The second book in the Dreamblood duology.
Publication year: 2012
Page count: 492+glossary+excerpt from another book
This book is set about 10 years after the previous book, The Killing Moon, and a few characters return but obviously older. The book has three major cultures: the desert tribes who fight amongst themselves, the Gujareen who value peace above all but are toiling under occupational force, and the Kisuati who have conquered Gujareen and are now occupying it. The Hetawa are the Gujareen’s religious sect whose religion in based on dream magic and peace. They are also unique in that they can heal people physically. They serve the Goddess Hanaja. The Hetawa have four different kinds of priests who are all male: the Gatherers, who bring the peace of death to people judged too corrupt to live, the Sharers who are the healers, the Sentinels, and the Teachers. Women serve the Goddess as Sisters in a separate branch.
The book has lots of POV characters but we spent most of the time with two people: the exiled Prince of the Gujareen, Wanahomeen, and the only female priest among the Hetawa, Hanani.
Wanahomen was a boy when his father, the previous ruler, was killed and the Kisuati conquered the Gujareen. Wana saw a Gatherer kill his father and has hated the priests ever since. He lives now among the desert tribes and is gathering a large enough force to take his city back. To do that, he has also made alliances among the Gujareen. He lives in two cultures but has always wanted to return to the Gujareen. He will do anything and use anyone to free the City of Dreams.
Hanani is the only female priest in Gujareeh and even most of her fellow priests eye her with suspicion and fear. Fear because she represents change to the traditional order of things. In order to fit in, she has become as meek and unthreatening as she can make herself. She’s a Sharer-Apprentice, learning to become a full healer. Like all Sharers, she uses dream magic to heal physical wounds and illnesses. But during her trial, something strange happens: a boy, who is a younger apprentice, dies while performing a routine duty. Hanani set the boy to that task and so she is blamed for his death. Hanani is deeply disturbed and investigates. However, this death was just the beginning of the nightmare plague which spreads quickly. But before she can find out much, the elders of the priesthood send her and her mentor to Wanahomen as hostages to ensure the bargain between the Hetawa and Wanahomen to jointly rise up against the conquerors. Hanani is terrified when she’s sent among the barbarian tribes but she knows that she must endure it in order to show that she’s not corrupt and can be trusted.
The other POV characters include Tiaanet a young noblewoman among the Gujareen. Her father is one of the schemers against the Kisuati but he also abuses his own family terribly. Another is Sunandi Jeh Kalawe who represents the Kisuati conquerors in Gujareeh. She’s married to the Kisuate general who commands the local troops. Also a couple of the Gatherers are POV characters.
This is a vivid fantasy with deep, rich world-building. Each culture has its own quirks and peculiarities which are natural to the people born into them. They all think the others are weird and barbarians. Among the desert tribes, men are hunters and warriors but they use face veils and the women are the traders who bring the tribes real wealth and are therefore valued by how much they own. Also, the tribes don’t have marriages but have the custom (much like some Native American tribes IIRC had) where the children belong to their mother’s tribe and the mother’s brothers and uncles help raise them. Yet they have slavery but a slave can work his or her way free. Among the Gujareen, there’s no slavery and they are horrified of the who idea but they have strict caste splits and no-one can work their way up from a cast he or she is born in. (The Kisuati also have slavery but we aren’t told much about it, just that it’s very profitable.)
The plot isn’t very fast-paced and doesn’t have many fight scenes but those few have far more weight than in fantasy with a fight scene every 10 pages or so. The focus is on scheming and character interaction. On the other hand, it does have so much implied sexual abuse that if I hadn’t loved the rest of the book, I wouldn’t have finished it.
I loved this book and I’m looking forward to reading Jemisin’s next series, once the final book is out.