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.
The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
Book One of the Dreamblood Duology
4.5 out of 5 stars
The strength of The Killing Moon is its sense of perspective. Every element of this book, from the setting Jemisin has so carefully constructed to the characters populating the story, is offered to the reader through various perspectives. The city of Gujaareh and its culture are not just shown in the light of its inhabitants, but also in the eyes of neighboring cities - both in the present day perspective and how it has been viewed historically. Each character is fleshed out through their interactions with other characters. The development of all of the characters, not just our main characters, has a sense of realism in how they are allowed to be as paradoxical and unpredictable as real people tend to be.
There is a moral complexity within The Killing Moon that sets it apart from most books I've read. This complexity is all a part of this idea of varied perspectives. Is Ehiru, one of our main characters, a murderer or a merciful priest? There is no clean-cut sense of right or wrong through the eyes of our main characters. Jemisin presents an array of moral choices, all seemingly valid, and leaves it up to the reader to decide where they fall on the spectrum. Even our villain is given a shot at reader sympathy through Jemisin's masterful sense of perspective.
But this sense of perspective has its downfalls. The beginning is perhaps harder to wade through than some readers may be willing to put up with, though readers of epic fantasy should be accustomed to this sort of thing. As stated before, both the world and the characters of The Killing Moon are fully fleshed out through various perspectives and this takes time. The city of Gujaareh isn't a setting we've seen recycled over and over through the history of the fantasy genre, as many worlds grow from a fascination with medieval Europe. Gujaareh has some Ancient Egyptian inspiration that shines through, but Jemisin pulls inspiration from other historical settings as well. This means the setting may require a little more brainpower to get into. As long as you stick with it, however, this book is incredibly rewarding. Once grounded in this story, it’s hard to put the book down until you've devoured it.
Amidst Jemisin’s gorgeous prose, The Killing Moon perfectly balances the action, political struggles and the religious aspects central throughout. None of these elements overpower the others, if anything they add more depth to one another. Each relates to the main themes stretched throughout - power, corruption, love… all things inextricably tied with the political and religious struggles fueling the plot. The Killing Moon is, in the end, a beautiful yet sad story of humanity. I can definitely see myself picking this up again in the future, as the messages laid throughout are so heartbreakingly true and this is a story that would benefit from more than one reading. If you're looking for a morally complex and diverse fantasy that touches on deep topics we're all familiar with, I'd highly recommend picking up The Killing Moon.