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In the city-state of Gujaareh, power is split between the ruling Prince and the priests of the dream goddess Hananja. The priests have magic based on the power of dreams, with which they can heal the sick. One sect, the Gatherers, is dedicated to helping people peacefully pass over when their time has come. However, when the Gatherer Ehiru discovers he has been manipulated into trying to kill an innocent, he realises that Gujaareh is threatened by a conspiracy lurking at the very heart of the nation.

The Killing Moon is the first novel in the Dreamblood duology, the latest work from N.K. Jemisin (the author of the Inheritance Trilogy, which I have not yet read). It's an epic fantasy, but one that proudly discards the limitations of a Medieval European setting. Gujaareh is inspired by the legends and mythology of ancient Egypt, although it is not a carbon copy (there are no pyramids, sphinxes or mummies), and the novel draws upon Carl Jung's ideas about the collective unconscious to provide its unique magic system.

The setting is vividly described. The planet Gujaareh is located upon is a moon circling a gas giant (the 'Killing Moon' of the title is actually the gas giant, although confusingly the cover art depicts a red-coloured version of our moon) which makes for an interesting day/night cycle. This feeds into the power of night, sleep and dreams which provides the book with its spine. Gujaareh itself is a compelling location, built to withstand annual floods and with a complex mixture of native and foreign influences: like ancient Egypt, Gujaareh is not a monolithic state, but one where people from across the world can be found, trading or negotiating.

Ehiru, our central character, is an expert at using the power of dream magic and is trying to pass his knowledge onto his apprentice, Nijiri. This process is interrupted by the discovery of a possible threat to the country, which Ehiru is compelled to investigate. Sunandi, an ambassador from the southern nation of Kisua, completes our central triptych of characters. Though there are occasional chapters from other POVs, these three viewpoints dominate the novel. Each is a fascinating character, with Sunandi being a capable and intelligence diplomat who is sometimes undone by arrogance. Ehiru is determined and resolute, but is also prone to become unhealthily obsessed, to the point of endangering himself. Nijiri is highly capable but lacks confidence. He's our 'young, tallow youth' viewpoint but amusingly that's more his own assessment of his abilities than the reality. All are painted with colour and depth.

The novel is a fast read, with a cracking pace that still allows time for some interesting characterisation. Something that Gujaareh shares with ancient Egypt is a certain rigid inflexibility in its traditions (something Pratchett notably satirised in his novel Pyramids, the only other Egyptian-flavoured fantasy that immediately comes to mind) but also the ability to adapt once those limitations are exposed. This extends to the micro-level of the characters, who each find their view of the world widened by the events of the book. This self-realisation is hardly new in concept (Nijiri becomes more confident, Sunandi becomes a bit more open to other cultures) but is executed with skill.

Where the novel falters is in its denouncement, which feels both rushed and a little too neat. This does mean that The Killing Moon works excellently as a stand-alone novel (there are little to no elements left dangling for the sequel, The Shadowed Sun).

The Killing Moon (****½) is available now in the UK and USA. The sequel will be published in June.
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Having fallen for NK's writing style in her previous series, I was more than interested to see what she'd come up with in a new saga altogether. After all following on from a successful story is not only a daunting prospect for the author but for the reader who will unscrupulously compare the two to check that the qualities that they fell in love with are within this latest release.

What NK does is bring together the elements that won her the fans in the first together with wonderful world building. The characters are fully rounded, the pace is solid and when added to her overall arc alongside wonderful use of prose, makes this a new title that readers will find hard to put down. If you're in doubt about diving in, borrow from your local library and you too will soon see the magic that brought many readers in has quickly bent you to its will.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A work of fantasy that is a little different from the norm. No elves or dragons in medieval style kingdoms here. Instead we are in another world that has a lot of the same style as ancient Egypt.

There's magic in this world. And that's all in dreams. There's a group of people called Gatherers, who take the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal. And kill bad people.

But when one gatherer finds a kill doesn't go as he expected, he is caught up in a conspiracy. Dark forces have been unleashed. He and his acolyte plus a mysterious lady are caught up in the middle. Can they save the day?

The book runs for four hundred and four pages of story, and is divided into forty chapters plus an epilogue. It also has a glossary, and brief notes from the writer at the front and back. Plus an interview with them at the end.

