The Fifth Season, which was an incredible book on its own. N.K. Jemisin continues the tradition of excellence with The Obelisk Gate, an exciting story that sheds light on a lot of the mysteries of the various characters and the world itself.
Read on for my full spoiler-free review.
This book was just as good as the first one, which was excellent. We continue the story where we left off and learn a lot more about the world, orogeny, the Seasons, and some of the characters. While the characters are still great, it feels much smaller in scope as we spend practically all the book with either Essun or Nassun. The setting is fantastic and the plot is still pretty good, though it feels a bit slower or more confined than its predecessor. Regardless, The Obelisk Gate is a top notch book and a must-read.
The plot continues almost immediately where we left off with regards to Essun, the main character. She's safely in Castrima, but her search for her daughter has been pushed off indefinitely. From her perspective, we get to see how comm life is like in a Season as well as learn more from Alabaster regarding the magic in the world. While plenty happens and keeps the story moving, it all is confined to Castrima which somewhat limits the scope of the book. Essun's journey in this book is much more internal than in The Fifth Season.
On the other hand we have Nassun, Essun's daughter. With her we get to see what she's been up to since the Rift and get to see her journey. That helps us see more of the world and we learn a bit about Guardians and life elsewhere in the Season. Most of the book feels like it's setting the stage for the upcoming book and the epic conclusion.
This book features many of the characters from the first book, such as Essun, Alabaster, and Hoa. We also get to see the world from Nassun's perspective. A big part of The Fifth Season was Essun's search for her husband and daughter. This book addresses that while building up Nassun's character and revealing more about the mysteries of orogeny. The cast feels much smaller, though, given the limited timespan of the book. As before, though, we have a variety of narrative points of view, changing from first person, to second person, to third person depending on who's the main character in that particular chapter. It's a very interesting experience as it brings you into the story as one of the characters.
Setting / World Building
This is probably the strongest point of The Obelisk Gate. This book delves far deeper into the mysteries of orogeny revealing new sources of power that were only hinted at in the prior novel. We also learn, or are at least teased about, the secrets behind the floating obelisks and the nature of Castrima and other ruins. We get a better perspective about what the history of the world has been like, what may be causing the Seasons, and even what may be the origin of the stone eaters.
In addition to the cool magic stuff, we see more of the world in the midsts of a Season. The land outside comms turns very dangerous from things like acid rain, aggressive wildlife, and desperate people. Furthermore, there's also the growing worry for supplies like fresh water, medicine, food, and proteins and how people and comms deal with the stresses of the Season.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it very quickly. While the characters and plot were still great, they weren't as impacting as in The First Season. However, the setting, in particular the discussions of the orogeny, magic, the obelisks, and the closer looks at stone eaters, was very cool. I certainly recommend this book and look forward to the conclusion of the series with The Stone Sky later this year.