Review: The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Author: N.K. Jemisin
Genre: fantasy
Series: The Inheritance Trilogy #2
Pages: 416 (Nook format)
Published: November 2010
Source: bought
Rating: 4.5/5

In this, the second of her planned Inheritance trilogy, Jemisin once again delivers another captivating and wonderfully different fantasy story. The introduction takes place at the time of the Gray Lady's birth at the end of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and then abruptly the narrative skips forward ten years. The perfect world, the structured monotheistic religion and city of Sky that the Amn, and the Arameri have crafted and perfected over millennia, all have changed drastically. As evidenced by the World Tree entwined completely around the city and even palace of Sky, the symbolic power of Bright Itempas and His chief devouts the Arameri, there is no longer one supreme God. The other Gods and godlings, held back from the world for centuries by the Inderdict of Itempas, now dwell among their human kin in Shadow-under-Sky. Ten years have passed since the events in book one, but now someone in that sheltered city has figured out how to assassinate the immortals.

Instead of fierce, fighting-for-her-life-and-country Yeine, this time around the female main character is more docile and unassuming; seeking only to survive on her own independence in a fierce city. A blind artist named Oree Shoth, she has the astounding ability to "see" magic. A city full of magical godlings lured her from her mother and home of Nimaro in Maroneh after the ascension of the Gray Lady and the Lord of Dark Shadows. Once again, Jemisin stands fantasy stereotypes on their heads: Oree is a dark-skinned character from an Amn/Arameri-vanquished culture. She's a strongly sympathetic character, warm and obviously kind-hearted. Oree might be blind (most of the time) but she sees the world for how it is in a city of people who'd rather lie and deceive themselves. She's rather more proactive than reactive, a fact that is easy to appreciate in a genre populated with more than enough Damsels in Distress. Her rapidly expanding magical repertoire over the events of the novel seem a bit like a deux ex machina until the BIG reveal towards the end of the novel. I will say that Oree had all the elements and knowledge long before she put them together, which seemed out of character for such an intelligent and capable woman. But my minor grumbles aside, Oree was another well-written, likable, strong female character.

Once again, this novel told in the first person perspective, that of Oree dictating, remembering her story. The question obviously then is: who is the intended reader/listener? From the diction, and the smooth, conversational flow, it is clearly not the reading audience. Unlike the previous protagonist Yeine, Oree does not break the fourth wall: her message and story is for another. There is a more relaxed, easy going tone in this book than the first. Perhaps this is simply because Yeine struggled openly and interpersonally and so much of Oree's fight is within herself, or Shiny. Oree has to deal with less pressure than Yeine, who knew she was going to die and tried to protect an entire country, whereas Oree fights for herself and just those few she loves.

Another grumble I had from the first novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was that hardly any of those Kingdoms were shown, described or even named. Many more details about this innovative world emerge in book two. We learn that there were originally three continents (High North, Senm, and the Maroland). The Maroland (ancient home of the Maroneh and thus Oree's people's native land) was destroyed by Nahadoth at the behest of an Arameri during a rebellion. Details, such as those mentioned above, about this rich, diverse history of the many peoples in this world have allowed Jemisin to create a layered, intricate world, with unique and vivid customs ("triples" are slyly mentioned instead of couples, the Maroneh people "name their daughters for sorrow and their sons for rage"). Originality and innovative are the key words I would use to describe this book, series and author.

Just like the first one, there was no over-reliance on the magic of the world to move the plot forward or to solve all the problems faced.  The magic, though different types are introduced than the magic described in Yeine's story, is more of an accent to the story than the main point. In addition to Oree's "Sight", there is mention of "bone-bending" and "shadow-sending", among the displays of magic that other characters possess. The many and varying types of magic within this story are intriguing and creative, nicely showcasing Jemisin's unique type of fantasy. 

High marks across the board. A few things might need to be tweaked a bit, but Jemisin has clearly grown as an author since her beginning novel. The Broken Kingdoms continues the tradition proved in book one: these are excellent, entertaining and fresh fantasy novels from a vividly imaginative creator.


  1. Thanks for reminding me about this author. I loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms when it came out. Can't wait to read this one!

  2. it is a really good series and one that keeps improving. I look forward to finishing it :)

  3. This is my first time seeing this series. Great review. I really like the cover art. I'm a new follower :)

  4. I love your blog! I was already a follower, but I checked out some new reviews. :)

  5. Great review. Sounds like a promissing trilogy.

  6. it is! Very creative and original.

  7. Love the rose...neat blog..NEW FOLLOWER.

    I will be having two different giveaways on my starting tomorrow and one posted right now.

    STOP BY.


  8. I stopped by and entered. Also now following your blog :)


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