tribe and who is named heir to the hundred thousand kingdoms.
“I am short and flat and brown as forestwood, and my hair is a curled mess. Because I find it unmanageable otherwise, I wear it short. I am sometimes mistaken for a boy.”
And as we discover the city of Sky and the Arameri society with her, we realise just how strong and yet so very likeable she is.
A fantastic read.
Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the first book of the Inheritance Trilogy, but it works fine as a standalone read. Broken Kingdoms and The Kingdom of Gods make up the rest of the series.