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The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood) [Paperback]

N. K. Jemisin

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Product details

  • Paperback: 519 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; 1 edition (12 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316187291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316187299
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 14.2 x 3.6 cm

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant 22 Jun 2012
By Stefan - Published on Amazon.com
Last month, N.K. Jemisin treated the world to The Killing Moon, a brilliant new fantasy novel set in a strikingly original world and populated by some of the most fascinating characters I've met in years. Now, barely a handful of weeks later, here's the second and (for now) final novel in the Dreamblood series: The Shadowed Sun.

If you haven't read The Killing Moon yet, you should probably stop reading this now and instead go take a look at my review of that first novel (or better still, just read the book) because the rest of this review contains spoilers for The Killing Moon. If you're just curious whether this second novel is as good as the first one before committing, rest assured: it is. Actually, it's even better. Just don't read the rest of this review if you haven't read that first book yet.

The Shadowed Sun starts ten years after the events portrayed in The Killing Moon. King Eninket's ambitious bid for immortality and conquest has been stopped, but at a great price: the powerful city-state Gujaareh is now under the control of the Kisuati Protectorate. The resulting changes in the world's political setup have created a whole new set of tensions, as the Gujaareen citizens and the Hananjan clergy chafe under Kisuati rule and, outside of the Dreaming City, the desert tribes jockey for position.

Hanani is the only female Sharer-Apprentice in the Hetawa. In order to blend in, she is forced to hide her femininity and dress and behave like a man. Her character initially feels somewhat similar to The Killing Moon's Nijiri: a devout priest-apprentice with a complex pupil-mentor relationship who is on the verge of graduating in the Hetawa. Fortunately, she quickly takes on her own identity and eventually turns out to be one of the most interesting characters across both books. In the opening chapter of The Shadowed Sun, Hanani conducts a failed healing ritual that introduces one of the main plotlines in the novel: a mysterious disease that kills dreamers in their sleep.

Chapter Two introduces the second main character of the novel: Wanahomen (or Wana for short), whose name you may remember as the late King Eninket's young heir. Ten years after we last saw him, he's now a young man in exile with the Banbarra tribes, plotting to overthrow Kisuati rule and retake the throne that is rightfully his. This "prince-in-exile" plotline may seem a bit too recognizable, but it brings its own layers of complexity: Wana is an outsider in the Banbarra tribes, a complex culture with its own spoken and unspoken rules, and uniting the various tribes behind his banner isn't an easy task.

Hanani and Wanahomen drive the plot of The Shadowed Sun, aided by several new and a few returning characters. Sunandi has become the Kisuati Governor of conquered Gujaareh and continues to be the voice of reason, now as an intermediary between her homeland's rulers and the Hananjan clergy. An incredibly twisted noble family in Gujaareh is maneuvering to gain advantage from Wanahomen's war planning. A few Gatherers who played prominent roles in The Killing Moon make memorable appearances in the new novel, including "little killer" Nijiri, who by now has fully assumed the fearsome gravitas of his erstwhile mentor Ehiru. It's a testament to the quality and depth of N.K. Jemisin's characterization that meeting some of these characters for a second time is so incredibly thrilling. Especially the scenes with Nijiri are highlights in an already very strong novel.

An interesting aspect of this series is the diversity of its cast of characters, but even though it's as diverse as anything I've encountered in fantasy, this never feels forced: it's just a logical consequence of the nature of this fantasy world. From sexuality to race to religion, the characters never feel like figureheads or tokens: they're real people, with real motivations and feelings. That's probably also why some of the stunning plot resolutions in this second novel have such a powerful emotional impact: the labels we apply to people are often fairly meaningless in this world.

Instead, characters are defined by their actions. The level of moral complexity is amazing: there are very few people who are purely good or evil, and many more who are occasionally willing to stray into the grey area to accomplish their goals. We meet characters whose mentalities are completely alien, not only to our sensibilities but also to those of people who live within traveling distance in the same world. The Shadowed Sun adds to this complexity by putting a third major culture in the picture: next to the Gujareen and the Kisuati, a large part of the novel focuses on the "barbarian" Banbarra tribes. For all intents and purposes, "barbarian" is probably best defined here as "someone who lives in the desert outside the city walls" because Jemisin makes it abundantly clear that, in some ways, the Banbarra are considerably more enlightened than you'd expect. Some of the most fascinating scenes in the book happen when a character who has led a very sheltered and repressed life ends up living with the Banbarra.

