Saturday, December 4, 2010
Book Review:The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
The world has changed over the last several years and the opportunities that are now possible are too hard for Oree to resist, so she left home to seek a new life in Sky. Oree is an artist with a gift for seeing magic, but magic is the only thing she can see. She has set up shop in a promenade section of the great city and has created a pleasant life for herself there amongst friends and Godlings. Things start to get ugly, though, when Oree stumbles upon a dead Godling. The gods have become angry and the religious factions are looking for someone to blame. Oree’s unique abilities and proximity to the crime make her a prime suspect.
When I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms I was taken completely by surprise. It was one of those rare moments where I read a book I was confident I wouldn’t like, only to be left speechless at my misjudgment when I was done. I had tremendous expectations for The Broken Kingdoms right from the start. I would even admit to saying my expectations were unreasonable, since there would be no way to repeat the feeling of surprise I had during the first book. Keep that in mind when I say that The Broken Kingdoms is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read.
The relationship between mortals and gods is expanded upon exponentially in this book. You learn about “Godlings” and some more about the original few gods introduced in book one. After the events of the first book, the Godlings have been confined within the city limits of Sky. Oree can see magic, so having Godlings running around leaving traces of it everywhere provides Oree a way to describe things in a very unique way. This is the primary device N.K. Jemisin uses to skirt around the fact her narrator is blind, and it works quite well.
The writing in The Broken Kingdoms feels uncluttered and natural. N.K. Jemisin is the very definition of a good storyteller. There is not a single moment anywhere in this book where I am taken out of her world by an awkward turn of phrase or a careless word. Considering how many words there are in the novel, that’s just a little more than impressive. In my opinion this is as close to flawless as you can get.
I was a little disappointed again that we still know so little about the actual Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. We get a glimpse at a few more lands and people, but not many when you consider how large the world is implied to be. This is not really a big issue, since I was kept in rapt attention from page one. I just hope Jemisin has plans beyond this trilogy for the world she created.
The tone of The Broken Kingdoms is a bit darker than that of the first book. A beautiful mesh of adventure and tragedy make up the heart of the book. I was definitely emotionally affected by the events that transpired. I was horrified, excited, and heartbroken many times over the course of the story. It’s been awhile since I read a book that took me on such a rollercoaster.
I listened to this story on Audio CD by Brilliance Audio. They retained Casaundra Freeman from the first book, which I was glad to hear. Oree has a subtle fearlessness that Freeman’s voice portrays very well. Freeman gives life to Jemisin’s characters in a way I think very few could. The Broken Kingdoms is a wonderful story, and is on my shortlist for book of the year. —Justin
You can also learn more about N.K. Jemisin's’s books at the Fantasyliterature N.K. Jemisin page