Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review: One Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Series, N.K. Jemisin

Big Fat Disclaimer: Spoilers for the entire series, rambling, and one measly persons OPINIONS on a book series. Anyone who has accomplished the feat of becoming a published author deserves mad props, no matter what. One persons opinion isn’t the end of the world; you don’t like what I say – that’s fine. Mine isn’t the word of God, just a lowly reader of fiction who has a lifetime obsession with books.)

This one came to me recommended through a book club group that focuses on fantasy and sci-fi and honestly I’m glad I found it but I’m feeling a lot of frustration with the trilogy.

A fast summary; in the hundred thousand kingdoms there are gods in human form and the ruling human family of Arameri are pulling the strings of said kingdoms and gods. Shit is about to go down because Yeine (our main protag of the first book) is one of the THREE (in big letters because they’re like, All Powerful or something) original gods trapped in human form and when she breaks out the world is going to change. Anyway our main girl Yeine is a badass chick who doesn’t mind stabbing a dude she just met (who then becomes the Brooding Love Interest) but after this tumultuous introduction to the gods of Sky the story just becomes like Days of Our Lives but with gods instead of corybantic drama queens.

Let’s get to it.

1.CHARACTERS

I have a reaaaaaal problem with the way most of the characters are written, especially the main ones. The romantic interest is flat as cardboard. He’s dark, he’s broody, he’s literally the night and he attempts to kill Yeine a few times; ain’t love crazy? But it’s okay because he’s super hot and Yeine can’t seem to resist him because…I’m not really sure why.

I didn’t get much of a sense of Yeine at all asides that she came from a warrior matriarch society but apparently is shit at using her brain around intrigue. By the end she’s sacrificed and the goddess within her is freed then the character of Yeine is obliterated and we don’t see anything of her afterwards asides the occasional ‘whatup, I’m the all powerful goddess who apparently has no further point to the plot asides popping in now and then with my brooding lover’.

Don’t even get me started on Itempas and Nahadoth – the other TWO who make up the THREE. If Nahadoth, as the broody love interest, was flat as cardboard then Itempas is a three hour lecture on the history of statistics with a little dental drilling tossed in. Could there BE a more irritating and boring character? Old Itempas was hot on Nahadoth and the two fucked and fought happily throughout the eons of time until Yeine/Enefa came along and stole his man. So Itempas killed her.

Which apparently drove him insane and led to him allowing his fellow gods to be chained? I’m really not sure. All I know is that at the end of book one Enefa is reborn in Yeine (REALLY not sure how the hell that worked out) and Itempas is cast down in human form, the gods are freed and we have our intro to the second book.

Now we have the focus on Itempas (or Shiny, lol really? Shiny?) ten years down the road. Our main protag of this book, Oree, is actually really, really awesome. She’s an artist, she’s blind, she’s snappy and she’s thrown into a crazy plot that includes cultists, gods and demons. She falls in love with Itempas, he miraculously loves her back even though it takes an entire book to get there. They defeat the crazy cultists, Oree stands up to the gods on his behalf, she gets knocked around a lot and threatened with death but they run off to live happily ever after running an Inn or something. OR DO THEY?

This was the biggest WTF moment of the entire series – the ending of Broken Kingdoms. So the other TWO pop up and are all like, ‘lol, you’re really cool and all Oree but you make Itempas happy and we want him to suffer so, like, die okay?’

End of book two. And you know, I don’t think it was even clear on what the flaming hell ever happened to Oree asides she…had a kid with Itempas?? The beginning of the third book starts with Enefa macking on Itempas and is all like, I FORGIVE YOU, and he’s all like, OREE? OREE WHO? Which is watched by our last main character, Sieh, the trickster god and patron of children who just wants to be loved by the THREE.

Who then promptly has a grade-A hissy fit and gets his own story. I…really don’t understand this last book. I hated Sieh with a passion. I hated the siblings with a passion. I did not like this book.

So Sieh is an absolute dick. His little mind-fuck towards the end of the story with Shahar reminded me of that scene in the Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End when Davy Jones confronts Calypso about her treachery and she basically goes, ‘IT’S JUST MY NATURE, LOLS!!’

