This is a world where a giant tree grows through a city; a city where gods and godlings and humans of different classes and races intermingle, re-gentrification of a neighborhood at its most extreme, with all the problems that come with it. One of the most interesting parts of this book are the gods themselves. In fantasy, interacting with magical creatures is pretty much the norm, but has there been any other book I can recall where mortals have day-to-day relationships with deities as friends? As lovers? From a human point of view? Not to my recollection -- and I've read (and written) a substantial amount of mythology-based stories, starting with my most favorite of authors, Roger Zelazny. See? Interesting.
Okay: mortals interact with gods and goddesses fairly routinely in Greek and Roman mythology. Perhaps that is why I found this so enchanting. Also, the godling Madding has a house where the bottom floor is pretty much a lush lagoon -- I wanted with all my heart to visit it. That is exactly the way I would set up a house, if I had my druthers.
Jemisin's city Shadow echoed of Viriconium, but not as alien; her characters' chatty relationships reminded me of Emma Bull, but this world is something new and... again, interesting. I am a little embarrassed I had not heard of her before -- I had found this book, which in in the middle of a trilogy at Bookman in Anaheim last November. This one was written in 2010, and she now has five books out. (This lets me know that I can now venture into picking the best of a series, not just the first of a series, as I continue this "100 Great Fantasy Novels Reading List.") It did not hurt that this book stands alone as it own story, another strength. There were so many great images, passages, and lines. A favorite:
"Loneliness is a darkness of the soul."
Lessons for writers: this book has made me really ponder what the nature of "interesting" is. What makes things interesting, rather than merely imaginative or evocative? What makes us interested in some stories, but not in others? Novelty can only be one part of that equation -- there are lots of imaginative inventions out there in the world of Story. What gains our interest? How do we make our stories interesting to others? I think it may take years just to define the parameters of this question alone.
Visit this wonderful author at her website.