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The Broken Earth #2

The Obelisk Gate

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2016)

Essun has found shelter, but not her missing daughter. Instead there is Alabaster Tenring, destroyer of the world, with a request that would seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

410 pages, Paperback

First published August 16, 2016

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About the author

N.K. Jemisin

49 books54.7k followers
N. K. Jemisin lives and works in New York City.

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5 stars
69,934 (46%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,668 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
688 reviews46.1k followers
August 13, 2017
2.5/5 Stars

Buddy read with the lovely Melanie!

The Obelisk Gate just won the Hugo Award 2017 for Best Novel of the year category, and coincidentally, I finished reading the book on the same day the result of the award was announced. Sadly, it’s not a happy coincidence because I highly disagree with it.

This is probably the most unpopular opinion I ever wrote so far. At the time of posting this review, out of 12470 ratings, less than 200 readers rated this book below 3 stars, I am one of them. I loved The Fifth Season, very much. It’s a work of a genius and I gave it 4.5 stars. Believe me when I say that I truly wish I could love this book the same way but I just can’t. I am severely disappointed with it and as usual, I will always be honest with my ratings and reviews regardless of the majority’s opinions, so here it is.

To summarize my mixed feelings about this book, The Obelisk Gate is majorly inflicted with the infamous second book syndrome. For reasons I can’t mention to avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that the first book has the advantage of being fresh in every element Jemisin implemented and in my opinion, she failed to live up to it. It’s not a surprise, I knew right after finishing the first book that the second book won’t be as good, but I just didn’t expect it to be this much.

Told only from two main POV and one minor POV, Essun’s POV is where I had tons of problems with. Within the first 70% of the book, her story is heavily filled with tons of info dump fired off at rapid succession, and I know I’ll forget most of them within a week after reading. Some of them are interesting for sure, but I was mindlessly bored reading her POV. Few revelations to the story aside, there’s nothing interesting out of Essun’s POV this time for me, her character doesn’t develop much, she resides only in one location throughout the whole book, and admittedly I actually fell asleep reading her story and had to force myself reading through it. When some actions did appear in the end, the damage has been done and I can’t bring myself to care anymore towards anything that happens in her story at this point because of how stagnant her character development has been compared to before.

The other major problems I had with the book this time lies within Essun’s second person present tense narrative. In the first book, it’s understandable to use this choice of narration for her POV, I feel like there’s no reason to use it again in the second book, can’t tell you why for spoiler reasons again. Plus, in the first book, the story was told from three main POV’s switching back and forth equally, with the other two characters done in third person perspective narration, Essun’s narration style didn’t felt as distracting, instead it felt fresh to go back to because there was enough break between her and the other characters chapter. In here, there are only two main POV, reading Essun’s second person present tense perspective style in heavy dose is really something I can’t tolerate.

It’s not all bad of course because I thoroughly enjoyed reading the other main POV. To make my review completely spoiler-free, I won’t even mention the name of this character but the storyline that was told from this character is amazing. Full of character developments; deal with tons of Xenophobia topic, and also, in my opinion, the most important aspect in preparation for the third book. This character also shed some light and complexity to Schaffa’s character. Another positive part of the book is that the world-building is still great. The Stillness is a post-apocalyptic setting done right in high fantasy. Basically, the other main POV and the world-building are the only factors that stopped me from DNFing this book.

That said, I will continue to read the Stone Sky because everything in this book is truly a setup for the final installment and I’m still intrigued to find out how it all ends. However, even if the third book ended up being something I thoroughly enjoyed like The Fifth Season, I know this is a trilogy that I won’t be rereading again in the future. All opinions are based only on my experience, the high chances are that you’ll have a different experience from me, and I sincerely hope that you love this more than me. I am basically on a lonely island screaming “I don’t like this book” to Spongebob and Patrick right now.

You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.5k followers
November 24, 2018
I thought I wasn't going to like this one as much as the first book.
The pace was a bit slow... but the ending was great and I'm looking forward to the third one!
Profile Image for Tharindu Dissanayake.
288 reviews560 followers
February 8, 2022
"It's never a waste of time to educate others."

With an impeccable foundation laid through The Fifth Season, the second book of The Broken Earth is all about bringing the reader up to speed on all things present. With the three character threads in the first book been already woven into a single complex storyline, Jemisin has finally found the time to introduce Nassun into the group. We are finally being told the entire backstory of Essun's family until now, filling probably the most annoying gap in the first book's plot (okay, maybe there's still some stuff need explaining, but I'll settle for this for now). While it looks like the meeting between Essun and Nassun is not going to happen for a while, there's plenty new happening with The Obelisk Gate.

Once again, from character development to world building to narrative, the author is perfect. Each new character complements the storyline in most unexpected ways, and one do indeed forget even the major events of the underlying plot when going through some of the short-term developments and minor backstories here. All these little things help the story progress, with Jemisin using her ability in converging the threads to set things up masterfully for the last book. As the title implies, there's a lot about the 'flying artifacts' here, but that's not all. Finally, I'm no longer bothered by the perspective of the narrative at all: it appears that any other way would've actually been damaging.

Understandably, it's not easy to make a middle book of a trilogy better compared to the first or third. However, for me, the transition from the first as well as the preparation of threads for the last were quite good, making The Obelisk Gate a great second book.

"Relationships chisel the final shape of one's being."
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,536 reviews9,963 followers
August 13, 2017
So I listened to this the first time on audio instead of reading my paperback. As most of you know I only like doing re-reads on audio because I miss too much on first time reads but it's all good.

Once again, even though I didn't understand all that was going on (same thing happened when I read the first book by paperback) some of the time I still loved it. I'm so weird that way. 😳

Nassun is off with her horrible father and some peeps and her mother, Essun is off doing her thing.

These books are so bizarre to me but still so good.

So and so wants to set the Earth straight by getting the moon back. It was flung out yonder somewhere when something happened. There is some kind of rift and other cray stuff. I thought they wanted Essun to grab the moon on the way back around but then Nassun was talking about doing it at the end. They really shouldn't have named them so close because I kept getting confused at who was who for a minute. Anyway, they have to snag the moon and < --- you know what? Just read the books 😄

I love them so far. The last one is out in August and we shall see what will become of this world and the people. I hope it something good!
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,107 followers
August 11, 2017
Edit 8/11/17

HUGO WINNER for 2017!!!!! That's the second one in a row for the SAME series! :) And since I've already read the third one and squealed all over it, I'm going on a limb and calling it three Hugos in a row.

Don't hate me if I'm right! :)

Original review:

My mind cannot stop dancing with joy after reading this. You might say that I'm dancing with Father Earth, enjoying the reveals as one would enjoy the unearthing of so many gems of storytelling awesomeness.

