Shortly after her mother’s death, Yeine is summoned to the capital, Sky, by her royal grandfather. Formerly ruler of a small nation, Yeine has never been acknowledged by her mother’s family because they never approved of her parents’ marriage, but her death changes everything. Yeine is declared an heir to the throne and must compete with her two cousins, both of whom were raised in Sky, or her life will end. Quickly, her struggle takes on bigger dimensions as she finds herself caught in a war between gods, questioning whether she can save those who have been imprisoned to serve humans or must bow down the god who now rules over all.
It’s been a long time since I read a new-to-me epic fantasy as engrossing as this one. I’ve seen this book over and over again, but mainly dismissed it from my thoughts. Then, it got chosen for a book club pick, and though I was forced to miss the meeting, I still bought and read the book in time. I’m so happy about that – I would have missed out on an amazing book more or less because the cover didn’t appeal to me and I thought it would be another 1000+ page chunkster. How wrong I was. This was a stand-out book with a gorgeously realized world, beautifully drawn characters, and a strong emotional heart.
One of the many reasons I read fantasy is down to world-building. I can get lost in a well-written fantasy world, happily exploring the corners of it for page after page. Though this is only the first book in a trilogy, I am well and truly intrigued. In this world, the struggle between the gods has defined the way the people live. The original war left one god supreme, one god killed, and the third major god imprisoned, along with the rest of the lesser gods, forced to obey humans. Naturally, they’re not particularly fond of this, and will do anything to get out of it, hence one of the core plotlines of the book that becomes clear as we go along.
Probably the only part that I struggled with at the beginning is the writing style and the inadequacy of Yeine herself. The book is told through Yeine’s reflections and her memory is muddled. She goes back in time and talks to herself, for reasons that also become clear as the book continues, but which lead to a confused reader at the start. But when everything came together at the end I was left wondering how well the foreshadowing would stick together on a second read, which means I do plan on reading it again at some point.
To top it all off, there is a romance involved, which when done well almost always makes a book better for me. I loved this one. Though as mentioned earlier Yeine is frustratingly powerless, obviously a pawn in others’ hands at times, there was certainly something about this pairing that pulled on my heartstrings and had me crossing my fingers for them. I think it would have been a lesser book without that emotional anchor.
I am very glad that I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of number two in the series! Expect a review of that one soon too – I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to wait. In the meantime, I highly recommend this to other fantasy readers. There is a reason it’s been nominated for a Nebula.
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