liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
[personal profile] liv
Author: NK Jemisin ([livejournal.com profile] nojojojo)

Details: (c) 2010 NK Jemisin; Pub Orbit 2010; ISBN 978-0-316-07597-8

Verdict: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a powerful and original fantasy, well worth the hype.

Reasons for reading it: Everybody's been raving about it recently, and also I've been very impressed by [livejournal.com profile] nojojojo's online persona. These two combined to make it seem like a book it was worth buying new rather than waiting for it show up in libraries or charity shops.

How it came into my hands: Pretended I was American so I could buy it from Books On Board.

The Hundred Thousdand Kingdoms is a really fine example of the kind of fantasy where the Chosen One has to save the world and there's lots of powerful and mysterious magic and a pantheon of story-real gods. So if you like that that kind of thing, this is definitely worth trying, and I can quite see why there's been so much buzz about it in SFF circles. If you hate that kind of thing for political reasons, because it's all Tolkien-derivative and / or reads like an account of somebody's D&D campaign, because the men have all the fun and the women are just trophies, because it's all based on a Romantic idea of pre-modern Europe, because it's monarchist and pro-aristocracy etc, then tHTK was (quite possibly literally) written for you. But if you hate fantasy because of the basic structure of the story then tHTK is not going to be your cup of tea, because it is very much in genre.

I loved the world-building; there's a real sense of a complex, original world where people have cultures and politics but are still individuals, and the magic system has consequences but isn't purely mechanical. The meeting with Sieh where the book flips from being about an ingenué navigating court intrigue to being something with much higher stakes is brilliantly done. In general the gods are really, really well drawn here; there's a sense of the numinous that you find only in the very best fantasy, and although they play a major role in the story and interact as characters, they are really clearly not human, (and not just superhero types of humans with more powers). In some ways a story where it's heretical to believe in certain members of the pantheon but they turn out to be real and powerful has been done lots of times, but this is a particularly skillful and particularly original take on that set-up.

I do agree with [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel's assessment that the characterization of the humans, particularly the protagonist, Yeine, is not as stellar. OK, so in this case the Chosen One is female and non-white, but she's mostly just a vehicle for the plot to happen. The plot is really impressive, though, and I was very much drawn into the story in spite of this weakness. (I wouldn't say that the characterization is bad, just not as fantastic as the background and story.) The other minor weakness in tHTK is that it's sometimes a bit heavy-handed in showing how it's possible to use light / dark metaphors without falling into post-Tolkien eurocentrism, but that aspect wasn't too intrusive. My guess is that fans of things like Bujold's Chalion series are about the target audience for this one.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-01-10 08:20 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
I adore the Chalion series, so I think you just moved this nearer the top of my "look out for" list :)

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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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