Ehiru is a gatherer in the ancient city of Gujaareh, a man trained to enter the dreams of others and harvest dreamblood, which is then used to maintain peace in the city and cure the infirm. When someone is identified as being corrupt, a gatherer collects their dreamblood before slowly releasing their soul, ending their life. Sometimes this gift is welcomed and sometimes it is resisted, so gatherers are highly respected individuals, trained to deal with a variety of circumstances. Ehiru is proud of his position and the power of the Hetawa, the temple devoted to the goddess Hananja, until he makes a mistake when gathering and meets an ambassador from a rival city, Kisua, who claims that corruption might exist even at the highest levels of his society. Ehiru has always been unquestionably devoted to the Priests and the ruling Prince, but something dark is starting to make itself apparent in Gujaareh and Ehiru must realise that the boundary between innocence and corruption isn't as clear cut as he would like it to be.
I'm quite new to the fantasy genre, so I found this book incredibly frightening to begin with! It's epic fantasy with a capital 'E', with plenty of world-building and new words to keep track of. The belief system of Gujaareh took some acclimatizing to, which is more of a reflection of my newness to the genre than Jemisin's skill as a writer. I loved that she threw the reader into the story and allowed the world to exist completely around it, rather than painstakingly describing everything. It gave the story a sense of realism, it felt like the world didn't need to be explained, as it was just already there. Jemisin's world building skills can't be faulted, and I loved that this epic fantasy story was set somewhere inspired by Ancient Egypt, rather than in medieval Europe.
A lot of the world building and plot centered around the role of a priestly sect that have been given a lot of power by the population of Gujaareh. I enjoy reading about religion, so it was interesting how Jemisin was able to say a lot about religion and the role of corruption in institutions that are meant to be selflessly serving a god or a goddess. Humans are corruptible, wherever they are. I liked this message, liked that nothing was black and white in this book. Similarly, the main character, Ehiru, has a lot of ambiguity about him; his intentions are certainly good but he has to do some awful things to achieve them. Books that show the moral ambiguity of real life always get a thumbs up from me.
As I mentioned, any issues I had with this book were mainly due to me not knowing much about fantasy and being new to the genre. I did struggle keeping up with the story initially, while I got used to the new world. I would have liked to have a map included, as in later sections of the story the characters travel away from the city and exactly where they were going was hard to visualise.
The Killing Moon is a fantasy book I would definitely recommend, especially to readers looking for epic fantasy that's a bit different from the run of the mill medieval stories.
Source: Personal copy.
First Published: 2012
Score: 4 out of 5