Sometimes you read a book--or I do at least--and then have no idea how you feel about it. This is one of those. So I let it sit for a month or so before reviewing, and... I think I really liked it.
So short plot summary: Shortly after the death of her mother, Yeine is called by the grandfather she's never met, to the big city she's never been to, and told she's his heir. Which amounts to being heir to the entire world, since he's pretty much in charge of everything. The only problem is, there are two other heirs, and good old Grandad is content to sit back and let them fight it out. To the death, if necessary. Yeine, meanwhile, is a total beginner in the whole conspiracy and politics thing, and is therefore at something of a disadvantage.
The whole thing is rather complicated by the fact her family is not only in charge of pretty much the whole world, but their power largely derives from them having custody of a bunch of enslaved gods, currently being punished by their brother God over a rebellion. And this motley crew of chained but still extremely powerful beings, have plans of their own for Yeine.
Yeine herself, is a sometimes frustrating character, but generally sympathetic. She's smart and tough, but she's naive and too quick to trust--especially in a hotbed of political intrigue. Nahadoth, oldest and strongest of the chained gods is suitably enigmatic and inscrutable most of the time, and the other heirs and family members are essentially set pieces. There's the mean girl, and the drunk wastrel boy, and the overly helpful and clearly untrustworthy one, and I don't know wtf is up with the grandfather, because we really don't see very much of him.
It's dreadfully flawed in some ways. For instance, the entire thing takes place over a few short weeks, and Yeine goes from naive barbarian to epic political twistmeister pretty quickly (although not always 100% succesfully.) There's other things, but I don't want to put anyone off it, I think this is very much worth reading.
Because, flawed it might be, but it's so very compelling. Jemisin's writing just hit me like a freight train and didn't stop. I suspect if you aren't quite so captivated by the writing, you'll have a much harder time forgiving the flaws.
My biggest caveat: I think it should have been a standalone. Most series-starter books I like as much as I think I might have liked this one, I'm eagerly hunting down the sequels, but I have absolutely no desire to do so here. In fact, the ending is so perfectly wrapped up for me, (and clearly for the author), there really is no possible way to continue to write about these characters. So the sequels are about different ones, set in the same world, following someone who although they are a shadow over this whole book, we don't actually meet until the very last pages. And I just don't want to read about him. That said, there's no cliffhanger, and this story is so utterly complete, I'm going to recommend this as a standalone. And then I'm going to go find something else
Jemisin has written, that isn't part of this series, and see if that freight train hits me again, or did I just luck out this time.