Posts Tagged With: N.K. Jemisin

Infinity Key by Chrysoula Tzavelas – A Review

Infinity Key
Chrysoula Tzavelas
272 pages, Candlemark & Gleam (November 2013)
contemporary/urban fantasy



Infinity Key cover

“She really didn’t want to be one of the giggling girls in the audience, watching passively as the world changed around them.”

Earlier this year, I read Chrysoula Tzavelas‘ debut novel, Matchbox Girls, enjoying it quite a bit. You can see my thoughts on that book here, if you like.

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Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson – A Review



The rich and privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble. The inner city has had to rediscover old ways-farming, barter, herb lore. But now the monied need a harvest of bodies, and so they prey upon the helpless of the streets. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, and the tragic mystery surrounding her mother and grandmother.

She must bargain with gods, and give birth to new legends.


I’m hoping that Frankenstein is going to be the worst in the pile of books I’ve challenged myself to read this year. It’s been so much fun to discover new-to-me authors like N.K. Jemisin and Hiromi Goto and rediscover someone like Ursula K. Le Guin. I want the fun to keep on coming.

Today I get to talk about another new-to-me discovery: Nalo Hopkinson‘s Brown Girl in the Ring. This book is Hopkinson’s first, published in 1998. Hopkinson won the Locus Award for Best New Novel, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, as well as the Warner Aspect first novel competition for her work. Plus the book has a blurb on the front cover from none other than Octavia Butler.

So, it wasn’t like I was going in with any expectations or anything.

Brown Girl in the Ring takes place in a future Toronto, a city that’s been turned into a “donut hole”–anyone who could escaped from the decaying city to the suburbs, leaving the town and the people behind to rot. One of these people is Ti-Jeanne, a young Caribbean Canadian who survives with her infant son and her grandmother, Gros-Jeanne, a healer and seer. Ti-Jeanne has started seeing visions herself–demons and skeletons in top hats, among other things. While she’s trying to deal with this, her ex- (her son’s father) comes to her looking for help. He has gotten messed up with a necromancer of sorts who wants Tony to harvest a human heart from the premier of Ontario. Mayhem ensues.

I really enjoyed this book. Hopkinson has done a fine job building this dystopian world; it’s one I would love to learn more about. She’s created the remains of an inner city that are wholly believable, rich, and three-dimensional. I’m also thankful for the chance to learn about a culture I admit I know little about.

The same richness can be found in Hopkinson’s characters. They’re all fairly well developed, enough so, anyway, to contribute something to the tale. Rudy may be a bit over the top, but he’s a fun guy to hate, and he gave me the shivers.

Hopkinson’s prose is sturdy. While it isn’t magic on the level of Le Guin, it gets the job done and contains some awesome metaphors such as a character shaking someone’s hand as if he were “palping rotten carrion” and comparing the smell of night air to “biting into an apple.” All in all an excellent read. 4.75/5

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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin – A Review


jemisin cover

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, seat of the ruling Arameri family. 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 a pair of 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.

I’ve now read two books in the women of genre fiction challenge. The first was from 1816. This new one is from 2010. I must admit that when it comes to fiction, I am a modern girl. Where Frankenstein left me somewhat disappointed, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms did just the opposite. I adore this book.

N.K. Jemisin‘s debut novel (the first of a trilogy) was a lot of fun to read. The story caught me right away, and my only real problem with it was the last part where the narrator’s tone changes. It does that for a reason (Although the more I think about it, I don’t think that shift was necessary. But whatever, it didn’t ruin the story.), but it was still somewhat startling. I just didn’t like that tone as well as I did the previous one.

Because Yeine Darr is a cool character to follow and listen to as she tells her tale. Given what the odds are against her, she’s rather amazing. Brave, clever, sarcastic: she’s all that. The world Jemisin creates is fascinating, too. So many countries (um, about 100,000, I’m guessing), so much intrigue: it all fits together quite well. I’m curious how things will play out in the rest of the series.

And then there are the gods. Apparently, there was a big war between the many gods of this world, and only one of them won. The rest were then enslaved to the Arameri, the extended family that rules over the rest of the 100,000 kingdoms. Yeine meets four of these gods when the family patriarch calls her to the capital city to fight for her right to inherit his position. They both help and hinder her in her quest to survive and discover who killed her mother. I found myself particularly fond of the trickster god Sieh and the warrior goddess Zhakkarn. The Nightlord, I’m torn about, as is everyone in the story. He’s like a mix of Morpheus from Sandman, Dante from Adrian Phoenix’s Maker’s Song series, and, well, Angel.

The Nightlord is a bit of a brooder. Which is understandable. He could destroy the universe if he wanted to, but he’s enslaved to be one of Yeine’s rival’s boytoys. I know I’d brood if I were in his position.

I’m rambling, but The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a fun story to ramble on about. One of the reasons I enjoyed it so much, besides the story itself and the characters, is Jemisin’s prose. She has a way with a phrase, and she came up with what may be the best metaphor for a woman’s orgasm ever. (Not telling. You just have to read and find out.)

And similes like this:

p. 71 And the sound was carried along as the earth rolled over like a sleepy child…

p. 91 In my land the forests were thick and wet and dark as mysteries…

I want to dive into that last sentence, and there are many like it.

I definitely recommend The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to anyone who’s in the mood for a good fantasy read. 4.4/5


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