Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Got my hands on it. Finally read it.

I liked it.

Simple and to the point, isn't it.

It has a lot of things to recommend it. It is fantasy, with an interesting set of cultures. The main protagonist is female, and she's brown! But it also hits points I like. It involves creation tales and the sagas and loves and struggles of deities and creation avatars. There is some intrigue, but not enough to twist you all around and make you pull out your hair and wonder why no one talks or thinks in a straight line. It's the intrigue of family, of old grudges and jealousies and some misunderstandings and the need to mold certain family members a certain way - sometimes via conviction it's all the right thing for them.

There's even something of superhero origin story, complete with arch nemisis; if you think of superheroes as modern creation avatars; our modern gods (small g) and demi gods.

I have read other reviews - some found the main character, Yeine, to be somewhat passive or pliant or swept along by circumstance. I think it'd be difficult for anyone not to have their footing destabilized in such circumstances. But I didn't find her passive because she was always thinking, always trying to understand, always trying to piece together the truth and see where she herself fit, and her goals.

I will admit, however, that the eros love story was not the love story I enjoyed the most. It wasn't badly done, but I can admit to thinking it echoed every lonely dark brooding vampire/werewolf/urban fantasy male love interest with man-pain and sad eyes and primal stuff. But undoubtedly that's a trope for a reason.

And I have my own reasons for loving characters with a certain fluidity of personality and world perceptions. Thus my favouring the other love story - though undoubtedly some will ask why I'm framing it with the words 'love story'. But I'm certain those who've looked into a pair of bright, fresh, trusting eyes know about that first look, head over heels, rush and fall in love.

It is a whole book, for all it's the first of a trilogy. So if for some off reason you end up having no interest in the characters for the second book at all - you won't miss out for not getting the second one.

Hmm, nothing else to say without spoiling anything.

Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemison. High fantasy that doesn't ignore or gloss over colonialism, genocide, imperalism etc in order for some random hero to get bling and praises. High fantasy that doesn't do it the way it's always been done, because that's what people expect; how the quest works; how the trope goes; what has made money or careers before.

A good book that's part of The Conversation I Want To Have.