Review: “The Inheritance Trilogy”, N.K. Jemisin

Not to be confused with Christopher Paolini’s “The Inheritance Cycle”, “The Inheritance Trilogy” follows a span of decades in the morally dubious AT BEST Empire known as the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

For a little bit of background, the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms are ruled by the Arameri, who are morally corrupt, decadent god-enslavers. Two thousand years before, the god Bright Itempas slaughtered his lover Enefa and enslaved his other lover Nahadoth, kicking off a war between the worlds godlings that led to a resounding victory for Itempas. As a result, for the last two thousand years the world has been ruled by the descendants of Shahar Arameri, his First Priestess. Order and “The Bright” have been imposed, and the worship of Enefa and Nahadoth banned. The Arameri hold the gods children on a leash, alternately abusing them and using them as weapons.

I’d like to issue a blanket warning that N.K. Jemisin doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the worst humans (and by extent, gods and godlings) are capable of. There’s nothing graphic, but if sexual abuse and the abuse of children are touchy subjects for you then you might want to keep that content warning in mind.

I can hear you all saying “Hold on, isn’t this blog meant to be about OPTIMISTIC literature?” and yes, you’re correct, this doesn’t sound like the kind of thing you’d want to read if you want to feel good about humanity.

However.

The trilogy begins with a deep and still-weeping wound, and the three books are mostly about Gods, godlings, and mortals all trying to heal in their various capacities. Tyrants rise and fall, the place of the Gods shift, and people seek redemption and absolution in the process. The overall tone of the series is a hopeful one — the idea that the world can slowly change and heal, that with sufficient work people can redeem themselves, and that people can and will move mountains and change the fabric of fate itself for a child, a lover, a sibling. I enjoyed seeing the Arameri develop immensely — they’re truly awful, but the changing circumstances of the following two books put the Arameri cast in a sitation where they must change in order to survive.

I don’t know if this exactly qualifies as Epic fantasy, but the generation-spanning nature of the books and the three very different narrators make it feel, well…epic. Book 2 is set ten years after Book 1, which means the knock on effect of the ending of Book 1 has had ten years to reverberate through society. Likewise Book 3, where we see again the impact of spans of years and the actions of characters in previous books. The world has a palpable feeling of being wounded, and all three books make it explicit that there’s still a lot of healing left to do — maybe aeons with. But healing is possible, and the actions of good people matter.

The Inheritance Trilogy (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods)

Author: N.K. Jemisin

Age appropriate for: 16+

Rating: 8 out of 10

Queer?: Multiple queer background characters, one queer lead. Minimal to no trans presence and one significant nonbinary character, but same sex attraction is no big deal within the setting.

 

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