The Shadowed Sun

The Killing Moon gives us a really beautiful mentor/apprentice relationship in Ehiru and Nijiri. It isn’t a relationship that is explored as often as I’d like in main through-lines of fantasy, probably because the Hero’s Journey format is more about a mentor who comes and goes as needed, or different characters filling different mentor-like roles at different times.

Jemisin, however, hits on the best possible dynamic of a mentor/apprentice relationship. Love and respect, as a motivation for success in their trade.

I think often about how I wanted to please my elders when I was young. There’s still a big part of me that wants to do that as an adult. It’s a major factor to contend with in my life, and I see it so rarely in the fantasy I read. The heroes/heroines are orphaned, or perversely independent by nature, or trying to prove themselves to themselves, not to anyone else. I’m not sure why that is, unless you look at Disney’s track record and believe that introducing parents to the mix just makes things way too complicated for a nice compact story. I think any therapist anywhere would agree with that.

So I really loved, in The Shadowed Sun, how Jemisin weaves the mentor/apprentice relationship into the plot. It is integral to it, but doesn’t completely define the protagonist. Hanani has her own motivations, her own need to prove herself as the only female in her healing trade, but her relationship with her mentor also moves the plot forward, and offers twists and motivations that are deep, rich, and beautifully crafted to give us the full in-depth treatment of Hanani’s heart.

Wanahomen, sort of a co-protagonist, is interesting as well. He is also driven by a motivation to please an elder–his father, who died in the first book. This makes Wanahomen’s character complex, and accounts for the very realistic mistakes he makes that help drive the plot. I think I might have liked him a lot less if he was as dismissive of women as the barbarian tribe that he has been living with–but his reverance for women in accordance with his birth culture saved me from that.

Ultimately Hanani and Wanahomen’s stories are woven together in a beautiful pattern of pride, passion, grief, and growth. The ending is satisfying in a realistic way, and feels germane to the characters. I’m eager to read Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy, after having enjoyed the Dreamblood Duology so much. I highly recommend these to anyone who enjoys fantasy and is looking for more than the usual, tired old tropes.

The Killing Moon

There’s a lot of beauty in this book. I haven’t read Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy yet (I’m borrowing it from my cousin later this summer), but her writing flows. There’s grace in it, in the way she describes the settings and the mannerisms of the characters.

I really admire when an author can jump right into a story without doing too much infodumping. So often you can tell you’re in the beginning of a story because there’s so much explanation of this and that. But good writers just jump right in, because it’s an entire world that exists for them, not just something that springs into being on page one and disappears after the last sentence. The worlds contained in these stories are not finite—they have history and the character was alive and awake and doing things the day before the story started, too. Jemisin gets that.

Nijiri is a wonderful character. Ehiru and Sunandi are great, too, but the majority of my love for this book comes from Nijiri. He’s willful and prideful and young but never quite naive. He feels things purely. His emotions bring out the best responses and reactions in the other characters. He drives everything, even though things happening in the plot seem to be happening to other people or by other people’s design. He’s a joy to read.

In depth and richness of cultural and religious background, Jemisin’s world in this book reminds me of Jacqueline Carey’s world in the Kushiel’s Legacy series. Even the way she throws out the limiting frivolity of labeling people’s sexual preferences reminds me of Carey. You don’t have to call someone gay or bisexual or heterosexual when love and sex are not culturally restricted. I wish I didn’t feel like that was such a cool thing—because it means we’re so far from throwing out those labels in our own society. But it’s nice to escape to places where no one questions or cares or limits things. Attraction is attraction, love is love, sex is sex.

All that said, there aren’t actually any sex scenes in this book. I don’t want to mislead by talking about it so much. 🙂

There’s political intrigue, a fascinating system of magic that’s entwined with healing and dreaming, all set in a rich cultural system modeled on that of the ancient Egyptians. Jemisin’s writing is deep and thoughtful and exciting. This one is an excellent choice for lovers of fantasy fiction.

Pride and Presumption

Instant Netflix just added the Keira Knightley Pride & Prejudice, which I love. It has a fantastic soundtrack, beautiful shots, and a stubborn and willful leading couple. I love it when main characters share my faults, and stubbornness is certainly one of them.

With such a simple title, you’re really encouraged to think about what pride and prejudice are as concepts, and how they contribute to the roadblocks that keep the main players apart until the end. I had an interesting realization doing some creativity exercises. I was reminded of times when I’ve said to a friend, “I’m proud of you.”

When I was younger I think I could say that without any pangs of discomfort. As I grew up, though, I realized the presumption that’s inherent in telling someone you are proud of them. To say you’re proud implies not only that you are at a higher proficiency level than them, and therefore able to appreciate the progress they’ve made, but also that you had some hand in guiding them to their success.

I think parents fall prey to this fairly often. I don’t know if they mean to appropriate the accomplishments of their children, but there’s always a shade of that, when they say they are proud of their kids. Like it was thanks to their genetics, their upbringing, their influence, that led their child to success. Perhaps I’m too touchy, but I never like to hear it. And times when I’ve said it to peers, I’ve realized that I’m actually looking down on them as I say it.

We’ll be careful to try not to do this with our little one, I think. There’s not much worse than someone stealing a piece of your success from you. It hardly encourages people to keep accomplishing things, if they don’t get to hold on to 100% of the pride in that accomplishment. I think the only people I wouldn’t mind hearing “I’m proud of you” from are my former teachers. I acknowledge them as mentors, though, as possessing more skill and experience than I in certain areas. They have guided me and therefore deserve some of the credit.

I feel like good parenting happens on its own, when the parents aren’t actually trying to guide and influence their kid. If your parents are good people, that will rub off on you. So often “trying” means “trying too hard,” and then turns into overcompensating and all that extra effort just spills over and puts pressure on the kid. I don’t pretend to know the secrets to motivating good behavior and good choices without placing some kind of pressure on a child, but there has to be a way. We’ll try to find it, whatever it is.