Yea, kind of like that. There is a weird kind of pedophilic/incest edge to this book, though it just might be me. Our ancient god Sieh is in love with these two siblings. When the girl sibling, Shahar, is manipulated into sex with him (how old was she? 15? 16?) she comes clean because she does love him and he flips his ever loving shit and creates a bloodbath with her relatives and promptly leaves Sky with a turn-heel flounce for the ages. Also, he never forgives her but he still loves her but would rather fuck with her mind then try to work anything out.

Blah, blah, plot, blah blah destruction, something to do with evil masks and wiping out creation – oh look!

Now Sieh decides he’s madly in love with the boy sibling Deka and the two get it on while Shahar watches them rut on the floor. Yeah, that was a little squicky. So this huge tangled mess of a story ends with another What The Ever Loving Fuck plot twist as EVERYBODY DIES except for Shahar and couple of others and Shahar, in the space of two paragraphs, lives out her life, has kids, pops her cogs and meets up with Sieh and Deka in the afterlife to start a new universe.

2.PACING

My main problem with the pacing is the time jumps and skipping between characters in general. I’m not even sure HOW much time passes between the first and final book. It seems like generations?? Two hundred years? The last book was really irritating because it’s all like, SOMETHING BIG HAPPENS then its twenty years later. It’s a little jarring.

3.PLOT

The overall theme of gods mixed in with humans and all the drama is awesome. That leads towards a lot of promising ideas and threads. The only problem I have with this is that, to me, the entire story fell flat. I felt no epic-ness, especially given the title One Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. There was barely any mention of any other society, no real battles or wars. Just the intense focus on these THREE gods and Sieh that ended up feeling like a really weird soap opera.

The THREE had too much of the feeling of Special, you know with a capital S. Where everybody else, everywhere can’t measure up to the awesomeness of these main characters and that irritates me. When your characters are just so beautiful, awesome, talented, powerful and perfect what’s there to like? No one can relate to them.

Maybe the entire story would have been stronger if the freeing of the gods had waited for the final book instead of the first. Honestly I really felt as though this would be better classified as a YA fantasy novel than an adult one. There was something pre-teen about the ‘romances’ and overall writing that I think would have been better marketed to a YA audience. The gods felt like squabbling teenagers, the female protags were all young and beautiful (at least when Yeine becomes Enefa she is.) especially with the final book.

4.MAGIC SYSTEM

This is something that could have been explored more. As a fantasy novel, especially one where each god has his or her specialty I felt like it was more of a hand-waving, poof, ta-dah! magic style that leaves you wanting more detail and explanation.

5.PERSONAL PET PEEVE

That has nothing to do with the story or author, it’s just me but I think a golden rule for writing fantasy or sci-fi is keeping names simple. Something that drives me crazy is when all places and characters have names that you don’t have a fucking clue how to pronounce and it looked like a cat walked over your keyboard when you named your characters. I CAN’T PRONOUNCE HALF THE NAMES IN THIS SERIES.

6. WHAT I LIKED

The first book is worth reading, for anybody. There is a poetic nature to the description of the places and characters that is very enjoyable. There was fantastic back stabbing and intrigue, you felt for Yiene as she was tossed into a very deadly situation. I appreciated that she had a backbone, I liked how she was fleshed out in the beginning, I liked she was a woman of color, that she wasn’t beautiful and everybody didn’t just absolutely fall in love with her. I like the strong, realistic female presence in this series and I really want to see more of this in future novels.

I like the complicated relationships that have no gender boundaries between the gods and mortals; the body doesn’t matter – whatever is inside is what matters and is attractive.

I really loved Oree and would have been very happy with her as a main focus. She was a very well developed character that I enjoyed and felt frustrated when she just dropped off the face of the planet with the insinuation that Enefa killed her off because Reasons.

I liked the idea of the gods exploding into the human world and having them figure out a system where everybody has to work together to survive. That could have been a very promising thread of story to follow and felt disappointed that it wasn’t expanded.

I get the feeling that this is a fledgling beginning for the author who has yet to expand and explore herself as an author and I think future writing will become even more descriptive and poetic and I look forward to it.

One Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a good start, we need more work like this in the fantasy and sci-fi genre.

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