The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

5 Stars

The Fifth Season was told in three timelines, within the scope of a lifetime. The Stone Sky spans millennia. We finally learn the history of the Stoneaters and the Seasons.

Cover from Goodreads


The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

If the fact that The Broken Earth trilogy is about race has escaped you in the first two books, it’s absolutely inescapable in The Stone Sky. Millennia of oppression, enslavement, and othering is examined in stark detail in The Stone Sky and it’s impossible to deny the equivalencies (not perfect, not exact) in our own world.

It’s also about love, survival and the arrogance of the human race. The story of the end of the world is disconcertingly recognizable.

The story of Syl Anagist is the story of the West’s own arrogance and racism. How we punish those who don’t fit the idealized set of standards of beauty and race. How we treat the earth as a resource to be endlessly tapped, rather than as a living planet. How our own beliefs and the society we’ve built around them are going to be our own downfall.

Nassun’s story is about love, and the lengths we go to for those that we love. She has seen the corruption and has decided that her love trumps everything else and that she is going to destroy that which has hurt those she loves.

Essun’s story is one of survival. Love has its place in the survival narrative, but living one day to the next and thinking about survival beyond just your own years takes its toll.

Once again, Robin Miles’ amazing narration is an amazing additional layer to the story of The Stone Sky and I heartily recommend the audiobook from Audible.

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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.

Cover from Goodreads


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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The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin

3 Stars

NK Jemisin’s forte is novels with a slow, precise pace and non-linear storytelling. As her characters and the plot creep forward, realizations start to hit you like heavy bricks. As you start to get a handle on what’s happening, the creeping plot begins to speed up and the significance of events becomes clearer. You’ll start to make connections between the threads she’s woven in the story around you.

All that being said, The Fifth Season was slow, up until the final 30% of the book. It starts grim, stays grim and ends grim. I wouldn’t call it dark, but it’s definitely grim. There’s literally a section of the book that says (paraphrasing) “here is a part of your life that’s happy – we’re going to skip over it and get back to the grim stuff.”

The writing is beautiful and the characters are interesting. It’s a well-crafted novel, but it’s not ever going to be my favorite.

The Fifth Season is the first book in The Broken Earth series.

Review originally published on Goodreads May 22, 2017.