The city burned beneath the Dreaming Moon.
In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers - the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt.
But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh's great temple, Ehiru - the most famous of the city's Gatherers - must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering dreamers in the goddess' name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh's alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill - or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.
"[A] gripping series launch... as well as a rousing political and supernatural adventure." (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review)
"Shines for its remarkable characters and graceful prose." (Library Journal)
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NK Jemisin's best yet. Halfway through the story I worried resolution would be deferred to the next book, which will be released shortly, but the author slammed the end of the story down like a card player laying a flush of spades. I would love to see more fantasy like this, featuring an end at the end, a rich setting at the beginning, and a magic awash with moral uncertainty.
What the book jacket doesn't tell you is that this is a story about euthanasia. At least, its magic is. Dreamblood seems to be the energy released when a soul is shoved/escorted to the afterlife. Two of the protagonists, the gatherers, specialize in freeing sufferers. But they also harvest the “corrupt,” a perilous term ripe to be exploited by political intrigue and fallible men. And it is. And as readers, we are disturbed no matter where we fall on the euthanasia issue.
This struggle of using a potentially terrible magic for good lies at the frenetic beating heart of the Killing Moon. The forces of human need, free will, and religious devotion all clash, with no clear victor. NK Jemisin challenges the reader, not only with moral dilemmas but also with a frolic through tense and perspective shifts. (Yes, including second person, present tense.) A few times I had to blink and take a breath, when her words struck a perfect chord.
The setting is non-European but what it is seems mostly understated. Mentioned in passing are a seasonal flood, camels, a few drifts of sand, and loindrapes (more classy than loincloths?). The culture's dominant feature is the religion of a dream afterlife and a goddess of sleeping peace, an invention that transcends reference to any real-world local.
Given that euthanizing monks make up two of the three main viewpoint characters, and the tone of the story, I would be tempted to classify this as Dark Fantasy. Since it's second world, magic-centric, and has resolution in fewer than five hundred pages, High Fantasy is another reasonable description. If you like delving the uncertain waters of often disturbing ideas, of unrequited romance, and bitter triumphs, this is the fantasy book for you. Oh, and the Reaping magic is atom-bomb overpowered, but at least it has the decency to drive the user into gibbering madness.
- A.E. "I encourage people to touch the sky of human imagination and read fantasy. My blog is the Importance of the Impossible."