|Until the announcement of the 2011 Hugo award finalists, N.K.
Jemison was an author unknown to me. She is one of five finalists on that listing with her
debut novel the fantasy The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
I read the
publishers blurb on the back cover and almost went into anaphylactic shock (I do not
do mix well with standard extruded fantasy products) herewith one "high"
fantasy novel. Here and now I say ignore that blurb: read the book!
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is possibly the most inventive fantasy I
have read. The book resembled its blurb only in passing. And is one of the most difficult
books to review without creating spoiler alerts; and I enjoyed it immensely.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a story told at two levels: it is a
power play by gods who have been exiled from the pantheon and are using people as
cats paws to regain their former divine status; and three human cousins, each a
designated heir of the pre-eminent tribe, the Arameri, within the hundred thousand
kingdoms, seeking to determine who will be the surviving leader of the Arameri. Just make
life interesting the Arameri are able to wield the fallen gods as weapons and the higher
one is in the ranks of the Arameri tribe the more power one has. Most unusually for a
fantasy novel the action of the story (and there is a lot of infighting as action) happens
across a two to three week period.
N. K. Jemisin, in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, has created a story that
is both bizarre and believable with characters, gods and humans, whose actions and
motivations ring true. I understand now why this book is on the Hugo award list. Even if
this book is not this years winner, this is one book those who are looking for
something just that little bit different should read. But wear your seatbelts, because
youre in for one hell of a ride.