I loooooved the Broken Earth trilogy, but did not love The City We Became, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I picked up the first in Jemisin’s Dreamblood ‘duology.’ I am happy to report that it’s great. I think I just prefer my fantasy novels to be wholly fantastic, with none of that pesky real-world crossover. I much prefer the fictional (but loosely based on ancient Egypt) Gujaareh over New York City.
Gujaareh is a city steeped in religion and its accompanying magic. Gatherers can take the dreamblood from a dying person and give it to the Sharers, who use it to heal people, all for the glory of the sleeping goddess Hananja.
Kisua is a city across the desert from Gujaareh. They also worship Hananja, but in a much more hands-off fashion. They find the Gatherers abhorrent, because the dying people they collect dreamblood from are not always (or often) willing participants in the ritual – Gatherers are able to ‘gather’ anyone they deem corrupt. Sunandi is a spy from Kisua, trying to find out what secret her predecessor was murdered for. She and Ehiru, one of the chief Gatherers and brother of the Prince, discover a vast conspiracy across the royal family and the church, and they go on the run together (along with Ehiru’s apprentice) to prevent a war and save both cities.
We get POV chapters from the main two characters, plus others along the way, and Jemisin does a great job of illustrating that nobody thinks they’re the bad guy. Ehiru thinks he’s doing what his goddess wants, and Sunandi thinks that she’s doing what’s best for her people. Even the villain thinks he’s following a righteous path set out by the founder of their religion.
The characters are solid and lived-in, the writing is (obviously) excellent, and the next book is already on my library list. Plus, Jemisin interviews herself about the process of writing this book in the extras at the end, and it’s a hoot.