The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3)

End Date:  September 30th

Author:  N.K. Jemisin

Published:  2017

Genre:  Fantasy

Pages:  464 (paperback)

Selected By:  Lady Esbe

Average Review:  Scoring Liked Book

“The Moon will soon return.  Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

“Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring.  With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

“For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late.  She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

“This is the way the world ends… for the last time.”

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Gigglemug Reviews

Lady Esbe:  Scoring Great Book

I apologize in advance for the flightiness of this review.

The conclusion of this series does not disappoint.  As always, Jemisin does not disappoint.  She brings so many different social issues to the foreground and keeps you guessing while bringing you closer into the story.

I appreciated that we got more of Hoa’s background in this rendition as well as an understanding of who he was previous to now and his motivations in the current season.  Spoiler Alert….as expected, Hoa was once a Orogene but was made to believe that he was made for his function.  Much like plantation owners made slaves believe they were created only for the purpose of subservience.  Hoa and his cohort’s purpose was to manipulate the obelisk gate to create a better energy system for Syl Anagist.  However, what the conductors did not account for is that they became very aware of their circumstances and grow resentful of it.  However, as with anything with multiple moving parts, no one’s plans work as they wish.

Ultimately, of Essun’s predecessors, each have their own agenda and no one is on the same page.  The conductor’s aren’t necessarily Essun’s direct predecessors as is Hoa, but ultimately the gist is that for each group, they had their own motivations and goals, that were ultimately thwarted by the Earth who finally fought back when it became clear that the parasites residing upon it wanted to exert total control over something they have no right to control.  While the conductors were looking to make the life of their community more easily manageable, the orogenes sought to dash that community to pieces for the unjust behavior of the community at large against their sect.  But fittingly, the Earth had its own plans and took the perfect opportunity to kick everyone in their teeth for their impertinence.

As we understand throughout the novel, everyone’s will is at odds.  Whether it be Essun’s to Nassun’s.  Schaffa to Steel’s, Hoa to the opposing orogene, it’s a book of opposition and compromise or sacrifice.  While Essun is still a bit self-absorbed and annoying, she’s not quite as annoying as she had been in prior books.  However, in the beginning, her preoccupation drove me nuts but by the end of the novel, her signal minded determination was something to admire.

As to be expected, Nassun is easily manipulated, as she is a child who has lived with strife of her father and seemingly unfair treatment of her overbearing mother.  However, she displays a strength and will that rivals her mother, if not supersedes it.  Nassun’s ability to love and want to make the world right in which she can care for Schaffa and protect him as he does her is palpable.   I couldn’t help but feel for her plight and anguish in the misguided decisions she made throughout the novel.

I feel like while I believe my suspicions were validated in this novel, I also feel somewhat wanting.  I suspect that the guardians were conductors in the past life, as the Orogenes evolved into Stone Eaters.  The discussion of race tensions is poignant and sharp considering the times in which we live in this country.  Poor behavior that happens in the novel is a result of propaganda, the typical racial biases and ill-behavior masked in belief speaks volumes.  However, the handling of these tensions varies from direct conflict to subtle machinations to achieve one’s goals.

All in all, this novel didn’t disappoint.  There are some points where the characters drive you a bit crazy, but there is a purpose behind it.  The conflict rises to the inevitable crescendo leaving us with a bit of a hole, as I felt that there should have been a better resolution than what we received.  The ending only displeased me in that we lose Schaffa, even if his suffering has ended.  Any other time, I believe I could have expounded on the novel for a solid five pages.  However, as it stands, I’m too tired to think coherently to give an extensive analysis of what I gleaned from the book.

Esbe’s Favorite Character(s):  Schaffa and Hoa.

Lady Esbe read the Orbit paperback version of this selection.

