Reviewed by: Jannelle
Rating (out of 5): 4.5 stars
Note: While review will be spoiler free, it does make reference to previous books. If you haven’t started this series yet, check out VBC’s review of book 1, The Fifth Season.
The Obelisk Gate picks up right where The Fifth Season dropped off: Essun, as we have come to realize is who we have been following the entire time, has made it to the underground comm of Castrima. When The Fifth Season came to a close, Essun had lost her daughter’s trail and was unable to continue searching for her. After also having run into her old friend, Alabaster, she remains in Castrima in order to learn what Alabaster needs to teach her to save the earth, and has decided to stay in this comm as a way to stay alive during the current fifth season—because Essun, above everything, is a survivor.
As in The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate has a multi-narrator perspective. While I cannot say who all of the narrators are without spoiling plot points for you, I can say that we are finally made aware of what Essun’s daughter, Nassun, has been up to without her mother. As her father, Jija, has recently murdered her younger brother, Nassun treads a very delicate line while keeping him company on his journey to a southern comm that he assumes will cure Nassun of her orogeny. As Jija abhors that his daughter is an orogene, it was interesting to see how the mind of a young girl works into alerting her to the dangers she faces from her father, should she mention or reaffirm her orogeny in his presence.
By also being shown Nassun’s outlook, we are able to gain an alternate perspective on Essun and the kind of mother she was shaped into after the events witnessed in The Fifth Season. Even with Nassun’s life in danger accompanying her father, the presence of her orogene mother isn’t an alternative she would prefer.
As one would expect of a young girl whose entire life is transforming on a daily basis, Nassun undergoes some serious character development throughout the novel. She is headstrong and stubborn—definitely her mother’s daughter.
Her mother, on the other hand, is undergoing some significant character development herself through her interactions with the dying Alabaster and her assistance with running the comm. We are also seeing just how far Essun’s orogeny skills have come since her time with the Fulcrum and it is truly magnificent.
I have so many feels on The Obelisk Gate and they are all spoiler-heavy. I never imagined I would be as invested in an epic fantasy novel the way I’ve fallen into with The Broken Earth trilogy. The Obelisk Gate also reads a lot easier than The Fifth Season: the plot moves a lot faster in this installment as the chapters consistently shift perspectives and there are revelations at every turn.
For you romance junkies, there is nothing to look forward to in this installment. All of Essun’s lighthearted and carefree points in life have long since passed. But don’t let that deter you! I love tension-filled novels, but this isn’t one of those and I’m happy for it. Jemisin creates no plot point without reason and love and its lustful brother would not work well in The Obelisk Gate.
Overall, The Obelisk Gate was a win for me and one of my top books of the year. I enjoyed it better than The Fifth Season, but if you haven’t started this trilogy yet, make sure you kick it off with the series opener. I will be counting down the days until the next installment in the Broken Earth trilogy next year.
Sexual content: none