Sunday, 15 June 2014

Series Review: Dreamblood - N. K. Jemisin


The city of Gujaareh knows true peace. No thieves or murderers walk its streets at night; diseases and injuries are the sufferings of outsiders, the fools and heretics who choose to dwell beyond its walls. Only inner peace matters and the denizens of Gujaareh have devoted their whole lives to the goddess Hananja's teachings.

Hananja's narcomancers are the source of the city's peace. Priests and priestesses, they heal injuries, cure diseases and use dream magic to keep the city's inhabitants bodies whole and souls pure. They stand against corruption in all of its forms and the Gatherers, elite warrior-priests, serve to find and route out any would would threaten the peace of the common people. Their powers are unmatched and all fear to go to sleep if its rumoured Gatherers are near. It's said Gatherers can enter a person's dreams and carry their soul into the afterlife . . .

Yet corruption is beginning to take route in Gujaareh and the Gatherers are wary, cautious of the city's shifting politics and the influences of unseen people. People are beginning to die at night, their bodies found in grotesque spasms of agony, and people are beginning to suspect a Reaper - a Gatherer that has lost his mind to insanity and kills without reason. Ehiru knows he must find the source of the corruption if he is to purify it, but his path will not be easy and he will learn that living in ignorance is sometimes better than facing the horrifying truth . . .

Book 1: The Killing Moon

I really enjoyed Dreamblood, which N. K. Jemisin wrote with a very energetic style of prose. This meant both books were exciting, moved quite fast and I found each of them to be real page-turners. I also loved her ideas of narcomancers (the priests who use dream magic), since few authors have touched on this in the books I've read previously. Jemisin put her own spin on her magic further, making it dangerous and sensual, so I really had no idea what her characters were capable of until the end of the series!

Dreamblood is also set in a civilisation that is very similar to that of the Ancient Egyptians, which was extremely interesting to read about. Too many fantasy books are set in feudal Europe and it was refreshing to read something based on another culture for once! There were no knights, armoured men with swords and even the daily life of the people in Gujaareh was completely different to what I was accustomed to.

Jemisin's characterisation was pretty good as well and I could almost imagine some of the characters as people, doing the best they can without all the information they need while having to make choices that go against their very beliefs! Some of her storylines were actually quite tragic and Jemisin definitely had no problem in twisting events so not everything went the protagonists way.

Yet for all its positives, I did have a few issues with Dreamblood. Firstly, Jemisin had an annoying tendancy to cut down the 'plot events' in favour of long conversations that added nothing other than novelty to the story. This meant that she didn't explore and develop her story as much as she could and, in places, she even went as far as having the protagonists miss the plot events altogether. Hearing about what happened second-hand from another character in the book was extremely bizarre to say the least!

Lastly, the two books didn't really follow on from each other. The Shadowed Sun is set a decade after the events of The Killing Moon and has a completely different story. Some of the first book's characters reappear in the second, but there is little continuity and the duology seems more like two books based in the same world than a series to me.

Unfortunately these negatives did slightly spoil Dreamblood for me, but, that being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the series and recommend that you give it a go. It's well rounded, imaginative and is quite different from most other works of fantasy that are out there!

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