Posted by: markfender | January 29, 2013

The Inheritance Trilogy

We all know my propensity for waiting until the entire series is finished before reading any of it. Here’s another one.

100K2The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin was nominated for a bunch of rewards when it first released – those nominations were probably well-deserved. It’s a good book with some good world-building and some subjects that aren’t normally dealt with in fantasy fiction. It directly involves the gods and how they act and react. This is a tough thing to pull off because, to accurately reflect the awesome power and, um, differing concerns that gods would have require a deft touch to make it still relatable to us ordinary humans. The author pulls this tough game off quite well. The story involves a young girl who is suddenly elevated to an heiress position to the Aramerai family – the ruling power of the world. Of course, this isn’t an easy task, as she still has her two cousins to deal with, who are also heirs – whichever one survives becomes the true heir. And each possesses the power of the enslaved gods.

I thought this book was going to be more political than it actually was. Seeing as the entire thing takes place in the central castle of the Aramerai, I was expecting more wheeling and dealing. This never actually happened. In fact, there are relatively few characters and the pace is practically breakneck. There were times when I wanted the book to move at a somewhat slower pace. However, this is a bit of a “kissing book.” It’s obvious and evident that it was written by a woman as its viewpoint is decidedly female. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. In fact, it’s kind of refreshing. But I did get a little tired of reading about how perfect and amazing the bishounen god was.

I would definitely recommend this book. It evokes Hindu myth in its world-building, another thing you don’t often get with Western fantasy fiction. The pieces of this story could have gone together very badly, as its a tough subject to do justice to. The author pulls it off, though, and makes the whole thing flow quite well.

THE_bROKEN_Kingdoms_N_K_JemisinI honestly didn’t understand the second book’s existence after I finished the first one. The first one wrapped everything up very well. My first thought after the last page of the first one was “Why are their more books?” I didn’t get what else there was to talk about in this particular world. However, once you piece together the story of this book, it does fit into the continuity of the first one. It gradually expands the world-building to envelop some other concerns that flow quite naturally from the first one’s cosmology. And the main plot did follow from the first one – it just didn’t quite seem obvious at first. It wasn’t an aspect of the first one that I thought would (or could) be expanded, but once I saw how it fit in, I was on board. I’m not sure it really needed to be written, however. Not that I mind the story or anything, but its overall subject wasn’t one I was particularly concerned about exploring after the end of the first one. It’s well-done, but superfluous.

N.K. Jemisin doesn’t make it easy for herself, as the main character of this book is a blind woman. That’s a tough thing to write about when you’re trying to do description of a rapidly changing world. She does manage to pull it off, however. There were a few too many descriptions of things the narrator couldn’t have quite seen (despite her preternatural senses), but I’m willing to forgive a few indiscretions in order to make the story still flow as something other than straight narration of what people said. I didn’t even notice until the next book, but the descriptions of the bishounen god were dramatically curtailed in this one, legitimately because the narrator couldn’t see him. Honestly, I’m a little glad of that.

So, not terrible but also didn’t really feel necessary for the story of the first book. It’s not a bad tale in its own right and its connection to the universe was solid, but I didn’t quite feel like I needed to have bothered after I finished it. Other than to enjoy the story, which I did.

the-kingdom-of-gods-by-nk-jemisinThe third book I did not enjoy. It was the first book written from a god’s perspective (albeit a god with diminishing power). Written from the perspective of Sieh, the trickster god and god of childhood, the story dealt with the loss of his divinity, his odd friendship with the twin heirs of the Aramerei line, and some big plot to remake the universe. I didn’t like Sieh in the first few books and I didn’t like him here either. Trickster gods sort of annoy me, as a general rule, and he’s no better when you discover that the motivation behind the tricks are just petulance. I also thought the cosmology started expanding in strange ways that didn’t quite flow and follow from the cosmology of the first one. It also involves some gay sex (Not that I have a problem with that. But I generally find sex in books, of whatever derivation, is an exercise in bad metaphor-generation and this one is no exception). And the worshipful way that the author writes about the bishounen god (including everyone ever derived from him) and how just smoking hot he is ALL THE TIME just finally reached a boiling point for me. We all insert our odd fetishes and quirks into our writing but there’s a certain point when you just have to say, “enough is enough.” I reached that point somewhere in the first third of this book. And there’s some disturbing implications involving sex and children. (At one point, I had to put the book down and direct a question out loud to the author (who couldn’t hear me), “I’m sorry but did this god just have sex with their own child?” I’m willing to accept that gods, like the rich, are different than us, but child incest doesn’t seem okay to me.)

So, I don’t like the characters, got tired of the author’s particular kinks, and generally didn’t like the plot of this one either. Things were not explained well (Sieh goes on and on about other universes and things, but apparently the gods only care about this particular one? Why?). I had questions about the end (Trickster god’s final trick didn’t do anything?). I don’t think the expansion of the world-building and its fundamental principles helped any in this book.

So, to sum up – read the first one. If you liked it, you might check out the second. Skip the third. And maybe tune into her new series that just had the first book published. I’ll, of course, be waiting until it’s completely finished, but I do think there’s potential in the author’s style. I look forward to her future endeavors.

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