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Daniel I Russell - Writer of Horror Fiction


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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Review of... The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms


An exgirlfriend of mine, while we at university and she was doing a writing degree, quite confidently stated that books are written because authors have to deliver a message of their own agenda. This message may be wrapped in and hidden away in the subtext of a piece of fiction, but it’s there. I disagreed, and still do. Yes, an author can do this, but can’t an author simply want to tell a story or entertain?

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With The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, I got a very clear message that wasn’t quite as subtle as I would have thought.

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In HTK, Yeine is the leader of the kingdom of Darr, a clan of warrior women in the north. The barbarian is surprised to find herself summoned to the floating palace of Sky, wherein her grandfather, the ruler of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is to choose an heir. The choice is between Yeine, the outsider, or his spoiled, evil niece or indulgent drunk nephew. Yeine, reluctant to enter into such a contest, takes the opportunity to delve into the mystery of her mother’s death. Did her grandfather order the killing, as she’s believed for years, or is there a deeper mystery at play here?

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I’m sitting on the sofa writing this on my laptop. The early morning sun is coming in through the window, and I can smell the rich espresso from the cup beside me.

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This was a book I received free at Swancon 2011. I keep a small stash of fantasy to dip into as a change from the horror.

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Although I call this fantasy, I’ve seen it dubbed as romance. There are romantic elements, certainly, but the drawer of attention appears to be: majestic sex with gods! The sex is very PG here with no mention of anything even slightly rude. If you had sex while out of your tree on LSD, and described the LSD bit over the sex, you get an idea of the scenes here. So just a warning, erotica lovers, this is NOT erotica!

And fantasy lovers…I wouldn’t call this a straight up fantasy novel either. It reads more like a political mystery set in a hovering fairy tale castle. The protagonist Yeine just seems to wander from room to room, talking to people. Yes, twists emerge to make for a more intricate plot, so then Yeine has to go and talk to everyone all over again. Repeat the cycle a few times with Yeine getting more moaning and whining each time and you have the book. Even one of the characters complains to her about her endless whinging towards the end. Good on him.

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I like circuses. Do you like circuses, Duffy?

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For a book titled Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, we see very little outside the palace walls and the endless talking. To have such a good premise and not use it is a shame. The very rare moments that something happens elsewhere or simply something happens at all, is like the reader coming up for a well needed gasp of air before going back down into the murk.

Don’t get me wrong, the writing is of a high standard, and this author can certainly do a good job, but is let down by a short-sighted plot and some annoying habits.

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These scene breaks. Annoying aren’t they? Now picture a four hundred page novel written like this. Seriously. How the hell an editor of a mass market publisher would green light this is beyond me. Some of them don’t even make sense.

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Mickey, Minnie and Goofy triple fatty bang bang.

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So in summary, no, I did not like this book much and will not be looking into part two of the trilogy. I would rather read something from this author over some piece of crap from a writer who doesn’t have the tools in his/her author toolbox, but yeah, not for me.

What of this not so subtle message that I mentioned?

I hope other readers picked up that every female character in this book is powerful. They’re gods, or leaders, or have a strong, commanding presence. They’re fighters and world changers.

The men….not so much. Every male character is greedy or weak or basically a shit. Most are patronising to women. I thought about the exceptions. One god, Nahadoth, who the author appears to like and is the source of the LSD sex scenes, turns out isn’t necessarily male (and she even hints that he is more of a female in one scene). So he doesn’t count. With another god, Yeine doesn’t like him much unless he’s in child form. The only other reputable male character is a guy called T’vril. Turns out he’s crap in bed and a bit of a coward to boot.

The book reads like the author was dumped/cheated on and wrote the book in a ‘all men are arseholes, yet I am a warrior woman. Hear me roar!’ kinda mood. It soured what was already a mediocre experience for me. Not because I’m male and felt hard done to; I’d feel the same if the book was having a pop at women (and even Ketchum books where women are being raped/tortured have balance).
My third dip into my fantasy pile and my second disappointment (loved The Hobbit, obviously).

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Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 7:22 am :: 0 comments

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