Beautiful, complex, and refreshingly original, The Killing Moon shines bright! Ehiru-the dreamer-
Ehiru is a Gatherer in the city-state of Gujaareh. He has devoted his life to serving the goddess Hananja. Upon taking a commission, he enters a person's dreams and gathers the dreamer's soul so that they will live in peace forever, even though their body dies in the process. Ehiru has never questioned his faith...until now! After a Gathering goes horribly wrong, Ehiru begins to doubt his own magical abilities. But when he finds evidence of a horrible creature stalking the streets of Gujaareh and stealing people's souls for its own amusement, Ehiru is forced to seek help from a person he cannot possibly trust...the corrupt woman he knows as Sunandi! Sunandi-the voice-
A Speaker for the city-state of Kisua, Sunandi neither possesses nor needs any magical abilities. Instead, a beautiful smile and a cunning mind are her greatest weapons. Investigating the death of her mentor, Sunandi travels to Gujaareh where she suspects a vast conspiracy is looming which could threaten her people. A true pragmatist, Sunandi is willing to do whatever it takes to prevent war between Kisua and Gujaareh...even if it means allying herself with a murderer like Ehiru! "The Killing Moon"
is not your average fantasy novel. In this land, there are no dragons or elves, no evil wizard or one ring to rule them all. Instead, Jemisin has created a rich and unique world, where all magic is fueled by the power of dreams, and even the most secondary of characters have multiple layers to them. Jemisin has even crafted her own mythology in this book...including one of the most fascinating and original legends for the sun and moon that I have ever seen. She doesn't so much describe the scenery, as she uses her words to paint the images directly into the reader's imagination. I was particularly impressed with the imagery she used during the dreaming sequences...not only does she come up with brilliantly original concepts, but her narrative manages to be both beautiful and terrifying...much like dreams themselves can be!
As impressive as Jemisin's world-building is, her character development is even better! What makes the story so compelling is that the two protagonists have completely different morals and points of view, yet both of them seem equally valid. On the surface, Ehiru could be considered a murderer. However, through his eyes, he is using his abilities to grant a person peace in their final moments and to ensure that their soul is preserved forever. Sunandi's willingness to use deception and seduction to control her enemies can be perceived as immoral, but she only does these things to ensure the safety of her people. The clash of ideals is balanced perfectly, where the two characters have severe philosophical differences, yet it never comes across as petty bickering. There is no clearly defined "right" and "wrong" mind set, each side is given equal weight.
While Ehiru and Sunandi were the two characters I enjoyed the most, I was also awed by how much depth the other characters were given as well. Ehiru's apprentice Nijiri (who Sunandi insists on sardonically referring to as "Little Killer") is given a tragic backstory that makes his devotion to Ehiru that much more engaging. Even the villain (whose identity shan't be revealed here) is masterfully fleshed out. This isn't some mustache-twirling Snidley Whiplash clone who's evil just for the sake of being evil, this novel's antagonist has a genuine belief that they are doing the right thing, and while the villain's mind is certainly clouded by madness, you can't help but feel some sympathy towards them once the true motive is revealed.
N.K. Jemisin's world-building abilities are right up there with J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. "The Killing Moon"
is a magical, fantasy epic that will amaze even the most discerning of readers!