I’ve recently reviewed the first book in the series, The Fifth Season, here and was delighted to hear that it has garnered the 2016 Hugo Award for best novel. While I haven’t read the rest, it blew me away and is certainly my favourite read of the year so far. So will The Obelisk Gate be able to live up to the very high bar Jemisin set with The Fifth Season?
THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.
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 first recommendation I’d make is DON’T pick up this one if you haven’t already had the pleasure of reading The Fifth Season, what with the continuation of the unusual pov – in second person ‘you’ for one of the main protagonists, the slightly fractured nature of the narrative time and the density and richness of this odd, dystopian world, I think it would be an almighty struggle to work out what was happening. The Obelisk Gate pretty much takes up the story where The Fifth Season finishes and Jemisin doesn’t hold up the action to explain the story so far… So if it was a while ago you read the first book, then I’d have a quick skim just to remind yourself of exactly what was going on, just so you can fully appreciate this extraordinary story.
I was slightly concerned that the unfolding story might slide into a more predictable pattern, or the intensity of The Fifth Season might slump. Nope. I was immediately whisked back into this desperate situation, bonding with these spiky, difficult characters. They are people I’d rather never encounter in my daily life – all carrying emotional baggage and scrabbling to survive, they are lethal. However, I found them all engrossing, such that several times I read with a lump in my throat and on one occasion had to blink back the tears – not something that happens all that often to me, these days.
Any grizzles? Nassun is only ten years old and during the first part of the book, I never forgot that fact, but as she is steadily pulled further into the middle of the action, I don’t think she continues to realistically act like a ten-year-old. Even an amazingly talented, traumatised child surrounded by people she knows want to harm her… That said, it isn’t a dealbreaker and if I didn’t spend a chunk of my normal life around that age-group, I probably wouldn’t have even registered it as an issue.
Other than that, the story of the Earth, whose constant geological instability has spawned new species adapted to this state of affairs, continues to unwind as humanity struggles to avoid extinction. Marvellous, momentous stuff demonstrating a wonderful imagination that had me buzzing with excitement long after I finished the book. I’m now desperate to read the third one…
I’m just about to finish this, what an unusual and detailed world she’s created! I’ve had some trouble remembering what happened in the first book, so like you said it’s a good idea to do a quick review before starting it.
It’s amazing, isn’t it? I particularly love the science fiction/fantasy mashup. It reads more like a fantasy adventure than an apocalyptic sci fi…
I just finished The Obelisk Gate last night… and I’m still reeling from it. In a very, very good way. I didn’t really notice the issue with Nassun’s behavior, but that’s because it’s been a while since I’ve spent a good deal of time around 10 year olds. Otherwise… Wow. Just wow. And I’m really glad to know you loved it, too.
Also, yay for The Fifth Season winning a Hugo! 😀
Oh yes! I’m with you – on both counts. It’s restored my faith in the Hugo – because this REALLY deserved it:)). And many, many thanks for your gentle nagging – I’m not sure I’d have shoved this one up to the top of my pile if you hadn’t and it’s certainly the highlight so far this year…
TFS really did, and I’m glad it won despite the Puppies’ efforts. I also love N.K. Jemisin’s general reaction to both groups: “I’ve got better things to do (than worry about them).” And she’s right.
I wouldn’t be surprised if TOG ends up being one of my favorites of 2016, too. 😉
I like the cover, it’s pretty and makes me curious about the book.Good to know this is a series to read in order. Although the you perspective sounds like it would take some getting used to. I don’t get tears in my eyes often when reading either, so a book really has to pull at my emotions to make that happen. Great review!
I thought the viewpoint would be a stumbling block – but I very soon got used to it. She’s an amazing writer and it’s a remarkable world.
I find your observation of the 10yo interesting. I agree and I think the problem with writing such young protagonists is that the writer needs to both keep that child-like thought-process and style, and at the same time make it appealing to the adult reader: a person more mature, with often deeper and more accurate insights.
Nevertheless, I do need to read those books – thank you for your review! 🙂
That said, this one is a VERY big ask and the only false note for me in an amazing story with some remarkable leaps of imagination. And if I didn’t spend a lot of time with a very precious 11 yr old, it probably wouldn’t have jarred. But children do process stress completely differently from adults…
True. After working for 2 years as a primary school teacher and then over 4 years in childcare, I’m still amazed on how children think, and I’m not sure if I could pull it off in my writing.
Yes… as an ex-teacher I’m often poleaxed at how little parents understand how their own children really think or process what is going on in their lives. And you’re right – it’s not something I’m thinking of doing anytime soon.