The Obelisk Gate: The Broken Earth, Book 2, WINNER OF THE HUGO AWARD 2017 (Broken Earth Trilogy)

by N. K. Jemisin

Paperback, 2016



Call number



Orbit (2016), 448 pages


Fantasy. Fiction. Literature. Thriller. HTML:Essun's missing daughter grows more powerful every day, and her choices may destroy the world in this "magnificent" Hugo Award winner and NYT Notable Book. (NPR) The season of endings grows darker, as civilization fades into the long cold night. Essun �?? once Damaya, once Syenite, now avenger �?? has found shelter, but not her daughter. Instead there is Alabaster Tenring, destroyer of the world, with a request. But if Essun does what he asks, it would seal the fate of the Stillness forever. Far away, her daughter Nassun is growing in power �?? and her choices will break the world. N. K. Jemisin's award winning trilogy continues in the sequel to The Fifth Sea

User reviews

LibraryThing member pwaites
The Obelisk Gate directly continues where The Fifth Season left off and must be read in order. If you haven’t read The Fifth Season, go read it. Now. Seriously, it’s one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read.

When I say The Obelisk Gate directly continues The Fifth Season, I mean it starts
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in the very same scene where the last book ended, with Alabaster declaring that they had to get a moon. I ended up wishing that I’d reread The Fifth Season directly before hand, since I’d forgotten a lot of details and spent a while confused. I feel like I would have gotten a lot more out of The Obelisk Gate if I’d read it directly after The Fifth Season. As is, I plan on rereading the series at some point after its completion so I can more fully parse the various complexities.

In addition to Essun, The Fifth Season tells the stories of two other characters, the first being Essun’s missing daughter Nassun. And wow, do I feel for that girl. She’s eleven years old and comes home to her father standing over her brother’s body and has to convince him not to murder her too. All while the world is ending.

The other POV character is Schaffa, the guardian from earlier in Essun’s life. His sections go back a bit in time to tell what he’s been doing the last ten years. I wasn’t predisposed to like him, and I still don’t think I do. Then again, “like” is a hard word to apply to any of the characters in this series. They’re all people who’ve been warped by their situations, made into monsters by their willingness to survive. Yet they never reach the point where I’m repulsed by them or don’t want to keep reading about them. Instead Essun and Nassun manage to be some of the most compelling antiheroines I’ve ever seen in SFF literature. Nyx still holds my top spot, but they may be battling it out for number two.

The Obelisk Gate is starting to blur the boundaries between fantasy and science fiction, which I’m all for. Mixing genres is often what produces the most creative results. I’m not going to say much more on this element, but I hope you read it and discover for yourself.

Back in January I wrote a post on epic fantasy, where I specifically said that I didn’t see The Fifth Season as falling within the genre, since it was more about Essun as she wandered through the chaos of an ending world than a story set on a larger scale. The Obelisk Gate changes matters. It starts to provide more pieces of the puzzle, creating a story and plot that encompass the whole planet over the course of thousands of years. And if Essun may very well change the course of history.

For whatever reason, The Obelisk Gate didn’t have the same visceral impact on me that The Fifth Season did. Perhaps it’s because I already knew what to expect? Or maybe it’s because The Obelisk Gate is a middle book of a trilogy, which tends to be the weakest point in many series. This isn’t to deride The Obelisk Gate – it’s still a very good book. It’s just hard to compare to something as amazing as The Fifth Season.

To reiterate, The Broken Earth series is shaping up to be one of the best and most game changing fantasy series I’ve ever encountered. I highly recommend it.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.
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LibraryThing member kukulaj
The story here continues very much directly out of volume 1 of the trilogy. You'll want to have read volume 1 before this book.

The story here is on a much smaller canvas than volume 1. The cast of characters here is smaller, and the set of places. It's pretty much all about Essun and her daughter
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Nassun , who are each holed up in communities and not too far from each other, though not in contact to any significant degree.

