Bookshot #165: The Obelisk Gate
I was going to read something else and then circle back around to this series at a later date, but I was at
the library randomly and decided I just couldn't stomach the size of Sanderson's Oathbringer in person (I've read the other two volumes on Kindle, so I just... didn't know- though really, I should have) so I went with The Obelisk Gate instead and I'm glad I did.
A worthy sequel to the first volume of N.K. Jemisin's The Broken Earth Trilogy, The Obelisk Gate picks up where the events of the first book left off-- but with Schaffa, Essun's former Guardian who awakens underwater in the immediate aftermath of Essun's devastating attack during the end of the first book. He's about to die when the mysterious entity that gives him and the other Guardians their powers are allowed to take over his body for a brief period. He survives, though suffers brain damage and profound memory loss, leaving him unable to remember his past as a Guardian. He's rescued by a family of fishermen and his memory is somewhat triggered by a young boy who needs him and the two set out towards the south.
Another new character? Essun's daughter Nassun. Her point of view rewinds (chronologically, anyway) back to events that took place in the first book, when her father, Jija beats her brother Uche to death after discovering he's an orogene. He deduces that Nassun is as well, kidnaps her, and flees Tirimo, heading south towards a group of Guardians that he believes can 'cure' her of her orogeny. They make their way to the community of Found Moon far to the south after much hardship and find a group of Guardians there, including Schaffa who are not affiliated with the Fulcrum. They settle there and Nassun begins to grow in her powers as an orogene and eventually comes to see Schaffa as more of a father figure than her actual father. Jija realizes that she's not being 'cured' of her 'sickness' and confronts Schaffa and attempts to kill Nassun, who uses her powers to turn him to stone.
Essun is still in Castrima. Alabaster struggles to impart what information he can about the obelisks, but he's slowly dying and eventually does die when he rescues Essun from an attempt to harness the power of one of the nearby obelisks. Tensions within Castrima are revealed: despite the fact that orogenes and non-orogenes are living side-by-side within the community, there's some resentment there-- resentment that threatens to break open with the arrival of a raiding party from a rival comm, Rennanis shows up, intending to take Castrima by force. They prepare for battle and, facing the loss of yet another home, Essun successfully activates the power of the Obelisk Gate and turns every member of the invading army to stone, saving Castrima, but damaging the geode that powers the community and forcing them to begin preparations to set out into the worsening Fifth Season to find a new home.
I think this might be the perfect sequel, in many ways. It reaches back in the chronology brings forward characters mentioned but not seen in the first book while advancing the plot from the first book toward a very interesting climax- structurally, it's neatly done. By the end of this book, the reader is on the same page as all the characters and it sets up the third book just about perfectly.
The use of the second person point of view continues in this book from the first book- the chapters centering around Essun and her adventures/troubles in Castrima especially. I don't know if that's because I just expected it, having read the first book or if it's a little less prominent for someone reason, but it feels like it fades into the background and doesn't stand out as much in this book. (I also think that might be because there's some use of it in the Nassun chapters as well that makes it feel like an 'unseen narrator' rather than a straight second-person point of view- if that makes sense. I'm assuming that 'unseen narrator' if there is one, is probably the stone eater Hoa, but we'll see in the next book.)
One thing I love about these books is the magic system: it remains simple and not too complex. Orogeny is earth-based in the first book but gets a little more development here when the characters start to find the 'silvery energy' that is the source of their power. You could have gone into a huge tangent about its origins, complexities, etc, but Jemisin doesn't. She just labels it as 'magic' and leaves it as that. It's so nice because it gives the characters so much room to breathe and actually helps move the story along at a brisk clip.
Overall: Eminently worthy sequel, instantly left me wanting more and compulsively readable (this one was not a slog by any stretch of the imagination. I flew through it!) The Obelisk Gate picks up where The Fifth Season left off and doesn't slow down one little bit. I can't wait to see how this trilogy ends! My Grade: **** out of ****
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