Reading for Fun: N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms

By Nancy Jane Moore

The Broken KingdomsThe Broken Kingdoms, the second book of N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy, breaks the usual pattern of trilogies: It does not disappoint, nor does it end on an unfinished note that leaves the reader frustrated.

I speculate (I don’t know, so this is a guess) that this is because the overall series was planned as separate books, not one very long book cut up into a trilogy by a publisher. But don’t let that deceive you: this is a trilogy and you definitely want to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms before you read The Broken Kingdoms. The middle book may be a separate story, but what happens in it is rooted in what happened in the first book.

In fact, what makes this book so good is that while it is tied to what happened in the first one, it treats what happened in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms from a completely different point of view.  The first book is about revolutionary change. The second is about its aftermath. And unlike most stories about revolutionary change, it does not assume that people are now living happily ever after (with perhaps some suffering among those who brought about the change — i.e., Frodo no longer being able to live in the Shire).

That is, this book makes it clear that change is complicated and may be unwelcome, even if it was a necessary and morally good change. The rap on fantasy is that it’s not “realistic,” but this book has the most realistic look at the aftereffects of revolution I’ve ever seen. That it happens in a world with gods and godlings and magic is just icing on the cake!

As I said about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms when I put it on my “best of” list at the end of 2009, the world Jemisin has created is highly original. The struggles going on — among the gods, and among the people trying to adjust to changes in the gods — aren’t the typical fights between good and evil. In fact, I found that the decisions I made about who was good and who was evil in the first book had to be completely revised when I read the second. That’s another way the book is very realistic.

I’m not going to describe the plot, except to say that the main character in The Broken Kingdoms, like the main character in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, is an outsider with more to her than meets the eye. Just go read it. Only read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms first.

I’m not the only person who loves Jemisin’s work: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms made both the Nebula and Hugo ballots, won the Locus award for best debut novel, and garnered quite a few other award nominations. I will make no secret of the fact that I think it should have won the Nebula and the Hugo. And, yes, I have read the winners, so I know what I’m comparing it to.

I’ll have a little more on the award subject in next week’s blog: I’m on a panel at Armadillocon this weekend called “The Ascendance of Female Writers in 2011: Why They Dominated Award Ballots.” In this case, “dominated” appears to refer primarily to the Nebula and Hugo novel nominees, who were almost all women.

For those of you coming to the con, the panel is Friday night at 9, and I promise you there will be a lively conversation.

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Flashes of IlluminationFlashes of Illumination, a collection of my short-short fiction, is now available here from Book View Cafe. This 52-story ebook collects the flash fiction I published weekly during the first year of Book View Cafe, and adds in a few later stories as well.

My novella Changeling remains available as an ebook through Book View Cafe. It’s a coming of age story.

Both books are $2.99 and available in four DRM-free formats: mobi, epub, prc, and pdf.

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Reading for Fun: N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms — 4 Comments

  1. Thanks for this review! I love both books. One of the things to note about them both is that they are (to me) about the power of radical compassion. In each book the less powerful protagonist chooses to treat the more powerful god (enslaved or not) with compassion, thereby equalizing things between them. A slave does not treat the slavedriver with compassion unless she feels herself an equal!

    I can hardly wait for the next one.

  2. Vandana: That’s a great point about radical compassion. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, though I definitely noticed what you’re referring to. (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here 😉 )