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.