NK Jemisin is in a class of her own as a fantasy writer. Her stories are exceptional and worth reading in and of themselves. The world building and character development receive top marks as well. But what knocks it out of the park is her ability to write so thoughtfully about issues like racial and gender equality, political maneuverings and the complicated thing that is love. She does it in such a way that it becomes part of the story (which makes it so much more powerful versus those cases where you feel, as a reader, that you are being preached to or lectured).
The Shadowed Sun contains several of the same characters as The Killing Moon but focuses on Hanani, the first female Sharer in the Hetawa. She is tasked with helping the exiled Prince, Wanahomen, free Gujaareh from Kisua rule.
I would love to have the room here to quote the entire book (it’s that good) but I’m going to choose one quote from the passage where Hanani realizes that what she’s been doing in the Hetawa isn’t working. The wisdom comes from her new friend Yanassa.
“You will never be a man, Hanani, no matter how tightly you bind your breasts. You don’t want to be a man. And they may never accept you, no matter how well you follow their rules and ape their behavior. So why shouldn’t you embrace what you are? And serve in whatever damned way you want!”
Hanani faltered, thrown by the very idea. Only then did it occur to her: what she did would be regarded as a precedent, if ever another woman sought to join the Hetawa. Everything she did, all that she achieved, would set the pattern.
And Yanassa was right about something else. She had tried, again and again, to do things the way her fellow Sharers had done them. She had worked harder, trained longer, humbled and stifled herself in an effort to be perfect – and still Yehamwy had been afraid of her. Still some of her fellows saw her, not as a Servant of Hananja, but as a woman pretending to be one.
There was no peace in continuing to do what had already proven unworkable. Sometimes tradition itself disrupted peace, and only newness could smooth the way.