Greetings, y’all! Welcome back after our weekly break! I’m actually thinking of adding some content, but don’t tell A…given she’s just started rehearsals for yet another (!) show, I don’t think she’d like to hear it. Then again, y’all probably have your fill of me, so maybe I won’t.
Anyway. I’m not sure y’all can remember all the back to Monday–internet time is a strange, fickle thing–but I wrote an entry about the need for diversity in Fantasy and Sci-Fi. I focused on POC because I’ve been packing lately and I noticed just how disproportionate the representation is in my books. Now, maybe that’s just me… maybe I’m the problem, but I don’t think so. I read a lot of stuff. I just think the world of science-fiction and fantasy is unduly… homogeneous.
That being said, I made the decision this week to feature one of my favorite trilogies featuring POC. As a bonus, it was also written by a black woman (which can be difficult to find in fantasy), NK Jemisin! I actually can’t believe I didn’t think to do it before now. Well…actually, I’ve thought about it, but I was never sure what to pair it with. Each of the three novels has a distinct flavor and it certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all sort of series. What I’ve done, therefore, is to pair a wine with the first book, a spirit with the second, and a mixed drink with the third…because I can. And because I enjoy making things difficult for myself.
When I first read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (the first book in the trilogy), I spent a few pages confused. But it quickly took off once I got myself in the right head space to read it. Novels require different modes of thinking. You don’t read Harry Potter the same way you read A Tale of Two Cities or For Whom the Bell Tolls. And so it is with this trilogy.
In the interests of full disclosure, my favorite book is the first one. It’s a deft mix of some of my favorite things in the world: gods, politics, fantasy, and a splash of romance. (Shhh…that last one’s a bit of a secret of mine. I love a good romance subplot. I’ll probably never be into a straight romance, but a good subplot is always so important.) Yeine Darr is a barbarian; or, at least, that’s what she’s called by the ruling Arameri family, who basically have the running of the whole world. Half Arameri herself, her mother was once heir to the throne, but abdicated to marry a Darre man. As a result, Darr was blacklisted and has lived with crippling debt ever since. But this is only the backdrop. The novel begins when Yeine is summoned to Sky, the palace of the Arameri, to replace her mother as heir. She is also determined to solve the murder of her mother and is convinced one of her cousins, also heirs, has done the deed. She has to master Arameri politics in order to survive, and that’s difficult for a woman who can’t pretend worth a damn. Things are very, very dangerous in Sky. And that’s just accounting for the human dangers.
You see, there are gods at Sky. Enslaved gods, bid to be the weapons of the Arameri at the behest of another god who betrayed them. And they have their own plans for Yeine.
I cannot tell you how much I loved this book. The writing is sheer magnificence, the characters are full of depth and realism (especially handy for a fantasy book), and the mythology is beautifully crafted. There is a sense of just how dangerous the enslaved gods are, but how defeated and hurt they are as well. The sense of loss among them is palpable and it influences the entire story in the best way. Yeine works perfectly as our “outsider’s perspective” to the world, and you certainly will root for her, fear for her, cheer for her, mourn for her…all for her. She is wonderful.
It’s hard to talk about the other two books without revealing too much about this one because, though each story stands on its own in a wonderful way, they build on the events of earlier stories and expand the world. The second novel–The Broken Kingdoms–takes place ten years later with a brand new protagonist, but cannot exist without what happens at the end of the first novel. We learn more about the world, see what humanity has been up to since the changes wrought at the end of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and even learn to love a character we thought never to forgive. The third book returns to a beloved character from the first novel–the trickster god Sieh–and follows his growth…when growth is anathema to a child god. In the third book, we learn more about the gods of this world and how the mythology works than ever before, and it really feels like the entire trilogy is brought to a close. And, throughout it all, NK Jemisin weaves beautiful words, pays off clues and world-building begun at the very beginning, and continues to introduce characters we continue to care about. There’s a reason Jemisin won awards.
Now…what to drink? I promised a wine, a spirit, and a mixed drink at the beginning, and here I deliver on that promise. For the first, I’m recommending a Bordeaux. Why? Because almost all Bordeaux wines are blends. This adds to the complexity of flavors for which a good Bordeaux is known. Mostly red, sometimes white…which fits the first novel better than you think. It’s not a popper of a wine, either; it’s more delicate, more subtle than a lot of people would think. And I like that. So Bordeaux it is!
For the second book, I’m picking a nice, smooth, single malt Scotch. Whisky warms, which is necessary if it wants to pair well with this book. If the first was dark, this was the light to balance it out. I’m actually quite the fan of Glenmorangie myself; it’s smooth, with a hint of sweetness, and is eminently drinkable. There’s a reason it’s the #1 seller in Scotland. It’s got some elegance and some fire, which is absolutely perfect.
For the third book…well, I’m going with an Amaretto Sour. Why? It’s a combination of sweet and sour, like growing up. The third novel features a lot of growing up, a lot of maturing, a lot of learning and realizing you really didn’t know that much. When that growing up is done by the child trickster god…well, things can get a bit complex. Which is why I picked a drink that’s simple to make. You’ll have enough on your hands dealing with Sieh.
Anyway…I’ve let this one get a bit long, I think. Picking three drinks will do that. Well, that’s it for me today! Tomorrow is A with the Shakespeare Update! (And since we’re rapidly closing in on his 400th Death Day Anniversary, there’s plenty of Shakespeare to share.)
Buy the Books:
Buy the Booze:
If you buy anything, buy the Glenmorangie. You will thank me.