Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.
With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate – and gods and mortals – are bound inseparably together.
I still don’t quite know what to say about this book. Objectively I can see how good the writing and the world building are. I can even make a list of characters I liked if not loved, but still, as a whole, the story didn’t quite work for me.
I liked Yeine, the young narrator and an unexpected Arameri heir. I liked that she’s a half-blood and comes from a matriarchal system, but I didn’t like the first person voice or how fractured the narration was. I got used to it over time, but had I been less inclined to finish the book, the constant jumping between the two timeframes would’ve earned this book a DNF label.
Going that deep into a character’s head always excludes something important that the distance of third person limited voice would allow. This time it wasn’t the world building that suffered, but my emotional connection with the characters. As in I didn’t have any. Objectively I could see just how well done the shift in the voice was done at the end but only objectively. Despite being in Yeine’s head I couldn’t understand how she fell in love. I didn’t buy the supposed romance any more than I bought the lust or the fear—the latter of which was the most appropriate emotion at the presence of Yeine’s lover.
That was one of the things I liked, too: how uncomplicated Yeine’s attitude to sex was. I liked that she wasn’t a virgin and that none of the women were labelled as sluts or whores for being sexually active. There were real reasons for calling a certain character a bitch.
I liked the Arameri servants and slaves too, mostly. Sieh was my favourite in all of his complexity and Nahadoth was intriguing as long as he kept his distance. Viraine had the spoilerish V-name so I didn’t really bother paying attention to him, although I should’ve. I really should’ve.
The magic system and godlings were among the positives, but I wanted to know more about the alliances and the personalities behind those alliances. Had Jemisin spend a little more time with those characters the stakes at the end might have made more of an impression.
And then there’s the thorn in my side-issue I had with this book, namely the religion. Jemisin created a complex system of gods and a mortal religion to go with those deities. Or a deity. The thing is I have problems accepting any fantasy religion so obviously based on Christianity despite said fantasy religion being based on a false history created by the winner of the war. Skyfather is too close to Heavenly Father, for me to avoid the allergic reaction I get from preaching. This is a personal problem explained by a very personal history, but it didn’t make me like the book any better.
I wish there would’ve been more actual political scheming, but I supposed that would’ve defeated the point of the book. Other than that, all I can say is: Holy love triangle Batman.
P.S. The love triangle, it’s not what you think, but it is more than you’d ever expect.