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Elle Tea:  Scoring Liked Book

Dear Readers…  I am sad.  I’m sad because we can’t seem to pick a trilogy that ends with the same oomph with which it began – from The Passage to The Divine Cities, it’s just been one fizzling ending to the next.  The good news with The Stone Sky is that Jemisin isn’t trying to end her series with a movie deal in mind (as with The Passage), nor is she confined to focusing her last book on the last man standing (as with The Divine Cities), so we do get a decent resolution that makes some semblance of sense in the overall scheme of things without ever losing focus of what it was to begin with.  The bad news is that great chunks of this book had me doing something I abhor when reading a book purely for the love of reading.

When we say that “the world has ended,” remember – it is usually a lie.  The planet is just fine… When the earth shatters, it is a disaster to the life that depends on it – but nothing much to Father Earth. 

I skimmed.  I skimmed paragraphs… whole bloody chapters.  I skimmed – and I liked it.

There.  I said it.  I feel dirty and sullied and rotten about it, but now that it’s out in the open the healing can begin.

She’s never done this before, but no one has ever told her that it can’t be done.

I knew going into the series back in 2016 that there was always this chance; I’d loved Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy fiercely (oh, Nahadoth…), but the third book was definitely the weakest of the series.  And I do know that it’s hard for authors to wrap up stories – most can’t seem to end them well, while others can’t seem to end them… ever.  So, in the grand scheme of things, when compared to all of the other series I’ve read, The Broken Earth ended well.  It ended, which was necessary, and the resolution itself was quite strong…

But getting there was… sometimes… ::sigh::

Skimmable.

Once, cities were not just dead themselves, stone and metal jungles that did not grow or change, but they were actually deadly, poisoning soil and making water undrinkable and even changing the weather by their very existence. 

It began… with Essun.  Essun being Essun, really.  Despite all of the growth of this character, she’s still on the edge of unlikable.  She did so much alone for so long, held so much so close for so long, that she simply can’t seem to reprogram herself, to adapt, to share with the class.  I pitied her in the first book, quite nearly despised her in the second, and now…  Now I’m just sort of…  Meh.  She has lost everything, literally everything, and, knowing the end is nigh, wants nothing but to find and save her remaining child.  Everyone she has ever loved has slipped right through her fingers, and so she fixates on Nassun, and it was this fixation that made this complex character rather dull for me in this installment.  Gone is the rage of Syenite, gone is the hope of Damaya – all that’s left is the former schoolteacher, the grieving mother.  Even after the loss of Castrima, she will not open up, she will not tell anyone what is happening with her, what state she is in, what her plans are.  Even when she briefly finds some solace in the arms of a lover, she remains closed off and single-minded in her purpose: Nassun, Nassun, Nassun.  And I get that.  But it gets dull after a while.

Conquerors live in dread of the day when they are shown to be, not superior, but simply lucky.

Besides Essun, Ykka and Hoa were also a bit flatter for me this time around.  Hoa, now an adult, is given quite a few chapters of his own, from his own perspective, in order to tell his story.  We finally learn who – and what – he is, where and when he came from, and why he does what he does…  But somehow he just didn’t click with me as well as he did when he was a child in the first and second novels, as if some vital component of what I found so fascinating about him previously didn’t survive Castrima.  Ykka, the best friend Essun’s probably had in a while, is tested and comes out on the other side… but just barely.  She is as strong as ever, but after losing her settlement and a good majority of her people along the way, she, too, seems to fracture into pieces, to break apart and have to be put together again; the result is a character who resembles Ykka of The Obelisk Gate… but isn’t.  And, as with Essun, I get it.  I get Hoa’s struggle, and I get Ykka’s struggle.  I get that they had to go through what they did, and they had to change as they did…

But it just got dull after a while.

The Earth did not start this cycle of hostilities, it did not steal the Moon, it did not burrow into  anyone else’s skin and snatch bits of its still-living flesh to keep as trophies and tools, it did not plot to enslave humans in an unending nightmare.  It did not start this war, but it will rusting well have. Its. Due.

