The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a good but disappointing book. I blame my likely unfair review on N.K. Jemisin for writing The Inheritance Trilogy first. Comparisons inevitable happened, mainly over the way The Killing Moon was crafted and presented. Where The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – a book I have now read twice and loved all the more the second time – focused deeply on the main character and her emotions and relationships, with the politics being a secondary issue, this book focused more on the politics and religion, as viewed through its main characters. The problem, I think, is that it really only skimmed the surface layers of these politics, as well as the characters. As a result, while I liked both characters and the world, I did not fall in love with them because I was not able to get to know them well enough.
The Killing Moon takes place in an Egypt-based realm where dreams hold magic and those who wield the magic are, of course, the ones in power. At the beginning, Jemisin apologizes to Egyptologists for anything she may have gotten wrong, though she did not intend this fantasy world to be exactly like the real Egypt. At the end of the book in an amusing interview with herself, she commented that basing the world on reality was difficult and that she’d rather create her own worlds. I’d have to agree. There wasn’t an overindulgence in making everything like Egypt, but perhaps it became too much of a focus along the way.
One thing that disappointed me was the need to discriminate based on colour. The third major player in the book is introduced so:
The black ropes of his hair had been threaded with cylinders of gold and strings of minute pearls, and this mane surrounded a face that was fine-planed and flawless, apart from the misfortune of his coloring.I had to reread that a few times to make sure I’d understood it correctly, and as the book proceeded, such discrimination over skin tone occurred several times more. As there were many other ways that the various peoples were categorized (ie castes, religious beliefs, location, occupation), I was surprised that Jemisin would choose to make this such a prominent issue. I am not familiar enough with Egypt and the surrounding area to know if this discrimination is common in reality, but in a fantasy setting, I wish Jemisin had chosen not to make discrimination by skin tone such a prominent factor in her story telling. Especially since one of the reasons why I fell in love with her works initially was because of her views on race and culture in fantasy. While she enjoys the fantasy books that have come well before her, she has, as I have, grown tired of the Euro-centric stories and characters. My friend and I are currently reading A Song of Ice and Fire and are amused by George R. R. Martin’s constant need to review his thesaurus in order to describe people of various colours from the lands outside of his main realm of Westeros. In Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, I was so pleased to find a world filled with people of all different colours and cultures yet, save for one or two moments, descriptions of skin colour served only to identify characters – not to discriminate against them.
None of this disappointment is enough to prevent me from reading the second book in the Dreamblood series. As I said, this was a good book and Jemisin has already proven herself to me through her first book and through her blogged thoughts. The characters and plot were interesting enough to keep me reading and enjoying. But I will do The Shadowed Sun a favour and read it before I continue on with The Inheritance Trilogy.