And as for the rest? Suffice it to say that, if you enjoyed The Killing Moon, you'll probably be delighted with this sequel. The writing is once again simply gorgeous, combining elegance with density in a way that feels deceptively effortless, but is clearly a labor of love. In fact, The Shadowed Sun delivers everything the first book did -- except that initial disorientation of getting used to the setting. Don't get me wrong: just like the characters, the setting continues to gain depth in this new novel. The differences between Gujaareh and its conquerors, as well as the internal structure of Gujareen society, become more and more clear. However, by now you're familiar with the religion, the vocabulary and most of the main players, and that makes this second novel considerably more accessible and instantly enjoyable.

Between them, The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun deliver more depth and originality than anything I've read this year in fantasy. I hate to throw around terms like "modern classic" too casually, but well, these two novels simply have it all. Absolutely brilliant.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Her Best Book To Date 28 Jun 2012
By J. Spotila - Published on Amazon.com
The Shadowed Sun is NK Jemisin's best book to date. Every aspect of the book is complex in the best of ways. The characters face difficult choices, and are so realistically rendered that you feel for and with them. The plot encompasses issues of politics, religion, gender, and sexuality, but the strength of the story outshines any single issue. And while Jemisin's world building is always excellent, she sets a new bar for herself in the Dreamblood world. The exotic cultures make sense, with enough sense of origin to justify the characters as products of those cultures. The Shadowed Sun is outstanding, and I highly recommend it (even if you don't usually read genre books).
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Loved "Killing Moon," but this sequel disappoints... 3 April 2013
By Tom from NC - Published on Amazon.com
The main plot is intriguing and the first third of this sequel is enjoyable, but so much time is spent developing the romance between our protagonist and the prince that the book loses momentum and never recovers. The author has shaped a unique world, but I found myself growing weary of chapter after chapter of "daily life in the tribe." And the minimal presence of the Gatherers is most disappointing, as they are such multi-faceted characters. A decent book simply because of the author's skill, but this sequel was unnecessary.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Want Worldbuilding? Here's Some Great Worldbuilding... 11 July 2012
By A. Davidson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
...not to mention some of the best storytelling in any genre. People who look down on speculative fiction--fantasy especially--as somehow not worthy of being called "literary" just make me tired. This is one of those books that proves them wrong. Prose, worldbuilding, plot, characters; they're all excellent, as I've come to expect from Jemisin based on her previous four books. I don't really have anything to add to what the other 5-star reviewers said, except that I'm not *positive* this is Jemisin's best book... that seems a bit like trying to pick your favorite child! I very much love her previous Inheritance trilogy and the first book of this duology, The Killing Moon (seriously, read that one first so you have a bit of context). And I very much recommend also reading her Inheritance trilogy (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, etc), which I assume you have not, or you wouldn't need to read these reviews to decide if you want to buy this book. Like me, you'd just buy anything she writes as soon as it's available!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful 23 Jun 2012
By SFB - Published on Amazon.com
I had very high expectations for The Shadowed Sun - I'm a huge fan of N.K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy, and I was enormously impressed with The Killing Moon (the first book of the dreamblood series).

The Shadowed Sun did more than meet my expectations - it exceeded them. It's even better than The Killing Moon. And it's one of the most satisfying books I've read this year.

Jemisin's characters are wonderfully alive and rich. Her plot is filled with complex ambiguities; there's nothing simplistic or obvious about the choices her characters face. Yet Jemisin's writing is so clear that the prose carries you through the difficulties. Moreover, the worldbuilding is phenomenal: with this, and the Inheritance trilogy, I think Jemisin's earned her place as one of the best and most original worldbuilders working in fantasy today.

Highly recommended (although you should read The Killing Moon first).

Oh, and Nijiri's back. Need I say more?
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