And my brother saw it and remembered and bought me her books for my birthday because I have the best brother ever.
While I've been hearing about the Inheritance Trilogy for years, I hadn't heard very much about the Dreamblood, which only came out last year. This was my introduction to N.K. Jemisin, and I am absolutely seeking out more of her work.
The Killing Moon is somewhat impenetrable at first because Jemisin drops you in her world without much exposition at all—it wasn't until I finished the book that I saw that there was a HELPFUL GLOSSARY IN THE BACK—so there are heaps of unfamiliar words and concepts thrown at you. We first meet Ehiru, who is a "Gatherer" who sneaks around the city-state of Gujaareh collecting "dreamblood" (and there also appear to be "dreambile," "dreamichor," and "dreamseed") as a "tithe" for the "Hetawa" and—yes, it's confusing in the beginning, but trust me, it's totally worth it. Jemisin has constructed a really fascinating magic system based on Freudian dream theory and Egyptian medicine (did you know the ancient Egyptians also had the "four humors" philosophy of the Greeks?), and she has in turn constructed a very interesting society based on ancient Egyptian culture (which, incidentally, means that all the characters are non-white).
So let's start over. Ehiru is basically a ninja priest who goes around collecting magical energy from people as he helps them die peacefully, and this magical energy is used to heal people in the name of their Goddess. Nijiri is a ninja priest-in-training. Sunandi is an ambassador from a nearby city-state, Kisua. Our three main characters discover that there is corruption in Gujaareh, and war may be imminent. Also there is some creature running around eating people's souls.
Although it took some time to get my footing in this world, at a certain point, it becomes an extremely compelling page-turner, and I found it hard to stop reading. I was audibly gasping and cursing throughout the book as we discovered more about what was going on and I feared for everyone's lives. At first, Ehiru seems like kind of a dull Areo Hotah-type, but there is much more to him than his duty to the Hetawa, especially once he begins questioning their orders. Nijiri is a devoted apprentice, fiercely protective, and he knows that he may be called on to do more than he is capable of in the name of saving his home and his friend. Sunandi has no love for Gatherers or Gujaareen culture in general, but she must learn to understand them if she hopes to keep peace between them.
The Killing Moon leads up to a hell of a climax, and even though I knew that N.K. Jemisin allows each book in a series to stand alone, I was very worried about how she would leave things. The resolution is appropriate for this story and the characters, and I am very intrigued as to what The Shadowed Sun is about. Jemisin has sucked me into this world so hard that even when I didn't know what all the words meant, I was invested in what was going to happen. Once again: the early chapters are going to be a bit difficult, but seriously, stick with it, and you will be rewarded with an exciting, richly detailed fantasy adventure.
I was really impressed with the world N.K. Jemisin built in The Killing Moon as well as the compelling story she told. So imagine my surprise and delight when The Shadowed Sun (full Goodreads review) was even better.
Although the book does stand alone, Gujaareh is not the same after the events of the previous book, so I cannot describe the state of things without spoiling, but suffice it to say that there is more political intrigue afoot. Also a deadly sleeping sickness is killing off members of the Hetawa and civilians alike.
The Shadowed Sun is more complex than its predecessor, which I appreciated, but where it really shines is its characters. Some of the characters from the previous book return, and I welcomed their appearances, but the two main protagonists are fantastic. The Killing Moon focused on a Gatherer, Ehiru; this book puts the focus on a Sharer-Apprentice, Hanani: the first woman ever to be accepted into the Hetawa. She goes through an incredible journey of self-discovery as she comes to terms with who she is as a person, a woman, a member of the Hetawa, and a Servant of Hananja. She's strong and conflicted and much more relatable than Ehiru was. Then we have Wanahomen, who is basically Daenerys Targaryen with a dash of Theon. He goes through an incredible journey of self-discovery as he comes to terms with who he is as a person, a man, a Prince of the Sunset, and a son of Eninket. I was so incredibly invested in both these characters.
The book explores romance, sexuality, and gender more than the first book, and it's deeply rooted in character rather than a need to spice things up. It does, unfortunately, include some rape and sexual assault, but it's not exploitative or victimizing, despite being uncomfortable to read.
As I neared the end of the book, I was shouting at it a lot. That's always the mark of a good book to me, when things are so tense, distressing, and surprising that I can't help reacting audibly even though nobody's watching. And as I finished it, I didn't find myself not wanting it to end, which is another mark of a good book, because although I loved spending time in that world, I was so completely satisfied by the story she had told in this book. If Jemisin chooses to write another Dreamblood book, I will absolutely be buying it.