Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

I remember reading a review of this work on The Guardian which went in some depth into Ms Jemisin’s world-view and what she wanted to do with her writing. That’s all well and good, but it also assumes the author has some sort of skill. This book does not display that. Instead of a story about “breaking the status quo” we get endless pages of mindless “I should kiss him, I shouldn’t kiss him” the ‘him’ being a god and the “I” our female protagonist.

This goes on more or less after the first chapter up to the very end of the book, and is meant to serve as a backdrop to the protagonists ‘search for vengeance’ amidst her ‘all-ruling family of sociopaths’. This could be good — this could make for a really good story — if the author hadn’t felt that all of the characters should be the very extremes that she could write. And, yet, our ‘extreme warrior who defeated the toughest opponent in her coming of age fight’ only really knows how to draw a knife and hold it once or twice — that’s the extent of her “warrior training”.

In the author’s attempt to “do what no fantasy writer does” I think she’s stumbled into the same bucket far worse than most. In the end, though Ms Jemisin has lamented the return for the status quo, this is exactly the same book and with far less appealing characters than many others.

Yet, I was intrigued and the ending went in a slightly different way than I thought it would be. I’m relatively difficult to surprise by a story, and that made me like that part of it — it also helped, however, that both the very beginning and end are written from a decent POV narrative while the middle part is full of two-sentence long “POV moments” which then change, just to confuse the reader. This was another entirely unnecessary but clever-looking method the author used.

Overall… Some positives for me, but I think the author fails her own method statement. In the end, this is just another fantasy, and quite frankly worse than most.

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