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Jemisin, N.K.: The Killing Moon

The Killing Moon (2012)
Written by: N.K. Jemisin
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 448 (Kindle)
Series: Book One (Dreamblood)

Why I Read It: I thoroughly enjoyed Jemisin's debut fantasy trilogy, and when I heard about this duology (or duet, whatever they're calling a two-book series these days), I knew it'd be a must read for me. I just kept putting it off because I didn't know if I wanted the physical copy of the book or the Kindle copy. Fate decided me when the Kindle copy was offered SUPER-CHEAP on Amazon, so I snatched it up. It was an easy decision to make, especially since The Killing Moon was November's book club pick!

The premise: ganked from BN.com: 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.


Spoilers, yay or nay?: Yay. It's a book club pick, so that's to be expected. If you hvaen't yet read the book and want to remain unspoiled, feel free to skip to "My Rating" and you'll be just fine. Everyone else, onward!



It was a strange thing. I read this book after finishing my first Star Wars book in ages. If you noticed Monday's review of that book, you know I had some trouble with the style of writing, but that I was willing to forgive a lot because it was, after all, Star Wars. I grew up with that style, you know?

But it's a marked difference to go from that style that's geared to the general populace to a style that's geared towards fantasy readers, and discerning fantasy readers at that. As soon as I started reading, I was struck again by Jemisin's style: how she can paint a picture, how she draws the reader in, and just how good her actual writing is. I know I delayed getting this book because I wasn't sure which format I would get, but no more: Jemisin is a writer that is a must-read for me, and thanks to The Killing Moon, I won't forget it.

Though one might argue that after reading a Star Wars book, I was gullible to anything that sounded good. But I doubt it. I've been quite pleased with Jemisin's work to date, and sentences like this

His voice was as soft and deep as the bedchamber's shadows.


that engage me on a visual and auditory level as well as appeal to my sense of touch (something about those shadows and voice strikes me as very soft, like a blanket) gets a gold star in my book.

Also, Jemisin throws the reader into her world-building in a way that immediately nabbed my interest. I was fascinated, and I always wanted to learn more about how dreaming worked, how it tied to the soul, and how those souls were gathered. Jemisin reveals this by showing us how things work, and later reinforces it at various time by applicable telling. I don't recall getting unnecessary info-dumps, and it's always good to have characters who don't understand how things work (and Sunandi had a very biased opinion) to reveal how things do in a telling fashion. Sometimes, it's a little confusing, because for a while, I thought that Sunandi's people didn't actually dream. Yet after completing the book and reading Jemisin's interview with herself, I suspect the difference here is between regular dreaming and lucid dreaming, and it's lucid dreaming that's the source of magic.

At any rate, I was hooked from the start, and this became a super-fast read for me.

Before I continue, I will say this: while I enjoyed the interludes quite a bit (the first one was excellent), I found myself confused by the last interlude: I thought I knew who was telling these stories, but I ended up feeling confused as to the speaker, as well as the when: when were these stories being told in relation to the main plot? I still don't know for sure (I think it's the Reaper right before he became the Reaper), and I'd love peoples' thoughts if they've got a better grasp of it than I do. Given this is the first book in a two-book series, I'd say the next book might clarify, but given how tightly this book is plotted, I don't think that's the case.

Moving on:

There's a lot I can praise about this book. The diversity of all the characters and nations involved. The way the world-building feels steeped in history yet is a secondary world with no ties to our own. The little ways in which the various characters interact with each other, the ways those characters grow. Good and evil is not simply black and white, if you'll pardon the phrase. The heroes of the story sometimes have to do bad things to achieve good. The villains of the story do bad things to achieve good, even if it means going through a bad spell at first. There's even humor:

"I brought this one here to keep as proof. The others were burned. Do you understand what this means?"

She swallowed, her gorge rising anew. "The abomination. But if your Hetawa has failed in its vigilance, then you should be showing this corpse to the Prince of Gujaareh, not me. I am Kisuati; I can only say, 'We told you so.' "


Or here, when Gehanu and Ehiru meet:

"Too young for sense, too old to beat. But young women are worse, trust me. Three daughters back home, along with my other three sons. Should probably beat my husband for inflicting all of them on me, but he's pretty and he doesn't eat much, so I keep him around."


