THE BROKEN KINGDOMS
N K Jemisin (Orbit, 2010) ISBN 9780316043960
The Broken Kingdoms is the second in N K Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy. Set 10 years after the events of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, it follows blind artist Oree Shoth as she takes in a silent homeless man and becomes involved in uncovering the cause of serial god-murders. The breakdown of the millenia-old power structures due to the events of the previous book is just beginning to show and the world feels at a turning point.
The Broken Kingdoms takes more queues from urban fantasy than its predecessor. Oree, unlike Yeine Darre of the previous book, is not a social elite and struggles to pay her rent and bills by selling artwork to tourists. Since the events of the previous book the city has been transformed by a great tree and the proliferation of hundreds of ‘godlings’. It is policed by Orderkeepers, who at times harass Oree and her fellow street artists for little good reason.
There is a thread of obvious social commentary on poverty and privilege in this world, which was present in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms as well, but is more pronounced here due to Oree’s disadvantages. Oree is Maroneh, descended from a group of people whose continent was destroyed by the Nightlord thousands of years earlier and who now live as an ethnic minority around the world. Many of the conversations Oree has regarding the history of her people seem to evoke conversations around slavery of black Africans and their descendants, and I am certain this is intentional on Jemisin’s part.
This book, like the previous book, gripped me completely. It is excellently paced and full of plot twists which come as a genuine surprise. In a way far different to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms also carries great emotional realism, though perhaps this is because I relate more to Oree than I did to Yeine. I narrowly preferred this book to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms because I more strongly sympathised with Oree than with Yeine. The Broken Kingdoms feels like an adventure.