Author: N.K. Jemisin
Publisher: Orbit Books
American release date: June 12, 2012
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy /517 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
Hanani is a Sharer Apprentice. Sharers are similar to but different from Gatherers, in that they are healers who also go into the realm of dreams to help sufferers where the Gatherers ease the sleeper into a peaceful death. What makes Hanani unique among the Sharers is that she is a woman, and such a thing has not happened before. Which also means she is subjected to the scorn of some people for going against the perceived behavior of her sex, even among her fellow Sharers. Luckily for her, she has the support of her mentor, Mni-inh, to help guide her.
Wanahomen, son of Eninket, has been gone for some ten years, ever since his father’s overthrow and death at the hand of a Gatherer. Biding his time, he is gathering support so he can claim his birthright, and refuses to listen to those who claim his late father had gone mad and had to be killed. His eye on the prize, Wanahomen is willing to do whatever it takes to regain what was lost, no matter who gets hurt in the process.
Tiaanet’s mother, Insurret, is of the shunha caste, her father Sanfi a merchant. Tiaanet is extremely beautiful, and many men lust after her. But her father has his own ideas regarding her future, as well as his own ideas regarding their relationship. No wonder Insurret is waspish and surly, keeping to herself and away from Tiaanet as well as her daughter Tantufi, who has… issues. But Tiaanet is a dutiful daughter, even when that duty is very distasteful to her, and she is also clever and knows how to handle people… except her father. As a supporter of the returning Prince, Sanfi sees nothing wrong in bedding his beautiful daughter with the handsome prince, as long as he’s in control of the situation Then again, he sees nothing wrong in sleeping with her himself.
Sunandi Jeh Kalawe now governs Gujaareh on behalf of the Protectors of Kisua. She is happily married to Anzi, a general who commands the forces of Gujaareh. But Sunandi has neither forgotten the events that led up to the death of the mad Prince Eninket, or the young Gatherer Nijiri, whose mentor/lover Ehiru was the one who killed Eninket. When Nijiri comes to see her in the middle of the night, Sunandi knows something is up… and it’s not likely to be good.
Something is wrong in Gujaareh. People are dying mysteriously in their sleep, but the Gatherers don’t know why or how it happens. Turmoil is in the air, as forces align themselves. War feels imminent as Wanahomen works toward the overthrow of the current regime, that he may take his rightful place as ruler. But he needs the support of others to accomplish that.
Something big is just on the horizon… will it be the start of something new or the end of the life they now know?
As much as I loved the first book, I think I might love this one more, although I wish Ehiru had been able to come along for the ride. In the intervening ten years, Najiri has greatly matured, although undoubtedly carrying the scars of what happened and the loss of Ehiru. I was tickled to see Sunandi again. She’s such a strong character, and someone I would love to really know. Plus we get to meet interesting new characters, such as Hanani and Mni-Inh. Hanani is struggling to exist as a woman in a man’s world, and she does it wonderfully. And then there is Wanahomen , who is older than when we last saw him. It remains to be seen if he has gained any wisdom or maturity.
N.K. Jemisin weaves an incredibly intricate tale, like a beautiful tapestry composed of the lives of her characters. The religion she has created feels so real, it’s hard not to believe that these things can’t happen in dreams, that such people as the Sharers and Gatherers don’t really exist. Her world-building skills are beyond belief. Her characters take on a life of their own, certainly not one-dimensional by any means. There is no cookie-cutter black-and-white dichotomy, good versus evil. For no one is entirely good, and no one is entirely evil. And bad things do happen to good people, and sometimes evil thrives.
For now, this is the last book in the series, but the author admits she would like to visit this world again. We can only hope she does, and that she’ll be willing to take us along on her next visit.
I highly recommend this book, and I intend to seek out her other stories.