And maybe it wasn’t even them.  Maybe it was the overlying issue I had with the book, the chapters I found myself skimming the most…  And that issue, the subject of those chapters, was…

Geology.  I just couldn’t get into all the geology.  I loved the earth-language (more on this in a moment), and throughout the trilogy I quite liked the idea of the orogenes and their rock and mineral names, the price of using too much of their power, and even the stone-eaters.  But this one just left me tangled in the weeds.  And part of this, I do realize, is my own fault: I have to know things, I have to know all the things, and I can’t land on a word I don’t know and hope to garner its meaning by the way in which it is used; I have to look it up, I have to understand it…  And this led me to learning way more about geology than I ever cared to know.

Thus, I skimmed.  And skimmed.  And skiiiiiiimmed.

“I think,” Hoa says slowly, “that if you love someone, you don’t get to choose how they love you back.”

Don’t get me wrong, though: there is so much good here.  To begin with, I love Jemisin’s writing style, as well as the graceful and subtle-but-not-so-subtle way she tackles subjects such as equality, gender, and climate change.  There is a cyclical theme in many of her novels: often the most powerful, the most fantastic characters are quickly dragged down and oppressed only to rise up and swiftly become oppressors themselves… until those they least expect, those whom they have held down the most violently, rise up, overcome, and swiftly become oppressors themselves.

Now nobody gets to be safe.  Maybe that’s what it will take for them to finally realize things have to change.

The Stone Sky also brings us insight into the language of the stone-eaters, the language of the Earth – not the language of a people on the planet, but The Language of The Earth, where nouns and names are limited to those things which the earth itself understands: minerals, stones, temperature, and the cracking, rumbling, cavernous sounds of the heart of the world.  The language is fascinating, despite being what led me to learn more about geology than I ever wanted to know.

But for a society built on exploitation, there is no greater threat than having no one left to oppress… someone must suffer, if the rest are to enjoy luxury.

Nassun, one of my least favorite characters from the previous books, actually has the most interesting story arc in this installment.  She’s on the move, traveling with the long-suffering Schaffa, who is now less of a Guardian and more of a surrogate father to the floundering fledgling orogene.  Her powers are growing, as is her control over them, and she has a plan – a horrible plan, a terrible, bloody, nightmarish plan, but a plan nonetheless.  In her, we omniscient readers see a young Essun, a Damaya whose Guardian treated her with love and respect rather than as a necessary and precious tool.  She has her mother’s stubborn, steadfast character, but she is, in the end, still a child.  Precocious, yes.  Intelligent, absolutely.  But still a child.  And that child is maaaaaaaaaaaaaad at her mother.

It looks upon human beings and sees short-lived, fragile creatures, puzzlingly detached in substance and awareness from the planet on which their lives depend, who do not understand the harm they tried to do – perhaps because they are so short-lived and fragile and detached. 

The resolution itself was quite believable, all things considered.  If you’ve made it to Book Three yourself, then you know there can’t be happy endings all around – it’s Earth vs. Human Civilization, to the death, and there’s just no way everyone can make it to the finish line alive and intact.  The casualties are tragic, the ending is both sad and rewarding, and we’re left with that most important of human qualities: hope.

Don’t be patient.  Don’t ever be.  This is the way a new world begins. 

I would, of course, recommend this novel to anyone who has read the first two – if you haven’t read the first two, you will be totally lost; one of the things I love about Jemisin is that she doesn’t paraphrase her own previous novels before beginning the next: she picks up where she left off.  I’d recommend the Broken Earth Trilogy in its entirety to anyone in the mood for a beautifully written fantasy that has its feet planted on this side of reality just enough to give you some perspective on issues we, sadly, are still forced to face on this planet everyday.

Elle’s Favorite Character(s):  Ykka, because she makes the hard decisions for the good of the group while keeping the burden of responsibility only upon herself, and, in a deviation from the first two books, Schaffa, because… well, you’ll have to read it to find out.

