Review: The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

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4 out of 5 Broken Stars

I love it when a sequel is as good, or better than the original. This is the 2nd book in the Inheritance Trilogy – remember that on my “Reviews” Page, the series are grouped under the name of the series – so if you want to see my review of the first one,  just look under Inheritance to find it.

This book is almost like a companion novel, as it takes place 10 years after the previous, and though it has a lot of the same characters, the main POV is through Oree, a black, blind woman from Maro, the land Nahadoth (the Nightlord) destroyed when he slipped his leash. Their people are now refugee’s on a peninsula of land “gifted” to them by the Arameri (who let Nahadoth destroy their land in the first place.) Jemisin’s world is multicultural, and I love that we were given a different character in this. Rather than a minor noble, Oree is a member of the regular folk. Only…. she’s not, really. Despite her blindness, she has the ability to see magic. Yeah, yeah, I usually loathe the trope of the blind person whose magical ability is the ability to see. It seems inherently ableist, and not being blind, I don’t know if its right for me to say “this works” – but it made sense in this world. Oree’s eyes are not only blind, but deformed – or so the author tells us. But I didn’t really understand that part. Is it just the white cataracts, or are they misshapen? All I know is that they are unusual and off-putting for some people –but Oree doesn’t have a single fuck to give. Despite this, she is beautiful, or so she is told. 

“Apparently, I am pretty. Magic is all I see, and magic tends to be beautiful, so I have no way of properly judging the mundane myself. I have to take others’ word for it. Men praise parts of me endlessly – always the parts, mind you, never the whole.”

Since the gods imprisoned by Itempas were set free, the godlings are no longer banished. They are required, by Yeine’s decree (who is now a goddess, a sort of recycled Enefa) to stay in Sky (the city), which is now called Shadow by most people. There was the whole thing with the tree that magically grew at the base of the palace’s spire and up through the palace. It’s massive roots created walls and corridors at its base of the city, but magically, it didn’t crush or destroy anything, it just pushed everything around. People now flock to the city to pray to Yeine, which has made for some changes. The Arameri no longer demand everyone worship Itempas or give tithe to the Order of Itempas….but the Order is still out there, making life tough for anyone who gets in their way.

As a result of being able to see magic, Oree can see and sense the gods (if they were to show up) and their godling children. This is how she got her ex-boyfriend, the godling, Madding. And how she found another one in the muckbin. I mean, can you get a better lead-in to a story? Her is littered with gods. Then, one is killed in an alleyway, and she finds the body. This brings the Order of Itempas into the mix, and a particularly devout and curious Priest who is also a Scrivener that senses her magic. This can put her in a dangerous situation, as human magic is dangerous, looked down on, etc. It’s almost your basic fantasy trope – but as we learn, it’s a huge part of the mythos of this world. So now this asshole Amn priest is breathing down her neck.

This killing enrages Nahadoth. It also upsets the man that is now in Oree’s life, the strange man she found in her muckbin. She calls him Shiny because he glows at dawn, and he won’t tell her his name… he rarely speaks at all. It’s clear he has some magic, because she can see it, but he hardly speaks to her. He’s a total mystery, until this godling is killed. It pulls him out of his apathy and he storms down to where the body was found and gets in a fight with the same priest and his cadre that gave Oree trouble. However, this is only the first murder. Oree and Shiny are soon caught up in a weird cult with very dangerous magic.

I loved it. I loved how Oree was such a loving person. She kinda reminded me of Yeine, but totally not. She wasn’t interested in a relationship with Shiny, she just took him in because he needed saving and was clearly going through something. She was no wimp, but she wasn’t one to throw herself into a fight where she knew she wouldn’t win. Instead, she’d check out the situation and plan her way out. I really liked her, from the get go, when she tries to help a pilgrim, whose both tight-fisted and kinda stupid, but she helps her anyway. Not as well as she could…. but you know that she would have helped that woman to the moon and back if she’d treated her like a decent human being rather than as a greedy city-urchin.

As I’ve said in the last review, the main three gods in this world are pansexual, genderfluid, and polyamorous. We do see more polyamorous and LGBTQ relationships in this. And this is a very multicultural planet/land/kingdom – and colonialism if a huge part of it. So it’s very diverse. And it’s a lot of fun. And a lot of sadness. And a lot of drama. And magic. And fantasy. And all good things. I really recommend it.

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