Nila continues to inhabit N. K. Jemisin’s dream world with Book 2 of the Dreamblood series: The Shadowed Sun
The Shadowed Sun by N. K. Jemisin
Published by Orbit Books, 2012
Review by N. E. White.
The Shadowed Sun, the second in the Dreamblood series, continues the story from the first, The Killing Moon. So, before I go too much farther, if you haven’t read the first book, you’ll be hard pressed to learn the nuances of the culture, magic system, and characters in this one. So, I recommend you read it! Do not fear, it is a great book. With that said…
Ten years after the events of The Killing Moon, the city of Gujaareh finds itself at the brink of violence yet again. Some conspire to take advantage of the city as it struggles against Kisuati’s harsh rule, others work to preserve its fragile status, while a former prince plots to retake the city.
In the middle of it all, we follow the story of the first female priest of the Hetawa, the city’s religious heart. Though the story of The Shadowed Sun is presented from several viewpoints, this priestess, Hanani, is at the center.
The story begins with a mystery. Dreams are killing people, and no one knows how someone can do that, or who is behind the murders. Hanani, an apprentice Sharer, or one who heals with dream-magic, experiences the tainted touch of the perpetrator first hand during a test and her beloved assistant is killed during what should have been a routine procedure. After that tragic event, whether she wants it or not, Hanani is thrown into the political intrigue that threatens to swallow the city.
A well known character from the first book, Nijiri, a Gatherer (of souls), sends Hanani and her mentor out into the desert to assist Wanahomen, the prince who wants nothing to do with the Hetawa and their priests, especially Gatherers, but is assembling a barbaric army to take back the city – and the Hetawa wants to help him.
Once there, Hanani learns of a culture unlike her own. She is also used by the prince to get what he wants and she suffers for it in a way that many may find…disturbing. She struggles to reconcile the prince’s actions with her feelings for him and the changes going on within her. Tragedy strikes again, when her mentor attempts a healing that goes terribly wrong. This leaves Hanani even more vulnerable, but with the Wanahomen’s help, she discovers more about herself as a woman and as a priestess of the Hetawa.
Meanwhile, back in the city, Nijiri and Sunandi, a Kisuati representative living in the city, struggle to maintain peace while searching for the source of the killing-dreams. We are introduced to a new character, Tiaanet, whose story is truly heartbreaking. Her corrupt father (oh, so corrupt in so many ways) also conspires to strike at the city in manner that will leave it reeling, and may even kill everyone in it.
The Shadowed Sun is a complex novel, and the Dreamblood world is complicated. The city-states are at war, fallen princes can wield dangerous magic, and it seems no one is ever truly safe. With this series, because of the complexity, I felt that I expended more mental energy keeping all the types of priests and their abilities straight, as well as all the different political players. Because of that, I feel the series requires a certain commitment. Know that if you do invest the time to this series, it will pay off.
I do have a gripe about this book. It felt heavy on the romance-side of things. It seemed the relationship between Hanani and Wanahomen oscillated a bit too much and I would have liked more focus on the Gatherer’s story. This is a personal gripe, of course. Nijiri, whom we were first introduced to in The Killing Moon, is still my favorite character and I was a bit bummed that we got so little time with him in The Shadowed Sun. I can only hope that his story continues in future books of this series.
Though not a particularly fast paced book, N. K. Jemisin keeps the tension high with stakes that are even higher for all her characters. Jemisin’s style of writing is intimate and seductive. There’s nothing here that the reader wants to miss nor can they lest they lose the intricacies of the plot. A great follow up to The Killing Moon, I very much enjoyed The Shadowed Sun and enthusiastically recommend it to those looking for a complicated world setting with characters that feel real.
N.E. White, August 2013.
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