I don’t have follow-through.
When it comes to books and series, there are far too many that I’ve started and stopped, searching instead for that other read, stretching out for something different.
But when it comes to NK Jemisin, it seems that I have read all of her books!
(And now I have to wait for the next one to come out…. what? next year?!)
I first heard of her books from Eva at A Striped Armchair, when she blogged about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the first book in the Inheritance trilogy.
And when I finished those three books (sigh! Perhaps a reread is in order!!), I turned to Jemisin’s Dreamblood series, of which there has been The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun. (Jemisin talks about The Killing Moon on John Scalzi’s blog, if you’re interested in finding out more about her inspiration behind this book – two words ‘ninja priests’ – if that doesn’t make you want to read her books, I don’t know what will!). Here’s the first chapter of The Killing Moon on Jemisin’s website if you’d like to read a bit more.
It had unfortunately been a bit of a time lag between my reading of The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun. Goodreads tells me I read The Killing Moon in December 2012. And oops, The Shadowed Sun was first published in January 2012, making my read quite a delayed one.
But oh what a read it was.
From that striking cover to its nightmarish premise, I drank it all in.
Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:
Gujaareh, the city of dreams, suffers under the imperial rule of the Kisuati Protectorate. A city where the only law was peace now knows violence and oppression. A mysterious and deadly plague now haunts the citizens of Gujaareh, dooming the infected to die screaming in their sleep. Someone must show them the way.
It’s an unusually short synopsis this one. I suppose there must be a longer one somewhere but this one is adequate. Because what made the book was not just the storyline, this nightmare that is creeping around the city, but those wonderful characters that Jemisin has created, and how she has nurtured them and brought them through life and all its motions, its joys and suffering, its pleasures, its fears.
The two main characters are Hanani, the first female Sharer (she’s a kind of healer) and Wanahomen, the son of the fallen Prince, who is rounding up his allies and establishing his power. And what characters they are! You aren’t expected to like Wana at first, he’s hardened, unfriendly, and long-prejudiced against the Sharers and the Hetawa. Hanani comes across at first as unsure of herself, as a Sharer-Apprentice, as the first female Sharer-Apprentice, the first female member of the Hetawa.
Jemisin has created such genuine characters. While I did not start out liking Wana – and it took a very long time for me to grudgingly accept him – he seemed so very real a person. A large part of his character development is due to his interactions with Hanami but this is far from a romantic or traditional kind of situation. Hanami was my favourite character, her dedication to her work and to her life as Sharer, her willingness to adapt to her new life with the Banbarra, her ability to connect with others. And through her, learning about the gender roles in the different societies, the power structures in the tribe, and life in this new place she finds herself in.
And this world that Jemisin has created! Based on Egyptian mythology, a world where women are deemed goddesses but are hardly given any freedom to do as they wish, where men are veiled and only unveil themselves at home and with those close to them. And where the Sharers access dreamscapes and heal their patients. Of course, it was first introduced in The Killing Moon, but the introduction of the Banbarra and their tribal society brings such greater depth and sense of place to her constructed universe.
If you’ve never read anything by NK Jemisin before, go! Run out to your library or your bookstore or just buy an e-copy of one of her books. And read! And be amazed. And please come back and tell me all about it!