Thursday, February 6, 2014

Review: The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Published : Orbit, 2010
Series : Book 2 of the Inheritance Trilogy
This is the second book of a trilogy, so the book description and review contains some spoilers of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

The Book :

“After the events of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, much has changed in the world.  The city of Sky is now called Shadow, since it lies in the shade of the World Tree, and godlings—children of the Three Gods—live among the humans.  Many people are attracted to the magic of Shadow, and Oree Shoth is no exception.

Oree is a blind painter that is able to see only magic, so living near the godlings in Shadow gives her the opportunity to sometimes see.  She spends her days selling trinkets to pilgrims, navigating her relationship with the godling Madding, and handling the silent, homeless man that she has taken in out of kindness.  She names the man “Shiny”, due to the way he glows in her magic sight at dawn.

When someone begins killing the godlings of Shadow, Oree’s life will never be the same.  She and her quiet guest are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy that involves the Arameri, the gods, and  those for whom the murder of godlings is only the beginning.” ~Allie

The Broken Kingdoms is yet another book that I’ve read in a read-along, and the spoiler-filled here, here, here, and here.  I read Jemisin’s first novel (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms) years ago, when it first came out, and I have delayed far too long in reading the rest of the trilogy!
discussions can be found

This is also my first novel of the year for the Roll Your Own Challenges, since it fits the criteria for spoltz’s “I Just HAVE to Read More of that Author” Reading Challenge!

My Thoughts:

The Broken Kingdoms is a sequel to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but it has a complete, mostly independent story with a mostly new set of main characters.  I think it’s perfectly possible to enjoy The Broken Kingdoms as a standalone novel, but I would still recommend reading the series in order.  I personally feel that having the background from the first novel on the recent history of Shadow and the recurring characters allows a richer reading experience.  However, I imagine it would be a very enjoyable book to read either way!

I was a little skeptical about Oree at first, but she was a wonderful heroine.  Given that she is a blind painter who can see magic, I was initially afraid she would fall into a stereotype, but that happily never seemed to happen, at least in my opinion.  Her blindness gave her an interesting perspective on the world, and I liked that it seemed to be just a part of her, not linked to her magical abilities.  She commented once that anyone could see magic, it just stood out to her because she couldn’t see anything else.  She also had a very strong personality, and seemed confident in her identity and her choices.  I appreciated the practicality with which she approached life, and how she generally refused to be relegated to a passive role.

On top of that, Oree was a commoner, which was another change of perspective from the previous novel.  The first novel’s heroine, Yeine, was from the ruling family, which gave her a very different experience of the world.  Oree, on the other hand, had no privileged information about the activities of the gods or the ruling class, and was mostly just enjoying her ordinary life before the events of the novel. When some main characters from the previous book made appearances, it was kind of a jolt to see how different they seemed while interacting with someone they considered ‘beneath’ them.  I think it definitely showed a harsher side of some characters that might have seemed more sympathetic in the first novel.

Romance plays a role in the novel, but it does not feel as central as it did in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. The story is mostly about the slow process of rehabilitating a certain character from the previous book and foiling the dangerous scheme that involved the murder of godlings.  The style of romance was also very different—it seemed more grounded, about naturally growing affection rather than a whirlwind of romantic attraction.  I also appreciated that romantic love was not used as a shortcut to reform the ‘bad’ character. I really enjoyed the redemption plot, which addressed both the difficulty of changing and the uneasy balance between punishment and rehabilitation.  Through the mystery part, we get to see more of the interaction between religion and the gods. I thought the ending wrapped up the story extremely well, and I am looking forward to revisiting this world in the final novel of the trilogy.

My Rating: 4.5/5

With every novel of Jemisin’s that I read, I become more determined to read everything she writes in the future!  The Broken Kingdoms is an excellent sequel to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, featuring a new story and a mostly new main cast.  The protagonist Oree was a wonderful heroine, who gave a completely different perspective than Yeine’s of the world of the Inheritance Trilogy.  There’s plenty to enjoy in the story, including mystery, action, romance, and redemption.  I enjoyed this one even more than the first, and I have very high expectations for the final novel of the trilogy!


  1. I really, really need to read this. I absolutely loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and like you, now I want to read everything Jemisin has ever written. I wish the timing had worked out for me to join the Broken Kingdoms read along, because I had so much fun with the read along we did for the first book.

    1. At least that means you still have a few more Jemisin books to look forward to :)! Have you read the Dreamblood books? They're in a very different world, but also really good!