Review: “The Obelisk Gate,” N.K. Jemisin

Pros: Stunning epic fantasy
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, Book 2) is riveting. Alabaster, who is slowly turning to stone, is trying to teach Essun how to use the Obelisks to do something outrageous–recapture the errant Moon. Unfortunately he’s running out of time, he’s only lucid for a short period of time each day, and frankly, he isn’t a very good teacher. While Castrima, the comm Essun has joined, has plenty of orogenes staying there, the “normal” people still don’t necessarily like them or want them there. Hoa is protecting Essun, but she still doesn’t understand why. And when he goes missing, and the comm is threatened, things go haywire. Meanwhile, what’s left of Schaffa has started collecting young orogenes to train, including Nassun, Essun’s daughter, who has inherited her abilities. He seems less dangerous in some ways than he used to be, but he’s under a strange influence. As Alabaster tries to explain to Essun, there’s a war going on with at least three sides to it, and he and she are caught in the middle because of what they can do.

We find out a lot more about the stone eaters this time around. Where they come from, what they want (much like humans, they are not a united front), and some ways in which they’re going about things. We find out how Hoa took an interest in Essun. Nassun becomes a main character in her own right, going back to the time when Uche was killed (content warning for child death). We also learn much more about the Obelisks. The worldbuilding is still fantastic and we’re always learning more about it.

The characters are wonderful. Schaffa in particular intrigues me here. He retains only some of his memories after he’s nearly killed, and he’s under the influence of a new force, but he struggles to forge a new version of himself and becomes Nassun’s Guardian. We discover that Nassun doesn’t much like her mother, and why. And we finally see what’s going on with Jija, Essun’s husband, and how he ended up killing Uche and taking Nassun away. Tonkee becomes a much more interesting character as well, and the characters at Castrima are well-developed.

I can’t wait to see how things go in book three!

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