Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: The Broken Kingdoms

I named The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms the Book of the Year for 2011. So I picked up The Broken Kingdoms with no little nervousness. First of all, second novels are frequently subject to regression to the mean. Furthermore, after all the reveals in the first book, I didn't see how Jemisin could provide more reveals that would surprise me.

The Broken Kingdoms is told from the point of view of Oree, a blilnd woman artist and painter who discovers that she is actually living with a god, part of the aftermath of the events from the first book. Being set 10 years later, we get to see a little bit of the changes that have occurred, but the world hasn't changed as much as we might expect.

A lot of the problem is that Oree is not as strong a character as Yveine. While Yveine would barrel headlong at full tilt and was very aware, Oree was more clueless and tended to be dragged along by events rather than effect them. This happens even at the climax! That makes the book a lot less compelling than The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

As expected, there's not much more to reveal, so the plot centers around artifacts and rules already laid down by the first book. This is fine, except that Oree is so much of an outsider that she cannot explain or tell you much about the politics behind the story, so you're only told about it at the same time as she has it explained to her, which makes her feel even more passive.

Characters from the first book make reappearances, but only very minor ones. That's good: you don't need to read the first book to enjoy the second one, but the second one is not as enjoyable as the first.

The ending, however, is written exceedingly well. Everything is taken to the logical conclusion, and nothing feels forced. As a result, I don't feel like I've wasted my time reading the book, but on the other hand, this performance doesn't make me want to run out and buy all her other books, unlike the first one. As a result, I can only mildly recommend this book, and really only for fans of the first novel.
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