The world-building is still sharp as ever, and so many questions have answers in this second book. We're given an amazing shape for amazing things to come. I'm not merely or only shaken to my core by the amazing scenes of earth alteration, depth of histories, or revealed enormity of what is really going on, here; actually, I'm left in awe by the scope and the careful planning and execution of the Author's Mad Skillz.

Essun and Nassun are wonderful characters, of course, and there are times when Nassun almost steals the spotlight for me, but here's the real surprise: I can't believe how awesome Hoa's story is turning out to be, or that of all the Stone Eaters. This is what SF designed for. Awe. Shocking audacity. Scope and Vision. Rocking Ideas.

So we're descending further than geological processes, headed straight into the quantum loam. :) I'm laughing my head off with Alabaster's thrown bone when he describes the spaces between atoms, the networking forces, as "Magic". :)

Of course, any sufficiently advanced technology that allows men and women to become effectively immortal and not constrained by matter is Magic, right, Stone Eaters? lol

Essun continues to transform even more than her previous love, Alabaster, and it's a deep process that's nearly continental in it's impact, but that's where most of my love is going. Nassun's transformation into one hell of an anti-hero nearly matches how much appreciation I have for Schaffa's changes. I sympathize for everyone, and no one is disappointing. :)

The final action in this book is dark, that's for certain, but even now I can't stop grinning and being so damn awed by what happened.

This is why I read. This is why I'm a fanboy. This BLOWS ME AWAY. :)

Hell, this stuff is the stuff of LIFE. :) Totally Awesome!

Book 2? It may not be as mind-altering as the first, but together, they're something much greater than their parts. :) Now how in hell will I be able to wait for book 3 to find out what happens to the moon? This is breathtaking in conception. :)
November 9, 2022
Wow, the second book in this trilogy has reminded me just why I loved the first book so much.

The Obelisk Gate returns to Essun’s life, she has found a safe place to wait out the season. But, there are people from her past wanting things from her, and her daughter is still missing.

Jemisin’s world building and characterisation is flawless. I find myself completely swept up in the world, lost to reality around me. The world building and plot is quite complex. I do have to focus a lot when I am reading and had to look up a recap of the first book before picking this one up. If anyone has the time, and wants to read this trilogy, I recommend reading them together so that you can follow the complex plot in an easier way. That being said, once I remembered who everyone was, and what was going on, I fell completely back in love with this series.

One part of this book made me feel quite emotional. I ended up pausing to read the passage over and over again, it was so beautiful. I am left with a million questions, and don’t fully know what went on towards the end of this book. However, I do feel a deep sense of calm within me. These books truly give the reader the ability to join another world, away from this one. Jemisin is a wonderful writer who has created an incredibly rich world that I cannot wait to return to.

I recommend this series to any fans of fantasy, it is quite complex at times, but still suitable for newbies to the genre (like myself!).
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,175 reviews98.9k followers
August 21, 2017
1.) The Fifth Season ★★★★★

Buddy Read with Petrik

I finished this book just after it won its Hugo award for the best novel of 2017. This and The Fifth Season are so deserving of the awards and praise they receive. These books leave me wordless, because there is no explaining how much of a meaningful impact these books have on the world, let alone the SFF community. All I can truly say is thank you to N.K. Jemisin for this world, these characters, and these important messages that continue to render me speechless.

I also finished this book the same night that white supremacists rallied at Charlottesville and spread their hate in my country. The country that says we are past racism. The country that is constantly telling us that we are the greatest and most forward-thinking country of all time. The country that’s passing this hatred and violence off as “free speech”.

“But if you stay, no part of this comm gets to decide that any part of this comm is expendable. No voting on who gets to be people.”

Literature does represent our real life. The Broken Earth trilogy makes us feel the things it does because it mimics our world today. It shows us the oppression unapologetically, and this oppression doesn’t just live in this SFF book, it’s in our world right now, even if you’re choosing to keep your eyes closed to it. This series is a masterpiece and I hope you read it, but I also hope you learn from it.

The Obelisk Gate picks up where The Fifth Season left off, where earth’s civilization is beginning to prepare for a new Season. What doesn’t kill them quickly, will starve them to death slowly. This book mostly follows Essun, one of the most powerful Orogene in existence, where she is trying to live in a new community in a rather strange location. She meets up with old friends who are now also a part of this community, but her thoughts never stray from her daughter that has been missing since the start of The Fifth Season. Essun is also met with new problems and dilemmas that are so much bigger than the community she is residing in.

This is one of the most immersive books I’ve ever read. The narrative of this book just forcefully will pull the reader into this broken world, regardless of if they want to or not. You can’t help all the connections you will feel and form subconsciously. You end up with this experience that just feels so real and so emotionally overwhelming. Plus, I read this with so many tears in my eyes constantly, because even though this earth is trying to kill everyone that inhabits it, it is still the humans that are the terrifying villains.

Also, this is the most beautifully crafted diverse cast I’ve ever read in any piece of literature. The representation is just on an entirely differently level. And I believe with my whole heart that every other author out there should aspire to seamlessly create their cast of characters like N.K. Jemisin.

On top of the amazing diversity and representation, as a woman, I really sympathize with the underlying theme of motherhood throughout this series. I do not currently have any children, but I’d one day like to, and this book just emphasizes that there is no word to describe the love a mother feels for her child/children. Like, this book is heartbreakingly beautiful, and this constant reminder of how it feels to lose a child is something I can’t put into words. I think that is every parents’ greatest fear and this book doesn’t shy away from that topic ever. The heart of this novel is oppression, but the soul of this novel is that there is nothing a parent wouldn’t do to protect their child.

“You serve a higher purpose, little one. Not any single man’s desire—not even mine. You were not made for such petty things.”

But this all being said, this book does feel like the second book in a series, and it feels like it’s leading up to what I’m sure will be a perfect ending in The Stone Sky. There wasn’t any filler so to speak, but the events very slowly unraveling to put the pieces in place so that everything makes sense. But please, don’t let that stop you from giving this once in a lifetime series a try. It truly is a masterpiece that deserves all the praise and hype that is bestowed upon it.

And speaking of The Stone Sky, I don’t think my body, heart, or soul is ready for this eventual reunion. Yet, I don’t think anything is going to stop me from devouring this book while I’m 35,000 feet in the air come this Tuesday!

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Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,097 reviews17.7k followers
October 1, 2023
“This is a terrible thing that she is saying. It is a terrible thing that she loves herself.”

I’m rereading this for class guys it’s totally so my writing on this series can be perfectly informed and not at all just because I feel like it. And the verdict? This is everything to me.

I talked about what makes this series special thematically a lot in my review for The Fifth Season. I genuinely think the core of this series, the thing that makes it so impactful, is how it talks about oppression. The racism experienced by orogenes leads to an internalized fear of the self, an internalized desire to punish the self.

