Review : The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
About the Book :
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.
My Thoughts :
Welcome to my new obsession.
I read The Obelisk Gate last week and when I finished it, I felt completely drained. At that time, I had to put every reading plan aside and jump into one of Kristan Higgin’s contemporary romances to give my heart and my head a break. It was a good kind of exhaustion, and I’m currently feeling quite desperate knowing I can’t read the third book right away (I’m barely exaggerating here!)
First, a word of caution : if you happen to pick up The Obelisk Gate in store and haven’t read The Fifth Season yet, DO NOT READ THE BACK OF THE BOOK. I got myself quite spoiled by simply glancing at it, and while I had already guessed what was probably coming, it was a major disappointment to have it revealed in such a way. The summary I picked up on Goodreads and added here is much more vague and appropriate, if you ask me (maybe it’s a US/Canada difference? US/UK maybe?). I usually avoid reading the details of sequels when I haven’t read the previous book, but I barely looked and read 3 words and BOOM! Spoiled.
Okay. Now, we can talk about story. And because I don’t want to spoil you, I’ll be vague on the specifics and talk more about my impressions.
The Obelisk Gate had a lot to live up to. I adored The Fifth Season and my expectations were really high for its sequel. And while it wasn’t quite as awesome as the first book, I thought it was pretty close! Once more I loved how monumental and breathtaking the magic was, the complexity of the world and the characters, the surprises and the revelations and, of course, the brilliant narration penned by the beautiful wordsmith that is N. K. Jemisin.
I’ll say that, toward the middle of the book, I felt the story dragged a bit, was told rather than showed in some places, and that something in the pace was missing, or maybe out of place. But the rest of it was magical.
Two things I really loved from this sequel : first, the added characters and points of views. Such a diverse cast – race, gender, worldview, anything. I loved not only how diverse it was, but how the author explores the intricacies of the relationships between different castes of society. The characters feel like individuals, yes, but also like they’re part of a bigger structure, and their individual stories speak for the world they live in. I have to say that Essun is one of the most fascinating characters I have met. She’s all shades of gray, good and bad, anger and love, soothing and vengeful all at once. Her trauma is a powerful motivation but also a limitation, and it is meticulously explored through her choices.
Second thing I really enjoyed : how the world expanded (figuratively) through the pages. I’ll admit that the science aspect is a bit over my head at times, and I sometimes had to reread passages to get a good grasp on it, but it, and the magic and the history of the world, felt immense even more. There was so much to learn and discover.
This was so, so good. And I have a hard time imagining how all will be answered in a third book… which can’t come soon enough! Meanwhile, I know I’ll be rereading these two in a near future.
Series reading order :
- The Fifth Season
- The Obelisk Gate