Book Review – The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3) by N.K. Jemisin

Finally, after months and months of trying to make time for this book, I’ve finished it.

Don’t let that be a reflection on the book; it’s not its fault. I wasn’t reading much of anything when I first checked out The Stone Sky. It’d been over a year since I read The Obelisk Gate, and though my reviews helped me remember what had happened, picking up the pieces and jumping back in was a bigger job than I was prepared to do.

But, I kept trying.

And finally, almost six months later, it’s done.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

The Stone Sky

The Stone Sky is the final book in the Hugo award-winning Broken Earth trilogy. You can read my reviews of both The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, but do beware of spoilers.

As in the previous two novels, Jemisin does some really interesting things with point of view, bouncing between three characters and their various timelines to tell the story of struggle and survival as Essun and her daughter unknowingly work against each other. The author spent the last two books developing the world, magic system, and characters, while delicately weaving the thread of plot through each of them, much like the silver threads of magic in the books.

By the time we get to The Stone Sky, things are getting dire. Nassun and Schaffa follow the mysterious grey Stoneater to the opposite side of the world, while Essun and the Castrima comm travel the dangerous road to the now abandoned city of Renanis.

But, it was the third point of view that was my favorite. For the first time in the series, there is a First Person narrator. It’s vague and set far back in the past, but as the story goes on you slowly put the pieces together and realize who’s been telling this story all along.

Honestly, we really should have known.

I don’t want to get too spoiler-y here, but I do need to talk a bit about this series from a writer’s perspective. This series is one that, with every book, had me constantly in awe. N.K. Jemisin is an artist. She told a story from a multitude of perspectives, many of which I could not readily relate to, and had me invested in each and every possible outcome.

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N.K. Jemisin

She is an author who is purposeful and methodical. Nothing came across as superfluous or unnecessary, and I often had to stop and marvel at what I’d just read, especially when I realized how it connected with something I’d read in a previous book.

I will never tell a story the way N.K. Jemisin does. That’s okay. But, she has most definitely inspired me and reminded me that writing doesn’t have to be unadorned to be clear, and that genre fiction doesn’t have to be mainstream to be popular.

I cried at the end; because it was sad, yes, but also because it was perfect. How else could it have possibly ended? Ending a story, especially one as complex as The Broken Earth, is never easy. Rarely do I come to the end of a beloved series and feel satisfied with the outcome.

But, by the time I finally closed The Stone Sky for the last time, I felt… whole. There was a warmth in my chest at finally having all the pieces, and knowing how Essun, Nassun, Hoa, and all the rest ended the Fifth Season and set the world right.

It was powerful and poignant, and the series addressed such universal themes as birth, motherhood, death, and what makes a family. And it did so in a way that was indisputably natural for the world and its characters.

I still think The Fifth Season was the best book in the trilogy, in terms of enjoyment, but it was also the most straightforward of the tales. It developed the world and, really, a single character, while setting the tone and expectation of the narrative. The Obelisk Gate handled two new characters, and the bulk of the action and plot. The Stone Sky had the daunting task of bringing all of that together in a way that was effective and satisfying.

No easy task, and yet, it did so with apparent ease.

I really hope The Stone Sky wins the Hugo for Best Novel this year. I really think it and N.K. Jemisin deserve it. It’s worth mentioning here (and pretty much anywhere else) that Jemisin was the first black author to win the Hugo for Best Novel in 2016 for The Fifth Season. She did it again in 2017 for The Obelisk Gate.

I recently purchased another of her books, The Dreamblood Duology, of which I know nothing about. I bought it purely because she wrote it, and I adore her thanks to the Broken Earth trilogy. Her name on the book was all the coercion I needed.

Sadly, I won’t be reading anything from her again anytime soon. My reading list is pretty stacked at the moment. Hopefully the last half of the year will have some room to spread out and try something new.

Until then, I highly recommend The Broken Earth trilogy. Read it. You won’t be sorry.

 

BZ

The Recap – February 2018

Hello Everyone,

I can’t believe February is over already! I think I feel this way each year, because it’s difficult for me to understand how missing a couple days of the month makes such a big difference. Two or three days should not make February feel like a blip on the radar of the year.

But, it does, and it makes working toward my goals that much more frantic.

What were the goals?

  • Edit four chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctified
  • Get Lifelike submission ready
  • Keep Reading

How’d I do?

  • Edit four chapters of The Steel Armada
    • Yes! I worked really hard to get two chapters edited on Tuesday and Wednesday, which means I finished 4 chapters in February and one in January. I’m feeling good about it.
  • Finish Sanctified
    • Nope. But, I’m close. Only a chapter and half left.
  • Get Lifelike submission ready
    • Yes? I’m not sure. I did another edit of it last night. I switched the POV from third to first person and added a much needed tweak to the ending, but I’m not sure if it’s ready for submission just yet. I like it, it’s headed in the right direction, but it needs fine tuning. I’m still calling this a win.
  • Keep reading
    • Yep! I read something like seven books in February, boosting my Reading Challenge and giving me plenty of fodder for book reviews.

