The Killing Moon – N.K. Jemisin

About the book

In the city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Along its ancient stone streets, where time is marked by the river’s floods, there is no crime or violence. Within the city’s colored shadows, priests of the dream-goddess harvest the wild power of the sleeping mind as magic, using it to heal, soothe… and kill.

But when corruption blooms at the heart of Gujaareh’s great temple, Ehiru—most famous of the city’s Gatherers—cannot defeat it alone. With the aid of his cold-eyed apprentice and a beautiful foreign spy, he must thwart a conspiracy whose roots lie in his own past. And to prevent the unleashing of deadly forbidden magic, he must somehow defeat a Gatherer’s most terrifying nemesis: the Reaper.

404 pages (paperback)
Published on: May 1, 2012
Published by: Orbit
Author’s webpage
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I kind of feel like, within the genre fan community, you can throw a rock an hit someone who thinks The Killing Moon is the best book ever put on paper. This is one of those books that has generated a massive amount of discussion and attention among speculative fans. Part of the reason is because Jemisin has firmly established herself as one hell of a talented author due to her Inheritance Trilogy. Another reason is because, well, The Killing Moon is just knock-your-socks-off amazing.

The first thing I should discuss, which really is what caught my eye in the first place, is Jemisin’s rich world building. The Killing Moon takes place in a desert world with rich, complex culture. Gujaareh’s cultural life seems to circle around the religious influence of the goddess Hananja. Gujaareh itself is steeped in rich, complex history and this history seems to affect every aspect of civilization. Jemisin handles it well, and uses this to craft a very vivid world. In fact, the world is so rich and realistic that it gave me some serious food cravings (which doesn’t happen much with books, and that’s usually a sign that I’m very into the world).

Hananja, and the religion that surrounds her, is fascinating. Priests play many different roles, but the primary roles the reader will follow is the role of Gatherer. Gatherers collect tithes of “dreamblood” from individuals deemed as corrupt or fatally ill, and then offer this tithe to the goddess Hananja. Other priests use this tithe to complete other tasks, like healing the sick and tasks like that. The religion itself is fascinating because it’s so incredibly unique within speculative fiction, and it seamlessly fits into the world and culture that Jemisin has created. However, what Jemisin really does well is shows how the religion would look from an outsider’s perspective. She shows both the positive and negative in equal measure and lets the reader find their own footing within a broad range of perspectives, with gentle nudges here and there to help them along.

It’s obvious from the beginning that the plot will be mysterious and rather complex and not long after that it becomes obvious that the plot will circle around politics. I tend to enjoy complex political plots in my books, but some people don’t, so that is something to be aware of. However, that being said, though the politics can be complex to some, they aren’t hard to navigate through and understand, which is yet another balance that Jemisin seems to strike perfectly. This book isn’t necessrally about politics, though they play a heavy role. The Killing Moon is more about relationships, power and authority. Because of that, The Killing Moon has a very human note which will appeal to many readers.

You can’t write a book this detailed and well built without being a hell of a writer, so I almost feel that there is no need for me to address the magnificence of Jemisin’s prose. Her writing is as remarkable as the world she created. Her incredible writing and her amazing world easily boost each other and forms a dynamic partnership which really helps The Killing Moon soar.

Is The Killing Moon all good? Not necessarily. I could find some small nagging quibbles here and there. For example, Sunandi seemed a little stereotypical to me in such a vibrant, unique world. She’s beautiful; a spy of note, a woman to be reckoned with, and her feelings toward Hananja and her priests is rather predictable as well. Her role is important, but in such a unique world, she stuck out due to how much she didn’t stick out, if that makes sense.

In the end, the small quibbles and issues I had with the book didn’t overpower it, or even really deserve much attention. The Killing Moon is beautifully written. It’s a powerful and emotional tale of authority, corruption and religion in a vast and wonderfully strange land. The Killing Moon is a powerhouse and, in general, one hell of a story to read. Jemisin has arrived.

4.5/5 stars

— One recommendation to improve your reading experience: buy plates of Middle Eastern food before you start reading, and eat it as you read. This book made me crazy for kebabs, cucumbers, and various interesting spices. Food improves everything. (I should note that I’m weird like that….) — 

2 Responses

  • mmmm. Hummus.

    I need to read this. I need to get a hold of this book, more to the point. 🙂

  • I’m so excited to read this! I had never read any of Jemisin’s writing before, but I saw her read from the sequel at the NYPL event at BEA and was sucked into the story. Your review makes me want to read it right now! 😀

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