CBRIII Maneuver #5 – The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Target: N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Profile: Fantasy, Mature, Divine Fiction

Summary: By Fofo, When her mother dies unexpectedly; Yeine is forced into the life of her maternal family, the Arameri, rulers of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  Caught up in strange politics, murderous succession and schemes of revenge, Yeine befriends the god-slaves imprisoned by her family and joins them in an attempt to reshape their entire world.

Vital Stats:
Pages: 425
Difficulty: 6 out of 10
Rating 3/5

After Action Report:

I already miss the holiday reading binge.

The world of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is probably one of the worst defined fantasy realms I’ve ever read.  But then again, considering how much time the book spends on the metaphysics of godhood and apotheosis, it sort of makes sense that the everyday details of the physical world are mostly ignored.

Some time in the distant past, there were three gods: Itempas the Day, Nahadoth the Night and Enefa the Twilight.  They brought the world into being and created humanity in their image.  They created more godlings and ruled over humanity in harmony.  This lasted until the whole pantheon had a fight which ended with Itempas on top, Enefa dead and Nahadoth a slave of Itempas’ clan of priests, the Arameri.  The conflict sparked the God’s War among the mortals.  The Arameri, with their god-slaves, quickly established dominance and created the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, each self –governing, but owing their survival to the Arameri.

Centuries later, Yeine dau she Kinneth tai wer Somem kanna Darre (Yeine for short) is brought to Sky, the Arameri’s castle above the capitol, as a candidate for the leadership of the clan.  Her narrative is told in first person style, with herself as the narrator.  She references the fact that these events have already happened, and that she is probably dead already.  Having established herself as an unreliable narrator, Yeine occasionally tells her story out of order and then corrects herself.  She also segues to other memories and stories with very little warning.

It’s hard to talk about the plot arcs without revealing the ending.  The progress of the novel is fairly predictable and by about halfway in, most readers will have guessed the ending, but I’ll keep it under wraps anyway.  Suffice it to say that things get pretty epic in the last chapters.

The entire book is painted with a thin veneer of African American studies.  Yeine is a ‘dark’ person from a relatively primitive culture, but she’s also of mixed parentage, her mother being of the explicitly white Arameri clan.  The world of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is ruled by the Arameri and their god, Itempas, the white god of order, stability and changelessness.  Nahadoth, by comparison, is the enslaved black god of chaos, lust and the night.  It’s all pretty obvious.  The Arameri are almost all depicted as psychotic sociopaths, but other than that, the book doesn’t seem to pass value judgments on anyone.  The rhetoric is there, but it isn’t really brought to bear on anyone.

I don’t think Jemisin should have gotten all of the praise she did for this novel.  It’s a good book and there’s a lot of interesting things I’m really hoping the sequel will cover, but it’s also far from grade A work.  The plot is a little too straightforward and the ‘plot twist’ at the end is telegraphed for days.  But Jemisin is also playing in the somewhat fresh genre of living mythology and her efforts are better than a lot of her peers.  And for a freshman effort by an author with only a handful of short stories under her belt, that’s pretty damn good.

Posted on January 25, 2011, in Cannonball Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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