Fantasy

The Obelisk Gate – N.K. Jemisin

5 stars

This review is very late, and I apologize for that. I’ve been sitting on it for about two months now, because I’m struggling to encompass how impressed I am.

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Cover from Goodreads

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.

The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

In The Obelisk Gate we continue to see familiar faces from The Fifth SeasonAlabaster and Essun and follow along as the end of the world draws near. There’s so much wrapped up in this series.

This is where the series starts to get weird – and I mean that in a good way. Exactly like The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate is told from the perspective of an unseen narrator, speaking to Essun, in the past tense, though we don’t know why. This narrator tells us Essun’s story, Alabaster’s story, Nassun’s story. The narrator jumps from perspective to perspective, and interestingly, guiding us through how we’re supposed to feel.

I find it an incredibly interesting way to experience a story. “You’re angry. You’re angry because it’s not fair, and because she’s your daughter and should be with you.” That’s not a direct quote, but it captures what I mean. Jemisin chooses to be explicit with the readers about how characters feel, their inner thoughts and motivations, their reactions. It’s incredibly immersive and once I got used to it, I found that I loved it. It’s such a complex way of telling the story, and I felt so connected to the characters.

And, oh, what characters they are. Each character has a rich backstory, so thoroughly imagined. Jemisin is a master at her art.

The Obelisk Gate is a middle book, starting where The Fifth Season left off, and setting up for The Stone Sky but it doesn’t feel unfinished. There are so many threads left hanging, but Jemisin has told the story so masterfully that I felt confident that The Stone Sky would pick them up, weave them together and finish the tapestry of the story as if there had never been a break.

The Obelisk Gate deserves all of the accolades and awards that have been heaped upon it.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the incredible Robin Miles. Miles’s narration adds an amazing layer to the already wonderful story. Her use of tone and pauses and pacing enhances the experience to such an extent that I recommend the audiobooks over the print book any day.

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