I first heard about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms on the Writing Excuses podcast, when the crew was talking about magic systems. They mentioned that the magic system in the book didn’t have a lot of explicit rules (at least, not to the level that Brandon Sanderson does in his novels), but that it was okay because the story didn’t need it.
So, when it went on sale for 99 cents, I snapped it up. I’m glad I did, because this book was amazing, and I have been gushing about it to literally EVERYONE who has asked “So, read any good books lately?”
Yeine is the leader of Darre, a small, matriarchal kingdom in the north. After her mother’s death, she’s summoned to Sky, the capital of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, where she’s named as heir to the throne.
The problem is, two other heirs have already been named, which, as Yeine herself puts it, makes her “two heirs too many.” But the battle for the throne is not the only battle going on in this duplicitous city, and unbeknownst to her, Yeine is about to play a much larger part in both than she ever suspects.
Yeine is easily the best thing about the book. I loved her voice, I loved the way she told her story, I loved how completely and utterly out of her depth she was and how she still managed to fight her way through. Her talents are not, at first glance, well-suited to the deeply political situation in Sky, but by God, Yeine learns fast and makes the most of what she has. She screws up, but she doesn’t shy away from fixing her mistakes, and she’s willing to go to great lengths to protect the land and people that she loves so much.
Fantasy novels aren’t often told solely in first person (and if they are, it’s usually a mixture of first and third), but The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is entirely from Yeine’s point of view and it works wonderfully.
It’s woven with an art that shows you she’s jumping back and forth in time, interspersed with interesting asides and digressions, but it never gets dull and it’s never confusing. It’s so well-written that you just want to swim in it and roll around in the words.
I also loved the mythology of the world. We get a lot of stories about the gods’ history and the way the world came into being, how everything got to the way it is now. And it’s not just worldbuilding added for flavor; it’s all important, vital pieces of a puzzle that we need in order to understand what’s happening in the story.
There’s a very strong theme of love and family running through the novel: how you can love someone and hate them in equal measure, love someone and still betray them, how even families that have been broken can still be mended.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a rich, lovely fantasy novel that, on the one hand, I want to gush about for ages. On the other hand, half the fun of the book is the discovery, learning things as Yeine does, and I don’t want to rob anybody of that joy. If you’re looking for a new fantasy novel, pick this one up as soon as you can. It’s so, so worth the read.