As The Obelisk Gate begins, the world is continuing to end. Essun is in the comm of Castrima, one where orogenes are accepted. Nassun is journeying with her father to a town that promises to cure her. And Schaffa is falling victim to something in his head, something only Nassun can help to heal.
There is such a thing as too much loss. Too much has been taken from you both - taken and taken and taken, until there's nothing left but hope, and you've given that up because it hurts too much. Until you would rather die, or kill, or avoid attachments altogether, than lose one more thing.

Essun's combination of mental strength and occasional moments of tenderness compel me to such a degree. I love her drily sarcastic inner monologue.

Something of her is warped out of true by this moment, and from now on all her acts of affection toward her father will be calculated, performative. Her childhood dies, for all intents and purposes. But that is better than all of her dying, she knows.

Nassun, Essun’s daughter, is my favorite character from this series. Through The Obelisk Gate, she’s forced to learn to be manipulative, to play the emotions of her father and so many others. Additionally, Nassun’s relationship with her mom is something that I can only describe as deeply paining me - the depiction of passing on of generational trauma through their relationship breaks my heart, and is done with such sensitivity towards both characters. Her character development is so brilliant on so many levels.
“Perhaps,” Schaffa tells her as she sobs these words. “But you are my monster.”

Schaffa, the third and final point of view character, is a villain from the first book who is weirdly sympathetic here. There’s a lot of talent in creating a villain here who is still the villain, decidedly not an antihero, but gains sympathy and humanization through his relationship with Nassun. God, I like… despised this character in book one and now I’m out here being extremely invested, but still hating him, and it’s really great.
“I want to keep telling you this as I have: in your mind, in your voice, telling you what to think and know. Do you find this rude? It is, I admit. Selfish. When I speak as just myself, it's difficult to feel like part of you. It is lonelier. Please; let me continue a bit longer.”

Hoa is a being whose sweetness persists, even as the world has tried to rip and carve it away over years over years.
“Alabaster... this has always been his way. The surprise gesture, the backhanded compliment that you could choose to take for teasing or an insult. You've hardened so much without this. Without him. You seem strong, healthy, but inside you feel like he looks: nothing but brittle stone and scars, prone to cracking if you bend too much. You try to smile, and fail. He doesn't try. You just look at each other. It's nothing and everything at once.”

Alabaster and Essun's relationship is easily one of the most compelling aspects of a book full of aspects which make me incredibly crazy. Lovingly, I can say no more time because I will genuinely start going crazy.
“Don’t rust it up, Essun. Innon and I didn’t love you for nothing.”

I sort of jokingly described this book on my twitter as Essun And Her Gay Friends Try To Survive The Apocalypse They Caused, a description I stand by. Tonkee, the science nerd who loves to make bad decisions, is one of the funniest and most endearing characters in this book. Ykka, a complicated but fantastic leader. Lerna, a kinder man than he should be. And Antimony, a complex character still impossible not to let your mind follow.

N.K. Jemisin is extremely talented at building a compelling world [though the extremely bare map does occasionally frustrate me] but focusing on a specific narrative in a way that makes the world feel simply like a natural part of the novel. She did a podcast interview on the Ezra Klein show where she talked about worldbuilding as an iceberg - one where 90% would never be seen. I don't think I truly understood what makes this world feel so natural until listening to that podcast. There are so many tiny details of past lives, past emperors, past Seasons, that are never explained - they serve the purpose of making this world feel lived in, a long-term entity. The empty parts of history also often fill as time passes, as a part of conveying to the audience the degree to which the history of The Stillness has been forgotten as an intentional tool of oppression. It's really quite brilliant.
“The way of the world isn’t the strong devouring the weak, but the weak deceiving and poisoning and whispering in the ears of the strong until they become weak, too.”

I did not totally get this book when I first read it at seventeen (I gave both The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky four stars). Returning to it five years later, I think it is one of my favorite books I have ever read. I really need people to start talking about The Fifth Season again, because I really need to talk about Alabaster and Essun with someone before I physically start imploding and screaming and crying. You're all ignoring this very real threat by not reading this series.

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Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
852 reviews3,882 followers
February 15, 2021

WINNER OF THE HUGO AWARDS 2017 for best novel

4.5 stars. I see you. "I can't stand Fantasy novels! They're all the same! There are too many characters! It's predictable! Unrealistic! Not diverse!" ← Trust me, I hear you. The Obelisk Gate is different, though, and here's why you should give it a chance :

You're very tired of reading the same uninspired writing over and over again? Fear no more! N.K. Jemisin's writing is nothing short of fantastic, with perhaps the best second Person POV I've ever read. Indeed she manages to master it so well that we almost forget how rare that is. Sure, I've been a little worried after the ending of The Fifth Season, given that the narrator's identity was spoiled at this time. Yet it made the experience even better for me in the sequel, especially because we got snippets of what this character was feeling, and well...

You can't stand the sight of these same white, cis, abled, male main characters that Fantasy books force down our throat 99% of the time. Fear no more! I've already praised it in The Fifth Season, but it's rare enough to repeat it endlessly : N.K. Jemisin's world is SO diverse, I love it. Several characters are POC (including the female lead), there is a polyamorous relationship in book 1, a disabled main character, an F/F romance... I'm sure I forget some, but what you need to know is this : the world created by N.K. Jemisin is diverse, and hence realistic. Way to prove how ridiculous it is to think that a full white/cis/straight/etc cast is possible. That's called laziness.

You've not been awed by a magic system since forever, mostly because they all sound the same, one way or another (they really are). Fear no more! I've read two books in this series now, and I still want to learn more about orogeny, because I find the concept fascinating. Not to mention that the winks to the real world - and environment issues - make it even better.

You've read 30% of The Fantasy Book and again, you already know how the fucking book will end because hey! You've read it before! Fear no more! The Obelisk Gate offers such an intricate and captivating plot that you won't be bored one second. Trust me. PAGE TURNER ALERT.

If you hate Fantasy casts more often than not, complaining that there are way too many characters to remember, chance are... you're just not reading great Fantasy novels. Indeed what make them insufferable is not the number of characters in my opinion, but the thing that we can't separate them because they all sound the same and don't bring anything more to the story. If every fucking one is flat and unable to interest you, I feel your pain, truly. Fear no more! The Obelisk Gate brings well-rounded secondary characters to life and pictures multi-layered MC I LOVED. Not to mention the amazing characters dynamics that feel so real and moved me something fierce.

HOA. I WILL PROTECT HIM WITH MY LIFE OKAY. Sure, I already liked him in The Fifth Season, but he hit me right in the feels in this one and honestly I'm so emotional just rereading quotes, it's not even funny.

Now the real question is : what are you waiting for? Start this series already.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
350 reviews945 followers
August 29, 2017
There's something so special about this series.