Elle Tea read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.

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BillMo:  Scoring Liked Book

This definitely was not my favorite out of the three; I found myself rushing through this one just to finish it – it really wasn’t bad… I just wasn’t as into it as I was the previous installments.

No need for guards when you can convince people to collaborate in their own internment.

I think the primary reason I had a difficult time with this book is because I was already having trouble connecting with the primary character, Essun – her motivation and thought processes just weren’t easy for me to relate to.  The world, for all we know, is depending on her for its survival, and she just goes through reacting to every little thing without considering the bigger picture.  I can only assume this is because she has a terrible secret and has learned to only rely on herself…  I don’t know, but I do know that once she found Castrima in The Obelisk Gate, she should have tried harder to fit in and work with the others.  Of course, she only survived her childhood and younger adult years by being exactly who she is and keeping everything bottled up and closed off, so in the end I guess I can’t fault her too much for having such good survival skills.

Don’t lament when those worlds fall.  Rage that they were built doomed in the first place.

I was a little lost during some of the chapters, because I couldn’t tell who the characters were and kept thinking I was missing something from one of the previous books.  If you’ve read the other two books and are about to start the first and find yourself feeling this way, don’t be scared – it all makes sense eventually, and once you make some progress through the book, you’ll realize it was all intentional and you actually know everything you’re supposed to when you’re supposed to.

It has never been clear to us if we were built wrong, or if their understanding of us has been wrong.

And Lerna.  Poor, naive Lerna.  I can’t help but like and pity him at the same time.  How can you not like him, really?  He helps people and feels deeply… but he is also intuitive about the feelings of others: he knows when to leave Essun alone, and he knows when to stay, no matter her protests.

Tools should not want to escape their box so obviously.

I felt very sorry for Schaffa.  He reminds me a little of Sigrud from The Divine Cities trilogy: he’s broken and just trying to survive while doing what he thinks is right.  He’s strong, very strong… but fragile.  Nassun, on the other hand, is still just a little girl driven by her emotions – a little girl with an awesome power, which is a scenario for a great big mess: someone with very little life experience, loaded with anger and resentment, given an immense amount of magic…  Well, that’s just bound to have some bad consequences somewhere along the line.  I liked the chapters that focused on these two the most, and they really saved the story for me.

“The sun is up.  Let’s face the future, at least, and leave the past to itself.”

And Hoa.  I can’t forget Hoa!  While Hoa in his full adulting mode is cool, I do have to say that I liked him better as a little boy with a head full of everything.

I have decided that I am in love, but love is a painful hotspot roil beneath the surface of me in a place where once there was stability, and I do not like it.

One of my favorite scenes involved individuals who could communicate through the earth discussing what their own language sounds like.  For instance, the character called Gaewha is only called Gaewha aloud for the sake of those who can’t speak the language of the earth; in their own tongue, Gaewha is “(cracked geode taste of adularescent salts, fading echo).”

I don’t bother to explain that just because something is horrible does not make it any less true.

I’ll admit to being sort of baffled by some of the things at the end of the book.  I’m just not sure how I felt about some of the occurrences and resolutions – but I’ll leave them for you to figure out on your own so it won’t ruin the surprises.  They weren’t bad – I understood the gist, but occasionally I’d hit a “Huh?” moment.

“There is always loss, with change.”

The author has a great writing style and tells a good story overall, so while this installment wasn’t my favorite, the overall trilogy is definitely worth the read.  I would recommend this book to others, but make sure to read the first two or you’ll be completely lost.

“Because that is how one survives eternity,” I say, “or even a few years.  Friends.  Family.  Moving with them.  Moving forward.”

BillMo’s Favorite Character(s):  Ykka because her decisions are for the group and she does what is needed to allow the greater whole to survive.  She has to make tough decisions to keep everyone going.

BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.

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