The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin


There are some series where I worry whether or not the second book will measure up to the wonder and majesty of the first book. The Obelisk Gate was never one of those books. The Fifth Season was so good, so interesting, and so engrossing, and Jemisin's mastery of her craft was so obvious that it never crossed my mind to worry about whether or not Jemisin could keep it up. I'm glad to say that she did not let me down in any way.

The Obelisk Gate is more straightforward than The Fifth Season was, but it would be nearly impossible to pull off that same trick twice. While in The Fifth Season we got three separate stories from three different parts of our main character's life, in The Obelisk Gate we move beyond that and get chapters from Essun's point of view, from her daughter Nassun's point of view, and occasionally from the viewpoint of the stoneeater Hoa. While this is a more familiar way of telling a fantasy story than the format of The Fifth Season, it does a good job of both recentering the story and diversifying the viewpoints from which we see the world. While The Fifth Season was about the breaking of Essun, The Obelisk Gate is about Essun's relationships, most importantly her relationship with her absent daughter, and the way that she finds meaning and purpose when she's lost everything (again). I found the exploration of the relationship between Essun and Nassun through both of their eyes to be incredibly compelling. I also liked Nassun's relationships, both to Shaffa-who-is-not-really-Shaffa, and her father, precisely because they were both wrong, and complicated, and spoke so much to how hate and othering and power can poison our relationships.

I could go on for a quite a while about the things that I loved about this book, but it all comes down to this: You should read this book. If you enjoyed the first one, you'll probably enjoy this one too. And if you haven't read the first one? You should go read that.

5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.