The Broken Kingdoms, by N K Jemisin

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Author’s website
Publication date – November 3, 2010

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a strange homeless man on an impulse. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. And Oree’s guest is at the heart of it…

Thoughts: Picking up where Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms left off, The Broken Kingdoms continues the story of the gods and the world they inhabit, but through the eyes of a new character, Oree Shoth. Oree is blind and yet no less competent and capable for her lack of sight, with a sharp sense of wit and a good dose of compassion to go with it.

It took a bit of getting used to Oree as the first-person narrator, since in many places her tone was quite similar to Yeine’s in the first book of the trilogy. It was a little bit frustrating at times, but as the book progressed, it was easy to see how Oree and Yeine stood on their own as unique characters in their own rights. They weren’t without their similarities and parallels, however, the least of which being the style in which they narrate. Though Yeine did have more of a habit of getting sidetracked than Oree did. It’s interesting that they both have a real purpose in narrating the way they do, though, unlike many books that are written from the first-person viewpoint. Where Yeine had more of a stream-of-consciousness thing going on in places, trying to piece everything together while half conveying the story to the essence of Enefa inside her, Oree is narrating the story for her unborn child. And yes, I did just spoiler you with that comment. Still, it’s worth pointing out as a comparison to the sheer amount of first-person POV novels around these days, because while most of them stick to that perspective as a way to get the reader to relate more to the protagonist, the method of narration itself is a part of the story here, adding another little bit of depth to the story as a whole.

I also found it interesting that where the gods are major players in the first book, here they appear mostly as cameos. There are a few exceptions, of course, but most of them are characters that weren’t mentioned in the first book, or who only made brief appearances themselves.

Though I confess to a thrill of glee when Nahadoth was around. I’ve got a real soft spot for him. And Sieh. They’re quite possibly my favourite characters in the series thus far, and I’m glad they got a little bit of screentime here, so to speak.

Jemisin weaves a wonderfully complimentary story in this book, expanding on what she established in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and once again doing an amazing job of making the gods real and accessible, understandable and yet still apart from humanity. I enjoyed the chance to get to know Itempas as something other than a distant and controlling mythological figure. Here, he’s as real and touchable as any other character, equally as flawed, and in some ways just as much a sympathetic character as any of the gods were while they were bound and chained. The issue and history of the demons was also quite fascinating, and something I hadn’t expected to see dealt with. But weaving around all these issues was the equally intriguing and terrifyingly simple concept of nobody being as dangerous as a madman with a vision and the power to carry it out. It all combined into a smoothly-paced adventure that kept me turning pages at a fierce rate, seeing how it would all play out.

The hardest part about writing this review is that if I took the time to talk about everything I enjoyed about it, every scene and section that I loved, then I’d essentially have to rewrite the entire book. Aside from some intial trepidation about the narrative tone before I settled into Oree as a character, this book was simply fantastic, and pinning down the best parts of it is exceedingly difficult.

Many people told me that if I enjoyed the first book of the trilogy, then I would love this one even more. I’m not sure if I enjoy it more, but it certainly ranks just as high as the previous book did, and makes me hungry for the last one, to see how it all ties together. Jemisin is a masterful storyteller who isn’t to be missed, and if you haven’t read any of her works thus far, then I heartily recommend this trilogy. You won’t be disappointed.

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