This was an excellent book and I definitely recommend it. It improved on literally everything I didn’t like about Hundred Thousand Kingdoms as well as the things I did like.
I was curious to see a bit of Jemisin’s progression as an author, so I picked this up to read before Fifth Season, assuming it would be a better but kind of mediocre book. However, Jemisin apparently found her footing during her first series, because this is exactly what I was hoping Hundred Thousand Kingdoms would be.
It was so enjoyable I don’t have all that much to say about it; I’m not even going to talk about the plot because spoilers. The biggest criticism I have is that once again the title makes no sense and is never explained (why isn’t the book calling “Dreaming Moon”?). I also once again am not sure where the second book is going to go since this one wrapped up so well, but that’s less of a problem when the universe and characters were compelling enough that I’m willing to revisit them without reason.
I read an interview with Jemisin that was in the back of Hundred Thousand wherein she said something along the lines of the HTK universe being something she was invested in for like a decade, and I highly suspect it was her First Big Story, where she started writing it as a youngin’ and a lot of immature tropes got integrated when she wasn’t experienced enough to notice them, and then by the time it was published she was a better writing than she had been but was very emotionally invested in a story that wasn’t a reflection of her current skill. I’m actually very curious now about the improve of the books in the first trilogy — was it only the first book that feel victim to this, or was it the series as a whole? Hell, maybe she just got a better editor at some point.
Also this is weird, but this book reminded me a lot of Assassin’s Creed, to the point that I spent the whole time picturing Ehiru as Altair Ibn-La’Ahad. Like literally in my mind’s eye Ehiru was in Assassin robes. I think this is because the themes and atmosphere of them are really similar. To be clear, they’re not similar in setting or stgory — AC is historical sci-fi, while this was supernatural fantasy based on Epyptian mythology — but something about the tone just led my brain there. It also helps that Ehiru and Altair are very similar character archetypes, and they happen to be one that I really like — the broody powerful guy with a heart of gold (Archer also falls into this category, as does Corvo from Dishonored and, to a lesser degree, Geralt… I have a type).
I also though Jemisin’s author’s note at the beginning, which basically boiled down to, “Please don’t send me hate mail because the fictional fantasy world based loosely on ancient Egypt isn’t historically accurate, that was obviously fucking intentional,” was a kind of depressing commentary on sci-fi/fantasy as a subculture, but also probably smart.
So yeah, I was intrigued by the setting, emotionally invested in the plot and characters, thought the social commentary was focused and thought-provoking, and she even purposely made her names pseudo-Epgyptian instead of syllable salad! I liked it so much that not only do you not get a real review, I’m going to read the sequel before moving on to Fifth Season.
Yay for pleasant suprise!