Publisher: Little, Brown (2012)
Format: Paperback | 404 pages
WARNING: SPOILERS!Description (GR): "In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers - the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt.But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh's great temple, Ehiru - the most famous of the city's Gatherers - must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering dreamers in the goddess' name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh's alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill - or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic."
I'm a bit confused about this book. I liked it a lot, but I didn't love it. I had high expectations and they were met but I still can't say I read it compulsively and loved every minute of it. So I am sorry if the review is a little more "scattered" than usual.
"The Killing Moon" is a really good book. The world-building is excellent; intricate and thoughtful, careful to go one step further the usual fantasy fare. The issues and problems it tackles are well explored, for the most part. What will we do for peace? How far are we willing to go to maintain it? When is killing acceptable? Where do we draw the line?
The book deals with these questions flawlessly through the world-building, the characters' development and the ideology without almost never passing judgment at the extremes presented.
That said, I didn't love this book. Why? Because I couldn't connect with the characters. There was no emotional link and I think that is what failed.
The main characters are Sunandi, a foreign ambassador in Gujaareh (the place where most of the action takes place), Ehiru, a priest and a dream Gatherer and Nijiri, Ehiru's apprentice. Gatherers collect "dreamblood", an ethereal and magical substance that comes from dreams. Which is fitting since Gujaareh's patron Goddess is Hananja, a deity of dreaming. They also kill all those accused of corruption (considered a disease of the soul) by severing the soul from the body and leading it to Ina-Karekh, the land of dreams where Hananja rules.
This dreamblood and its associated substances (dreambile, dreamichor and dreamseed) are connected to the soul and their use can cure many diseases either physical or psychological. So dreamblood is actually very valuable. It is controlled by the Hetawa, the temple of Hananja.
See, I had my first problem here. Our main character, Ehiru is a completely pious and faithful mercy assassin. In the tradition of the truly brainwashed he carries his duties with the utmost conviction. But when he finds out his little utopia is not very utopic at all he has no crisis of faith. He still believes in his religion's moral precepts. To be fair when he learned the whole truth (which was pretty obvious since, hello, humans will be humans and his temple controls 100% of the most important substance in their peace-loving city) he was half mad, but still.
In the end I just couldn't connect with Ehiru. He was probably not the most important character (I'd say that honor belongs to Nijiri) but there was no change at all in him (oh, wait, he was going mad). He was the same until the end although his world had been turned upside-down. Nijiri had the same kind of evolution, which annoyed me.
Basically I felt the characters were a bit empty and not very realistic. The author spent so much of her time setting up her world (and a great job she did too) that she just didn't invest enough in the characters. I'd have liked to read a more character driven novel. I'd have liked to see Ehiru or just Nijiri be angry and doubt everything they knew and took for granted. That would have had much more impact, in my humble opinion. But alas (ahah), I am not the author and she did not write this book solely for me.
Overall, "The Killing Moon" is a great read. The meticulous world-building with a slight Egyptian influence will appeal to fans of complex and well thought out fantasy books. I'd have liked more character development though. Still, very good. Recommended.