Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reading Recommendation: N.K. Jemisin's The Inheritance Trilogy

In one of those weird quirks of life, I have ended up following the blogs of several authors whose books I actually haven't read. However which way I stumbled upon those blogs, reading them has definitely made me want to read their books as well. But my reading pile (as has been previously established) is not small, and rarely stops growing.

One of those authors that I have been following is N.K. Jemisin. I discovered her when she filled in as a guest blogger for John Scalzi while he was out on a tour (I think) last year. I find her blog absolutely fascinating, whether it be about her writing process, her actual works, her commenting policy for the site, or her views on gender and racial equality. Everything she writes is extremely well written, and I rarely find myself disagreeing with what she has to say. Even when I do, the way she expresses herself allows me to respect her opinions nonetheless. Often what she writes challenges me to think about my own writing and actions. I'd say that makes her blog pretty worthwhile reading.

Her voice is a unique one in the world of fantasy, though as she points out, it shouldn't be. She has written many short stories, which I would like to check out at some point, but her primary project to date is The Inheritance Trilogy (not to be confused with Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle--think Eragon--which was initially supposed to be a trilogy but ended up expanding to four books, thus becoming a "cycle" rather than "trilogy").

Earlier this year my husband surprised me with the first two books in the trilogy, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and The Broken Kingdoms (the third book, The Kingdom of Gods, is due out next month). I was finally able to dive into this series recently, and I found myself absolutely devouring the two books. They are fantastic! Much like Jemisin herself, her work is unique and very eloquent.

I think my favorite thing about the books is that each one is its own story, with its own characters. Book two is set some time after the end of book one, and deals with the ramifications of all that passed in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. While some characters from the first book appear in The Broken Kingdoms, they only appear when they are integral to the story, and they are supporting cast rather than main characters. The two books are set in the same city, but the settings could not feel more different. Yet there is a sense of familiarity there still that does tie them both together and allows the reader to revel in the continuity of story, even with all of the differences. It is wonderful, and I delighted in it. I am definitely looking forward to seeing how the third book continues this style.

I think for fans of fantasy this trilogy will be a must read. Even more so for readers who crave strong female characters--which are so sorely lacking in other forms of entertainment these days. Even better, if you are a fan of fantasy looking to convert a friend or loved one to the genre, this might be a great gateway series. It is fast-paced and so a quick read, and will only clock in at three books when done (Jemisin is already working on her next series which sounds equally intriguing). The setting, while not our "modern" world, is urban, and while still deliciously fantastic it is also amazingly familiar, something that I think will make this breed of fantasy more accessible to newcomers.

I don't want to give away too much of the story itself, because I would hate to spoil the joy of uncovering it on your own. But I can tell you that The Inheritance Trilogy is about gods. Actual living gods and their interactions with the mortals they created in the world they also created. It is also about family, in many different senses of the word. Another theme that runs through is facing one's past and confronting those things we thought we had left behind. Of course there is love in there as well--all kinds of love--and extremely well written. Even as these fantastic events, these impossible events, unfold before the reader's eyes, they are wholly believable.

So, for those of you looking for something interesting and entertaining and good to read? I cannot recommend N.K. Jemisin more highly.

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