Review: “The Stone Sky,” N.K. Jemisin

Pros: Fantastic plot, characters, and worldbuilding
Rating: 5 out of 5

N.K. Jemisin’s The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, Book 3) is a stunning conclusion to the trilogy. Essun is starting to turn to stone, and using her power of orogeny will kill her. She can’t afford to have that happen before she returns the Moon to its orbit and ends the deadly Seasons. Nassun and Schaffa leave Jekity and the other children behind, and Nassun decides, in the flame of her outrage over everything that’s happened to her, that she wants to end the world (the gray stone eater is happy to encourage her to do this, and Schaffa is as well). The Earth–which really is alive and aware–would be more than happy to wipe out all of humanity. And throughout all of this, Hoa continues to tell his tale, which includes how the Moon was flung away, how the Earth became the enemy, and who built the Obelisk network–and to what purpose. There are trips through the center of the Earth, an entire comm traveling across the Stillness, and warring factions of the nigh-unstoppable stone eaters.

The worldbuilding amazes me. Typically blending sci-fi and fantasy in this manner leaves me feeling frustrated, as though a tale was advertised as one type and then we’re given something else. N.K. Jemisin, however, knows how to do a very natural, seamless blending that calls to mind the old adage about sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic. As additional details trickle into the narrative, we simply get to see a more and more complete image of what’s going on. Some of the past events of the world reinforce the themes of othering and dehumanizing that we’ve seen so far with the orogenes.

The characters still amaze me. I ended up feeling sympathetic toward the several characters who want to destroy the world. I liked seeing Essun finally kinda-sorta make friends. Nassun and Schaffa have a really interesting relationship–she helps to keep him sane (for certain definitions), and he’s become a father figure to her.

We get to see some post-apocalyptic survival material as the comm travels up the continent toward their new home. This world is different enough from the typical recent post-apocalyptic tale (being set in an sf/fantasy world instead of near-modern day) that this is original and interesting. Note that there’s implication of cannibalism–the inhabitants of this dystopian world are nothing if not ruthlessly practical.

The plot is fantastic. The notion of a population at war with the very planet they’re living on gets quite interesting. And there’s quite the suspense in wondering–will the Moon be allowed to go on its way again, keeping things locked in the current dystopian pattern? Will the Moon be made to crash into the Earth, killing everyone? Or will Essun succeed in returning the Moon to its original orbit, gradually ending the deadly Seasons? This is meshed so well with the very personal-level plots and relationships, making everything relatable and immediate.

I absolutely love this series, and now I must go find more Jemisin books!

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