Top positive review
Fantastic Fiction for Adults
Reviewed in the United States on October 26, 2017
That is almost literally all I can say about this trilogy (and the accompanying novella that served as a postscript).
I had heard a little buzz about Jemisin being an author to watch a couple years ago when The Fifth Season was published, but this was my first experience reading her, and I can definitely say it will not be the last.
It is a difficult series to explain because doing so fully would generate spoilers, but suffice it to say that there is an over-arcing theme of second chances and the possibility of redemption.
But these books are about so much more: love, duty, honor, family, gender identity.
The first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, started a bit slow for me. In fact, I questioned whether I was going to enjoy the book because the beginning had a huge info-dump that detailed a lot of the inner workings and conflicts between the primary regions/peoples that the story involved. I felt a bit overwhelmed with new places, cultures, and names (though I later discovered a glossary at the end of the novel—which I read on Kindle—oops), but I kept going and I am so very glad I did.
The first novel deals with Yeine who has been raised far away from the city of Sky where her grandfather rules. Following her mother’s death, Yeine is summoned to Sky and finds herself an unwilling pawn in the middle of a power struggle for control of the family and the weapons (living gods) they have at their disposal.
Her family doesn’t play. At all. They ascend to power by killing their competition. So Yeine must deal with their manipulations and betrayals even as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her mother’s death.
The world-building here is spectacular. I can say without doubt that Jemisin has one of the most vivid imaginations I’ve ever encountered. I did give the first book a rating of 4 of 5 stars because of the heavy info-dump at the beginning—I feel there might have been better ways to distribute that information throughout the story—but it was still an awesome read.
The Broken Kingdoms is the second book, and it takes place a decade after the events of the first book, and follows a different protagonist (though several characters from the first novel also appear in this one). This book’s main character is named Oree, and she is a blind artist who has very special abilities, which she will need to help her survive when someone starts killing godlings and she becomes a suspect.
This book, even though it barely mentioned my favorite character from the first book, was stronger than the first. It’s not often that sequels—especially the central piece of a trilogy—are better than the first book, but it is the case here.
I have a feeling someone might have mentioned the info-dump at the beginning of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and Jemisin is careful to avoid it here. The pacing, characterization, and character growth from the first novel are all amazing. Loved this book. Gave it 5 of 5 stars. Hated for it to end.
Until I started book 3—The Kingdom of Gods—and realized its protagonist was my favorite character from the first book. I may or may not have squealed just a little at that moment.
But in the final book, a godling encounters a pair of children, and a simple act between them results in the godling being made mortal, and beginning to age at an accelerated rate. What follows is a search for a cure, from gods and mortals alike, but is also a wonderful examination of love and aging and forgiveness. Loved, loved, loved this book. Truly a fitting ending for a great series. 5 of 5 stars.
Then there was the companion novella: The Awakened Kingdom. Set an unspecified time following the events of the third book, it follows the adventures of a newborn godling as she seeks to find her place, not only in the world(s), but within her own family. It deals with belonging, acceptance, the struggle to find one’s own identity, gender equality, and so much more. I laughed out loud more than once while reading, and enjoyed the brief dip back into this wonderfully imagined world N. K. Jemisin created. It was also a 5 out of 5 read for me, which was also my overall final rating for the collection.
I would recommend this series if you enjoy fantastic fiction or fantasy. There is adult content, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for younger teens.