Book Review: The Shadowed Sun by N.K. JemisinFriday, March 29, 2013
The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin
#2 in Dreamblood series
Format: Ebook, 464 pages
Published On: June 7, 2012 by Orbit Books
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First Sentence: "There were two hundred and fifty-six places where a man could hide within his own flesh."
After reading The Killing Moon (book #1 in Dreamblood series) who had a tough start for me, I was wary to continue this series and delayed reading The Shadowed Sun for almost a year. Honestly, I would probably still have it on my tbr shelf, if Christina didn't give me a little push... I am sorry now that I waited so long. The Shadowed Sun was so good I could not let it out of my hands. You know when you move your Kindle with you from room to room, so whenever you have a little bit of free time you can jump in and continue reading? Yeah, I was hooked that bad.
I don't know how to begin and describe The Shadowed Sun. In The Killing Moon I was awed with the world that N.K. Jemisin created - but there was a downside to that originality. Everything was so unfamiliar that I had trouble relating to the characters. Their culture and prejudice were completely different than ours. In fact, first 10% of The Killing Moon were really hard to read until I started to at least a little bit comprehend city of Gujaareh. But The Shadowed Sun has much smoother start (or I was already familiar with the world) so it took less time for me to get totally involved into a story.
So for those who didn't run away on the mention of epic fantasy, a little bit more about the world in general. :) The world of Dreamblood series is fictional but is based on multiple cultures and civilisations that exist (or existed) on African continent: Egyptian, Nubian and Arabian bedouins. The mythology and religion is totally new (at least it was to me) and their magic is powered by dreams. Complete mind-blow, trust me.
Karnak, Egyptian ancient temple complex. Photo by yours truly. ;)
Another thing where The Shadowed Sun excels is the characters. They were so realistic, so human, so much better in details than in The Killing Moon. I could feel their emotional turmoil as it was my own, I was
reading devouring pages hoping to see that they will get a little bit happiness in the end. If you would make me pick my favorite I really could not decide.
On one side, we have Hanani - first woman that was permitted to become a healer in the service of their Goddess. We follow her as she struggles with doubts that she is "not strong enough to serve her" and with resistance in her colleagues and patients. Every girl who had to work in primary-male profession can surely identify with Hanani. Although with her stammering and hesitation, Hanani looks shy at first glance, she has a core of stone that will help her to endure a lot of troubles and make all the right decisions on the way.
Girl-power heroine - what can be better, right? Well, come and meet Wanahomen. It's not easy to be a son of a King, especially if your father made a lot of wrong decisions. It's not easy admitting your father's mistakes, but Wanahomen must do that before he can move on and cooperate with allies to "begin the long arduous process of repairing a damaged nation". Wanahomen has spent last ten years living with N.K. Jemisin's bedouins and we have through him great comparison of this warrior desert culture via Gujaareh's peace-oriented luxurious civilization. And there is very good love story, so if you need a little bit of romance in your novels, Wanahomen got you covered. ;)
Desert dunes in Sahara. Photos by yours truly. ;)
Both books in Dreamblood series are pretty stand-alone-ish - they don't have cliffhanger endings and can be read out of order, but I still recommend that you read them how the writer intended, because The Shadowed Sun starts with assumption that you are familiar with the religion and customs of Gujaareh and does not explain them in details. And both books are frankly very good and deserve to be read.
Sorry if my review is not very helpful I am still riding that just-read-awesome-book high. :) So to sum it up: The Killing Moon - good; The Shadowed Sun - even better. You fantasy lovers that are looking for something original and whining how all fantasy books are the same - read this, you will not be disappointed.
I recommend this book to fans of: adult fantasy; african inspired culture and setting; original dream-powered magic system; realistic and good characterisation; strong heroines; fierce and stubborn heroes; ...
Any other thoughts or comments?