The Killing Moon, by N K Jemisin
This is the first of a fantasy duology by the author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, a debut novel which won the Locus Award. Inspired by her fascination with Egyptian magic and mystery, this book is set in an exotic world, and whilst steeped in ancient Egyptian culture, it’s unlikely to be anything you’ve come across before.
Blending religion and politics, the land of Gujarreh is an ancient city, where peace is the only law. Priests of the dream goddess Hananja, serve her by gathering the magic of the sleeping mind, so named as Gatherers. They operate at night collecting the dreams of those deemed corrupt by Hetawa, the Hanajan temple. The dreamers are sent with wonderous feelings into the afterlife and their dreamblood harvested by the Gatherers for use to heal and keep citizens in the main part healthy.
However life is never that simple and Ehiru, one of the most experienced Gatherers becomes made aware of a possible conspiracy and has to undertake a quest to establish what is truth and what is not with his apprentice Nijirie. Something that could cost his life and more. Under pressure to complete his collection of dreamblood from a corrupt citizen, he receives a prophetic message, and must make a stand to ensure the contract he has been set is proper and deserved. However with a risk of war and death there is much at stake.
This is a highly original story, quite different from typical fantasy novels. The first few chapters introduce you to this world and its intricate language and culture. There is an abundance of unique terminology, for which the glossary is invaluable. For this reason it’s probably best to have an initial uninterrupted read of about 40 pages, allowing all the detail to be absorbed and digested.
As the mystery and drama unfold, the intimate interpersonal relationship between Ehiru and his apprentice is delicately examined. It explores the strength of character and fortitude to remain true to your beliefs. It epitomizes fairness and nobleness, but not in a twee or gushing fashion. Instead it takes a more literary style to complex relationships, politics, psychology and corruption whilst interweaving and building up the detail about the conspiracy in a tense deliberate manner to make the opaque transparent and reach a satisfying conclusion. There is a mix of ninja style combat, conflict and violent scenes with a tranquil intimate exploration of the mind and social order, which gives the book balance and sustains pace. The world Jemisin creates is vivid and evocative, and likely to be a deserved popular read.