Jemisin, N. K. -- The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood, 2)

Sequel to the book of scary dream ninjas. The city of Gujaareh is occupied by a foreign Protectorate, as a result of the aforementioned political disaster, and it's ten years later. Time for revolution! Or for something, in a multi-way clash between the city aristocracy, the occupying military, the priest-dream-mages, the desert nomads who are allied to some or all of the above in turn, and -- somewhere in the middle -- the Gujaareen people. Oh yes, there's a terrifyingly toxic nightmare plague ravaging the city. I mean "plague of nightmares", as in, you catch bad dreams and die.

The A-plot here is up to snuff, with the deposed heir and the city's first female dream-priest running around organizing liberation and falling in love and all that good stuff. I am not so satisfied with the B-plot, back in the city, dealing with the plague.

It's a great setup -- as I've said, Jemisin gets horror fantasy right -- but the focal characters here are Sunandi (from the previous book), doing a little bit of politicking, and Tiaanet, who is the most beautiful girl in the city and is also being sexually abused. We also learn that she is terrific in the sack. This is way too much what? for a character who barely takes any role in the story. It's not exactly a Mary Sue situation, but it's the sphere of emotionally indulgent storytelling that the Mary Sue lives in. The resolution of the B-plot, avoiding spoilers, is equally shallow -- yes, it's a bang-up dream-magic duel, but nothing in the book leads me to believe that it's either necessary or sufficient, so what's in there for? So that characters can be heroic and have emotional realizations. I didn't buy it, is what I'm saying.

But, to be clear, that's the B-plot and it's not the bulk of the story. The body is a solid romance political thriller thing; banter, great characters, great settings -- Gujaareh is not a utopia; none of the societies in the book are; they're all screwed up in various ways. (E.g., a woman entering the previously-all-male Hetawa priesthood is the influence of the pernicious occupiers.) The story is about people trying to chamfer them. That's good.

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