Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemisin

WARNING: I try to avoid spoilers, but they are possible (even probable), since this is the second book of the Inheritance Trilogy. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (review here) is the first. I recommend reading them in order.

I know it's only been a couple days since my last review, but I just could not put The Broken Kingdoms down. I thought about it when I was driving to work. I thought about it at work. I wished I could read it on the treadmill and at dinner tonight. And now I'm really sad that it's over. From the back cover: 

In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a strange homeless man on an impulse. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. And Oree's guest is at the heart of it. . . 

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was only the second book I ever reviewed for my site. I remember enjoying it, but being slightly put off by the tone of the novel. I think, in truth, it may have been the protagonist was not one I could relate to easily. I found Oree a much more likable narrator. I was very impressed with the fact that although this novel is also narrated in first person, like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Oree is very obviously a very different voice from Yeine. I imagine that it is very hard to pull off two distinct first person accounts.

As in the previous novel, I found this world to be incredibly intriguing and complex, I think even moreso. I was a bit lost at the very beginning because it's been a good long while since I read the previous novel and this one takes place 10 years after the events of the first. However, Jemisin throws little "reminders" in there for recurring characters and continuing story arcs, so I was able to follow the plot without feeling the need to run out and read the first one again. That's a pet peeve of mine, given the enormous gaps there usually are in between series releases. It's also not a clumsily thrown in explanation either...very artfully done.

As I had mentioned in my review of the first book, the author inserts a lot of sidenotes and afterthoughts into the narrative. In The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, that was somewhat distracting. I didn't feel like the sidenotes and afterthoughts were necessarily relevant to the story. In this case, each seemed very pertinent and seemed shorter. This was probably one of the things that gave Yeine and Oree their distinct voices.

I just love this series. It's a unique perspective on divinity and their interactions with mankind. I am especially intrigued by the gods' interactions and relationships to each other. I always finish these books and start to think about the nature of gods, their nature, and find myself comparing the theology to current, real world theology. I enjoy books that have meaning, and that cause you to walk away thinking. Although I must say, the emotional side to this story makes it hard to walk away.

I think NK Jemisin has really hit her stride with this book. The third will be The Kingdom of the Gods, released in September (click here for a synopsis). I have a feeling I will be even more upset when the series ends.

Bottom Line
 To sum it up: Gods + humans. Hilarity does not ensue.
Overall Rating: 5 / 5
Buy or Try? Buy
More? 2 / 3 projected
Plot: 5 / 5
Setting: 5 / 5
Characters: 5 / 5
*Yes really. I waffled about giving out a perfect score out of principle, but I just didn't have anything to complain about at all.*
Pace: Fast
Descriptiveness: Prose
Fantasy factor: High Fantasy


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