That probably is a strange thing to say considering that this is book two of a trilogy. And with the second book there tends to be fewer surprises, more exposition. Frankly, book twos have often been a bit of a letdown.
But in The Broken Kingdoms, Jemisin took me by surprise. She more or less picks up where she left off in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, ten years later (which as you may recall, I Loved). But she brings in a new character, Oree Shoth, a blind artist who sells her wares in the city of Shadow and who stumbles across a dead godling. Oree is a woman “plagued by gods”:
“Sometimes they followed me home and made me breakfast. Sometimes they tried to kill me. Occasionally they bought my trinkets and statues, though for what purpose I can’t fathom. And yes, sometimes I loved them.
I even found one in a muckbin once. Sounds mad, doesn’t it? But it’s true. If I had known this would become my life when I left home for this beautiful, ridiculous city, I would have thought twice. Though I would still have done it.”
The godling in the muckbin becomes an important part of the book, but that’s all I should tell you about.
Oree is more certain than Yeine (from the first book), and there’s less backtracking in the storytelling, probably because there’s less need for the explanation of the gods-mortals relationship now. But like Yeine, she is more or less drawn into situations that are beyond her control.
I really appreciated that the story, while set in the same world, is told from a completely different viewpoint. Sky was where the ruling Arameri family lived (even the servants were Arameri). Shadow, beneath the leaf canopy of the World Tree, is where the regular folk live – some are pilgrims and worshippers, some priests and many, like Oree, are just working hard to make a living. And like many other regular folks, isn’t all that sure about what had happened those ten years ago up in Sky.
“I’m just an ordinary woman with no connections or status, and no power beyond a walking stick that makes an excellent club in a pinch. I had to figure out everything the hard way.”
I’m looking forward to seeing what Jemisin has up her sleeve for the third book.