The focus here shifts from external action to internal action. Essun and Nassun both are discovering ways to sense and act upon magical networks, enabling a wider range of action than allowed by the much more common coarse thermodynamic methods of orogeny.

We also get much more insight in this volume about the big picture, who the global players are, how things got to be the way they are, how the players want to move forward. The picture is still not clear but major components are emerging from the mist.
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LibraryThing member Phrim
The Obelisk Gate continues the story of Essun as she tries to navigate the end of the world. Here, she falls in with Castrima, a comm that actually values the contributions of orogenes instead of shunning them. However, while Essun is still trying to deal with her own feelings and make a plan to
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find her long-lost daughter, she is constantly being pulled in different directions. The denizens of Castrima want her to help contribute to the survival of the comm, a returned but dying Alabaster wants her to take over his work trying to save the world, and the stone-eater Hoa wants to push her toward his own inscrutable goals. Meanwhile, we get a look at what Essun's daughter Nassun is up to, which can only be described as ominous in any number of different ways. This definitely is a continuation of the story rather than something new, and while we do learn more about the workings of the world, the book definitely evokes feelings of stress as Essun struggles to deal with everything the world is throwing at her. I enjoyed this and look forward to reading more.
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LibraryThing member kgodey
I absolutely loved The Fifth Season when I read it a couple of weeks ago – it made my top five books of 2016 despite reading it in late December.

I’m avoiding spoilers for both The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate in this review, which is going to be a little tricky. At the end of The Fifth
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Season, we (and Essun) find out a little about what exactly is wrong with the world of the Stillness. The Obelisk Gate picks up pretty much exactly at that ending. We get a couple of new viewpoints – Schaffa, Syenite’s former guardian, and Nassun, Essun’s missing daughter who has been through more in a year that a person should have to bear in a lifetime.

We delve more into the world of the Stillness into this book, Essun isn’t as focused on her grief since she’s had some time to process things, and she’s lost Nassun’s trail. Her purpose changes, and she finds a community and starts paying attention to the wider world again. It turns into a more conventional (but still excellent) fantasy story – politics, alliances, defending your home from a threat, figuring out how to save the world. Nassun and Schaffa’s stories explore other plans for the world that are being made in parallel to Essun’s story, but have the potential to establish even more conflict.

This world is utterly brutal, and it’s shaped the people who live in it to be pretty monstrous as well. I’m not usually a fan of protagonists who commit heinous acts, but even though all three protagonists do this multiple times, N.K. Jemisin writes so well that I ended up feeling (almost) nothing but sympathy for them. Broken as they are, they’re the only people with the power to change things, and they’re reasonably well-intentioned. Some of the events makes it easier to understand why people are scared of orogenes, though, and I hope there are going to be some consequences in the third book for them. Right now the main consequences seem to be that the protagonists feel bad about themselves, but that doesn’t stop them from not being in control of themselves later.

Even though this was an outstanding book, it’s still very much a middle book, and by the end, the pieces are in place for what seems like it’s going to be an explosive (in multiple ways) finale. Only about six more months to wait for The Stone Sky!
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LibraryThing member Stevil2001
While the first book of The Broken Earth trilogy, The Fifth Season, followed three parallel stories that turned out to be linked, The Obelisk Gate follows two. At first it seems like there's going to be three, but the third narrative only has two chapters. One plotline follows the protagonist of
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the first volume, Essun, while the other shows us what her daughter, Nassun, has been doing during the events of both The Fifth Season and this book. (The stories move at different rates, but each ends at the same time, I think.) Just as the multiple narratives of The Fifth Season recontextualized each other, Nassun's story provides extra detail on Essun as a mother, deepening her character in ways not exactly sympathetic, but always comprehensible.

