Kat Reads Anything She Bloody Well Wants To (bookblather) wrote,
Kat Reads Anything She Bloody Well Wants To
bookblather

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, NK Jemisin, and some things

Thing #1: Vincent and the Doctor broke my fucking heart. God, what a fabulous episode. This is why I love Doctor Who.

Copperbadge has a wonderful essay on why the portrayal of depression in this episode works. He said everything I could have but much more eloquently here. Read the comments, too.

*sobs a bit more*

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Thing #2: Jim Hines is my hero, for numerous reasons. This is the most recent one.

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Arizona's latest fuckery has me pissed. So, in order to do my bit against such shenanigans, I shall write you a review of a most excellent book with a heroine who is not a pasty white girl such as myself, but is in fact dark-skinned.


The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by NK Jemisin, follows a young woman named Yeine as she picks her way through a maze of gods, murderous cousins, intricate court intrigue and occasional outright insanity to find her heritage. Or it's the story of a half-blood heir trying to get her own throne. Or it's the story of a bunch of trapped gods trying to get out of their head. Or it's all a very elaborate Freudian analysis of the human psyche. Take your pick.

The book begins with Yeine being called to the palace and city of Sky by her grandfather Dekarta, the ruler of the world. No, really. Yeine is promptly named his heir, or rather thrown into the running alongside her cousins Relad and Scimina. She's a bit confused by this, because she's only half-Amn; her mother ran away and married a man from the Darre nation, where Yeine was raised and with whom she identifies far more. Shortly after her grandfather informs her that whoops, nope, she's Amn now and good luck surviving her cousins, Yeine encounters the trapped gods, used as weapons by the Amn, and slowly but subtly is drawn into their world.

I loved this book, you guys. It's fast, it's smart, it's tricksy. I did not see the end coming at all, although it made perfect sense in the context of the book. In fact, when I finished the book, I wanted to start over again immediately and find all the little clues that Jemisin had laid down as to what was really going on (hint: it's not what you think is going on). Like the best court intrigue stories, there are layers and layers of meaning here, and the readers penetrate the layers of plot as Yeine does and with just as much interest.

The characters are interesting and compelling ones. I admit I did find Scimina a little boring, because she was so obviously who she said she was, and that was a rather irritating one-track villain. However, she was, when all is said and done, a relatively minor character, and the others like T'vril, Sieh, Nahadoth, Viraine, Relad and even Itempas when he finally showed were really deep and well-written characters, with multiple sides and believable backstories. I closed the book feeling like I knew all of them personally.

Yeine herself I had occasional problems with, mostly in the beginning of the book, and I'm not sure how much of that was some point-of-view shenanigans that Jemisin was pulling (with good reason, and they stopped bothering me once I figured that out), how much of that was Yeine's almost painful naivete, and how much of it was reasonable dislike. It vanished about halfway through the book and I couldn't accurately tell you what it was anymore, perhaps because whatever was bothering me got explained to my satisfaction. I also had a bit of trouble with parts of the ending; specifically who killed Yeine's mother and why. Other parts (the main resolution, what happened to T'vril and why) made me cheer out loud. So there you go.

Shifting subjects without a clutch, the Freudian aspect to the Three I found really intriguing, since I've read a lot of Freud (thanks, Bill McDonald!). It was fairly obvious that Nahadoth, Enefa and Itempas were the Id, Ego and Superego respectively, but what Jemisin did with that designation was more interesting than the usual "three voices" English-101 method. I think in many ways The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is exploring what happens when some of the voices in your psyche get suppressed, for whatever reason, and what happens when the mediator gets taken out. It's a rather pointed and very compelling message, especially in light of today's world.

Finally, I'd like to say a word about this book's setting. Jemisin is clearly drawing on cultures outside of the standard high fantasy northern European mileau. While I couldn't tell you for certain what cultures she did draw on, the matriarchal hunter-gatherer setup of the Darre does seem to correspond with some Native American and African tribes, and the citadel of Sky and the Arameri culture look more like the Mughal emperors in India. It's a thoroughly fascinating mixture of elements, and a totally believable one.

I have so much more to say about this book, including things about how it treats sexuality (very well but one-sidedly) and gods (omg so awesome), but this review is getting long already, and I'm not sure how much I could say without spoiling it irretrievably. I recommend this book so much.

Janicu beat me to the review by a few days: her take on it is here, and similarly complimentary. If you still aren't convinced, go and read hers.

Incidentally, people who have read the book, I love T'Vril and will be adding him to my harem, where I will keep him safe and sound and with as much or as little to do as he likes. He can even keep his ending in the book if he likes. I love him so.
Tags: book recommendation, fantasy, general blather, omg so awesome, serious business
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