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428 pages, Paperback
First published May 1, 2012
We follow 3 characters mainly in this book as they try to uncover some hidden secrets and plots. I won't go into details on this matter to avoid spoilers but I'll talk a bit about the magic system.
The magic system in this book while very ambiguous at first, by the end of the book I realized it's pretty simple. To put in a few words: we have a goddess, Hananja, and whilst everyone in the city worships her, she has special priests. They are divided into four categories. Two of the main characters are members of the Hetawa priesthood and they "gather" people. They ease their pain through dreams but send them to their death. Sometimes it is voluntary since this is considered a blessing for the people, however, they also send to death those who are judged as corrupt. They get this dreamblood out of it which is used for healing + a bunch of other stuff and is necessary for those gatherers (the priests) not to go full murder mode and become reapers.
As you can guess, the fantasy world that is different from the usual was definitely a plus. I also liked the writing BUT it could've been more engaging since I was bored reading it.
So here why I wasn't a big fan of this book:
- I didn't find the characters interesting and I only remotely cared about their well-being. We had had a 16 yo in love with a man in his 40s and this man appreciated sleeping next to him (yes they never did anything sexual, and the man didn't love the teenage boy in that way but still, CREEPY). I also couldn't connect with them nor was able to empathize with their story.
- the boredom. the book was so very dull. At the surface, the story sounds rich and complex. But soon enough, I found it dull and underdeveloped. I was considered DNF-ing this book and I literally had to force myself to read it. The ending was probably the best part of this book but it still didn't redeem it for me.
- I couldn't rationalise some decisions the characters made towards the end. It sounded to me just a plot device to reach the ending Jemisin wanted and not because they were logical and the smart thing to do.
- The world-building was lacking. While some might excuse it because of her writing style, I can't. We barely knew anything about those barbarians and the world outside literally two cities. I only had a vague picture of the world in my mind.
It’s obvious that Jemisin has evolved a lot as a writer when she wrote Broken Earth because the latter was so much better everything-wise. I don’t regret reading this book because I was a fan of her Broken Earth trilogy but it'll be a while before I read her books.
“Suffering is part of life,' she said. 'All the parts of life are jumbled up together; you can't separate out just the one thing.' She parred his hand again, kindly. 'I could let you kill me now, lovely man, and have peace and good dreams forever. But who knows what I get instead, if I stay? Maybe time to see a new grandchild. Maybe a good joke that sets me laughing for days. Maybe another handsome young fellow flirting with me.' She grinned toothlessly, then let loose another horrible, racking cough. Ehiru steadies her with shaking hands. 'I want every moment of my life, pretty man, the painful and the sweet alike. Until the very end. If these are all the memories I get for eternity, I want to take as many of them with me as I can.”
“It was said that the Gods favored fools because they were entertaining to watch.”
“Magic was mother’s milk to the people of Gujaareh.
They were steeped in its necessity, proud of its benefits, dismissive of its consequences.
It was impossible to understand Gujaareh without understanding the source of its power.”
“Is your sin greater, or theirs lesser? Do you demand more of yourself than you expect of them?”
“You must learn to see things from many angles, Nijiri. If anything, that has always been your mentor’s one failing. He sees only Hananja’s Law. That narrowness of purpose makes him the greatest of your brethren, but it also leaves him ill equipped to handle the schemes of the corrupt.”
“You kill, priest. You do it for mercy and a whole host of other reasons that you claim are good, but at the heart of it you sneak into people’s homes in the dead of night and kill them in their sleep. This is why we think you strange—you do this and you see nothing wrong with it.”