The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the the first part of The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, of no relation to the more popular Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, which I started reading for research purposes. I came into it with little knowledge of what it was about, or whether or not it would be any good. The story revolves around a girl named Yeine Darr whose mother dies in strange circumstances. She is summoned to the city named Sky, where gods are used as weapons by the powerful Arameri family of whom her grandfather is the head. She is named as the heir to the throne, and forced into a bloody conflict with cousins she never knew she had. Yet the gods seem to have an intrigue of her own and Yeine finds herself drawn to Nahadoth, the night lord, with whom she develops a strange relationship.
To my surprise I quickly realised that the political intrigue was a back drop. The story was actually just as much about the gods, especially Nahadoth. In fact I would argue the main plot of the story is the growing relationship between Yeine and Nahadoth. The story focuses a lot on the strange romance between the two, so much so that I around the middle of the book I realised that I was in fact reading a book of romantic fantasy. This caught me by surprise since I had no indication that this was going to be a love story on the back of the book except for a single ambiguously worded tagline. The blurb never mentioned anything that would imply a romantic connection. I am aware that this is likely a marketing issue but it is still something which bugged me as I likely would have approached it differently if I was aware of the heavy romance element.
The narrative of the novel was quite confusing, with the story being told in retrospection in a frame narrative as Yeine struggles to remember the events of the novel. As a narrator Yeine frequently breaks the flow of the narrative to address the audience. As a writer I detest most instances of this technique in most instances since very few writers can pull it of well. This novel was no exception, it just made the novel read like it was written by a novice writer trying to hard to impress their audience. As a whole the narrative felt a little weak, and it felt myself hard to get absorbed into it since I was frequently thrown back into the rather confusing frame narrative and dream sequences where Yeine is actually somebody else. The frequent shifts in narrative seem to weaken the novel rather than strengthen it and I think it would be better without the frame narrative.
As far as characters go the main couple, Yeine and Nahadoth, aren’t anything special. Nahadoth seems to fit into the bad boy archetype we see so often in narrative fiction, and is a bit of a Marty Stu character since his godhood makes him slightly overpowered. Yeine meanwhile functions as his submissive victim for most of the novel, with the novel exploring the clichéd BDSM relationship dynamic that seems to have become common in modern romance novels. It never goes far as Fifty Shades of Grey, but the elements are there until the climax, where their relationship seems to miraculously turn into something healthier. Yeine is otherwise a strong character but at times she feels like a Mary Sue since she has the goddess Enefa inside her, and thanks to Nahadoth I never truly felt like she was ever in any danger, even during the events of the climax.
As a whole this book was a bit of a disappointing read though I knew from the get go that I wasn’t going to get a masterpiece. Romantic Fantasy is a hard genre to enjoy for me, since it combines two genres where the main characters can often be stereotyped and bland. This book personifies a lot of the flaws in the genre, but the narrative of the book also had an influence on my opinion. There were decent elements of the book and the climax was functional, with many elements wrapped up but with enough plot threads left open for the sequel. As far as I can tell, this is just another fantasy book which falls flat of its true potential.
IN A WORD: DULL