When I was a teenager, fantasy novels were my jam. I couldn’t re-read the Harry Potter series enough times, I was always anticipating the next Artemis Fowl book, and the Abhorsen series was a regular part of my rotation. And yet, as I transitioned to adult fiction, my interest in fantasy fell by the wayside. However, a few months ago, in the depths of the worst reading slump I’ve ever experienced, I decided to shake things up and try reading The Killing Moon, the first novel in N.K. Jemisin’s Dreamblood series. Julianne of Outlandish Lit raved about it, and she hasn’t let me down yet.
In the city of Gujaareh, peace is the law of the land — a law enforced by Gatherers, who shepherd the souls of the pure and the corrupt alike to their final resting place, the land of dreams. But what happens when the very institution responsible for rooting out corruption becomes complicit in the creation of a monster?
From the outset, Jemisin drops the reader into a world that is already turning on its axis, offering little help to readers as they try to get their bearings. I felt so lost in a world of unfamiliar terms, new-to-me names, and mysterious systems of law and religion, that I nearly gave up after the first 150 pages. Luckily, Julianne told me to keep reading, and she’s a queen, so I do what she says. After re-skimming all of the dialogue that point (which really didn’t take very long), I had a much better grasp on who the characters were, how this world worked, and what was happening in the plot.
Once I hit my stride, everything fell into place. The Killing Moon transformed from a baffling world where I didn’t speak the language into a gripping adventure full of intrigue, ambition, and deception as our heroes Ehiru, Gujaareh’s most respected Gatherer; Nijiri, his apprentice; and Sunandi, a totally badass foreign ambassador, fight to get to the bottom of a conspiracy that threatens the peace and safety not only of Gujaareh, but of the world. The characters are compelling and well-drawn, the world building is top-notch while still leaving plenty to reveal in future books, and the multi-layered plot kept me guessing.
This book was definitely outside my comfort zone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it after I got over my initial discomfort. I would highly recommend The Killing Moon to other readers interested in foraying into fantasy, with a small heads up that some patience is required. May I hint that there’s a glossary in the back of the book that would probably have helped me immensely had it occurred to me to read it?
What’s the last book you read that was outside your comfort zone?