The setting is original. The writing is clever. But it takes a very long time to get going and the opening chapters really don't grab as much as you might hope. Whilst the main characters are all quite three dimensional there isn't really much to them as individuals, so they don't grab as much as you might hope either.

However beyond the halfway point the main plot does start to become interesting, and slowly the book does grab you more than it did before.

It is pretty much self contained. There is another volume in this story The Shadowed Sun: Dreamblood: Book 2 though, and you can find a short section from that at the end of this.

There is a lot to admire about this, both in writing and world building, but it's perhaps more a book to be admired than enjoyed. The writer is clearly an original talent though so I may just try more of their work in due course.
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on 28 May 2016
I really really liked this book, it was such a different kind of fantasy book and I was so glad it was set in a realm that wasn't medieval europe- it had some great concepts and interesting characters. The woman character was severely underdeveloped but I guess the writer didn't have time; the villain was brilliant and I really liked this book. I will be reading more from this writer.
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on 6 July 2012
A fantasy story steps which away from the same old same old simplified-European medieval-setting cliches. In so far as the imagined world has a basis in reality it would be in ancient Egypt and Nubia. The idea of being able to syphon power from dreams and then use it for healing (and some other purposes)is refreshingly new too. The story concerns a religious order tasked with "Gathering" - ensuring that souls depart safely at the natural end of life, or as euthanasia, or as a penalty for corruption. The Gathers' sense of the rightness of their mission, and the alternative view that they are killers is well handled, with understanding of both sides. Then there is a conspiracy, and plenty of excitement and suspense.
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I was put on to 'The Killing Moon' by a glowing review on a fantasy review blog. The reviewer made the book seem so great and so innovative, it was impossible not to read and see why he'd waxed so lyrical.

For the first hundred pages I thought I'd made a terrible mistake. Much is made in fantasy circles about Jemisin's desire to break from traditional fantasy conventions, most notably moving away from a setting based on medieval Europe. For 'The Killing Moon' the basis for the setting is, apparently, ancient Egypt. I didn't particularly pick up on the Egyptian references, but definitely felt a middle eastern flavour through the novel's descriptions of art, culture and religion. Whether it was because the setting took me out of my comfort zone (there's a reason most fantasy is set where it is; because the readers like it), or because Jemisin tried to accomplish too much too quickly, I'm not sure, but I found the opening chapters stilted and hard to follow.

The magic and religion of 'The Killing Moon' are innovative, being based on dreams. The novel follows (in part) a pair of 'Gatherers' who can enter people's dreams and draw out their life-force, sending them happily into the next world. To be gathered is considered a religious honour in the nation of Gujaareh, but an abomination by neighbouring Kisua. The Gatherers are one of the four religious disciplines that form the backbone of Gujaareh society, and have a strict code of honour regarding worship of the 'Goddess'. Alongside the church, Gujaareh is ruled by a Prince; who in the tradition of a many middle-eastern rulers, has hundreds of wives and murdered all his relatives on the way to the throne.

'The Killing Moon' has many concepts and locations that are similar to one another, either in character or name. During the opening hundred pages I must have consulted the glossary twenty or thirty times. This made for a frustrating and broken read, preventing me from following what was going on. It was almost too much, but I persevered and I am glad that I did. I often find with novels, that effort put in up front pays dividends in the later stages. My hard-earned understanding of the world Jemisin had created, meant her story's conclusion delivered a greater emotional pay off.

Again eschewing many of the tropes of the genre, the loyalties of Jemisin's characters are multifaceted and display varying shades of grey. Good and evil are malleable concepts, in a way that extends far beyond most fantasy novels. The story is complex, a tale of religious and political conflict, and its subtleties manifold. Overall it's a rich and enjoyable tale.

'The Killing Moon' is a complete story, but open-ended; the first of two 'Dreamblood' novels. Though I struggled at first, by the time I'd reached the novel's enthralling conclusion I was hooked by Jemisin's style and the depth of her world-building. I look forward to reading the second novel, and catching up on her backlist.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you love fantasy like i do, then you can get increasingly frustrated by the drivel that gets released that people have the audacity to call fantasy.

This however fills all of my expectations and more.

Based on Egyptian mythology, i connected with the story right away.

In some aspects it reminded me of stars wars and especially tatooine, i am not sure why, i think it was the desert planet and the fact that it revolved around a gas giant, again not sure why but this thought stuck in my mind, and if im honest kinda made the whole thing make more sense in my head.