I'm not going to lie, it's a bit complicated. It takes its sweet time revealing bits and pieces of itself to the reader. The magic isn't always intuitive, the characters' motivations aren't always laid out nicely and neatly. But it's always fascinating and keeps me asking questions.

It's not a series I would recommend for those of us without patience.

It's unique second person point of view is, again, one of the best uses of this perspective I have ever seen. It gives you a profound sense of revelation to experience the journey this way.

This narrative choice is only complimented by Jemisin's writing style. While reading this series I felt completely rapt, transported directly into this cruel and dying world. It's a startling and enchanting experience.

Can I also just say how much I love the diversity in this series. There is so much here that it's difficult to even list it all! Diversity is severely lacking in High Fantasy and Science Fiction, and it's just so refreshing to see so much representation.

If I ever hear someone say "But it's hard for me to include diversity in my novel!" then I will absolutely point them in the direction of this series because the inclusivity is flawless.

I really only had two noteworthy issues with this installment:

1. I feel as though the The Fifth Season is more compelling for a specific reason. There was a very distinctive aspect of the storytelling that, because of events from the first novel, could not be present in The Obelisk Gate.

This aspect is one of the reasons I adore The Fifth Season so much, and while Jemisin works incredibly well with where she took her story, it's difficult not to make comparisons.

2. This book feels like a middle book. It's great, but not as great as its predecessor. It's packed with more information and less action than the first, but I get the feeling it needed to be that way in order to set up events that will take place in The Stone Sky.

Despite these minor issues, I was still incredibly engaged in this story & I'm honestly devastated thinking about waiting until August to see it through. This series is unlike other fantasy series that I have read in the past, and I'm so thrilled to see how it concludes!

This review and other reviews of mine can be found on Book Nest!
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,048 reviews1,383 followers
November 19, 2020
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷

“It’s not hate that you’re seeing. Hate requires emotion. What this woman has simply done is realize that you are a rogga, and decide that you aren’t a person, just like that.”

Actual Rating: 2.5 stars

You, Surprised

You are disappointed, you liked book 1. You actually had a gut feeling that book 2 will not be as good which made you keep putting reading it off. Your instinct seems right. You actually was bored while reading the book and confused and the goal became finishing it rather than enjoying it. That's a bad sign. You are not happy but you are still going to continue the series to see if it gets better.

This is how this review ends, not with a bang but a whimper...

Profile Image for Elle.
587 reviews1,401 followers
October 5, 2020
“Being useful to others is not the same thing as being equal.”

This series has been the most unexpected but welcome surprise for me this year. I can’t overstate how utterly fantastic N.K. Jemisin’s work is in this trilogy. I don’t know that I’ve read a sci-fi/dystopian/fantasy that better understands the human condition than The Broken Earth trilogy does.

We are back with Essun as she tries to either save or destroy the world, I don’t think anyone is sure which yet. She’s recently reunited with Alabaster, albeit not to his normal strength. He still has so much to teach her, but they are running out of time. The world is running out of time. All the characters we met and arrived with in Catstrima are still around, for now, but facing some new challenges. There’s even more exploration of what it means to be an orogene and how the obelisks are connected with their powers.

The biggest difference between The Obelisk Gate and The Fifth Season is the inclusion of Nassun’s perspective. She was a character that was very much at the center of Essun’s journey in the first book, but one that we never actually got to meet. Not only do we catch up with what Nassun’s been doing in the mean time, but Jesimin gives us a full replay of what happened to her and her father, Jija, from the horrific event that spurred their departure from Tirimo to present day. But Nassun doesn’t just have to deal with her angry and temperamental father, but another figure, this one from her mother’s past, who’s intentions are difficult to discern.

This is definitely a middle-of-a-trilogy book, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t excellent. It has more character depth and world-building than most other books in a series do combined. The first one was mind-blowing for me, and I think it was better, but I won’t be marking this one down because it didn’t reach that level completely. I still absolutely loved this installment from Jemisin and am having bitter-sweet feelings about finishing this masterclass in story-telling.

I don’t really refer to any books as ‘must reads’, but this series is a must read for fantasy/sci-fi fans.
Profile Image for Tess Burton.
Author 1 book92 followers
September 10, 2016
To summarize, it seems even the best authors can fall victim to Middle Book Syndrome.

I still adore N.K. Jemisin, I still think she's a goddess. The Obelisk Gate just didn't do it for me. The first book in this series, The Fifth Season, was just so exciting. It was filled with incredible world-building and a well-paced journey with a complex and likable heroine. But whereas The Fifth Season was probably 70% backstory, I should really have known this installment would focus more on the present.

The first half of the book was (comparatively) dull as mud. Nothing of much interest happens to Essun, she appeared stagnant and incapable. We got more about Nassun, Essun's daughter, and her life-changing journey after the beginning of the latest apocalypse. Ultimately, she was interesting, but not for a long while.

By the time things really started happening, I had already given into my boredom. I really wasn't invested, and all I was really hoping for was more of Schaffa's backstory. He had quickly become the most intriguing character, as my love for Essun kind of waned.

I'm still going to read the final installment of this trilogy, but I hope the pacing improves in the next one.
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
575 reviews760 followers
February 14, 2020
So I read this right after I finished the first one and I read the third one right after. I have to say that I found this to be my favorite out of the three books and the strongest out of the trilogy. Personally I didn't quite like the parts of the book written through second person POV and it felt really weird when it was addressing it directly to the person reading. I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the character development and the complexity brought to the characters we met in book one. I enjoyed getting more context about the world we're in as well and I really liked that we got to follow Nassun on her own journey. I think a few of the other reviewers said they didn't think this one was as good but I'm not sure why I felt differently. I think it might just be due in part to the fact that we got a lot of the set up out of the way and usually having things being built up feels annoying to me, regardless of the fact that context is necessary especially in fantasy. Yeah but I really enjoyed this, I think its obvious from the fact that I spent over 24 hours just reading to finish the series.
Profile Image for Choko.
1,221 reviews2,598 followers
July 12, 2017
*** 4.44 ***

I did not wait for a buddy read, because after finishing the first book I HAD TO KNOW!!! I engulfed this one in a day and have to say, despite loving the heck out of it, my thirst to KNOW is not quenched... I need the third book right now, but alas, I will have to wait like a good and patient reader and preorder it, so I can have it as soon as it comes out, if not possible to get it earlier.

"..."Life cannot exist without the Earth.Yet there is a not-unsubstantiated chance that life will win its war, and destroy the Earth. We’ve come close a few times.
That can’t happen. We cannot be permitted to win."..."

