By T.L. McNamee
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Fantasy nerds: I don’t care if you’re into epic fantasy, urban fantasy, or just fantasy TV, but no matter your fantastical inclination you need to know about author N. K. Jemisin.
The first book in Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy, A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, destroys expected tropes common in epic fantasy. There will be no young men questing for their swords in a medieval world of magic here; no elves, no dark lords, no over-compensating woman to match a hundred male characters. Instead, Jemisin creates a rich world built from the abuse of enslaved gods with relatable subtext.
The main character, Yeine Darr, is a short, stocky, brown-skinned warrior woman who is trying to solve her mother’s murder while being forced into a political vie for the throne. The ruling family—Yeine’s estranged family—controls the known world by subjugating four gods and godlings, and the gods are beyond done with that kind of BS arrangement.
Complex characters with logical motivations? Check. Some sweet god-fueled magic? Check. A relatable main character who keeps the reader grounded while inviting them deeper into the intricate world? Cue the Kool-Aid man.
I need to geek out over the spectacular craftmanship of Jemisin’s gods. Instead of a familiar pantheon, the closest I can match these deities to are either My Little Pony (Celestia and Luna, specifically—and yes, I just made a MLP reference. Nerd, remember?) or Shintoism (Amaterasu comes to mind). Yet, as mythic as the gods in A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms are, they aren’t omnipotent or omniscient, making them accessible as flawed characters rather than unfathomable all-mighty creators.
When you combine the interplay of the gods with Yeine’s external story and internal conflict, the subtitles of the cultures and subtextual commentary on our own gender and racial bias, and the flowing, approachable style of N.K. Jemisin’s writing, A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms becomes a glorious gem of the epic fantasy genre.
For those who might be turned off by massive epic fantasy tomes (more commonly referred to as BFF—big fat fantasy), then I have good news. A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is 374 pages of exquisite glory with a complete and satisfying ending. But for those who drool over hard, thick books, the Inheritance Trilogy clocks in at 1442 pages, so don’t worry, there’s plenty to satiate your reading lust.
N.K. Jemisin now has several books to her name and is the first black author—not just woman—to win the Hugo award for best novel in her newer trilogy’s first book The Fifth Season(soon to be adapted for TV). Then, to astound the old white men who dominate the fantasy genre, she won a second Hugo award the very next year for The Fifth Season’ssequel, The Obelisk Gate. I know what to read next!
Jemisin is giving fantasy a modern refresh, and she’s exactly the heroine epic fantasy deserves. We’re not worthy of her talent, but oh man, I’m so glad she’s out there changing the rules right under our noses.
Purchase your own copy here! Happy reading!
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