Friday, July 22, 2011

Steph, the 2011 Hugo Voter, Reviews: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N. K. Jemisin (Novel #3)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Premise: "Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle." - from the Orbit website

Steph's Comments: But it is not the power struggle you might think. Very early on, Yeine realizes that she's not meant to be a genuine contender for the throne -- that, instead, she is to be the sacrifice at the succession ceremony. No -- the power struggle referenced by the summary above is actually a struggle between the god currently ascendant - Bright Itempas - and the gods who have been enslaved by the ruling family of the title empire according to Itempas' decree. Aside from Yeine herself, individual mortal characters are given very little "screen time". It is the gods who dominate the narrative.

Ancient pagan mythology is clearly Jemisin's influence, as the gods of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms are susceptible to jealousy and other human sentiments -- and, oh by the way, they sleep with each other. None of that bothers me, though, as Jemisin does not advance any arguments in favor of these gods' behavior. Actually, I think s/he does a pretty good job illustrating that a culture that worships cruel and capricious gods is likely to be cruel itself. There's also a nice thematic thread here about the dangers of decoupling "order" and "peace" from any other ethical considerations.

What does bother me is the romance dimension of the plot. Actually, perhaps I shouldn't use the word "bother"; my reaction is more, "eh -- this is pretty foreign to my experience." You see, Yeine eventually gets involved with the enslaved Nightlord, Nahadoth, because she finds his threatening aura appealing. Now, I'm well aware that many women go for Mr. Tall, Dark, and Dangerous, but I'm just not one of them. I never inherited that gene, I suppose -- and consequently, I roll my eyes pretty hard when Yeine and Nahadoth have their epic, room-smashing sex scene complete with flights into the far reaches of the universe. But hey -- to each her own.

Steph's Rating: 7.0

This is a decently written Book for Chicks. Alas, as SABR Matt has sometimes remarked, I am not a chick (despite my girl parts).

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