[Book Review] The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

So it seems WordPress has completely nixed the old dashboard.  While I don’t mind it, and I do love the new look and feel of the site, I think it’ll take a bit getting used to.

Today I’ve decided to review yet another book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin.  I’ve never heard of the author before, even though apparently she and this book have some buzz about them, and this was the first book of hers I’d read, and I will say it wasn’t half bad.  I’m not absolutely sure what genre this book falls under, but if I’d have to guess, I’d say it’s the fantasy genre.

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Out of all the genres I read, I tend to be pickiest about sci-fi and fantasy books, mostly because of the new terminologies and words I’m being asked to learn, as well as investing my time to exploring a new and fictitious world with the characters.  Oftentimes I’ve found that if a story from these two genres don’t grab me from the get go, or at least within the first chapter or two, then I’ll usually either end up just skimming through the rest of the book or just putting it away and forgetting about it altogether.

This one did a great job in maintaining my interest from start to finish.

I actually didn’t really want to rush through this book.  I had rented it from my local e-Library, and because I really want to read more books this year, I went ahead and checked out up to my limit of 6 books and put myself on a holding list for several others.  I’m normally a very fast reader when I put my mind to it, even with a busy schedule, and since I was on fairly long holding lists for most of the books, the thought had never crossed my mind that those books would become available well before I had finished any of the ones I checked out.

Two books became available maybe a day or two after I had checked everything out, and although it was easy to do an exchange for one of the books, as I was merely re-reading something I had read before (not to mention it was a rather short book), with the other book that so suddenly became available I was facing a dilemma.  I hadn’t read any of the other five books I checked out, and when a book becomes available from being on hold, you only have 72 hours to “claim” the book.  So needless to say, I’ve been reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms like a madwoman since yesterday.  A shame really, since there were several parts of the story I wish I could have taken some more time with.  This book is part of a trilogy called “The Inheritance Trilogy.”  The other two books in this series are called The Broken Kingdoms and The Kingdom of Gods.

After having read the book, I did a little poking around and took a look at some reviews people had about it, and it would seem that critics are mostly divided in two camps—those that loved the book, and those that didn’t.  Myself?  I am one of the small handful that had mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, I did find it to be a rather engaging story.  Some parts had me guessing what might happen next—other parts had me guessing too, but more out of confusion.  The transitions are at times abrupt, and sometimes it would take me a minute to realize that I was reading a side conversation and not inner monologue.  There were also times where I understood all the subtle hints and implications, and other times where I found myself scratching my head trying to understand what was supposed to be so obvious (and when that happened, I couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated).

There was a good balance between description and dialogue in this story, as I didn’t really get very bored.  (Whenever there’s too much of one or the other, I tend to have to work a little harder to stay focused on what I’m reading for some reason.)  Another thing I appreciated was the personalities of the characters; the men sounded like men and the women sounded like women.  Too often have I read books where I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrow and wonder, “would a guy/girl actually say something like this in that manner?”  Perhaps that’s being a little too nit picky, but for me that makes me appreciate the writing all the more.

Sometimes I also found myself getting distracted here and there because of all the new terminology introduced, sometimes all at once without too much context to go off of.  I do think when someone is writing for the sci-fi/fantasy genres, introducing new words and places kind of comes with the territory, but I think it’s very important that readers are given at least enough background so that they don’t have to necessarily keep flipping back and forth between the text and appendices.

My only other real complaint with this book is that there were a few moments where the main story seemed to take a short break and suddenly there would be these “steamy romantic” scenes that came across to me as sort of random, and each time I couldn’t help but be reminded of every 99 cent romance novel I’ve ever read, if you know what I mean.  Speaking of which, I read one of those on the fly not too long ago when I was first playing around with my Kindle, and needless to say, I will be sharing that story another day because that experience was absolutely hilarious and will forever be etched into my memory.

If I were to oversimplify what this story is about, I would say that it’s about three celestial beings that have a lot of jealousy, possessiveness, and anger issues, and humans are kind of sandwiched in the middle of everything.  And this isn’t a typical sibling rivalry either; it’s a lot more interesting than that.  For those that do end up deciding to pick up this book and reading it, I’m sure you’ll get my double-meaning there afterward.

I haven’t taken a look at the other two books in the trilogy yet, but I plan to at some point in the near future.  From what I gather, this is the type of trilogy where the stories do connect, but only loosely.  Each book should have references littered throughout of its companions, but they can also be read as standalone stories.  Of course don’t take my word for it since I can’t confirm it just yet.

FINAL VERDICT: B

While I did enjoy this book, I wasn’t completely sold enough to feel led to purchase it, though the potential is there.  It’s one of my book-collecting quirks, but I don’t like to buy one book of a series unless I’m thinking about buying the whole set.  This book was also kind of interesting in that while most serial books I’ve read hang on some kind of cliffhanger that makes you want to reach for the next book, I felt that this one kind of started and finished in a manner where I feel like I don’t really feel an extreme urge to find out what’s next.  The reviews for the second and third books also seem less favorable than they did on the first, making me a little wary about making a purchase before trying them out.  So, needless to say, I will be hitting my local library later to see if the other two are available for borrowing (since the e-Library only has the first book available).

If you enjoyed books like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians series and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, or even the movie Thor (2011), then there’s a chance you’ll enjoy this book, as I was reminded of these three series as I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  If the fantasy genre is your cup of tea, I would give this first book in the trilogy at the very least a chance.

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