N.K. Jemisin's telling us a grand saga of gods and godlings in her Kingdoms trilogy, and now she's sold a new duology about sleep magic in a society based on bronze-age Egypt.
Here's the first blurb for Jemisin's novels Reaper and Conqueror, coming in July and August of 2012 from Orbit Books:
In the city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Along its ancient stone streets, where time is marked by the river's floods, there is no crime or violence. Within the city's colored shadows, priests of the dream-goddess harvest the wild power of the sleeping mind as magic, using it to heal, soothe… and kill.
But when corruption blooms at the heart of Gujaareh's great temple, Ehiru - most famous of the city's Gatherers - cannot defeat it alone. With the aid of his cold-eyed apprentice and a beautiful foreign spy, he must thwart a conspiracy whose roots lie in his own past. And to prevent the unleashing of deadly forbidden magic, he must somehow defeat a Gatherer's most terrifying nemesis: the Reaper.
Over at Borders' BabelClash site, Jemisin talks about the sources she's drawn on for this new story, and the anxiety that comes with having to deliver a book into this harsh world:
Performance anxiety is kind of par for the course. But I'm also anxious because I'll soon be exposing another of my precious babies to the cold, unforgiving world. It's hard work, creating an epic fantasy. You've got to think about so many things we all tend to take for granted about our own world: terrain, climate, language, constellations. You have to design from the ground up characters and cultures who feel at home in this newly-created place, as if they've lived there forever. For the Inheritance Trilogy, I also had to design a cosmology, since the story involved gods: how was this universe created? How does everything in it work? Where did people come from, and what does their existence mean? Deep stuff. For the Dreamblood books, I decided to use an existing culture as the basis of the worldbuilding - which was actually harder. I've done years of research into Egyptian art and culture, life in a desert environment, and Bronze Age/early Iron Age history. I've slogged through Freud at his most profound and his most WTF; I've tried to make sense of Jung's Red Book, to varying degrees of success. I traveled to Canyon de Chelly in Arizona, in the heart of the Navajo nation, to study Anasazi cliff dwellings. I rode a horse. (Hey, I'm a New Yorker; not like horses are thick on the ground here.) And most importantly, I've cast most of that research aside while writing. In fantasy, research kind of needs to be like an iceberg - readers should see maybe only 10%, at most, of all the work the background work author did. Much more than that and the story starts to get bogged down in irrelevant factual material and authorial insertions. There's a writerly term for this, too (us writers are handy like that): I've suffered for my art (and now it's your turn). A few fantasy authors - e.g., Tolkien - are able to pull this off successfully, but for most of us, it's something to avoid.