Spoilers for book one follow in this review. (You can actually read all three of these books separately, but you’ll definitely get the most out of all of them if you read all three.)
The Broken Kingdoms takes place ten years after The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and features a different set of main characters. In the ten years since Yeine took over for Enefa and the city of the Arameri was surrounded by the giant world tree, the city surrounding has changed dramatically. It is now called Shadow, and has become a haven for godlings, and a site of pilgrimage for world travelers. Yeine and Nahadoth’s presence (and Itempas’s absence) has also gradually begun to change the world. The first book was all about Yeine and Nahadoth, and this one centers on the blind woman Oree Shoth, who lives in the shadow of the world tree and sells art and maps to pilgrims. Despite being blind, she can see magic, and the book follows what happens to her after she takes in a homeless man she finds dead in a dumpster, who turns out to be a godling (which is why he doesn’t stay dead). Her new housemate is gruff and silent and is obviously depressed, and so she names him ‘Shiny,’ which never, ever stops being hilarious, even by the end of the book.
The non-spoilery part of this I can tell you is that Oree becomes accidentally involved in a plot to kill godlings, and since she has personal relationships with godlings, and magical powers that awaken over the course of the book, she gets sucked in to the wake of the murders. It’s fascinating to see the effect the events of the last book have had on this world, and to watch the characters react and change. Both Oree and Shiny have fantastic character arcs in this book, and the ending was perfect. It made me cry.
To get spoilery, Shiny is, of course, really Bright Itempas in his mortal form, doing penance as part of the curse Yeine and Nahadoth put upon him at the end of the first book. He’s a fantastic character, so proud and fearful and angry and resentful, yet vulnerable. Watching him change over the course of the book is so fantastic. It’s like part identity quest, part redemption arc. It was seriously genius the way Jemisin handles him. In the first book, we see everything from the eyes of the people he wronged, Nahadoth and Sieh in particular. But here, we see not only as Shiny understands why what he did was wrong, but we also come to understand events from his point of view.
Literally the only criticism I have of this book is that the climax got a bit frantic and confusing. Guh, it’s so good, otherwise.
(Probably good to note in the context of this review: Shiny is my favorite character, so I’m definitely biased in this book’s favor.)