N. K. Jemisin, 2012
The second book in the Dreamblood duology, and I think it might be better than the first.
Set ten years after the climax of The Killing Moon, we get a few familiar characters to ease us back in to things, and the passage of years has not been kind. Sadder, wearier, more jaded, Sunandi and Nijiri are interesting but frankly unpromising protagonists. So it’s fortunate that they’re not; not really. The main characters are, in fine High Fantasy tradition, a disposed prince and a nervous servant girl. Will they meet? If they do how will they get on? Is it possible that they might initially be antagonistic but see that develop over time to a mutual tolerance, trust, and maybe something more? What are the odds?
Better than evens, I’d say. So, as before, despite the very well-done and pleasingly progressive setting the main storyline is crunchingly formulaic. That’s not necessarily a problem, as long as it’s done well.
I’m pleased to report that it is. It’s done very well indeed. It takes about 100 pages to get into its stride (which is not insignificant), and the last few dozen pages are something of a comedown (the lack of a proper dénouement for Sunandi is especially frustrating), but the intervening 350 pages are excellent. Issues: big, important, uncomfortable issues handled with sensitivity and intelligence. Well developed main characters and supporting cast you care about, and worldbuilding that had interesting and thoughtful things to say on colonialism so actually served a purpose and didn’t make me want to smash the book repeatedly into my face. Can’t say fairer than that.