Reading Level: Adult
Length: 11 hours and 46 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Release Date: September 1, 2010
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Inheritance Trilogy
Source: Audiobook from Audible.com
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
This is the first book in the Inheritance series by Jemisin. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I had wanted to read it and heard it was an excellent fantasy novel. It started out a bit slow for me, but once I got into the story I really appreciated the complex world-building and the fascinating characters. At times the book reminded me a bit of Catherynne Valente’s novel Deathless.
I listened to this on audiobook. The audiobook was decently done, although at times some of the male character voices were hard to distinguish. Still the narrator did a good job of conveying character emotion and was enjoyable enough to listen to.
Yeine Darr is summoned by her uncle to the city of Sky where the Arameri rule, and much to her horror named heiress to the throne. She has no desire to to leave her kingdom of Darr and no desire to rule Sky. To complicate matters she finds that she much compete against two other heirs, if she loses her life is forfeit. As things unfold for Yeine she meets a captive god and his children and is befriended by them in ways only the gods can fathom.
Yeine lives in a world where there are three main gods: Nahadoth (god of chaos and darkness/night), Bright Itempas (god of order and light/day), and Enefa ( goddess of balance and twilight/dawn). Bright Itempas killed Enefa and enslaved Nahadoth. The Arameri serve Bright Itempas and by the day Nahadoth and all of his children must do as the Arameri command. By night though the Gods resume their true forms, although they cannot harm the Arameri because of the blood sigils the Arameri wear.
Yeine is from a barbarian culture and is thrown into the Arameri culture which is full of politics and backstabbing more than outright fighting. She must figure out how to maneuver her way through this culture without destroying her country or getting killed herself. She is put into an impossible situation and turns to the only people she can for help, the Gods that oppose Bright Itempas.
Okay, seriously that is a lot of background…but this a very complex world and story. To be honest the very first part of this book was almost too much. We, like Yeine, are bombarded with all the strange culture of the Arameri and the complexity is almost (but not quite) overwhelming. All of this is interspersed with stories about the Gods and the last God war. At first it is a bit confusing why all of this matters so much….and then we meet the Gods.
Meeting the Gods makes all the difference and suddenly all of the history is more applicable because we are learning the history of these fascinating and immensely complex characters. I was absolutely engaged from this point on.
Jemisin does a stunning job of portraying the Gods. They can be cruel, calculating and numb to pain (both theirs and others). They are also surprised by kindness and love each other with an intensity and a consistency that spans millennia and is something mortals could never understand. Nahadoth especially also shows elements of immensity and cosmic greatness, he spans place and time in way that is truly godlike. But at times the Gods are very human too; they get lonely and sad and long for freedom. They are just what Gods should be and just as complex as you would expect, but it takes a lot of excellent writing to portray this so well.
Yeine is an interesting character as well. She understands that the Gods aren’t human and struggles with treating them as such. She loves them but sometimes, like her lust and love for Nahadoth, her love takes on a very human form. Yet she seems to understand that they are Gods and will never look at things how humans do. Yeine is a noble and tough character who does her best in a very tough situation. She loves fiercely and will do anything to protect those she loves. I really enjoyed reading about her.
There are a number of side characters as well. We read a lot about Sieh, who is one of Nahadoth’s children. Sieh is an eternal child and trickster and he loves Yeine in the way only a child can. He is an interesting concept and adds a lot of fun and depth to the story.
All of the side characters are fascinating and have a lot of depth to them. The characters, like the world, are incredibly well done.
The story ties up very nicely with all of the smaller plot points featuring Yeine well tied up. The second book, The Broken Kingdom, features different characters…but explores what happens to the Kingdom following the events in this book.
Overall an outstanding epic fantasy novel. There is just so much that is well done here. The book does start a bit rough, but quickly regains its footing. The world-building is fantastic and the characters have a lot of depth and absolutely intriguing and engaging. The story is very well done and I enjoyed it a lot. Highly recommended to fans of epic fantasy.
If you enjoy books about mortals struggling to make a life while their lives are entwined with the lives of Gods, I would also recommend Deathless by Catherynne Valente. Deathless reminded me a bit of this book in that it features a young girl who is chosen to be the bride of a Deathless and is drawn into his eternal Godly battle.