The Darren language has a word for the attraction one feels to danger: esui. It is esui that makes warriors charge into hopeless battles and die laughing. Esui is also what draws women to lovers who are bad for them—men who would make poor fathers, women of the enemy….It is glory, it is folly. It is everything not sensible, not rational, not safe at all—but without esui, there is no point in living.I continue my reading of the 2011 Hugo Award nominees with N.K. Jesmisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, a dark fantasy that was also nominated for the 2010 Nebula Award. The book is the first in the Inheritance Trilogy. The story centers on a fascinating cosmology, based loosely on the Hindu idea of Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer. It is somewhat reminiscent of Gaiman’s American Gods, the 2002 Hugo Award winning novel.
The story is told by Yeine, a young woman from Darr, a minor kingdom. After the death of her mother, Yeine is summoned to Sky, the capital of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by Dakarta, who is her maternal grandfather and the king. While plans are being made for her to be declared Dakarta’s heir, she realizes that she is a really only a pawn, a convenient sacrifice. As the plot unfolds she learns more about the gods and godlets, who are the servants and weapons of the ruling class. She finds also uncovers the truth about her mother and the deal her mother made with the gods.
Because I am not a great fan of dark, twisty tales, I did not actually enjoy the book. I was, however, fascinated by it. I liked the tone of the narration, including all the digressions. I was curious to see how the story would unfold, to the point of being riveted in the last 50 pages. I admire Jesmisin’s ability to create an original and convincing world. I am not sure what this says about the book’s chances of winning the Hugo Award. We will see.