Lets get the most obvious things out of the way. The strength of this book, and the first one for that matter, is the world and character building. Not only solid, not only meticulous, not only imaginative, but also so well chiseled within the reality of the World, that as weird and foreign as it should seem to us, we feel like a part of the creatures who are trying to survive within this dying Earth. You feel the hopes, and dreams, and despair, even at times understand the prejudices, because you wonder if you wouldn't be one of those who in the face of extermination, might put their life and their fears above those of others, just as desperate as you. I could feel the dying of green nature around, the sand and ash under my feet and in the air, the heat, scolding and burning away my fat... I was aware of my own age and disabilities, sharpening my understanding that unless my brain does not compensate for them, I would be one of the first left outside of the comms. I could feel the stifling humidity and smell the purification and copper of bodily fluids... And I saw the petrified chunks of humans, or not, here and there among the boiling bugs. This is how real it all felt. This is how brilliant the writing is!

"...“But if you stay, no part of this comm gets to decide that any part of this comm is expendable. No voting on who gets to be people.”...“Being useful to others is not the same thing as being equal.”..."

We have our exquisitely developed main characters of Essun and her daughter Nassun, and Alabaster, all of them powerful Orogenes, as well as the Guardian Schaffa, who is turning out to be a catalyst for both mother and child... There are also the ever hanging around Stone-Eaters, and my favorite Hoa, the one I wish we get more page time with, because he is written in a manner to steal and break your heart! We get a story about the apocalyptic event which lead to the Seasons in first place, and I have to gloat a bit and say that I had that one figured out in the last book:):):) We also started noticing the distinctions between erogeny and magic, and their role in this book was awesomely powerful! The battle of survival kicks up a notch, since the resources are getting depleted as time goes and hope for future sustainable renewal is none existent.

"...“Love is no inoculation against murder.” ..."

Amid the epic battle of a world and its inhabitants to survive, we also witness a very heart-wrenching conflict of a family torn by secrets and murder. Jija has taken his daughter, his one child left, his daddy's girl Nassun, up North in order to find a "cure" for her Orogeny. Nassun loves her dad and has grown to hate her mother, since she is the one who had told her to hide her talent and gave her lessons in control with the same brutality she herself was raised with. In Nassun's eyes this was abuse, this was something she believed her mother did just to hurt her, with no particular justification or sense of love. She is happy to be away from the strict and demanding matriarch. Meanwhile, Essun is frantically searching for her beloved daughter, the one that is so much like her, the one she has been very hard on, because the fear of loosing her had made her weigh the positives of cruelty against the negatives being gentle and her girl hurting someone by mistake, not understanding her own power, and getting lynched because of it. Which one of those lose-lose situations makes her a monster deserving her child's hatred? I personally thing that although harsh and cruel, Essun did the right thing, refusing to make a victim out of her daughter. Hopefully, in the process of making her strong, she did not create a monster...

"...“Given a choice between death and the barest possibility of acceptance, they were desperate, and we used that. We made them desperate.” ..."

I will not delve into the plot itself, because that is the joy of reading the book - discovering it for yourself!!! I do have to say that it was a non-stop, exciting and riveting, at times devastating, at times adrenaline-inducing, but always poignant and ethically challenging. I loved it! It is a set-up book for what I hope will be a bang of a finish, and I only have to wait one more month for it!!! My impatience will have to read something else in order not to drive me insane in the meantime:):):)

"...“All that stuff about Father Earth, it's just stories to explain what's wrong with the world. Like those weird cults that crop up from time to time. I heard of one that asks an old man in the sky to keep them alive every time they go to sleep. People need to believe there's more to the world than there is.” ..."

Now I wish you all Happy reading and many more wonderful books to come!!!
Profile Image for Lucy Dacus.
96 reviews28.2k followers
October 11, 2021
I'd recommend starting this directly after Fifth Season, and I'm about to start Stone Sky right now, treating the trilogy like one book.
Profile Image for Nicole.
750 reviews1,937 followers
May 2, 2021
The Fifth Season: ★★★★
The Obelisk Gate: ★★★★
The Stone Sky: ★★★★ 1/2

I will keep this short review spoiler-free even for the first book.
This book continues from where the Fifth Season left off but also introduces a new important player.

Expectations are very tricky. Sure, we all learned by now to lower our expectations for highly praised books (even if we don’t always do after all). But what about books that we are expecting to dislike? And read some reviews that convinced us that this is book is not that good? But "hey, don’t worry the last book will be much better". What if we were waiting for a very boring annoying book? Yet, once we read it, we learn it’s not so bad after all.
And I’m left wondering if this book is worth my rating. If I had NO EXPECTATIONS whatsoever, would my enjoyment have been any different?
I always thought that the important thing is to lower my expectations but this book showed me that no, the important thing is to be neutral about a book. It’s no easy feat, however…

You might be thinking, I don’t see the problem here.. but let me tell you, I agree with what those people say.
You might answer you can agree but like this book anyway.
And it’s true but these negative things if I wasn’t mentally waiting for, I might have changed my rating…
1) the book had little action. The pace was slow. Only stuff happened at the end. But I was expecting extreme boredom. The book wasn’t that boring though.
2) Essun’s pov. The dreadful “you”. Again, something I would’ve disliked if I wasn’t prepared for it.
3) the info-dump. Ok for this point I’m still unsure if I’m really stupid and didn’t understand lots of orogeny stuff or some things weren’t explained well enough (and I’m too lazy to go back to previous explanations). It’s probably a bit of both, I guess?

The book had more telling than showing, honestly. But I enjoyed it. I finished it fairly quickly. I didn’t get bored but I didn’t read it in one sitting either.

At the end of the day, the purpose of reading is enjoyment. I don’t read to criticize books, for example. If it was a book I’m positive I’m going to hate, I avoid it. On the other hand, I prefer my ratings to be fair and well-deserved.

We had some important revelations in this book and an explanation for a character’s behavior (kind of). We are introduced to more characters in this book than the first one (who at least make regular appearances). It’s not divided into three POVs so it makes sense. I’m looking forward to reading the final book and see how everything is going to be wrapped up.
Profile Image for TS Chan.
719 reviews884 followers
June 17, 2018
4.5 stars.

The Obelisk Gate may feel like a middle book, but it is an excellent one.

Before I start, I just have to say that this book's cover is my favourite of the trilogy. I absolutely love its colours and beautiful stone design so evocative of past civilisations' architecture.

The non-linear plot of two past timelines and a present one converged towards the end of the first book, and The Obelisk Gate takes the story forward almost immediately with the second person present POV of Essun. There are two new third-person POVs. One is a character from the first book, Schaffa, and another which was only mentioned but not seen, Nassun. Both of whom played a significant role in Essun’s story and added new empathetic layers into the narrative. Schaffa’s perspective imparted some required insights into the Guardians, while Nassun’s afforded the reader with the story of her relationship with her mother and father, and her path towards an inevitable destiny following that fateful day in Tirimo.