I loved the master/apprentice relationship between Ehiru and Nijiri, and how complex it was on so many levels. The love Nijiri felt for Ehiru was quite believable and heartfelt, despite it being a selfish thing for most of the book. And what Ehiru could reciprocate (which was never anything physical) was selfish in its own right, and that reveals something quite true about love. People talk about how love is a selfless thing, but that's not always true. It can be a selfish thing, and still be a true love, can't it? Maybe that's a philosophical debate for later, but in context of the story, Ehiru needed comfort to keep going, and by delaying the inevitable, Nijiri was able to help Ehiru defeat the Prince and put things back to right. Well, as right as they could be: after all, the city's been invaded, and we only see a glimpse of what that will mean for Gujaareh's people. Point being: I liked the way these two characters interacted, and I love how Jemisin resisted turning it into a romance.

I loved getting so many different takes on the role of the Gatherers and what that really meant for their people. Sunandi is a fanatic in her belief that Ehiru and Nijiri are killers, and it's a POV we need to have in order to balance things out, which is useful, because it adds a necessary shading to the world-building.

And I will say there were quite a few things I figured out in advance. The identity of the Reaper, for one; the understanding of the addictive nature of dreamblood and the parallel between drugs and withdrawal. Yet it was no less interesting to have my answers confirmed and explained. I also really appreciated getting the interview at the back of the book, where Jemisin gets to explain her magic system at a distance. If you haven't read that interview, I suggest doing so. It's a great summation of the magic system.



My Rating: Good Read

I am so glad that the book club finally gave me the excuse I need to pick this book up, because I hadn't realized how much I'd been looking forward to it until I actually started reading it. Jemisin is definitely on my must-read list of authors, and I'm looking forward to picking up the sequel, The Shadowed Sun, as soon as I've got a slot available to do so. I love that I can always count on Jemisin for solid, fascinating and diverse world-building as well as magic systems that really capture my imagination. The Killing Moon is set in a fantasy world utterly different than that of the Inheritance Trilogy, and it makes a great starting place for readers unfamiliar with her work, or readers who may have bounced off the gods in the previously-mentioned trilogy. I'll definitely be keeping this one in mind come Hugo-nominating season.

Cover Commentary: Love it. The coloring really stands out and catches my eye, and the land/cityscape screams fantasy to me.

Further Reading: With the theme of Oscar-Bait, it's a bit difficult to come up with a reading list. The other nominees in the poll are certainly good places to start:

Elizabeth Bear's Range of Ghosts
Nancy Kress' After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall
China Miéville's Railsea

But any new release in 2012 is worth considering. Some considerations by authors who've been nominated in the past or have won other awards would be (in alphabetical order):

Bacigalupi, Paolo: The Drowned Cities
Corey, James S.A.: Caliban's War
Grant, Mira: Blackout
Jemisin, N.K.: The Shadowed Sun
Priest, Cherie: The Inexplicables
Rogers, Jane: The Testament of Jessie Lamb
Scalzi, John: Redshirts
Valente, Catherynne M.: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

More Reviews: Check out the reviews book club participants have posted! If you reviewed this book but are not featured here, please comment below with a link to your review and I'll add it below.

intoyourlungs: Review Here
starmetal_oak: Review Here
temporaryworlds: Review Here

Book Club Poll: Just so you know, I'm not tracking participation points, but I do want to have some idea of how popular or unpopular a book club selection is, hence, the poll. If you're not on Live Journal, you can still vote using OpenID! Just go to Live Journal's home page and in the upper right-hand corner, log in using said OpenID address, and then you can vote on this page!

Poll #1881648 November Participation

Have you read N.K. Jemisin's The Killing Moon?

Yes, I've read it.
15(60.0%)
Yes, but I haven't finished it yet. I will though!
1(4.0%)
Yes, but once I started, I couldn't MAKE myself finish it (please comment).
1(4.0%)
No. I really wanted to read it, but I wasn't able.
3(12.0%)
No, the selection didn't interest me.
3(12.0%)
No, but after reading your review, I wish I had!
2(8.0%)
No, for OTHER reasons (please comment)
0(0.0%)


If you started the book but couldn't finish it, please comment and talk about the reasons why. What turned you off from the book? How far did you go before throwing in the towel?

And as you already know, the December Book Club selection is Catherynne M. Valente's Deadthless. Some of you may have started it already, but if need additional details on the title, just click here.

Sign up for monthly book club REMINDERS: enter your email addy here.

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