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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a thoroughly impressive debut novel from N. K. Jemisin that I’m not sure I fully understood [1]. Ah well, such is life. 🙂

It is also a difficult novel to discuss without spoiling it, and one where I feel that spoilers would ruin the effect of the novel.

Do you remember those prologues in so many epic fantasy trilogies about the Cataclysm Backstory? For example, the ones in the Belgariad or some of the Shannara stories [2].

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms takes that sort of backstory and plays with it in all sorts of ways.

Interesting ways.

Challenging ways.

Scary ways.

Occasionally highly amusing ways.

I don’t want to say much more than that, this is a novel where spoilers would ruin the effect. That said, I think that the author’s Big Idea piece on John Scalzi’s Whatever sets the scene nicely but doesn’t spoil any of the critical elements [3].

I found the writing style to be somewhat unusual, but the lyrical nature of the writing also meant that the prose flowed well. At times the prose felt like poetry to me, and overall I quite liked the style.

The writings style also felt appropriate for a novel that was tackling the myths of the world in which it is set.

Overall I think I enjoyed The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms more than I understood it, but I’m not going to let that stop me ordering the sequel. I’m also looking forward to meeting Ms Jemisin at Continuum 9: contraindicators.


[1] Book reviews may be more frequent this year. I’m trying to put the devices down and read an actual book for half an hour or so before sleeping. I’m hoping that will relax me more, and avoid some of the insomnia I was dealing with last year.

[2] Arguably The Silmarillion is one of these for Lord of the Rings.

[3] I don’t think it spoils any critical elements, most of it is on the back cover anyway.