You ever read a book and think…wow, this sounds a kinda familiar…like looking into two mirrors at once and watching your otherselves move? Sometimes, you think one of the mirror people is a shard different and you concentrate until you’re dizzy to see if you can spot the difference. You get mesmerized by the way their mouths move at the same time, and think the tilt of their head might betray the difference, but in the end you decide that you must have imagined it…
Both of these books are the story of the wrong-shaded, mis-haired, sudden heir. Both are rich and dense with world-building and court intrigue, full of weird names, and complicated politics.
I’ve read them each twice, now. There’s a lot to learn from both styles of writing and plotting. Jemisin’s voice is slippery and urgent. Addison’s, patient and tender. Addison does a masterful job of showing the moonlight glinting on glass, while Jemisin makes you love the bad boy even though you know you shouldn’t. Both books are fun and satisfying.
They both hint at much larger worlds, the iceberg under the tip. I haven’t read the rest of Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy yet, but the world-building is thick with history. Addison excels at the trick of tiny brushstrokes. While I might wonder if there’s actually a cat, it isn’t needed because I can feel the tickle of the whisker.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is sharp and swift. It reads like water held in a hand. Yeine finds herself proclaimed an heir inside a palace where gods are leashed and used as weapons over the whole world by the high nobility.
It’s an unlikely love story, as well as a tale of an outsider navigating a maze of jealousy and danger. There are lessons about power and people, and how we make choices based on emotion that cause a rippling effect on those we love.
The tone is grim and deadly. There’s abuse and torture and abominations. There’s a sense of inevitability, of a grinding death coming, and only a faint hope. Murder and intrigue and people behaving badly.
My favorite scene from the book is where the fearsome Nightlord is stabbed and says something tender and unexpected. My favorite line is, “I always hear their prayers,” said the Nightlord, “even if I’m not allowed to answer.”
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
The Goblin Emperor is slower and deeper. I cry when I read this book. It hurts with its gentleness and concern. Maia is a young half-goblin suddenly thrust by tragedy into a role he never imagined, but one which he desperately wants to do well.
It’s a love story, too. Not of passion, but rather, compassion. A tale of navigating a maze of bureaucracy, apathy, and opinion held as fact. There are lessons about power and people, and about how the way we treat one another has a rippling effect on everyone – even those we’ve never met.
The tone is carefulness and concern. There’s abuse and treason and cruelty. There’s a glimpse of hope, of a friendship blossoming, and only a faint whiff of how it’s impossible to fix it all, but we still must try. Murder and intrigue and people behaving badly.
My favorite scene is when the Emperor attends to the bedside of a dying woman who was kind to him as a child. I’m unable to choose a favorite line because each one is intricately tied to context and conversation. I love how the relationships unfold one petal at a time. It’s a fabulous magic to witness.