Book Review: The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

the broken kingdoms cover

View from the window seat:
It has been ten years since the events of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, when a god fell while another was freed and a goddess reborn. The city of Shadow, under the World Tree, now teams with godlings and magic. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, lives a simple life selling souvenirs. Her life becomes complicated when, in an act of kindness, she brings a homeless man into her home. This man is at the center of a plot to murder godlings, a conspiracy that threatens the entire world.

I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms a year or two ago. Within a few pages of reading The Broken Kingdoms, I was yelling WHY?! and shaking my fist at my past self for waiting so long to pick this one up. N. K. Jemisin is the kind of author readers dream about, one who creates complex, flawed characters in a world that feels real and tangible.

To start: the characters. Oree is a different narrator than Yeine from the first book. They are both undeniably strong, but Oree has a quieter kind of strength that I think I enjoyed more than Yeine’s. As the book progresses, we begin to understand that Oree is telling her story to someone (much in the same way that Yeine was speaking to someone else as well, revealed in the last pages…and the revelation of who Oree is addressing is just as surprising). This gives her narration a personal feel that I really enjoyed because I understood exactly what she was thinking and feeling the whole time. I know Oree; her taking in a homeless man she’s never met isn’t surprising at all. Shiny, the homeless man, is arrogant, taciturn, and self-destructive. But the skill with which Jemisin writes, and the knowledge of who Shiny actually is and what he’s done, makes a deeply flawed character sympathetic and at times even likable.

The godlings, and the Three, are the most complex part of this trilogy. They are immortal, and yet so human. They lust, hunger, love, and many of them are angry. This anger is a driving force in both novels, because their anger is dangerous and terrifying and justified.

The plot of The Broken Kingdoms is a mystery about who is killing godlings and how they are doing it. This mystery is merely a smaller part of the larger story of the Three and their relationship with each other and their children. This larger story is why I didn’t mind as much that the narrator had changed from the first book. All moments are merely blinks in the lives of the Three.

Overall impression:
The Broken Kingdoms is a flawless tale of terrible acts, unfathomable love, and the meaning of true regret.


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