The saga continues as the stakes rise in this sequel! In The Obelisk Gate we find our heroine Essun reunited with Alabaster – old friend slash mentor slash lover in a community built into a giant underground crystal. Alabaster, however, has been greatly reduced from his powers. He is slowly turning into a stone eater – a process he prefers rather than dying. The underground community is called Castrima-Under, and wonder of wonders, it is led by a rogga (supernatural humans with powers) named Ykka.
As Essun slowly gets used to life in Castrima, her daughter, Nassun, over to the North of the planet also begins to awaken her young rogga powers. And her powers are lethal.
I think it’s brilliant how NK Jemisin structures The Obelisk Gate around the mother and her daughter. Hundred of miles separate them. They go through their own journeys, but you can just see that their paths are going to converge (in the third book), and it’s not going to be good. At least that’s what I think. I’ve never really read a book like this, where both heroines are fleshed out so well and I’m rooting for both of them, but I know both of them are probably going to take each other head on and it’s going to be devastating. Wow. Just brilliant.
The world building continues to fascinate me. More is revealed about the planet and it’s history with the civilizations prior to the Fifth Season societies. I think one thing Jemisin does so well is weaving the world building narratives into the book, enriching the stories and histories while never being info-dumpy. It’s always a fine line between too little world building and just an info dump of the universe, but Jemisin does it so well.
As a third type of “humans”, the stone eaters are very interesting. At first, even our heroine Essun doesn’t consider them humans because, well, they’re more like stones. It’s fascinating because Essun is a rogga who has been dealing with rogga hate her whole life. Essun knows how it feels for roggas to be considered a lesser species in comparison to Stills (humans). And yet, that’s how she (and us, the readers) view the stone eaters! At one point Hoa, one of the stone eaters says to her: “Do you consider yourself human? If you do, then so do I.”
And that was subtle, but revelatory. I can’t wait to read the culmination of the series in the third book!