Just finished The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. It was a good read: short and easily digestible, which is exactly what I was hoping to find for my reintroduction to fantasy literature. Overall I feel pretty positive about it, and would recommend it to anyone interested in dystopian fantasy, themes of order vs chaos, or godhood vs mortality.
When I think back over the story, there are a lot of pieces of it that I really appreciated. The protagonist’s roots in a matriarchal barbarian society (because how often do you see that in fantasy literature?). The effects of exploitation and privilege on both the slave and the master. And, last but not least, the behavior, aesthetics, and physical presence of the godly creatures, especially the in-depth exploration of the difference between good vs evil and order vs chaos.
I liked the main character best when she showed more personal agency, rather than simply reacting to everything that was happening around her. I wish that this happened more often, and that it didn’t always lead to such negative results for her. I also find that I love the disparate pieces of the world, but never felt convinced that they tied together in a meaningful, coherent way. I would have liked to see more effort put towards actualizing the setting — although I can still appreciate this book from a philosophical perspective while acknowledging that world-building wasn’t a strong focus. In the end, my criticisms probably say more about me, and my priorities and preferences, than they say about the book itself. But I guess that’s true of any critique.
I may pick up the next book in the Inheritance trilogy sometime down the road. I am curious how the world will change after the events of the first book, and hope that the next book will explore more of the world from the perspective of a mortal. But for now, I am moving on to The Lies of Locke Lamora — which thus far is proving to be a perfect follow-up to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.