Review: The Awakened Kingdom by N. K. Jemisin

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The awakened kingdomAnyone who has read The Inheritance Trilogy will want to snap up The Awakened Kingdom. Jemisin packs a lot of story and a whole lot of world-building into the novella’s pages. Shill is the newest and youngest of the godlings. She—-or, on occasion he; the gods’ gender is fluid—-feels that she* should be filling the role of a godling who died not long before she was born, but she finds herself unable to duplicate his actions and types. After experimenting for a while in the gods’ realm, she heads down to the mortal realm to learn what she should be—and how to deal with fragile humans, promises, and laws.

Like the novels in the Inheritance Trilogy, The Awakened Kingdom is told first-person, by the narrator to an unknown audience who is only identified at the end. Because Shill is an newborn godling at the beginning, Jemisin uses simplified speech and punctuation. While it shows her age at the time the events take place, it is also mildly annoying as such stylistic choices often are. Fortunately, the language matures as Shill does, and the reading grows markedly easier and more fluid.

The Awakened Kingdom demonstrates N. K. Jemisin’s mastery of world building, developing both the mortal world and the life of the gods. In the mortal realm, it focuses on the Darren people, a group which has not been shown much in the books. Even more fascinating, and more than any of the novels, it focuses on the culture and world of the godlings as Shill grows and learns. New godlings are introduced and their sibling relationships form a great portion of the novella. While the three main gods do not show often, Jemisin shows how they have changed due to the events of the trilogy.

The novella is a must-read for those who have read The Inheritance Trilogy and may serve as an introduction for those who want a sample of Jemisen’s writing before they dive in to the novels–provided they do not mind spoilers. Jemisen gives enough details that a newcomer used to fantasy and accepting new worlds should be able to follow the story, but it is set after the trilogy and does mention some of the events that have come before.


*Shill chooses to be female for most of the book.

The Awakened Kingdom is available now from Orbit books.

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