REVIEW: Inanna by Emily H. Wilson

Last Updated on July 2, 2023

This book’s copy starts out by saying “Inanna is an impossibility.” I would agree. Inanna is an impossibility in how quickly and utterly it captivated me and how much I need more of it. Ok, I may be exaggerating a bit. I did expect to fall in love with this book when I heard about it and ran to my emails to request a copy. But this story of the Ancient Mesopotamian goddess of love and war, alongside Gilgamesh, who is often considered to be the first ever literary hero, is both poetic and dark, perfectly targeted specifically at me, and at a Grimdark audience more generally (and do also read our interview with Emily H. Wilson here, for an in-depth look at her research, writing and thought process).

Cover of Inanna by Emily H. WilsonInanna is the first of the Anunnaki born on Earth, into a warring Pantheon of twelve existing immortal Anunnaki. Crowned the goddess of love and forced into marriage, she soon realises that her path is not to be a smooth one, and the gods’ whims are threatening to tear the world apart. Gilgamesh is a mortal – a human son of the Anunnaki – who finds himself captured and imprisoned. Despite his arrogance and selfishness, Gilgamesh manages to be given one final chance to prove himself. Ninshubar is a powerful warrior woman, but has been cast out of her community after an act of kindness and finds herself persecuted by her own people. Their journeys push the three heroes together and their fates intertwine in a brutal and powerful story.

The characters are bold and strong, based on ancient tales but still utterly the author’s own. Inanna is considered the model for the later Aphrodite and Venus, but she is much darker in nature – she is a warrior too, she is not the soft seductress or creature of envy the later goddesses have become over the centuries. I also really appreciated Ninshubar, who, while a warrior, was ultimately a human, a person experiencing mercy and kindness, rather than ruthlessness at the core of her personality. It is poetic in many ways that Gilgamesh is rather insufferable – as heroes tend to be, if we dare admit it to ourselves – but still perseveres. A debut that knows what it is doing, and doesn’t shy away from killing its darlings (though, in a world where you never know if death is permanent…).

Probably my favourite element of Inanna, however, is the way Emily H. Wilson manages to marry beautiful, poetic prose with heartbreaking plot. Much of the story itself is dark, darker than expected. There is torture, there is human sacrifice, there is betrayal – this is truly a Grimdark novel, but in a package that makes these elements unexpected when they do occur and therefore so much more impactful. I found that a passage quite early on exemplifies this really well. In it, Inanna is still a child, when she has to say goodbye to her friend. You see, her friend’s father was a king, and with his passing, his household is expected to accompany him into death. The depiction of this is based on an archaeological find, and Wilson succeeds in bringing across the heart-wrenching feeling of senseless loss while writing beautifully. Inanna never comes across as a violent book, it manages to strike that fine balance thanks to the strength of its writing. This has me convinced that Emily H. Wilson is an author to watch. I can’t wait for books two and three of The Sumerians trilogy, and for you all to meet Inanna this summer.

Read Inanna by Emily H. Wilson

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Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne can usually be found with her nose in a book or two. Most of her life revolves around words, be that reading, writing, or editing. You can find more of her ramblings over on www.libridraconis.com, where she also reviews YA books and more lighthearted Fantasy and Science Fiction, as @FLSchwizer on Twitter, and @libri_draconis on Instagram. If you're curious about what she is currently reading, check out www.goodreads.com/libridraconis.

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