Total February Word Count: 6,623

Any icing on the cake?

  • I published 10 blog posts in February
    • 3 weekly summaries, 5 book reviews, 1 monthly recap, and 1 craft discussion
  • Applied for a scholarship to the Oregon Writers Colony 2018 Annual Conference
    • I’m trying not to think too much about this, because I’m nervous and excited, but it’s constantly in the back of my mind. They’ll announce award recipients sometime in mid-March. Prepare yourselves for that post when it comes.Audient Void issue 4
  • The Audient Void #5
    • I’ve taken on more duties with AV, helping the graphic designer look through the proofs before he finalizes and prints. This is always exciting, because it means another issue is about to drop!
  • Sharing revisions of The Steel Armada
    • As of 2/26, Madhu and I are back to swapping pages for feedback. She’s working on something new, while I’m sending her the reworks of my novel, per her feedback from our previous swap.

March Goals

  • Edit five chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctified
  • Submit The Seasons
  • Continue prepping Lifelike for submission
  • Keep reading!

Thoughts

I’ve got a lot of them. They’re bouncing around my brain and keeping my anxiety up. Mainly, I’m anxious about submitting The Seasons. I haven’t submitted a piece of short fiction for publication since… 2014? And I’ve never submitted a piece of genre fiction.

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RIP, Caladria

Okay, yes, there was that stint with Caladria where I wrote a handful of Fantasy short stories and they were published. But that was more like a volunteer effort. They asked for writers to pump out content, and though I got some great experience writing on a deadline and feedback from editors, those stories are no longer available for purchase. They just sit in my “Caladria” file folder, collecting virtual dust.

So, this feels much more real and scary. I like The Seasons a lot. I think it’s strong. I think it’s ready. But, I just don’t know if it’s pro status. And that’s the real issue. I’m only submitting to professional markets. I want paid for my work. I don’t want resume padding and feathers in my cap. I want monetary proof that what I’m doing is worthwhile.

And so, I’m terrified.

I’m also anxious because I really want to go to this writing conference in April, and I’ll find out in a couple of weeks if I’ll be able to attend or not. I know the time will fly by, but until I know for certain whether I’ll be going or not, I’m on eggshells.

Lifelike is coming along nicely. I did some quality reworking on it last night. I actually let my husband read it, which is something I almost never do. He’s not a big reader, so his feedback isn’t critical or experienced, but he’s smart and can give a good sense of what works and what doesn’t in a story. At least, from a reader’s point of view. I’ve also sent the story back to my friend Matt, who read a previous version of it, to see what he thinks of the rework. I’m going to let it stew for the next few days and come back to it next week and see what it needs.

Other than that, I’m just reading and editing. The Steel Armada is coming along well enough. It’s a big job, and there’s some major changes that take a considerable amount of time and rewriting. Characters are getting cut/absorbed into other characters, everyone is getting fleshed out more. Backstories and motivations are becoming clearer, to me and to the reader. And holy-moly there’s so much world building! I’m worried about pacing a little, but I figure that’ll get sorted in the next draft. Right now I just need to get everything out on the page and really nail down what’s happening and why. I can clean up the mess later.

The good news is that I’m editing about 2 chapters a week. If I keep the pace up, I’ll have this draft of The Steel Armada done by June. And that is some exciting shit. If that does happen, I’ll let it sit for a month or so, and really focus on writing. I’ll either return to writing From the Quorum, or write a new short story, depends on how I feel in June.Oathbringer

As for reading, I’m doing well. I’m currently two books ahead of my target, and I’ve got four more in the pipeline. Hopefully I can keep up the pace and pad that Goodreads Reading Challenge before I finally crack open Oathbringer. 1,233 pages is no joke, and it’s going to take considerable time to get through it all. I don’t want to fall behind because of it, so I’m reading smaller titles and graphic novels for the time being.

So, that’s my thoughts/feelings/concerns etc., etc.,  about March. There’s a lot going on, but so far my efforts to piecemeal everything out into Monthly and Weekly goals is working. I’m getting shit done. And that’s really all that matters.

I’m off to work on Sanctified. I’ll be back over the weekend to share my review of The Stone Sky, so make sure you stay tuned!

 

BZ

Book Review- The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Hi Blogland!

I’m finally here to discuss The Obelisk Gate. Though I fear it won’t be in quite as much detail as usual, because I’ve read five more books since then. It’s just no that fresh in my mind right now, and that’s totally my fault for taking so long to get this review out.

