This was Jemisin’s debut novel, published in 2010, the first book of the Inheritance Trilogy.
The beautifully realized and richly detailed world of this story is inhabited by people like those on our own world, but dominated by its creators, living, immortal gods with immense power. First, aeons ago, there was only Nahadoth, the Night Lord, god of Chaos. Then he was joined by his brother, Itempas, god of Light and Order. They loved each other, but their opposite natures clashed, and they often fought. Finally they were joined by a sister, Enefa, goddess of twilight and dawn, of life and death. The three together were in balance, and the world and people they created grew and prospered. Even the gods had children, godlings with their own powers and attributes. Then one day Enefa was murdered, and Itempas and Nahadoth went to war with each other. Itempas triumphed. He put Nahadoth and all the children of the gods into bondage, forcing them to serve the people and greatly restricting their powers. The world was broken by the conflict, and the majority of the people died. When things settled, Itempas chose the Arameri family to rule all the small kingdoms of the world, and they did so with an iron hand and the blessing of Itempas and his priests.
Yeine Darr, the story’s narrator, lives in the barbaric north, but her mother had been the heir to the Arameri throne before she abdicated to marry her Darr father. Yeine’s father is long dead, and her mother recently murdered, when she’s commanded by Dekarta, the Arameri leader, to come to the royal city, the massive god-built towers of Sky. There she learns she’s been named an heir to the Arameri throne, but Dekarta’s children Scimina and Relad want that throne, and at once begin trying to destroy Yeine. The young woman is frightened and feels hopeless until she’s taken under the wing of some of the captive gods and shown that she’s not as powerless as she thinks. With death always around the corner, Yeine begins to discover the truth about her own family and all the strange secrets of the gods and the Arameri.
Wonderful, engrossing, creative, hard to put down. Great characters, lots of surprises, an excellent book. I’m already reading the second one. Highly recommended.