Fantasy, High Fantasy
The Broken Earth, Book # 2
August 16th 2016
April 22, 2020 April 26, 2020
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.
About the book
First of all I would like to thank Oscar Vault (Italian publisher) for the ARC copy of the book.
The Obelisks Gate is the second book of the trilogy The Broken Earth by N.K. Jemisin. The first book review is here. The whole series talks about a broken world, where climate change has reduced humanity to organise itself into castes and to fear the fifth season, a long season triggered by a cataclysm. In the second volume we are in the fifth season (while in the first we see how we got there) and here the sun is darkened, it rains ash and it is difficult to survive. If you are not killed directly by natural disasters, hunger will eliminate you.
We follow the point of view of a unique narrator, but who mainly tells the story of two women, Essun and her daughter Nassun, who are surrounded by other characters that we come to know along the narration. The book begins where the first one ended, but chapter 1 is at the same time as the first book as we understand what happened to Nassun during the first book. Then Essun and her daughter’s stories coincide temporarily.
Here we see Essun established in the com of Castrima, where she had taken refuge in the first book and how the “city” is organised to survive the season. Instead, as far as Nassun is concerned, she is in the south where the fifth season has not yet fully arrived and here she meets a character seen in the first book and therefore we also understand what has happened to that character during these years.
The style is very similar to the first book, narrated in the second person singular by an unknown narrator in the first book, but which we meet in “flesh and blood” (more or less), here. Obviously already knowing the author’s style for this series I was not surprised when I started reading the book and therefore I am indifferent to the style (second person singular and present) unlike the first time where I didn’t like her style. Perhaps also because knowing her, I was careful and I understood the timeline (thing that didn’t happened and only thing I didn’t like in the first book, because in general I gave 4 stars). The chapters are sometimes quite long, focusing only on one of the two women who never meet in the narrative.
The main characters are Essun and Nassun. We have already met Essun in the first book where she was also the protagonist there, she is a woman in her forties, an orogene, with a difficult life behind her (like almost all the orogenes). She’s still searching her daughter and here she discovers her “powers” even more.
Nassun is a child “kidnapped” by her father after the man killed her younger brother (both orogenes) in the first book. At the beginning of the book they are travelling south (in the first chapter) where the father believes that the daughter can be cured from the orogeny. Here they meet some Gardians, especially one whom I would like to nominate because it is fundamental in the book, but I cannot say more in order not to spoil the surprise. Here she will find herself in a sort of Fulcrum where, however, the Gardians (or at least one) have understood their mistakes. We also know a little about the history behind the Gardians and their evolution.
We still meet Alabaster and Lerna, also refugees in Castrima as well as several new characters who were introduced at the end of the last book and are developed more here, like Hoa, Ykka and Tonkee.
What I think
I liked the book much more than the first, as I said I didn’t like the first for a particular reason that obviously it isn’t present here and therefore made me understand the whole timeline.
I liked that we finally know who Father Earth’s son is, that we know a little more about orogeny and even stone-eaters. The story that Alabaster tells and where he has been for these years or even just why he does what he does, is very fascinating. Above all, we understand more and more what the obelisks are and what they are for. I like how Castrima is organized and also Nassun’s path. These orogenes are dangerous but I can’t help but love them.
Essun, then, makes difficult choices, but it can’t be said that she doesn’t love her daughter. She prepared her to be an orogene, often being too severe, but all of this helps Nassun now. Although Nassun blames the mother for everything, it is undeniable that thanks to Essun she is now what she is and will most likely survive thanks to her teachings. I also like the fact that Nassun blames the mother for everything, yes, but she also understands why she’s done that. In the end, she understands why the mother is as she is and she knows who really to blame for their life.
I don’t know why this book is less popular than the first. It is true that every reader is different because I found it phenomenal. The book is published on May 12 in Italy (virus permitting) and I can’t wait to have it in my library. Thanks again to Oscar Vault for the ARC of the book and now I’m just waiting for the third one (although I’ll maybe read it in English because I can’t wait). Anyway I suggest to read this series, just pay attention at the timeline in the first book.