First I would like to strongly suggest you read my review of The Fifth Season, because I outline the general characters, magic system, and world there. I won’t be doing that again here, so read up. Also, if you haven’t read The Fifth Season yet, you really should. It won the Hugo for Best Novel this year, and deserved to 100%.

Now, without further ado, The Obelisk Gate!theobeliskgate

This book picks up directly where the first left off. Essun is with Alabaster and Antimony in Castrima’s makeshift hospital, discussing how she must catch the moon and return it to its proper place in orbit around the Earth.

Since Essun has never even heard of such a thing as a moon, the concept takes a bit of time for her to digest. Alabaster begins training her to use the Obelisks. How to call them and commune with them, so that she can amplify her powers in order to be strong enough to capture the moon. This training is slow, mainly because Alabaster is dying. Bit by bit he is turning to stone, and will be eaten by Antimony.Any time he uses his Orogeny, more of him calcifies.

While this laborious training takes place, the book bounces between Essun’s point of view, Nassun’s point of view, and Schaffa’s point of view.

Nassun is a very talented Orogene. Better even than her mother. She learns intuitively what Alabaster struggles to teach Essun, that all Orogeny is actually magic. There’s something in them, in the very Earth that isn’t quite quantifiable. A silver thread runs through them and the the Earth, through all living things, and it is able to be manipulated by Orogeny.

As Essun learns this, Nassun experiments with it. And Schaffa battles it. It’s this silver thread that pulses within Guardians. It controls them, gives them their unnaturally long lives and the ability to silence Orogeny. But it also craves Orogeny. Their power is almost like a food source and the Guardians need it to feel less pain. Nassun learns this because she and Jija go to Antarctica and find Schaffa. He takes her under his wing, and teaches her to become a better Orogene than even her mother.

When Schaffa went after Seyenite and nearly killed her, we thought he’d drowned. But, he succumbed to the “evil” Father Earth, and sacrificed much of himself in order to survive. He has fleeting memories of his life before drowning, and he’s spent the last decade traveling and collecting young Orogenes, creating a small, fledgling Fulcrum of his own, off the grid in Antarctica.

And he has his own plans.

Central to all of this are the Stone Eaters. It seems that extremely strong Orogenes are irresistible to Stone Eaters. But once a Stone Eater has claimed an Orogene, that person is off limits to other Stone Eaters. Alabaster has Antimony. Essun has Hoa. And now Nassun has Steel. These creatures remain the most enigmatic element of Jemisin’s books. I’m still not sure what they want. What is their stake in all of this?

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The lovely N.K. Jemisin

Hoa is aligned with Essun. And Antimony is too, via Alabaster. But Steel? He nearly killed Hoa, and would have killed Essun too. And now he’s attached to Nassun.

As much as I enjoyed this book, it left me with far more questions than answers. There are so many moving pieces, and I feel like I was handed the tools to figure it all out in this book, but lack the knowledge to actually use them.

I don’t understand Schaffa’s motivations right now. I like him a lot, and his tenderness for Nassun is touching. And his quiet brutality is riveting. It seems like he has very similar goals as Essun and Alabaster, which seems counter to what I know about him. But, all told, I don’t actually know that much about Schaffa, or Alabaster for that matter.

But, I know that those three all want to do something to/with the moon. And according to Hoa, some Stone Eaters want that too. However, they are not a united people. There are Stone Eaters who want to harvest Orogenes, and basically slaughter them all. Steel is one of those Stone Eaters.

That’s pretty much where the book leaves off. Obviously there’s much more interpersonal drama that fills the pages. Like Essun and Alabaster getting closure on their doomed relationship, and even enjoying one another’s company again. Or, Tonkee and Essun nearly getting kicked out of Castrima as tensions rise when food rations shrink. There’s the tense, fragile relationship between Nassun and Jija, as she convinces him time and time again not to kill her like he did Uche. And there’s the burgeoning parental love between Nassun and Schaffa.

Character development was huge in this book. Much more so than world-building. Characters and the magic system were the headliners here, and it does not disappoint. In the moment, The Obelisk Gate is very good. I enjoyed every moment. It’s when the veil falls away, and you start looking at the book with closer scrutiny that it starts to fall short in comparison with its predecessor.

But, The Fifth Season is a hard book to compete with. I think I can give The Obelisk Gate a break there. Still a great book, and I can’t wait for the last title in the series!

Thanks again for reading this far Blogland. I should be back tomorrow with a goals update. Spoiler Alert: it didn’t go that well this week. I’m also looking to write the A Monster Calls book review, as well as catch you all up on what I’m reading now. I’ve been burning through books, so hopefully I can keep the reviews coming.

See you soon,

 

BZ