You’ve seen a little of my own project now, and there will be more illustrations, more glimpses into the world of Endrion and the story of Proper Magic. But a writer has to keep reading, and I’ve been reading, so I’d like to share my thoughts on NK Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy.
Let’s face it, fantasy is a genre founded by and dominated by white men. There are a good number of female writers, but most of them are white too. Really, apart from Toni Morrison’s Beloved, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a full length fantasy novel by a minority writer. (And because she’s Toni Morrison, I’m probably the only person who classifies Beloved, a ghost story, as fantasy.)
I wanted to change that. I wanted to diversify my reading just as I try to diversify my writing. So I poked around online, discovered The Inheritance Trilogy, and devoured all three books.
This is some classy fantasy. The three stories are all tightly woven, each one self contained but progressing from the last. They focus on the three gods of the unnamed world and all their children (both godlings and half-mortal demons), and how their family dramas have shaped their world.
It threatens to get cheesy at times, as so much of the story rests on the relationships between characters who are not remotely human. But Jemisin knows how to depict these godly characters. They are at once fluid in form and rigid in nature, comfortable with taking multiple lovers and yet jealous all the same. They are powerful, and use that power convincingly.
The writing is lush, the tales are epic, and Jemisin is confident and skilled enough to take us to some dark places while still giving us a big helping of whimsy and a happy-ish ending.
I have some niggling issues, the biggest of which is that the title of the first book — The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms — promises a big, varied world. Instead, the world ends up feeling small. All three books are centered around one city, Sky (later Sky-in-Shadow). About 90% of the trilogy happens in Sky, and about 50% of it happens in one palace in that city. The rest of the world is described from time to time, but we don’t get to ramble and roam there much.
But that’s my biggest complaint; I want more.
So if you like character-driven fantasy that is both sweeping and intimate, powerful and mercurial gods, family and romantic drama, and political intrigue, definitely pick up The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, and The Kingdom of Gods.
And if you know of any other minority fantasy or science fiction writers you think I should check out, let me know in the comments.