Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Great potential, great story...inexperienced author

I was introduced to the novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms through an online book club, and read the author’s blog before  ever picked up the book.  That may have raised my expectations unfairly high, since the author seemed like a pretty cool person (and the blog was well written), but this book is a first novel, and that does show through.

The story itself is quite a good one.  The idea of aspects of the gods, and fallen gods, walking among the morals is a standard, it’s a standard for a reason.  The idea of a triumvirate of higher gods, with children of them making up lesser gods is also fairly standard, but the gods’ personalities and interactions are great.

Unfortunately, they outshine the personality of the main character, Yeine.    Raised in a society that is steeped in misandry, and considered very backwater.  Yeine was raised in a very forward-thinking family, but there still should have been more of that culture showing through in her actions and thoughts about what was going on.

There’s also a distinct lack of worldbuilding in this book.  Jemisin has mentioned that the next two books in the series will take place outside of Sky, which will give more opportunity to see how the rest of the world works.  That will certainly be welcome, since so much was hinted at, but not developed.

I wonder if the publishers gave Jemisin a shorter word count than more established authors.  I think that this story would have benefited quite a bit from a page count closer to a Robert Jordan fantasy novel, rather than the scant 400 or so trade paperback pages she got.  I know that parts of the story weren’t revealed to the reader on purpose, or were kept until much later in the book, but it really felt like parts of it were rushed.

The sex scenes also really felt like they were written by a bad fanfic writer.  There’s a knack to writing erotic literature, and this isn’t it.

All in all, most of the problems with this book are just what happens with a new author.  The core story itself is fantastic, and makes it well worth reading through the less well done parts well worth it.  I’m certainly looking forward to the next books in the series, and sometimes that’s the best compliment to a story that you can give.

Highs:  Lots of potential, great story.

Lows:  First book syndrome, not much worldbuilding

Verdict:  If nothing else, read it to enjoy the story and set up the next books

Further Reading:  The Way of Kings, Wizard’s First Rule

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