A rising star in the world of contemporary fantasy writers, N.K. Jesimin wowed critics with her debut novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which was nominated for the 2010 Nebula Award and the 2011 Hugo Award, among others. After rounding out her first trilogy, Jesimin began a new dyad called the Dreamblood series.
The series’ first book The Killing Moon sets out the kingdom of Gujaareh, ruled by a polygamous king and a benevolent goddess named Hananja. Jesimin draws inspiration from early civilizations in creating her world–Egypt, Greece, Rome, Nubia–but specifically leans away from medieval Europe as a foundation. A single, overarching religious law governs Gujaareh–peace is sacrosanct and corruption is punishable by death. Those who carry out the will of the peaceful Hananja are called “the Gatherers.” They bring death to those who deserve peace and to those who are too corrupt to go on living, by harvesting their dream magic while they sleep. Once gathered, this power is used to propagate peace throughout the land.
The Killing Moon revolves around the intrigue surrounding Gujaareh’s most renowned Gatherer, Ehiru. After botching a harvesting, Ehiru begins to doubt his calling and starts to question the status quo. When people die mysteriously around him and he is asked to gather a seemingly uncorrupted person, Ehiru sets out on a quest to find the truth with a wise-cracking female diplomat and his own worshipful apprentice.
Given the nature of our world today, the idea of a corruption-free, quiescent society has a certain appeal. No underhanded politicians, no CEOs who steal from their investors, no war. The Killing Moon does a wonderful job of playing into this fantasy, while reminding readers of the steep toll at which the veneer of a corruption-free, peaceful society comes. More so than other books with a dystopian twist, the reader, like the main character Ehiru, begins the novel invested in the ever-elusive possibility of a perfect society.
The lack of medieval European influence in Jesimin’s worldbuilding was very refreshing for a serial reader of epic fantasy. At the same time, Jesimin still includes the heavy philosophical undertones which fans of high fantasy find engaging.
While the theoretical underpinnings of The Killing Moon did make it a slower reader, Jesimin compensates with highly original, relatable characters, an action-packed plot, and clear, clean prose.
Jesimin is certainly an author to watch, with a marked gift for the genre she writes.
I look forward to what Jesimin has in store for the second and final book in the series.