A More Diverse Universe: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Cover image of The Hundred Thousand KingdomsBook bloggers were the ones who put The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit Books, 2010) on my radar, so reading it for the A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour seemed like the perfect reason to move it to the top of the TBR list.

First in a trilogy, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms lays the foundation for an overarching story but also has a satisfying completeness in itself. It took me a little while to get hooked, but about halfway through, I realized why so many readers liked this book so much.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, as you might guess from the title, mentions multiple countries in the course of the story, all under the rule of the Arameri family of Amn, in the palace of Sky, in the city of Sky. The story is set many years after the Gods’ War, when one of three powerful gods vanquished the other two and the world changed for the humans living under the sway of the pale-skinned Arameri, who wield the power of the one remaining god, the Skyfather, also known as Bright Itempas.

Yeine, the main character and narrator of the story, is a nineteen-year-old warrior chieftain from the forested country of Darr, the child of a Darren father and an Amn mother, who was the exiled daughter of the ruling Arameri family. Yeine describes herself near the beginning of the book as “short and flat and brown as forestwood, and my hair is a curled mess.” When she is thrust into the thick of palace intrigue and succession squabbling right at the start of the book, no one is more surprised than she is.

It doesn’t take Yeine long to get her bearings. It took me a lot longer, what with all the skillful world-building going on and the backstory of world mythology that was common knowledge to Yeine but had to be told to the reader. (I’ve never been good at geography. Or mythology, for that matter. All those gods and who does what…) Themes of race, gender, slavery, wealth, power, and religion thread through the book, but are never allowed to take over. The strong plot and the ultimate bad boy love interest move the story along quickly, once the story gets going and as Yeine starts to understand more.

I haven’t read a lot of straightforward fantasy to compare The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to, so I’m not the best reviewer of this book, but The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms won the 2011 Locus Award for Best First Novel, so judges who are very familiar with the genre have recognized its merit. Readers looking for a fantasy with a strong female main character and detailed world-building should definitely give it a try.

Read the first chapter of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms here.

View the complete schedule for A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour hosted by Aarti at BookLust.

36 thoughts on “A More Diverse Universe: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin”

    1. It was! I realized while writing the review that I tend to like main characters who are bookish, verging on nerdy perhaps. Since Yeine is a woman of action, not research, that may be why I didn’t feel a connection to her right away.

  1. Fantasy is one of my favourite genres, while young adult is a subgenre I’m still exploring tentatively. This does sound like a good adventure that I’d enjoy, so I’ll add it to my tbr. Thanks for a great review!

        1. Probably because the main character is 19. It definitely has YA appeal, but they’re going to have to look for it on the S/F and Fantasy shelves in our library, anyway! 😉

  2. Love the cover, I would definitely pick it up in the store. The story sounds great, especially the mythology. I’ve read books with it in before of course, but a confusing one sounds pretty interesting.

  3. Great review! You managed to do a much better job than I at giving an overview of the plot – I was at a loss as to what to include or not. heh. Glad to see that you eventually got into this one and enjoyed it! Will you read the sequel? There is so much on my tbr pile I should read first but… I want to…!

  4. I admit that I didn’t love this book when I read it. I too was confused by the world being built, and I didn’t really love Yeine. I also hated the ending. But I hear so many people love Jemisin, so I think I should give her newer series a try.

    Thanks for participating in this event!

      1. I kinda liked the fact that she wasn’t always easy to relate to; given the situation that she was in, she was bound to make some decisions which would be, um, problematic, so it added to her credibility for me.

        I listened to it, rather than read (and apparently I’m not a very good listener, as I had to listen to the first hour twice), so I had a bit of trouble getting my head around the world-building but, simultaneously, I’d rather that than have it be too simplistic. I think before I read on in the series, that I should re-read (re-listen) to this one: you’ve inspired me to take another look!

        1. I looked for this on audio earlier and didn’t find it in the library system, so I just went with the print book. I haven’t gone on to the second one yet. Maybe I’ll look for that one on audio.

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