You can always tell when you come across something and know you’ve never quite read anything like it before, because afterwards, your brain won’t know quite how to file it away. It has to create new paradigms to fit stuff into. I was in that stage for quite a while after reading this weird, sensual, dark, joyful book.
Our main character Yeine lives in a world where belief in the gods is not an option. The gods walk among them. It’s a world where one nation, the Arameri, have all the power because 2,000 years before when the God’s War sundered their world, they landed on the winning side. There are many gods and godlings, but only three main gods. The winning god, Itempas, killed his sister, who had betrayed him, and now imprisons his brother and the children who fought on their side. It is this that makes the Arameri powerful. Itempas gave them the defeated gods in human form, imprisoning them at the will of the Arameri. For 2,000 years they are used as playthings and world-destroying weapons.
Yeine’s mother was Arameri, but was exiled when she married Yeine’s father, a man from a “barbarian” culture. But now Yeine’s mother has died under mysterious circumstances, and she has suddenly been made heir to her grandfather, the leader of the Arameri. Yeine is thrust into a fraught situation with very little knowledge, and has to play power games and figure out the complicated mysteries of the Arameri and their godling playthings in order to survive.
The whole thing turns into this mystical, surprisingly sexy, twisted journey of spirituality and power, and it was soooo hard to put down. It was also really weird, and in parts, I had to keep reminding myself it was fiction so my brain would calm down.
Jemisin has a beautiful way with words, and the characters she creates feel very real. She also peoples her worlds with diverse cultures and races of people, and her world is one of fluid and surprising sexuality. If you’re a fantasy fan and you haven’t tried this series yet, I highly highly recommend that you do. It’s epic in a way I’ve never seen fantasy be epic before. I am definitely a fan of this author now (especially after reading the second book in the series, which was my favorite).