Dreamblood Duology by N.K. Jemisin
Consisting of The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun, this is a duology of two novels that I am counting as one unit because I read them back to back. The second major published series by fantasy author N.K. Jemisin, these take place in a fantasy world loosely based around ancient Egyptian concepts of magic. Jemisin takes the concepts and makes them her own, however, in a set of books that breaks the mold of standard "epic fantasy" populated by white protagonists in pseudo-European settings.
I've had a lot of trouble with fiction in the past, which with hindsight is due to the fact that I didn't recognize what appeal factors I like in fiction (or, more importantly, which ones I can't stand). I read these before I began my Readers' Advisory class and lucked out, because they fit firmly into the story appeal factor (discussed below) which is my happy place for fiction works.
Jemisin employs world-building that is thorough but that doesn't weigh the story down. She drops you into the situation and you slowly start to piece together what is happening, and who you (think) you can trust. One of the definite benefits of e-books is that I was able to start the second one the minute I finished the first. I read the two of them in about four hours, total.
Story (50%): With fiction, a strong story appeal element is a must for me. I need to be gripped, and be urged to plough through to find out what's next. This book definitely fits that bill. I was caught up within the first chapter as I started to piece together the various motivations of the players.
Character (30%): I thoroughly enjoyed figuring out the motivations of the different characters the reader meets. No one is strictly "good" or "evil" - everyone has a good reason for what they're doing, even if I didn't agree with it. While not introspective enough to slow the story down, I liked learning the various mindsets of the characters.
Setting (20%): The setting is one of the things that first caught my attention about this book. I studied ancient Egypt in my MA, so I enjoy reading books that look to Egyptian concepts for inspiration. Jemisin does not lean heavily on Egypt - it's not like one would read this and immediately recognize equivalents of Egyptian gods, for example. She constructs a world, however, that has similar philosophical underpinnings to ancient Egypt, especially in Gujaareh's mythology and understanding of the soul and the mind. Jemisin also makes a specific point to make her cast of characters representative of the races and cultures that would have been present in ancient Egypt. This is not another piece of white-washed fantasy, and the genre is better for it.
The language Jemisin uses is not an appeal factor for me, in either a positive or negative way, for this work.