Monday, October 7, 2013

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

by N.K. Jemisin

6437061a pleasingly old-fashioned fantasy - and by old-fashioned, i mean the opposite of the dense, complicated, multiple perspective, incredibly epic mega-fantasies that have had the most popularity over the past couple decades. this is something different. the language is straightforward, for the most part, and certainly beautiful at times. although the mystery is a complicated one, and deals with rather large issues such as the making and unmaking of an entire world, it still feels somehow 'miniature'. for the most part it takes place within one setting: the fabulous floating city of Sky. it also deals with gods who are enslaved to mortals. and yet there is an almost underpopulated feeling to it - we get to know only a handful of Sky's denizens and only a handful of gods are introduced. at times, it felt like i was reading an adult fairy tale or a lengthy fable. despite a couple sex scenes, a couple graphic bits of violence, even intimations of rape and molestation, the novel somehow felt... quaint. and this is not a complaint. the novel was refreshing.

i really liked the heroine: brave, sardonic, and no-nonsense. i also enjoyed the gods, especially child-god Sieh. loveable and strange little Sieh! a great character. many times when i've read about gods (similar to reading about aliens in scifi), i feel these are actually humans with unusual abilities - they talk and act and respond like humans. not so with Sieh, nor with the other gods. that is a true accomplishment.

the mythology was complex in a way, but as with the best myths, there was also a simplicity there. the mythology was genuinely mythic, a far cry from the dungeons & dragons style of mythology that i've seen in many other novels. not many stereotypically human motivations appear when the actions of the various gods are described.

overall it felt dreamy and arty and, somehow, minor note... and yet it is the first part of a trilogy describing the beginning and the ending and the renewal of all things.

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