Book one of The Dreamblood
Disclaimer: I know and like the author.
Random note: Despite what the back of The Killing Moon says, The Shadowed Sun (book 2 of the duology) is, in fact, NOT "available now." It is, instead, available on JUNE 12. This brought to you by someone who desperately wanted more of the world and was even prepared to buy the ebook, only to tragically discover it was NOT available now. Also, it is not at my local B&N yet. Marketers, please to be getting your facts right so there are fewer disappointed readers!
Ehiru is a Gatherer in Gujaareh, a city with surrounding lands based largely on ancient Egypt. His duty is to gather dreamblood from the dying while guiding them into the land of dreams. He and his apprentice Nijiri are soon swept up in political intrigue that may or may not involve the spiritual realm.
ETA: AFAICT, the second book takes place soon after the events of the first, but the first book is a complete story in and of itself, and you could probably stop there without picking up the second.
First of all, I really enjoyed the world building of this book, which is partially why I was in such a rush to get book 2. The Egyptian-esque setting is cool, especially since Jemisin focuses on the cosmopolitan aspects and has many different races and people and etc. interacting, but my favorite part is the magic system, narcomancy.
Actually, scratch that. While I enjoy the system of narcomancy and how the various followers of Hananja worship Her, I especially like how Jemisin fleshes out the Hananjan religion. We see the POVs of devout believers and those who think the Gatherers are murderers, as well as actions of people of varying levels of belief. I was drawn into Ehiru's moral crisis—spirituality in and of itself doesn't really resonate with me, but the moral issues and decisions definitely did. I also like how the mundane and the spiritual intertwine; the Hetawa is a religious institution but also a political influence both.
I was a little iffier on all the nuances of Gathering, as it's a practice that can range from anything from very consensual assisted suicide to murder. There's a part in the book in which a very physically disabled character asks to be Gathered which pinged some ablism buttons with me. I think the overall message of the book is that it is every person's choice, but I think the unspoken undercurrent of how people decide when they have lived long enough and how that intersects with societal values and etc. could have been expanded to a whole treatise.
I very much liked that there were positive and negative examples of characters from almost all the big cultures in the book. The world felt very rich and well-populated, and the diversity of characters in terms of viewpoint and race and origin and caste and the like was a huge benefit to the worldbuilding. That said, I wanted more of Sunandi and Kisua. (Also, double plus points for Jemisin's fantasy continent analogues being comprised of many different cultures, all of which interact and influence each other in different ways.)
I think this book doesn't quite hit my id buttons quite so hard as Jemisin's first book did, but I like it more all the same. It's an easy, immersive read that touched on a lot of things I find interesting, from gender roles to morality to politics, and it's been a while since I've slipped that easily into another world and wanted to bring it back out with me again.
Mostly, I want to see a lot more exploration of the events in the book's ending, as well as much much more about the worship of Hananja and how various aspects of it play out.