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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin.

I'm not really sure how this book, in its current form, got published. A couple of intriguing ideas shouldn't make lazy writing okay. Very disappointing. Hopefully it's just a severe case of debut-novel-itis and her next books will be more strongly constructed!

Here are the interesting ideas ::
- Some gods have been turned into unhappy slaves (rather like djinn, actually, come to think of it, in that you have to word your commands very carefully, so, uh, not as new and interesting as I initially thought) and wander somewhat-freely around a palace
- Facial hair is strange and exotic.
- ......That's about it, really. (Okay, so other readers might find more of the ideas fascinating, but I'd already read/written a large majority of them.)

A lot of the book is wishy-washy. Characters are brought in, world-building is mentioned... and then none of that sticks around. Yeine is supposed to be from a culture far-removed from Sky's, but it never feels like she is. Oh, sure, her bluntness is repeatedly mentioned, as is her constant dagger-grabbing, but it's all so superficial. She's also supposed to be some kind of mayor-heir, but, again, never really acts like she's been raised for that. Whenever the omg-so-savage ways of Yeine's people are mentioned, it reads quite peculiarly, because they don't mesh with Yaena.

Speaking of Yeine. Difficult to get to know her, really! As it is difficult to get to know any of the characters (except maybe the child-god Sieh, who is apparently a trickster god, except, like so much, that's just mentioned and not shown); not many of them manage to even get to two-dimensional characterisation. Now, a few months before the narrative begins, Yeine's mother was murdered, and supposedly she is still going through the grieving process and not over it. I never once felt bad for her, never once felt a twinge in my heart. If a reader who just recently lost her mother cannot empathise with a character going through similar things, who can? (Last night I read another book, and when the main character found out his mother was dead I cried for half an hour based on his reaction in two paragraphs.)

It would have been nice if more quality time could have spent with the major players, to elevate them beyond "the nice one" and "the crazy one" and "the sad one". (Also, considering that Sky is supposed to be amazing-courtly-intrigue-and-dangerous-politics-place... why were the Sky characters so simple in both mind and deed?) Especially considering that this lack of quality character time means that all of the relationships seem to be founded purely on (a) physical appearances, (b) what their lips taste like, and (c) how daaaaaangerous they are. (On reflection, I think David Eddings has more believable/relateable relationships...) There is the really-quite interesting concept of a fragile mortal dallying with a god and in the end it all boils down to "oh, I shouldn't, but his lips taste of weird things". Yet another missed opportunity!

Oh, also. Yeine wonders whether gods have penes, or a different sort of phallus, because no mere penis could fill a woman so.

(To be fair, however, the god's wood is apparently the only wood in the whole of Sky which does not come from Yeine's home country.)

And now, a style issue :: this book is obviously being narrated by someone who's lived through the events. It starts off okay enough, but quickly becomes annoying. "Here is a hook but I can't tell you readers about this yet" is not endearing when it so repeatedly occurs.

The ending... Ah. Now, quite early on, I went "errrgh, I bet Yeine's going to be a god or something" but then, having been mistakenly lured into the impression that this was a good story, immediately went "no, no, that's too obvious and boring". But, golly gosh, not only do we get god!Yeine, we also get several characters giving speeches, explaining their traitorous/evil ways. I sadly did not pick out all of the traitors/pretendering characters, but "given even less characterisation than the others" is not a clue I'm used to looking out for.
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