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 innocent 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.
My first N.K. Jemisin book was The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, a fantasy story set in a world which does not have European fantasy tropes. The Killing Moon is another fantasy story set in a non-European fantasy world, only this time it’s one based around Egyptian/Mediterranean/etc. cultures.
It’s not set on Earth, so really it’s only got the flavor of those cultures, but it’s enough of a flavor to make me really happy. I LOVE it when a fantasy isn’t just another pseudo-medieval Europe expy! More diverse settings/characters/worlds, please!
So it gets off to a good start, setting-wise. When you dig deeper, it gets even better. One of the protagonists is a priest who goes around killing people via their dreams– people who are old and sick, people who are deemed corrupt, and (no surprise) people who aren’t either but are dangerous to the government and so must be assassinated. The latter doesn’t come up until way late in the book, but I could see it coming from a mile away. I mean, how many secret assassin societies have YOU read about that aren’t corrupt in some way? Especially ones rooted in some form of religion? Right? Totally obvious.
Especially since they don’t even call it assassination, and think they’re helping people by killing them. Nobody ever seems to really think about what they’re doing, just that it’s a good thing ordained by (the) god(s). An unexamined secret society is a dangerous one, tbh.
Of course, the priest (Ehiru) doesn’t know they’re corrupt, though, because he is a true believer and thinks such a thing is impossible. Which makes things worse when it all comes out! I liked Ehiru, too, because he’s so noble. That made it very difficult to see him struggling with the betrayal and the consequences of NOT thinking about the greater implications of his actions. Makes for a great story, though!
There are two other protagonists: Nijiri, an apprentice priest who’s in love with Ehiru (so awkward, but also very heart-felt and touching), and Sunandi, a foreign diplomat/spy who also happens to be my very favorite character in The Killing Moon. She has a strong personality and a brilliant mind, but she isn’t afraid to have emotions and to express them. She’s also on Ehiru’s assassination list, which makes things awkward when they have to team up to stop a war.
It’s a very complicated plot, actually! I’ve barely talked about it here, and even the only the surface events. There’s LOTS going on besides that, but it never felt overly rushed or tangled. It just felt full, a good counterpoint to the world-building and character development.
The Killing Moon is a wonderful fantasy story with conspiracies and magic and excellent characters, and I definitely recommend it!
Read: January 1, 2015
The back of the book has a great interview where NKJ talks more about things that influenced The Killing Moon and about the world itself. The planet is actually a moon! I don’t know why I find that so exciting, but I DO.