I am happily purchasing the next in the series : The Shadowed Sun: Dreamblood: Book 2 and will also be purchasing book 3 when it becomes available.

I recommended this book to both my brothers who are huge fantasy fans and they both loved it as well.

Worth the purchase !!
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VINE VOICEon 13 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A very strange book indeed for me this; I loved the beginning and the descriptive scene of the man crawling across rooftops in the night - it left so much speculation as to what he may have been up to and great potential for the story. However; several chapters in, and I must confess to being more than a little lost with regards to the plot... I also found the ending somewhat confusing...

It appears that certain individuals (commonly called priests?) would `extract' dreams from people, having crept into their bedrooms during the night as they slept, and that some form of power was gained by this in order to do good works - i.e. healing sick people and the like, but there was also another individual known as `The Reaper' doing the exact opposite? I think (!)

I found the book difficult to follow in general - and none of the characters had enough substance I felt to get to know any of them well enough to really care about, but the weird thing about this novel is; at the same time, I could not put it down!!? It is beautifully written and inspires a great deal of imagination with the use of clever prose alone where there is a tremendous lack of detail, and rather vague in places... I also found the names and words a bit `clumsy' to get the tongue round. Having said that; this genre is notorious for such elements, but they became easier and more `comfortable' the more you read them.

I'm giving this read five stars, because it is a sheer delight to read by the beautiful way in which it has been written - regardless of the story.
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VINE VOICEon 25 May 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Hmmm, I can't quite put my finger on why this didn't really grab me; it certainly wasn't the setting - I'm quite happy with my fantasy novels being in non-standard settings, and the world here is well drawn and developed on some interesting concepts. I think it was because I didn't find any of the characters interesting enough to believe in and root for. I'm not saying the three principle characters, Ehiru, Sunandi and Nijiri weren't drawn with some depth, but none of them developed into someone I cared about, and for me, I need to have someone, or several someones, I worry about, get annoyed with, cheer along, feel their hurt, joy, weariness...

Like one of the other reviewers I found the start slow, although flicking back through it now it seems to roll along with things happening, but I think I was wanting to know which side I was joining, and as the book progresses it becomes clear that there are no clear sides, although there is a very real "baddie"!

I have to admit to flicking to check the last pages when I was about three quarters of the way through, a sure sign that I am less than engrossed, but I did read it all, and found the end tight and full of tension such that I was fully engaged for the last section.

I found the naming convention problematical - how do you pronounce Mni-inh, Ina-Karekh or Yeyezu? I was glad I wasn't listening to the audio version - I don't think I'd ever have sorted them all out. I read fast and my flow gets hiccoughed (is that a word) by weird names, sometimes enough to jolt me out of the story.

There are hints, and clear statements, about love - it is made clear that one character is in love with another, vaguely hinted that another is in some sort of relationship with another, and while the one openly declared love is clear, it was more of an adolescent crush that something full blown and red-blooded.

Maybe that's what didn't chime with me - the emotions here are tepid, apart from one display of grief, there's no full-blown and red-blooded angst - although the last section was more emotion laden...

This isn't a bad book. I will probably read it again, and may, just may, read the rest of the series, but, tellingly, I moved on to another book as soon as I'd finished this (there was ab-so-lutely nothing on telly, and hubby was away, so I had an entire evening to fill!) and that had me instantly hooked and reading beyond midnight wanting to know what, who,why - something this book didn't achieve.
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on 20 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I must admit that I had very few expectations for this title, and for the following reasons; despite being an avid fantasy reader, this author was not known to me and despite the handful of glowing reviews, which can always be chalked up to over-enthusiastic fans of an author, I didn't set my hopes too high. I'm also very cynical now of the celebrity author endorsements, which are misleading even at the best of times (coupled in this case with the endorsement being supplied by Trudi Canavan, whose novels are not amongst those I personally rate very highly in the genre) and I wasn't expecting a great deal.

However, despite a very slow start and a style that I didn't find immediately enjoyable, there's a lot to recommend about `The Killing Moon'. It's the most unique novel I've read since `Under Heaven' by Guy Gavriel Kay. The story wasn't predictable and although I think it could have been plotted better to entice readers unfamiliar with the author, I would say that if you stick with it you'll eventually find it rewarding.

I wouldn't describe this as epic fantasy, but the story is memorable and offers something different from the usual fantasy fare. Recommended.
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