There is something about the 2nd person POV in this trilogy that just worked for me. It gets inside my head. I feel as Essun does. I see what she sees. It is almost scarily immersive how it gets into my psyche. Her character is insanely captivating. This a woman who, being an orogene, have been through and seen so many horrors that she doesn’t trust the ordinary people to not bring harm to her and the ones she loves. The prejudice levelled against the orogenes in the Stillness is literally inhuman; orogenes are treated as less than humans and must be controlled and made as tools and even a father can kill his own children who are discovered to be cursed with the power.

The narrative in The Broken Earth has been anything but ordinary, and this even extends to the unusually beautiful love story which is far from your typical romance. Moreover, as this was told in Essun’s 2nd person POV, I seemed to feel the emotions more acutely than I ever had before. Believe me, I very seldom mention love stories in my reviews.

You’ve hardened so much without this. Without him. You seem strong, healthy, but inside you feel like he looks; nothing but brittle stone and scars, prone to cracking if you bend too much.

You try to smile, and fail. He doesn’t try. You just look at each other. It’s nothing and everything at once.

Oh rusts, that was so beautifully poignant that it hurts.

Two things which made this volume feel like a middle book. Firstly, it has a lot more exposition around the obelisks, orogeny and magic, and the stone-eaters. All which I find fascinating, and not just a wee bit mind-bending. And then, we have the plotlines of all the POV characters which just feel like an anticipatory build-up to the finale of the trilogy.

Notwithstanding, it was a brilliantly written sequel, and I will be plunging straight into The Stone Sky for the conclusion, one which I expect to be even more emotionally powerful.

This review can also be found at Booknest
Profile Image for Justine.
1,157 reviews312 followers
August 22, 2016
This book transitions very nicely from where The Fifth Season left off. We backtrack in time a bit to follow the journey Essun's daughter Nassun took with her father, Jija, and then the rest of the book runs in a parallel timeline following Essun in Castrima and Nassun further South in Jekity.

Jemisin has a wonderful storyteller's voice, which she uses to great effect here. The pain inflicted on Essun by her time with the Fulcrum continues to reverberate down through to Nassun, as Nassun begins at last to understand a little bit about how her mother became the person she is. But keeping true to the complexity of human relationships, Jemisin doesn't make Nassun seem more than the child she is. The way Nassun deals with the people around her seems very much in keeping with her age.

My only real criticism would be that this felt very much like a middle book. Up until the last part of the book I kept feeling like I wanted more from Essun's part of the story. Nassun's journey was for me the more interesting part of the book, probably because it was her character that experienced the greatest level of change and personal growth.

Overall, though, The Obelisk Gate did end in a place that set things up nicely for what will hopefully be an exciting conclusion in the third book.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,530 reviews978 followers
September 11, 2016

“The Fifth Season” set the bar really high for the follow up, but N K Jemisin delivers the goods in the sequel with as much skill and inventivity as I have come to expect from her original, engaging stories. With a whole planet as a terrible playground and a timescale extended to tens of thousands or more years, Jemisin redefines what EPIC means in terms of fantasy. Robert Jordan and Steven Erikson are arguably in a good position to challenge my enthusiastic placing of this series on the epic scale, but both of them fall short in terms of characters (imho, of course).

After all, a person is herself, and others. Relationships chisel the final shape of one’s being. I am me, and you.

The spectacular cataclysm that ushered in a Season of Death and Destruction, the (still) hidden forces that govern plate tectonics and produce recurrent armaggedons, the relationship between the several nodes of power that can be controlled by humans ( a unified theory of magic that links geology with subatomic particles and telepathy?) become under the pen of Jemisin more like background noise to the family drama centered around the orogene Essun, she of the different names and evolving POV from the first book. The opening line that I quoted above reminds us that she is not operating in a vacuum, that her personality and her actions are determined by her family: by her two dead children, victims of prejudice and blind hatred; by her surviving daughter that has been kidnapped and hidden somewhere under the ash clouds of volcanic eruptions; by her once lover and mentor that might be responsible for the breaking of the Stillness, by her adopted clan that offered her shelter from the planetary storm inside a giant geode.

Questions of morality versus survival, expediency, deep seated resentments between ‘stills’ and ‘roggas’, power and responsibility, scientific curiosity, even sexual emancipation and interspecies contact are the true engines of the plot and the main attraction of the series for me.

“Are you human?
“Officially? No.”
“Never mind what others think. What do you feel yourself to be?
“Then so am I.”

Orogenes are universally hated because the ‘still’ population holds them responsible for destroying the natural equilibrum of the planet and for their tendency to lash out and kill indiscriminately when scared and/or untrained. So orogene children are lynched the moment they are discovered, no matter how young they are. The most powerful they are allowed to become, the more destruction they are capable of. So what is the solution? Escalation of the stakes in the eternal war between magical practitioners and regular persons? Extermination, even if that means probably the destruction of the whole world? How can the different sides be made to see and accept the ‘other’ as Human, just like themselves?

Essun may be the most powerful orogene left on the planet, but should she be allowed to open the Obelisk Gate and control an even larger portion of the physical forces that move mountains and oceans and turn whole cities into rubble in the blink of an eye? The author is wisely leaving the question open ended, making her heroine fallible, impulsive and more than a little prejudiced against the other players. It's up to us to answer the question.

Life cannot exist without the Earth.Yet there is a not-insubstantiated chance that life will win its war, and destroy the Earth. We’ve come close a few times.
That can’t happen. We cannot be permitted to win.

These passages in the novel remind me of the Oppenheimer quote from Bhagavad Gita : "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

The ethical question is extended and given additional depth from the perspective of the three other POV characters in the book : Essun’s daughter Nassun, the Guardian Schaffa and the initially unnamed second person narrator . Each of them is powerful in his or her own way and must learn to accept responsibility for mistakes made in the use of that power.


By insisting on the human element in the epic I may have overlooked to mention that this second installment was a thrilling ride, a furious page turner that managed to raise the tension and the emotional turmoil to unbelievable heights. The worldbuilding is also upgraded from the opening volume with important revelations about the mysterious giant crystal obelisks that float in the sky defiant of the laws of physics, about the source of orogeny and its link with the ‘magical’ essence of the planet, manifested in all living and mineral elements , about the history of the seasons and about the other interested parties that might not want the power of the orogenes to develop unchecked (Guardians, stone eaters)

These partial answers raise as many new questions as the solutions they offer, enough to make the third installment a must-have for next year. The Hugo Award won for the first volume is entirely justified, and I recommend this series to all readers, within or outside the genre.
Profile Image for Scott  Hitchcock.
779 reviews236 followers
August 27, 2017
I've heard people say this suffered from middle book syndrome. Not at all for me. If anything I was able to enjoy it more so because the second person present tense was familiar this time around and not distracting.

