The Shadowed Sun continues where The Killing Moon left off, but ten years later. This time around, Jemisin allows us to experience another of the four “paths of Hananja”–the path of the healers, in some way the diametrical opposition to the Gatherers. But this novel is not really about its worldbuilding. Jemisin continues to use her rich fantasy talent to cast light on difficult issues that we experience in our own “real” life. This time, she tackles a difficult and painful subject–violence against women and children, in particular, sexual violence.
As a result, this is a much more “adult” read than The Killing Moon, and a few moments were almost unbearably painful. (However, Jemisin is no George R. R. Martin, and there is nothing salacious about the sexual violence). As can be expected with such difficult subject matter, there are no really satisfying conclusions for any of the characters, especially the ones who suffer the most. In particular, the almost obligatory revenge scene of the character most violated throughout the book is not gratifying in the least. It made me think of how, despite this age of “progress,” victims of the worst kind of violence do not have recourse to healing. Jemisin powerfully illustrates this by showing how even in a society that can heal all manner of physical and even psychological ailments, the deepest wounds of the soul cannot be healed by external means.
Jemisin even seems to suggest that such healing is actually impossible– a profoundly disturbing thought. It darkens an otherwise brilliant story (that perhaps was not as thrilling as the first). If The Killing Moon was a book for the ages, this sequel is a brave attempt to plumb into much darker territory of the human experience, ultimately with not as much success.
All the same, I can’t wait to read her new book!