Jemisin, N.K.: (02-03) The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods

I was extremely enthused about N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms when I first read it, but only finished the trilogy recently.

I actually read the sequel, The Broken Kingdoms, fairly soon after it was published, but I never wrote it up. This book has a lot of really good things: I love the look at how the changes in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms are affecting the lives of people on the ground (literally), the POV character Oree is great, and there’s some lovely creepy inventiveness in the fantastical elements. But I wasn’t convinced by an emotional development late in the book (only partly, I think, because it happened to involve a plot pattern that I am allergic to), and there’s some things that trouble me about the way the book treats Oree’s blindness (see lightreads and the author) and about a major spoiler (discussed obliquely, but still in spoiler terms, by sanguinity). So a very mixed reaction.

I actually beta-read the third book, The Kingdom of Gods, and then took literally years to read the final version. Coming back to it after quite a while, again, there’s much to like: the narration, as before in this series; the continuing ramifications of events in the first two books; the way it comes to a very satisfying conclusion. But it’s a tough book for me to get a grip on, for two reasons. First, I find Sieh a difficult narrator: I can admire the craft of his narration while finding it emotionally difficult to experience events through his perspective. This is entirely appropriate—trickster, after all—but it still affected how I related to the book. Second, the balance of the book feels off: it covers much more time than the other two, and while I can’t swear that it’s actually juggling more plot elements, that’s the impression I came away with.

You can read the first book by itself, and I still encourage people to. The rest of the series didn’t work as well for me, but that’s a high bar to clear. I don’t regret reading them, and I look forward to reading Jemisin’s other books—the Dreamblood duology (out now) and this summer’s The Fifth Season.

4 Comments

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  1. I liked the third book the least, largely because I just couldn’t like the narrator very much. Which, yes, tricksters are hard, so I understand the difficulty. Still didn’t much care for the little sh*t.

    I enjoyed the Dreamblood books, while also having quibbles. Jemisin is definitely an author to watch for.

  2. Yeah, Sieh falls under “this is doing something well, and that something happens not to be to my taste.” *shrug* These things happen.

  3. Strangely, I had a similar experience: I bounced off this book and haven’t finished it, after greatly enjoying the first two in the trilogy (even though the series’ position at the border between the fantasy and romance genres is not something normally considered my cup of tea).

    I think it was just that Sieh is a really hard POV character to stick with. And it’s odd, given that I thought the setup sounded like an interesting variation.

  4. Matt, I agree, I was excited about it too. I respect the decision, though, as I’m sure the author knew it was a risky choice.

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