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The Killing Moon

Dreamblood, Book 1
Narrated by: Sarah Zimmerman
Length: 12 hrs and 38 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)
Non-member price: $30.38
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Publisher's Summary

In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers - the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe...and kill those judged corrupt.

But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh's great temple, Ehiru - the most famous of the city's Gatherers - must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering innocent dreamers in the goddess' name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh's alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill - or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.

©2012 N. K. Jemisin (P)2018 Little, Brown Book Group

Critic Reviews

"Utterly enthralling." (Trudi Canavan) 

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  • Yann Best
  • 03-09-2018

Pacey, enthralling, thought-provoking fantasy

I came to The Killing Moon having just read N. K. Jemisin's (incredible) The Broken Earth trilogy, which I don't imagine will be that unusual, even though this is her earlier work; as such I'll be comparing this book to that series throughout: I'll avoid any out and out spoilers, but the review will inevitably be most helpful to those who have read The Broken Earth series.

Broad strokes first: though very different in its scale, setting and core character archetypes to that trilogy, The Killing Moon does address some of the same subjects: unjust peace vs just unrest; corrupt institutions and concealed histories; plus a side of explorations of the many forms of love, of attitudes towards different peoples and cultures. If all of that sounds like anathema to you then, maybe consider picking up something else.

Where it differs is in its focus: while the The Broken Earth books deal heavily with topics of prejudice and slavery, this is a book more concerned with religion and nation states. Where The Broken Earth's stories were (literally) world-shaping, the protagonists of The Killing Moon barely make it out of its opening country. This is also a book with a clear antagonist, lending it somewhat more of a traditional fantasy adventure feel.

Indeed, for those after a swift read, you'll be happy to know that this can be read standalone - not to say The Killing Moon doesn't leave itself comfortably open for its sequel, but that one can happily read to the end of this book and stop there without feeling shortchanged. Where The Broken Earth presents its readers with an epic to digest, this is a story content to hone in, to build up a world around itself but remain narrowly focussed.

And a fascinating world it is, helped by the way it is presented: as with The Broken Earth, The Killing Moon demonstrates Jemisin’s preference to show rather than tell. The reader is thrust into the perspective of the book’s protagonists without ever having the world conveniently contextualised for them: instead they are expected to gradually come to understand the world from the events that they see unfold and from the occasional titbit of information dropped in conversation.

Rather than the lengthy diatribes of exposition than mark many a fantasy novel, yawning out length and killing any pace, here each new discovery about the world is exciting, every new perspective offered tantalising. I know that this approach isn’t to every reader’s taste, but for me it is ideal, and Jemisin makes masterful use of the technique.

As with The Broken Earth, Jemisin also shows a real talent for crafting fleshed out characters, believable despite their supernatural abilities, sympathetic as much for their flaws as their merits. These are characters who undergo – have undergone – painful, transformative events, and they show the scars of them in their behaviours and beliefs.

More, these characters’ flaws and ideals are brought into sharp relief, used to make the reader consider their own attitudes, consider the ethics and impulses driving the people and world they are viewing and, maybe, think about how it applies to their own experiences, how it compares to the world they live in.

Lest I make the novel sound like a work of parable, know that Jemisin deftly demonstrates her knack for crafting a compelling story – a story which pulls together all the themes described, and uses them to tell an engaging, exciting tale. As tension builds and characters are pulled into a spiralling series of events beyond their control, so too is the reader dragged headlong into the story, building into a rush which doesn’t let up until the book’s climax. Just because a piece of writing is thought-provoking doesn’t mean it can’t also entertain, as this book is ample proof!

Where the writing does fall down a little is in its movement from scene to scene - though largely well-paced, there are occasional moments which feel a bit too bitty, events which feel glossed over. This isn't to say that the narrative is filled with jarring moments, far from it, and for the most part things flow very well, but there are a few scenes that feel a bit off - particularly scenes when characters are travelling which don't quite convey the sense of time or distance adequately (notable as something The Broken Earth absolutely nails), and a scene or two leading to 'off-page' events that could have either done with a bit more committed to page, or to have had their lead-up omitted entirely.

These occasional blips barely mar the experience, however, and even if the structural issues had been more significant the story would still have been carried by its cast of characters, its compelling story, its fascinating world. This is an easy book to recommend to anyone who likes their fantasy filled with a little more than just swords and sorcery.

Given its relatively short length and self-contained nature, it makes an ideal audiobook – aided by an excellent reading by Sarah Zimmerman, who fills her characters with life and does an excellent job of interpreting and conveying the mood of each scene. More, each character is distinctly voiced, easy to identify from intonation and/or accent, allowing for flowing conversations without any confusion about who is talking at any given moment. Dramatic and clear: exactly what you want from audiobook narration!

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