The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2) – N.K. Jemisin

Check out my review of the first novel, The Fifth Season


Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publisher: Orbit 


The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

The Obelisk Gate is a continuation of The Fifth Season, but it is a very different type of continuation in that it’s not as thrilling or action oriented. Instead, its focus is on the world building and characters. Jemisin takes her time in developing the world and characters that will be crucial in the final book, The Stone Sky.

The Obelisk Gate is told mainly through Essun and Nassun’s perspectives, however Schaffa gets a few chapters that are incredibly information heavy and offer insight into the Guardians. Nassun isn’t a character we get much information about in The Fifth Season, but she’s Essun’s daughter and what motivates her throughout the novel. In The Obelisk Gate, Nassun’s chapters almost over shadow Essun’s in terms of character development and action.

Nassun’s chapters pick up where The Fifth Season start with Nassun discovering her father crouched over her brother’s dead body. Nassun is then forced to learn how to manipulate her father into not killing her for being an orogene and ultimately to convince him to love her at such a young age. Nassun’s journey is difficult to watch because she’s so desperate for unconditional love. Nassun slowly discovers that her father’s prejudice is so deeply ingrained and coupled with personal experience that she’ll never be able to break through. So, watching Nassun struggle to understand her father’s actions made me pause and consider his motivation and the implications.

Nassun’s chapters also offer insight into Essun. Essun tried her hardest to prepare her children for the world they would eventually have to face, but in doing so she created a rift between them. So it’s not surprising that Nassun then attaches herself to the first parental figure that shows her compassion and love. Unfortunately, that parental figure is Schaffa. Their relationship is simultaneously heartwarming and difficult to swallow.

Jemisin’s writing is on point. Her world building and magic system continue to be fleshed out with added depth and detail throughout the entirety of The Obelisk Gate. The way science and magic play off each other is interesting and offers unique interpretations and situations. Similar to the first novel, Jemisin does not hold her readers’ hands and make sure they understand what’s happening in the world and to the characters. I found myself having to reread certain passages and chapters to fully understand the implications of certain events or conversations. Jemisin is not afraid to make her readers think.

Overall, The Obelisk Gate is as well written and developed as The Fifth Season but in very different ways. If you’re reading The Obelisk Gate and expecting a similar vibe to The Fifth Season, you may be disappointed and little confused.


Side note, slightly spoilery:
I love the idea that Earth is responsible for the fifth season as punishment to the humans for their destruction and actions. Incredibly relevant.

3 thoughts on “The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2) – N.K. Jemisin

  1. Definitely sounds awesome. Interesting that the second book focuses on world-building. You’d assume that the first book would have such a job. Or that only part of the second book would pursue world-building. Nice review. 🙂

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