The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin is one of only two books that I actually anticipated with something like trepidation (the other is The Fall of Dragons by Miles Cameron, which promises to be great fun, but I digress). The first two books, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, are fated to become classics of the fantasy genre. Her The Killing Moon is one of my top five epic fantasies of all time. So August couldn’t come fast enough.
However, I have two toddlers whose mission in life is to get into mischievous scrapes (all with huge smiles of enjoyment, so how can you possibly blame them?) Those of you who are parents will know that time stops making sense with kids.
So even though I said that I couldn’t wait for this book to come out, it was with complete surprise that I encountered it on the shelf of Barnes and Noble. Yes. It was, in actual fact, already August. And I thought it was still June. Or maybe November? No idea…
Anyway, I saw it and yelped. My children were surprised, to say the least. But they saw the mischievous glint in my eye, and they realized that I was engaged in some activity worthy of their approbation. So they returned to their wooden trains and shiny toys.
All these asides about kids are not really asides, of course, because this whole series is about mothers and daughters. The issue comes to a head in this book 3, because Nassun and Essun are on a collision course, and it’s unclear who’s the stronger.
I don’t like to give details in reviews of last books in series. Suffice it to say that N. K. Jemisin surprised me. This is a series, first and foremost, about slavery and oppression. And yet, the resolution of the entire series, and the impossible “happy ending,” comes about as a result of a character’s abandonment, not use, of power over others.
That’s an incredibly brave way to end a story that could give the author a vicarious triumph over past oppressions (like Quentin Tarantino tries to do in Inglorious Bastards and Django Unchained). Instead, Jemisin chooses love over power. It’s very poignant and brings the series to a fantastic conclusion.
It took forever to get there. There are several “revelations” that are basically repetitions of the big reveals in book 2, only through the eyes of a different character. That’s not lazy writing, but I thought Jemisin could do better.
But the “Hoa” chapters are possibly the best of the entire series, a series of short scenes that ratchet up tension beautifully until… surprise! … Jemisin flips everything in the mythology of the Broken Earth its head.
So, although it took me more than a month to finish this (very slow for a Jemisin novel, which I usually read in a few hours), the payoff was worth it. A sublime ending for a surprising and inimitable fantasy series.
Can’t wait to see what else Jemisin will come up with.