The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

The Broken Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy)

It’s hard to find something truly original in fantasy these days.  I don’t mean that it’s hard to find a good book—far from it!—but finding something that resonates as new and exciting isn’t as common.  N. K. Jemisin did so last year with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and now she continues in the same vein with The Broken Kingdoms.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“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…”

This novel picks up ten years after the end of the first novel in the trilogy, and introduces an entirely new set of characters.  This is a pretty bold move, as most trilogies stick with the same characters and follow them and their experiences throughout a continuous story arc.  But Jemisin makes it work where others might not have.

As with the first book, the gods and godlings are the most interesting characters in the story.  Partly that’s because of their capricious nature and the way the story folds around them.   But they don’t take over the tale nor do they overpower it.  Rather, they introduce a note of uncertainty into the mix.  And luckily, Oree doesn’t suffer by comparison.  She’s a strong woman in her own right, but she seems to draw something from her association with the godlings that makes her more than just human.  She retains her mortality while absorbing some of the unexpectedness of the immortals.

I’m happy to say that this novel shows no signs of the usual “middle book syndrome” that plagues many trilogies.  Some of that may be due to how it’s related to the first book without directly following it, but honestly, I think Jemisin is just that good of a writer.  There’s no slump here, no sense that the book is little more than a set-up for the final volume.  This is a heck of a good tale in its own right.

As for the setting, it’s just as lush and vibrant as it was in the first book.  Obviously, the narrative can’t just spend all its time exploring the world, but readers are definitely going to get the sense that there’s tons more to see and experience.  I kind of hope that Jemisin does more stories in her world—even a series of short stories—so that we can all spend more time in her amazing creation.

Jemisin is an exciting novelist who has a gift for pulling readers into her stories and immersing them in the fruits of her imagination.  The Broken Kingdoms will hopefully win some awards, because the author truly deserves recognition for her brilliant work.

Also by this author: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Killing Moon, The Kingdom of Gods

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on December 13, 2011.

Series: The Inheritance Trilogy
ISBN: 9780316043953
Publisher: Orbit
Page Count: 432
Publication Date: November 3, 2010
Acquired: Personal purchase
Author Website
Read an excerpt