I finally got around to reading The Obelisk Gate, the second book in the Broken Earth trilogy, written by award-winning author N.K. Jemisin. In this sequel, Essun has finally found shelter, but not her missing daughter. Instead, there is Alabaster, destroyer of the world with a new quest that only Essun can complete. Let’s get on with my review, shall we?
The writing of dreams
Just like The Fifth Season, this book is written in the second person from the perspective of an omnipotent narrator who cleverly guides you through this unraveling world. This style completely immerses you in the narrative. Even though there are technically separate POV’s I still really enjoyed all of them – which literally never happens to me. I think the second person element makes them all seem equally valuable.
Jemisin just has a way with words. She had me hooked from page one! Read my favourite passage and see for yourself:
What? “Alabaster said the Moon was flung away.”
“Into a degrading long-ellipses 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?”
Change of pace
The pacing of The Obelisk Gate completely shifts and slows down. Many reviewers point to this as their main gripe with this series I, however, think it’s one of the best things about it! Jemisin is not afraid to stop and let the characters grow and learn whilst the world around them slowly falls apart.
I agree with the author that this series needed a moment to allow the characters to age, learn, develop and for the world to begin collapsing so that the story made sense. All of this would take time in the ‘real world’ so it is reflected in this novel. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of action in this book, it’s just the general style is slightly slower.
I don’t think I have ever read a book that reveals plot points to the reader in such a sophisticated style. You pretty much never see a reveal coming. There were so many moments where I had to step away from the book to think about what I had just learned. Side note, I annotate and tab nearly all of my books and this one is FULL of orange ‘plot’ tabs that reflect just how many times I was screaming ‘NOOOO, OOMGGGG.’
Also, the relationship between science and magic is handled brilliantly. The author literally writes a passage that starts:
‘It hasn’t ever made sense, has it, how orogeny works?’
The characters in this book are wonderfully and realistically written. Their relationships feel tangible even in this ridiculous setting, and all of the characters have been written with representation in mind. There is sexuality rep, trans rep, racial rep, and the list could go on. Thankfully, you’ll be pleased to know, this novel is anything but tokenistic, as it is wonderfully handled by an own voices author.