Friday, October 11, 2019

Review: THE OBELISK GATE by N. K. Jemisin

Rating: 4/5 stars

I love obelisks, and I love even more the idea of floating obelisks in the sky, so knowing this book was called The Obelisk Gate had me very excited to read it to learn more about these mysterious objects introduced in The Fifth Season.

These are the SPOILERY questions and thoughts I had while reading:
—I’m questioning who writes the interludes. It’s clear they’re to Essun, and I was thinking maybe it’s from Father Earth, but also it says “we” about life and that made me think maybe not. Maybe it’s Hoa, but that would mean Hoa betrayed Essun and is planning to kill her.
—The interlude on page 75 also states that orogenes have “lost the moon.” How would they have lost the moon? Alabaster and Essun are tracking obelisks, so possibly the obelisks caused the moon to disappear, but how, and why?
—Did orogenes create the obelisks?
—Alabaster started this Season, right? Are all Seasons started by orogenes, or are some naturally occurring? And couldn’t the orogenes stop a Season? This one is caused by the rift, but couldn’t Essun shift something so the rift reforms or whatever and there’s no more problem and the Season ends? It must be too massive for anyone to seal up because closing the volcano at that coastal town was almost too much for Essun, so maybe they need the help of an obelisk to be able to close the rift.
—We learned that Alabaster using orogeny is what made him turn to stone. Why? Is it something to do with his stone eater, like is Antimony making it happen?
—Page 94 states: “The stories . . . imply there might someday be a way to end the Seasons, involving the obelisks.” Is this foreshadowing for the end of book three?
—Page 103 states: The Moon’s “‘loss was part of what caused the Seasons.’ Father Earth did not always hate life, the lorists say. He hates because he cannot forgive the loss of his only child.” So is the Earth himself causing the Seasons?
—Page 106: I love love love how Jemisin incorporated the use of magic into her story.
—Page 165: Something happened with the power in the obelisks that caused the Moon to migrate away from the planet, and that caused the Shattering, which in turn caused the Seasons. Orogenes are the ones who use the obelisks so it’s their fault this happened. Father Earth is sad about his child, the Moon, being gone, so he created the Guardians to control the orogenes; orogenes are Father Earth’s enemy.
—Nassun’s chapters are narrated by an “I” character to a “you,” who is Essun, but Nassun herself is referred to in third person, so who is narrating her chapters? Schaffa and Jija are also mentioned in third person in her chapters, so it’s not them.
—I really enjoyed reading about Nassun’s relationship with Jija, her father, even though it isn’t a good relationship, because I can completely relate to her in that regard. I understand her thought process and where she’s coming from and why she’s doing what she’s doing, and it’s heartbreaking but also so satisfying the brutal way she ends things with him.
—Page 313 states: “[Nassun] doesn’t answer because there’s no point. She cannot say what he wants to hear. It isn’t fair that he calls orogenes liars and then demands that she lie.” This is so relatable it hurts. I resonate so much with Nassun.
—I am very curious to know how Essun ended up with Jija. He, who hates orogenes, knows she’s an orogene and will likely have orogenic children, yet he marries her anyway? I guess it’s possible he didn’t know she was an orogene, but I still really want to know the story behind their relationship.
—I am also curious why Essun’s chapters switch between second/first person and second/third person when we already know it’s Hoa narrating them. Sometimes he refers to himself as “I” and sometimes he refers to himself as “Hoa,” and I didn’t understand why the distinction was important.
—Alabaster dies and turns into an alabaster stone eater—this broke my heart but also gave me hope for him still being alive in the “third” book.
—And now Essun’s turning to stone like Alabaster was? What causes this process to begin?
—So the ending with the grey stone eater, nicknamed Steel: he told Nassun to bring the Moon back. But I thought that was the same stone eater that was working with the Rennanis comm and wanted Essun to fail to bring the Moon back. Am I missing something?

The Obelisk Gate did a lot of great things: it prepares us for The Stone Sky, provides us with lots of pertinent information about the world and magic, answers some questions we had in The Fifth Season, builds more of this unique world, and deeply develops characters we both knew and didn’t really know when the book began, even going as far as to give them harrowing trials that are hard to read at times.

But it also did some things that made this installment less enjoyable than the first book (but only by a little bit): it’s mostly a character-driven story, so there’s not a lot of actual plot or action that happens; the narrative took place almost entirely in the same location for each character, where they just kind of talked about different problems the Season brings and about the politics of the world; the big reveals did have an info-dumpy feel to them because there is so much information we are getting; it wasn’t as developed as the first book; and I found it to be written at a slower pace, probably because of the reasons listed above. Plus this book is just weird at times. There was some stuff happening that I didn’t really understand and some stuff that I didn’t know (and still don’t know) was in the bounds of the world and their abilities.

Ultimately, I liked The Obelisk Gate a lot, although I did like The Fifth Season better. This book is mostly setting up for the obvious task ahead for Essun, which will take place in The Stone Sky. I’m happy for so many reveals that I’ve been waiting for, but I also wish we had a little more going on.

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