This book picks right back up where the last left off and the scope of what we're dealing with is truly revealed in not generations or centuries but in tens of thousands of years. Some of the descriptions of changing eras, landscapes, seas, land masses and the rest reminded me of Erikson in their epic and grand depictions.

Another thing that ticks a box for me in making a series epic is NKJ makes you feel the magic. It's one things to tell you a person performed it and completely another for you to see and feel what that person is experiencing. Time and again she does this bringing each action into a crescendo.

The writing reminds me of Abraham's Long Price Quartet which is a top 5 series of mine. If she finishes this off in style this will be joining it there. What they both have the knack of doing is starting out with a vivid description and quickly expanding that into a scene. The scene quickly becomes tension, often from where you didn't suspect it, and then that tension becomes another description. Just when you think things are settling down the cycle repeats. Some they are able to constantly keep with foot on the gas in such simple and subtle ways you don't realize until after the fact you've been on the edge of your seat for an hour plus.

Finally the characters. They are all so compelling because they are complexed. They are flaw. They love and hate. They are so perfect in their imperfections.

I have to wait a month to do the rest with the group I've started with trilogy with and it will be hard not to cheat!
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,644 reviews1,511 followers
August 12, 2017
Congratulations to N.K. Jemisin for winning the Hugo Award for this book as well as last year for The Fifth Season

This series is a little different from many that I’ve read recently. I said in my prior review that it seemed like a Dystopian Fantasy and I believe it is classified as Sci-Fi. I’m still not sure what it is officially but with some of the revelations in this it appears that this might be a version of Earth in the distant, distant future.

I really like the writing in this. The way the PoVs is presented really works for me. There are a few first person PoVs and then there is this other narrative by someone that sounds completely different in the way it is presented. I thought that maybe it is the Stoneeater companion Essun is keeping but then there are moments in this that I think perhaps some of them are Father Earth talking.
We cannot be permitted to win. So this is a confession, my Essun. I’ve betrayed you already and I will do it again. You haven’t even chosen a side yet, and already I fend off those who would recruit you to their cause. Already I plot your death. It’s necessary. But I can at least try my damnedest to give your life a meaning that will last till the world ends.

The Obelisk Gate covers both Nassun and Essun’s stories. We start off with what happened to Nassun the day that her father killed her baby brother and took her away from her mother. Her story is a little heartbreaking as you learn what Essun did to teach her how to use her magic and the struggles Essun now has to face to stay alive while traveling with her father. It gave the reader great insight into why she would want a parental figure so much that she latched onto the first one that came around at that point in her life.

Essun’s story is just as engaging as Nassun’s and possibly more so since I connected to her in the first book. In the commune she is trying to learn from Alabaster before his imminent demise. You learn that there was a method to his madness and maybe he didn’t just want to destroy the world. Perhaps he was trying to move towards saving it and destroying it is just the first step.
“Using that to channel the power of the Rift should be enough.”
“To do what?”
For the first time, you hear a note of emotion in her voice: annoyance. “To impose equilibrium on the Earth-Moon system.”
What. “Alabaster said the Moon was flung away.”
“Into a degrading long-ellipsis orbit.” When you stare blankly, she speaks your language again. “It’s coming back.”
Oh, Earth. Oh, rust. Oh, no. “You want me to catch the fucking Moon?”

There are other dangers of course to be faced. There are Stone Eaters and they have their own agendas including the one that has been following Essun around. There is the growing tension in the Comm between the Orogenes and Stills and even more outside of the Comm as food becomes scarce and other Comms have decided to try and invade for food and supplies. Then there is also the interesting wildlife changes that include some animals hibernating while others have different deadly instinctual habits during a season.

One of the most interesting things for me in this book was getting a little more insight into the Guardians and what makes them what they are. Shaffa’s part in this book with some explanations of ‘gifts’ Guardians are given was especially inventive and creepy. But his relationship with Nassun is equal parts beautiful and terrible. I’m so worried for what is going to happen in that dynamic in The Stone Sky.
He loses so much else, though. Understand: The Schaffa that we have known thus far, the Schaffa whom Damaya learned to fear and Syenite learned to defy, is now dead. What remains is a man with a habit of smiling, a warped paternal instinct, and a rage that is not wholly his own driving everything he does from this point on.

This was a really good follow up the The Fifth Season and has one of the more interesting concepts I’ve read recently. I’m really excited to the conclusion to this trilogy in The Stone Sky.
Profile Image for Bibi.
1,288 reviews3,230 followers
September 14, 2017
By now you've gotten over that devilishly clever writing devise that Ms Jemisin wielded in book one and, like me, you're eager to continue the journey with Essun, unwavering in your desire to uncover the secrets of this strange but fascinating world.

And you're not disappointed.

This is writing at par with the Sandersons, Bardugos et al. NK is a master storyteller!

Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,065 reviews1,476 followers
October 4, 2020
This is the second instalment in The Broken Earth trilogy.

The world is in the process of ending. This is not the first time, but it is the first time for these generations of humans who rely on Father Earth to protect and home them. Their salvation can not come from the ground, with the tremors that flatten all and create deep scores into the earth, nor can it come from the sky, with the ash that is spewed down upon all to coat everything in a lethal blanket of grey. But it may come from society's most abhorred. The outcasts may now be the saviours. Or maybe they will continue to become this story's villains, after all?

The scope of creative genius is as commendable as it is awe-inspiring. Nemisin not only creates a rich and scarily believable apocalyptic future for our world, but she does so with sound scientific backing that provides verification for all her creations and inclusions, no matter how fantastical they are in design.

This was far more theoretically dense and heavy than the first series instalment, which culminated in a slowing of pace and a more intricate and small-scoped focus. I appreciated these elements as they aided me in a deeper understanding of this world, as well as for the cast we focus on within it.

I closed this book already eager to return to the world, despite the sorrow that is seeped thickly throughout it. There may be little joy to be found here, but there is an abundance of all else!
155 reviews261 followers
November 26, 2017
Evil earth why do you do this to me?

I am so disappointed right now that I don't think I'll be able to review this properly. I wanted to love this book so much so that I've been reading it again and again to make myself like it a little bit more. I've been reading all 5 and 4 stars review for past 2 hours to convince myself that it is good but nothing is changing this simple yet powerful fact:The Obelisk Gate was just so fucking boring, at places ve ve ve very bland, filled with info-dumps and overall incomparable to the Glory that was The Fifth Season.

