The Shadowed Sun by NK Jemisin
Book of the Year 2012 (see all)
What are you willing to destroy and who are you willing to kill in order to achieve a "lasting peace"? Can people who abhor violence use it to achieve a greater good? If a society claims women are godly and reveres them as such yet robs them of their choices, is that hypocrisy? How much do we pay for the sins of our parents?
Tough, complex questions. And yet again Jemisin has found a way to approach these difficult, thorny moral issues involving individuals and society in a way that makes you see both sides.
The concluding volume in the Dreamblood duology picks up 10 years after the close of the first book, The Killing Moon. At the conclusion of that volume the royalty had been exposed as monsters and expelled. The priesthood has lacerated the cancer growing within it. Gujaareh, the city of dreams, has been taken over by its neighbor, the forceful and cruel Kisuati. Their iron hand and punitive rules have created unrest in a city that has ever only known peace. Rebellion ferments just under the surface. Into all of this a strangeness a plague appears - killing people in their sleep with no hope of a peaceful death. We see the action through three main character - Hanani, the first woman allowed into the healing priesthood, Wanahomen - the exiled eldest son of the former Prince (and, therefore, Prince in exile), and Tiaanet - the daughter of a ruthless and ambitious merchant.
There is a lot to unpack in these books. Jemisin approaches ideas we have about sexuality and lineage. She uses the Eastern concept of women being closer to god to explore issues of personal choice and liberty in a society where some of those options are taken away "for their own good." She explores traditional gender roles and professions by asking what would happen if another - different - perspective were introduced into them. She shows, in several ways, how sweeping unhealthy behaviors and actions under the rug creates a scar that can possibly never heal and reverberates through society. She challenges the idea that power is based on physical strength.
And she does this in a full formed society that mirrors a Bedouin lifestyle. Building upon the Egyptian setting she introduced in The Killing Moon, she adds depth and a counter-point to the regimented and controlled society she explored there. It is a compliment more than an opposing view.
Her characters continue to shine, with complexity and nuance that allows you to both understand their motivations and feel their pain with a simple look or glance. These individuals are a result of the surroundings they have grown up in. And yet each is fighting against the expectations of that society in a manner that honors their heritage. She has the ability to shine a laser on where society's past and it's natural development come into contact and create friction. Nothing ever stays the same, despite the desire to keep things "perfect".
I should mention that there is a fair amount of significant and deep exploration of the power of sex. Both as a tool by one sex over the other to coerce what they want or need as well as the implications of the brutal use of it on each other and society. It is uncomfortable and chilling and a cautionary tale that feels all too real.
My review of the first book (here) says much of what I feel about this one. Jemisin is a master of the grey and forcing us to consider the other side of the argument. She has an agenda, but presents both sides with feeling and compassion. There is a right and wrong, but that doesn't mean you can't feel for the other side. What struck me most - and very deeply - as I read this book was how important it is that we have authors like Jemisin continuing to work in speculative fiction. She brings a different approach, a different perspective, and an important voice that not just moves the genre but propels it forward in relevancy and complexity. Much the way Octavia Butler shifted the genre and seemed to open a door that had rarely been explored, I feel Jemisin has caused a forced perspective to take place. Ignore her and her books at your own peril - in 10 years people will be pointing to her 5 novels as some type of touchstone or turning point.
Ultimately, The Shadowed Sun is a more personal tale than The Killing Moon. There is so much to love about it. But I found a few plot threads a little too easy to predict. I loved the characters and identified with each. The story grew organically and weaved together beautifully. And while, as I mentioned above, there is a significant emotional and moral discourse happening here - more so than the first book - for some reason I found myself LIKING the first book just a smidge more. Having said that, read them both. They are two of the best books I heave read all year.
This The Shadowed Sun book review was written by Brian Herstig
All reviews for NK Jemisin's Dreamblood duology
The Killing Moon
Dreamblood duology: Book 1
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 peac...
The Shadowed Sun
Dreamblood duology: Book 2
Gujaareh, the city of dreams, suffers under the imperial rule of the Kisuati Protectorate. A city where the only law was peace now knows violence and oppression. And nightm...
Have you read The Shadowed Sun?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Shadowed Sun reader reviews
9.2/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a reader review for The Shadowed Sun by NK Jemisin; it really helps other readers find that perfect next read. Kindly enter your name, country and review below and click the 'Submit your review' button to send.
More recommended reading in this genre
A Brightness Long Ago
Guy Gavriel Kay
International bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay's latest work is set in a world evoking early Renaissance Italy and offers an extraordinary cast of characters whose li...
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, a...
Guy Gavriel Kay
For two years Shen Tai has mourned his father, living like a hermit beyond the borders of the Kitan Empire, by a mountain lake where terrible battles have long been fought ...
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
What if, as Franklin Roosevelt once proposed, Alaska - and not Israel - had become the homeland for the Jews after World War II? In Michael Chabon's Yiddish-speaking ...
Hats off to Brandenburg
London, 1815 – The Roxy Playhouse is in trouble! The Roxy Playhouse Irregulars, those libertine artists and dreamers, are up to their necks in debt – “Pay...
Catherynne M Valente
Child of the revolution, maiden of myth, bride of darkness. A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, an...
The Gamehouse is an unusual institution. Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost through games of Chess, Backgammon - every game under the sun. But a ...
The War at Troy
The people who lived in those days were closer to gods than we are, and great deeds and marvels were commoner then, which is why the stories we have from them are nobler an...
Land of Hope and Glory
It is 1852. The Indian empire of Rajthana has ruled Europe for more than a hundred years. With their vast armies, steam-and-sorcery technology and mastery of the mysterious...
Great books also published in 2012
King of Thorns
To reach greatness you must step on bodies, and many brothers lie trodden in my wake. I’ve walked from pawn to player and I’ll win this game of ours, though the...
The Grimnoir Society’s mission is to protect people with magic, and they’ve done so - successfully and in secret - since the mysterious arrival of the Power in ...
The Woman Who Died a Lot
The BookWorld's leading enforcement officer Thursday Next is four months into an enforced semi-retirement following an assassination attempt. She returns home to Swindo...
Days of Blood and Starlight
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living - one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without re...
The Compleat Ankh-Morpork City Guide
Greetings, adventurer! We lay before you this most comprehensive gazetteer encompassing all the streets of Ankh-Morpork, as well as information on its principal businesses,...
The Wind Through The Keyhole
Visit Mid-World's last gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and his ka-tet as a ferocious storm halts their progress along the Path of the Beam. Roland tells a tale from his ea...
Gareth L Powell
In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain’s best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed ‘Ack-Ack Macaque’. The troubl...
The Empire has declared war on the small, were-ruled kingdom of Aydori, capturing five women of the Mage-Pack, including the wife of the were Pack-leader. With the Pack off...
Shadow Ops: Control Point
Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer. Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the d...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: