The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin

To anyone who’s read this blog, or is generally acquainted with the popular Fantasy fiction from the last several years, N.K. Jemisin needs no introduction. She’s been nominated for a serious number of awards (Locus, Hugo, Nebula), and, since the release of her first novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (REVIEW), has become something of a force in the Fantasy genre.

The synopsis for The Killing Moon is enough to get any jaded fan interested:

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 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 is the first volume of her latest series, The Dreamblood Duology, and has received a number of positive reviews around the web. If, like me, you’re excited about Jemisin’s work, it looks like you won’t be let down. If you’re unaware of Jemisin, or haven’t tried her fiction, this is the perfect place to start.

And the reviews:

The Book Smugglers:

Gripping. Fascinating. Cool. All these mighty fine words that can be used to describe The Killing Moon. From lavish descriptions of Gujaareh and its temples and palaces to the detailed aspects of the social, political and religious structures, all of them intrinsically connected around the worship of the Goddess of Dreams, all is superbly well done. Although at points I did think there was a certain excess of exposition, I can’t deny that I gobbled it all up with pleasure. Although it is clear from early on who is behind the conspiracy that, I feel, is not the point of the story – the point is not only the HOW and the WHY but also the ways that said conspiracy and its motivation impact or will impact in the Modus Vivendi of not only the Gujaareh people but also of other peoples. Beyond that, even despite the originality of the setting, the idea behind the magic system being rooted in dream theory and the Dream-world as a PLACE reminded me a lot of Gaiman’s Sandman (not to mention that I thought of the Corinthian as well when the Reaper starts to make an appearance ) and this is a very positive thing in my book.

Also and I don’t think I can emphasise enough the level of coolness present in The Killing Moon but: NINJA PRIESTS. Yeah, baby.


What is so impressive about Gujaareh (and the other peoples we see in this book, particularly those of Kisua) is in its utterly fantastic holistic believability. We believe in this world and its characters because the culture is so well defined, the rules of magic so wholly conceived, the tensions between classes, between natives and foreigners, so utterly genuine. Reading a society like that of the Gujaareen makes it so glaringly apparent how lacking so many contemporary fantasy novels are in comparison – N.K. Jemisin’s worldbuilding is of the highest grade, and nigh unparalleled.


I loved this novel deeply, and I cannot wait for The Shadowed Sun. The Killing Moon, to put it simply, is the best book I have read in 2012 thus far.

Naamen Tilahun, io9:

Jemisin shines as a writer when it comes to the complexity of people and people-created institutions, nothing in her world is ever wholly good or wholly evil. It feels truthful and honest in a way that black and white depictions of people and things cannot convey. There is not one character in the novel for whom I have complete sympathy or complete hatred, and they’ve all gone through their own personal fires. Though some of the trials are made harder through the characters’ own refusal to face their truths, it plays out as a side of human nature.


The Killing Moon is a great tale of magic, religion and war but it’s also a story of all the hard lessons and choices growing up entails, no matter how old you are in terms of years. Beautifully written and brought to life The Dreamblood duology is sure to cement Jemisin’s place as one of the most exciting and innovative new fantasy authors of recent years.

Stefan Raets,

The Killing Moon is a novel that sneaks up on you. It starts off slowly and somewhat confusingly, lots of showing rather than telling, lots of new vocabulary to get used to. N.K. Jemisin has created a fascinating fantasy world here, one that mixes unique and surprising elements (such as Jungian psychology and Egyptian history) in a way I’ve simply never seen before, but she doesn’t just spell out all the world-building details you need to grasp its intricacies. Instead, this novel goes for full immersion in its world and its story from the very start. Narcomancy is described matter-of-factly, without much in the way of explanation. Likewise, the relationship between the city-states Gujaareh and Kisua is obviously complex and meaningful, but N.K. Jemisin doesn’t just spell out the details. Everything eventually becomes clear, but it’s also likely that you’ll have to file away some things as you read, trusting they’ll be explained later on.


Characterization is usually subtle and indirect. We meet everyone in mid-stride, not as their individual stories are starting. Salient facts are sometimes tossed at you underhandedly, at times when you may not expect it. There’s some misdirection here. The nature of first meetings, the possible true reason for an attraction between two people, the family background that may or may not play a role — all of these are introduced later on, after you’ve already read a good chunk of the novel, and all of them will make you reconsider previous events and their implications in a new light. Combine this with the way this fantasy universe is revealed, and it’s again clear that this book rewards more than one reading.


The Killing Moon is the proof. N.K. Jemisin’s newest novel is not as accessible as her Inheritance trilogy, but if you’re willing to stick with it, The Killing Moon is a rich, rewarding and unique novel that will remain with you for a long time to come. Highly recommended.

Justin Landon, Staffer’s Book Review:

Cultural identity is at the root of every conflict [in The Killing Moon]. Whether it be Ehiru’s faith and Sinandi’s lack thereof, or Nijiri’s struggle with love and duty, or Sinandi’s fear of war and peace, all of it is built upon the idea that right and wrong is relative. Point of view and perspective matter. Cultural mores matter. Jemisin seems to project, through her world and her characters, a pervasive and underlying belief in the notion that judgement can only come from within. There’s also a strong undercurrent of communism versus democracy, or close mindedness versus openness, or extremism versus tolerance, that bleeds through. Even then Jemisin seems to remain agnostic, pointing out the flaws in each and letting her characters choose for themselves the paths to walk.


This is one hell of an exciting book. I hate to use the term tour de force because it sounds like I’m writing for some terrible literary newsletter who can only recycle superlatives from movie posters, but… it’s a tour de force. From the opening moments the novel dazzles with intricate world building, deep and vibrant characters, and a fast paced, high stakes plot that left me bleary eyed from lack of sleep more than once.

The Kirkus Review:

Though a little too heavily dependent on the intricate details of Gujaareh’s religion, Jemisin’s patient world-building and extraordinary attention to detail help frame and propel the complex plot, and she weaves subtle, emotionally complex relationships between the main characters. The text includes a useful glossary but, alas, no maps.

Tends toward the claustrophobic at times, but superior and fulfilling.

Thought I’ve only read her first novel (shame on me, I know…), I find myself envious of Jemisin’s creativity and imagination. Coupled with the fact that she’s not afraid to step outside of the generally accepted and defined boundaries of Secondary World Fantasy (faux-Medieval Europe, say, or Farmboy heroes), Jemisin continues to prove herself to be everything that I want in a Fantasy writer.

Leading a wave of Eastern-inspired Fantasy (Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, God’s War and Infidel by Kameron Hurley, Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear, for example), Jemisin has styled her world on (but not be constrained by) ancient Egypt, a civilization and era of history that has long fascinated me. In an author’s note at the beginning of the novel, Jemisin explains that though The Killing Moon was inspired by ancient Egypt, it is not a direct analogue, and should be treated as more of an homage, than a tightly-adhering recreation. This is an interested addendum to last week’s article from Daniel Abraham called “Concerning Historical Authenticity in Fantasy, or Truth Forgives You Nothing,” which deals exactly with this topic and explores the relevancy and necessity of strict “historical accuracy” in Secondary World Fantasy.

And, if you’re still not convinced, you can read an excerpt of The Killing Moon. The Killing Moon is available now from Orbit Books. The sequel, The Shadowed Sun will be released on June 12th, 2012.