Monday, March 14, 2011

The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Hopefully I made it clear enough how much I loved the first book in the Inheritance Trilogy (The Hundred Thousand Kindgoms by N.K. Jemisinin) in my earlier review. This book, The Broken Kingdoms, is the next book in the Inheritance Trilogy, and it is just as splendid as the first book. In fact, I pretty much ignored everything except the most basic needs while reading it because I was so loath to put it down. I will be re-reading books again soon because I love the visceral reaction I have to them. After reading Jemisin, my head feels floaty and my heart feels glowy. This is amazing because they deal with some pretty dark stuff (literally and figuratively).

Each of the books in the trilogy could stand on its own, really, as the story is very serialized. But knowing the first story adds so much more depth to the second book that I would highly recommend reading them in order. The Broken Kingdoms picks up 10 years after the events of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. In the story, Oree Shoth, a blind artist, gives shelter to a mute homeless man with some unusual abilities. Her random act of kindness ends up drawing her into a complicated plot involving gods, godlings, and demons.

I don’t want to go into too much depth on the plot of this book for fear of spoilers. Instead, I would like to present a list of my favorite things about the Inheritance Trilogy, in general, and The Broken Kingdoms, in particular.

1. The gods: I already mentioned in my review of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms how much I love Jemisin’s revamped version of classical mythological elements. This incredible system extends even further in The Broken Kingdoms, and the reader is able to experience some new perspective on the events leading up to the Gods’ War.

2. The lead characters: In The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Yeine Darr starts out with a fairly familiar backstory (young woman, destined for greater things, called to be heir of a kingdom). Yet Jemisin’s character development brings out so much more strength and complexity than you would expect from such a typical fantasy trope. The Broken Kingdoms follows with another incredible heroine-- Oree Shoth, who embraces her blindness with grace and intelligence. She too shows great strength and a welcome ability to question the world around her. Both women feel very whole to me as a reader and very real. It’s not something I have seen very often with female characters, especially in the fantasy genre. Jemisin is not afraid of bucking trends though, considering that Yeine is biracial and Oree is black.

3. The endings: Both books end well (relatively speaking), but I can’t say much more than that. I find the parallels between motherhood and goddess-hood fascinating and worthy of a lengthier discussion than what I will devote here.

4. The formatting: A lot of people will probably disagree with me on this one, but I really enjoy how both books were interspersed with narrative asides as the characters current state of being interrupts to flow of retelling the story. It provides some interesting foreshadowing and a thoughtful narrative break. I like having to juggle the little pieces and fit them back together as I read. It reminds me a little of quilting when you piece together small parts to create a greater whole.

There are probably more things that I cannot call to mind at the moment, and even more that I will not discover until a second, closer read. The complexity of the stories keeps pulling me in again. It is possible that I am reading too much into it, but that is what truly great books do. Like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms is truly a great book.

Hachette: The Broken Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin
Image Source: Scanned Cover
Review Copy: Self Purchased
ISBN-13: 978-0316043960

This review was originally published at Kawaii Writing and republished with permission.

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