I was annoyed during Essun's pov, because although I still loved N.K Jemisin's writing in general, Essun's second person present tense narrative was so so rusting annoying and totally unnecessary. Essun never actually did anything other then sulking around and feeling sorry for herself. I know she had bad and unfaur life and nothing can be done to bring her justice, I UNDERSTAND but can we please move to important thing please now?? I was so excited to learn more about Alabaster, but that poor man only existed to provide info-dumps about this world. I know (and I'm hoping that I'm right) that we will see more of Alabaster in The Stone Sky but he just played as a filler character in this book to provide information to Essun.

However, since it's N.K Jemisin, there were still some gems in the storyvthat made this book stood out against many other fantasy books. For one, it's the most diverse fantasy book I've read. Almost 90% of the cast are POC. There are also a trans side character, an F/F romance and disabled characters. N.K Jemisin's writing is still glorious and easy going as ever. Nassun's and Schaffa's pov were interesting, although it wasn't that good that I was hooked to these characters (maybe it's me not you), but yeah they were just interesting. Even though the world building was progressed in form of info-dumps, I liked the new revelations about stone eaters, about orogene and about these deadcivs. Although I initially hated the use of magic, but after reading important part of the book for 2nd time, I am starting to appreciate how Jemisin wove its use into the story. This whole series in general is steering away from fantasy elements and becoming full on sci-fic and that's the beauty of this whole series.

Final verdict: This book suffered from middle book syndrome. It seems like a filler for the third book containg all necessary info for the last book. And I really really really hope that the third and the last book is epic, otherwise 47372646 pages of this boring fest would be for nothing.

Then why did I gave it 3 stars when it was bland as mud, because I was feeling it and probably because I love N.K Jemisin.
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,073 reviews2,635 followers
September 1, 2016
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/09/01/...

The Obelisk Gate is the highly anticipated follow-up to The Fifth Season, further building upon the world and characters created by N.K. Jemisin in the world of The Broken Earth. While it has the distinct feel of a middle book in a trilogy, letting the first book maintain its edge in my eyes, it’s still nonetheless a fantastic and very rich sequel.

The story picks up from where we left off, transitioning us into the start of a new Season—or a period of instability marked by a major apocalyptic event. The Orogene known as Alabaster has used his powers of earth manipulation to tear the world apart, and that was the last time Essun thought she would see her old mentor. But now, while traveling across the land to find her daughter Nassun, Essun has found Alabaster again, dying in an underground comm called Castrima. Apparently, her former teacher still has more knowledge to pass on to her, information that could potentially affect the rise and ebb of the devastating Seasons, perhaps halting the cycles all together.

Meanwhile, Nassun finds herself in a bit of a bind, kidnapped by her father Jija after he discovered his children were Orogenes. He had already killed Nassun’s little brother, but could not bring himself to do the same to his little girl. Instead, he decides to take her away to a place where he heard Orogeny could be “fixed”, and Nassun has no choice but to follow, torn between love and fear of her father.

The Obelisk Gate both reads and feels a little different from the first book, emphasizing plot while also expanding upon the world-building. We get to learn a lot more about The Stillness as well as the continent’s various peoples and factions. The mysterious presence of the obelisks also plays a key role in this book, their significance serving as a centerpiece for much of the world’s history and lore. This aspect is strengthened and polished up considerably in this sequel, giving me the sense that Jemisin is working to build up to some important developments related to the magic and mystery surrounding Orogeny.

However, it’s the characters that really shine, much as they did in the previous book. This time, the focus is mainly split between the two characters Essun and her daughter Nassun, following the individual journeys of both strong yet conflicted women. Once again, Essun is the heart that drives this novel forward, but to my surprise, it was Nassun who really endeared herself to me. The story focusing on the relationship between her and Jija struck a very deep, raw chord. There are just too many terrible emotions there, more than any young girl should bear. I could feel the love she has for her father, but also the cancerous seed of knowledge in the back of her mind that his love for her is conditional and that he can never see past his hate for something that is so integral to her identity. Then there are Nassun’s memories of her mother and the harsh methods Essun used to prepare her daughter for a life lived in secret. All these layers of complexity are woven together to form a truly heart-wrenching picture of Nassun’s relationship with her parents, each thread a thoughtful commentary on the intricate connections between them. Jemisin’s portrayal of all the complex feelings involved makes it virtually impossible not to feel completely drawn into these characters’ lives.

As I said previously though, I still have to give The Fifth Season a slight edge over The Obelisk Gate, simply because the sequel didn’t quite consume me the way the first book did. For one, this book was slower to take off, and without revealing any spoilers for the series, I thought the story also lacked some of the structural and stylistic subtleties that made its predecessor so ingenious. Jemisin manages to use a couple creative devices here too, but for the most part they didn’t work as nearly as well, such as the second-person narrative for Essun’s chapters—mainly because it was so darn distracting. While I’m more frustrated at myself than at the novel for letting something like this bother me, there’s still no denying that it took me quite a while to get used to this narrative mode. When it’s used sparingly in brief sections of a novel, I find sometimes that I barely even notice, but here it was just so prevalent that there was really no way for me to push it entirely out of my awareness.

Still, I really can’t stress enough what a good sequel this is. I’m a relatively new fan of the author, since The Fifth Season was my first book by her, but I am already in love with her gorgeous writing and the way she crafts characters that feel so well-rounded and real. The Obelisk Gate has such an incredible amount to offer, just an all-around amazing read.
Profile Image for Hannah.
595 reviews1,055 followers
February 25, 2017
While I didn't quite enjoy this sequel as much as I enjoyed The Fifth Season it is still an impressively imagined, intriquately plotted, and highly original fantasy book. I am just so in love with the world N. K. Jemisin has created here! I cannot believe I will have to wait until August to see how it will conclude; I mean I know it'll end in tears (my tears) because there is no way a story this cruel can have the perfect happy ending I want for these great characters.

The characters are one of Jemisin's greatest strengths. I adore the way she created them and the way the sequel with its added viewpoints increased my understanding of them; especially Essun who is quite possible my favourite character to have appeared in a fantasy novel. While I adore Essun there is no denying that she isn't perfect by a longshot. The way she has treated her daughter (tragically mirroring her own mistreatment by Schaffa) will have undeniably dangerous implications for how the rest of this story will unfold - and I am already dreading it.

What didn't quite work for me is the newly expanded magic system -while I am not one of those readers of fantasy literature who needs everything in the world to be perfectly described and for the magic system to be unique but still completely thought out Jemisin's explanations still didn't quite work for me. Which is a shame because in points she goes really in-depth and lost me there for a while. This wasn't enough of a problem for me to really diminish my enjoyment but is the reason why I cannot give this book the five stars I gave the first one.

I absolutely love the way this at the core highly political story is framed; I am always a sucker for unconventional storytelling and here this adds a wonderful depth to an already brilliantly imagined world. I cannot wait to read the final installment come August (and I might have already had a sneak peak into The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms because I kinda do not want to stop reading Jemisin's books any time soon).
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