The broken kingdoms is the second installment in N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy. Moving away the high-level political intrigue of the first novel, the middle book adds more depth and an increasingly nuanced portrayal of the varioud gods.
Brief plot summary
Oree Shoth is a blind artist living in the shadow of the World Tree. When a mysterious, possibly shiny, man shows up Shoth decides to take him in and nurse him back to health. What she doesn’t know is how this simple act of kindness will get her entangled with the search for a serial killer who is targeting godlings.
So how is it?
It’s pretty good and showcases all of the strengths of Jemisin’s writing. It’s interesting to read if only for the relatively unusual technique of writing a first-person narrative from the persepctive of a blind protagonist.
The inheritance trilogy is more about world-building than anything. The three volumes each have their own discrete narrativeand there’s something of an overarching plot, but the trilogy is really all about establishing the culture and landscape of the hundred thousand kingdoms. I get the impression that the series is partially an attempt to write a secondary world fantasy series without falling into the two main camps of fantasy worldbuilding:
1.) Everything is like an idealized version of Great Britain
2.) Each culture/nation/whatever is an easily identifiable stereotype of a real-world nation (Advanced writers combine a defining characteristic from TWO different nations to create their world) à la David Eddings or Brent Weeks.
Jemisin has played with drawing on real-world cultures to flesh out her fictional countries, but this series comes across more as an attempt to create something totally distinct from the world as we see it. Combining that with her frequent use of “nontraditional” (read: non-white, non-male, disabled, and/or non-hetero) protagonists, Jemisin has been highly visible in diversifying the fantasy genre.
That being said, you shouldn’t write off this series as an attempt to shoehorn under-represented voices into the fantasy genre. It’s a series that’s good because the writing is good, and Jemisin does a great job of creating a convincing world with an elaborate, fully realized mythology.
The broken kingdoms and the Inheritance trilogy in general is a type of novel I don’t read very often. I’m usually much more interested in characters than I am in worldbuilding, and mythic fantasy is something I tend to shy away from. Still, Jemisin does great work and those who enjoyed the first installment of the series will find more to love here.