The sequel to N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season is a spectacular continuation of an original, fresh take on the oversaturated fantasy genre. Picking up where The Fifth Season left off, the sixth season has befallen the Stillness. No it hasn’t but it would have been interesting if she just kept making up seasons and there were just 20 of them where different shit happened in all of them. Also that was my attempt to write a “professional” book review for a sentence and a half. If I wanted to do professional book reviews that ship has sailed a long, long time ago. There has to be people looking for book reviews from people who aren’t the losers who think they are professionals on Goodreads (no free ads) or from the “professionals” who are actually boring losers. Right? Please agree with me this is one of the foundational principles behind my whole idea for a fantasy blog. I guess I should mention this book won the 2017 Hugo Award. Probably deserved it. I think it goes without saying but there are extensive spoilers in this blog.
Well now that I have leaked out a little bit of my insecurity and my cry for acceptance is out of the way, let’s talk about The Obelisk Gate. I never thought that this could be the case, but Jemisin has an incredible way of taking what could easily be overly complicated or overdone magical concepts and just simplifying them enough that I can accept it and move on. Orogeny, and later just the flat term for magic “magic”, manifest in these weird biological and geological ways that make it slightly unclear what exactly the limits of the powers are, but because it doesn’t seem like any of the main characters have any idea what these powers can fully do, we are able to just be cool with it. The beauty of this book is the writing, Jemisin is able to masterfully capture the little details of interactions and thought that make the story seem so real. I admire the way even the grandiose conversations are littered with emotion and personality analysis. Once again, this blog is beset with spoilers, if at this point you are not prepared for the spoilers, that’s on you chief.
We are treated to 3 POV’s in this book, well kind of, similar to the last book except this time they are on a linear timeline instead of hopping around like a bad sci-fi movie. Instead of three versions of Essun, which I’m guessing now was originally chosen for some shit relating to essence, we get Essun, her daughter Nassun, and Hoa the Stoner. O yea I think Schaffa flocka flame gets a chapter somewhere in here. He is fucking cool man, he’s part grandfather, part immortal super-killer who is some version of “the bad guy who is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goal who is morally ambiguous because that goal is to help the entire population of the world” archetype. A more learned man would probably know that term. Or provide examples. I shall do neither. His little deal with the voice coming from the weird thing in the back of his head is a really cool chapter that sets up mystery. I always enjoy a little family slaughter for the sake of the world type thing.
Essun is in Castrima under and struggling with a littttttle bit of identity crises. This is a woman who is used to hiding, instead she is kind of cast into the limelight and becomes an important part of the leadership squad. Faced with having to fit in, having to make decisions for the good of the comm, and meeting her long lost other leg of an isosceles love triangle, it’s safe to say she is struggling. Throw Alabaster telling her she is the key to catching the moon, which is apparently the reason the seasons are fucked, and it is safe to say she is swamped with struggles!
So essentially the point of this book is Alabaster went to some other city where he found out about a three party war between the stone eaters, Humanity and Father Earth and decides to break the earth one last time to try and end the war. In order to make things right Essun needs to catch the moon so it goes back into orbit and the seasons end and everyone is happy-go-lucky so they stop trying to kill everyone else. Some of the stone eaters don’t even care and just want to rule the earth and kill everyone. They are led by this guy Nassun names “Steel” which besides being a badass name, he essentially is your more proto-typical villain.
The key to catching the moon? It’s the obelisk gate of course! As Essun learns to use magic, which is I guess being able to manipulate peoples biological cells instead of just manipulating the earth, she learns to utilize the obelisks in ways she never dreamed!
Nassun on the other hand, is in a weird growing up faze where she is struggling to deal with her father, who as we all remember murdered her younger brother, and balance her new life in the found moon comm, run by fan-favorite Schaffa. I am unclear of her role in things, but I really enjoy her creepy descent into darkness, especially when she kills her annoying ass dad.
Overall this is an excellent middle book of the trilogy. The second book can always be really awkward because it struggles to recapture the magic of the first book while providing a bridge to the final book all while having to be entertaining in its own right. This book succeeds, the final battle between the lovely people of Castrima under and the Rennais gang was very satisfying. At least until Essun wipes them all out in two seconds by accessing The Obelisk Gate and unleashing world bending magic on them. I didn’t like that part at all and feel like the publisher made Jemisin end the book so it didn’t get too long so she went fuck it just blow it all up on us. It kind of reminded me of the Mistborn trilogy when Sazed just ends the war by reshaping the earth. It’s funny that a huge blast of magic always seems so anticlimactic to me. This book could have been another 200 pages and I still think it would have worked. I legit can’t wait to get to the next one.