The Obelisk Gate

By N. K. Jemisin
Orbit, ©2016
ISBN: 978-0316229265
Paperback, 448 pages

Essun never thought she’d want to settle anywhere for long. But Castrima sits like a jewel, deep underground, replete with air, lights, water, food, and a comm full of survivors in a land where the comless don’t survive a Season. Essun begins to think she may—may—find a home here. With Alabaster honing her skills, at least life has a point. Then an enemy approaches their gates and stirs the age-old hatreds, and suddenly Essun has more of a goal than she ever wanted.

To the South, Jija takes Nassun to be “cured.” But Nassun isn’t sick, and she knows it. Instead of “healing,” she finds the training to sharpen her already considerable orogeny, despite her father’s fear and growing hatred.

Essun knows what’s at stake. Nassun knows only that it’s all so pointless. Between them are the magical threads, the obelisks, and the Stone Eaters, whose motivations are as shadowy and hard to read as they are. With a seemingly innocent whisper, mother and daughter land in opposing camps in an ancient war whose winner will decide the fate of the human race.

In this, the second book in the Broken Earth series, Jemisin continues the excellent worldbuilding she began in The Fifth Season. Castrima over once again comes alive with boilbugs, falling ash and dying trees. Castrima under deepens with the layers of drama played out against the backdrop of its jutting points and crystalline shell. In Jekity and Found Moon, we see a satellite training station, unsanctioned by the Fulcrum, where the ashfall is still light and hope is not yet dead.

Most of the characters in this part of the tale are familiar, though Nassun and Jija we knew only by their connection to Essun in Fifth Season. Here, they are active participants whose threads begin to weave through the already complex storyline. It wasn’t hard to dislike Jija—look at what he left for Essun in the first pages of the last book—but here he fleshed out my contempt in spectacular fashion, and I found myself understanding why Nassun evolves the way she does, even empathizing with her, despite some alarming twists in her character. Schaffa surprised me most, I think; I saw some of Essun’s development coming, but not Schaffa’s. I’m quite intrigued to see where Jemisin will take him in book three.

So much happens in the pages of this book! Its intricate plot is layered with foreshadowing and peppered with details that each play their own role. Jemisin sets a masterful pace between the contemplative, slower passages and exhausting, nerve-wracking scenes, leaving this reader enthralled, and eager to read the next book. The Broken Earth series is no ordinary tale; it’s a sweeping dystopian epic and possibly a warning for our own times. Winner of the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel, The Obelisk Gate continues the tale in true Jemisin fashion. You won’t want to miss it.