By N.K. Jemisin
Jemisin clearly made the decision to use Egyptian motifs as the basis of her world creation. This is a very rich and colorful backdrop to work off of and there is a danger of her world being lost to the source material. I thought she did an admirable job of weeding out a good deal of that source material in order to allow her own creation to shine through. She pulled from and expanded the mythology to suit her world in a challenging balancing act. The world she ended up developing is quite rich and complex and she is to be commended.
Character development was a bit of a mixed bag in this work. Her older characters had their personalities fairly well established at the beginning of the book and did little to change them. This includes the main character Ehiru. The young characters Nijiri and Sunandi, on the other hand, have significant growth and change over the course of the story. Normally, you’d have your protagonist be the one to show the most development. Ehiru was rather passive in the first two thirds of the plot, which I found to be a curious decision. I was less likely to root for him for the simple reason that I didn’t know him very well.
Nijiri’s development I thought was quite well done. He went from an immature apprentice to a grown Gatherer in a very convincing manner. Sunandi is in serious danger of becoming a full-fledged Mary Sue. I could not bring myself to really like her as she had no real flaws as a person. Out of all the characters, Sunandi struck me as the least believable.
I found the antagonist boring. His goals were predictable (though not pedestrian. The man had big plans). Once I knew his ultimate aims, I actually had very little fear that he’d manage to pull it off, which drained some of the tension out of the text for me. If I had been more concerned about his success, the final confrontation would have held me a bit more enthralled than I was.
I thought the concept of Gatherers was very interesting. Without spoilers, they are priests of the goddess of the moon and their main duty is to guide the sick and corrupt into the afterlife utilizing dreams. I have seen similar concepts before, but never executed in such a way as this. The entire religion had a strong magic system in the background. It was never directly explained, but you can see its evidence throughout the book.
The ending of the book was too abrupt. After the final confrontation, the book ends in about 15 pages. There was very little in the way of denouement and a lot of loose ends are not tied up. Here’s hoping that the sequel answers some of these questions. Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a lot. It had a lot of good tone and a fascinating world. I look forward to Jemisin’s next work.