I enjoyed this both more and less than The Fifth Season. The Fifth Season was marginally unsatisfying because its main narrative didn't really come to any kind of climax, it felt like it just stopped. The Obelisk Gate definitely has a climax, that delivers on the levels of emotion, plot, character, and backstory-- it's very satisfying. On the other hand, up until that climax, Essun's plotline felt very aimless, as she slowly integrated into her newly adopted comm, but didn't seem to have much of a driving motivation, and her old mentor very slowly doled out exposition. The climax, though, made a lot of this work for me retrospectively. I did very much enjoy Nassun's plotline, though, even if it was clearly subordinate to Essun's (the three plots in The Fifth Season felt more evenly balanced).

Still, on the whole this is an enjoyable read. Jemisin writes great prose, depicts nuanced characters, deals with complicated issues of power and violence, and continues to expand an interesting world. I'm glad Hugo voting led me to The Broken Earth, and I look forward to reading The Stone Sky later this year to see how it all comes to an end.
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LibraryThing member justifiedsinner
Second person singular POV may be clever in a creative writing class but it becomes tiresome very quickly in the real world.
LibraryThing member m-andrews
Overrated science-fiction sequel. I found the second-person POV to be over-baked and the product of creative writing classes rather than a genuine way in which to further the plot. In fact, I found the plot to be very slow and meandering – the kind of thing that is acceptable if there is enough
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character development to warrant it, but here there was little to be found. Two books in, I'm no sure whether I could stomach the third!
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LibraryThing member EmScape
I was late to the party on this series, but I'm so glad I fit it into my pile this year! In a post-apocalyptical future, some humans have developed the power to manipulate stone, and of course there's a political power structure in place to control those humans. This second book in the trilogy
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follows our protagonist as she searches for her daughter, and resists incorporating herself into a society who values her abilities instead of fearing them. The daughter's experiences are also followed as she grows into her inherited power with very different messaging about what it means and how it can be used.
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LibraryThing member jdifelice
4.5/5 stars

I really enjoyed this book! It was a great extension of the first book. We really got into the details of how orogeny works and we got to know more about this world. The addition of the stone eater lore was really cool too.

I enjoyed having Nassun's perspective along with Essun's. It
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really added to the story and helped to fill in some blanks from the first book. Even though I didn't agree with some of what Nassun did, I totally understood how she was acting and why she was feeling the way she was. The community that Essun is living in was super cool too. I liked how the community dynamics were explored and how we got to know more of the characters.

The writing was beautiful. It flowed really well, and the second person narrative yet again really worked.

I loved this world and I cannot wait to see what happens with the third book!
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LibraryThing member TheDivineOomba
While not as good as the first book - this one is an excellent follow up to "The Fifth Season". Here, we learn mor about the world of Stillness, more about how the Ourogenes work, and more about how the world is put together.

This book follows Essun, and the choices she has to make. Tensions are
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running high as supplies become short, trusts are broken, and war with a neighboring commune is looking. On top of it all, she still needs to find her daughter, and apparently "Catch the Moon".

The world building is amazing. Instead of focusing on the larger world like in the last book, N.K. Jamison captures the story of a commune in full Fifth Season Status. We find out the different roles of the classes, how leadership is maintained. When survival is not guaranteed, difficult choices have to be made.
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LibraryThing member rivkat
Things get worse on the Stillness: Essun the rogga has found a new community while she’s searching for her daughter, but it’s going to starve as the Season kills everything aboveground. Her daughter Nessun has been rescued from her father, sort of, by the same Guardian who once tormented and
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loved her mother, but is now altered in a way that may put Nessun in even more danger. I’m still not entirely clear on all the politics between stone eaters, Father Earth, and various human factions, but the pieces are in place for a final showdown—involving the long-absent moon, it seems.
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LibraryThing member adamwolf
This was spectacular. I can't wait for the third book.
LibraryThing member jmoncton
Many fantasy series have that second book problem where the first book is amazing, but the 2nd book is really spent either explaining all the world building that was left out in the first book, or connecting the plot of the first book to an amazing finale. But that was not the case with The Obelisk
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Gate -- no sophomore slump here! The action is intense and there is just the right balance of describing this AMAZING world and the non-stop action. Love the character, love the world, and love the writing. Just wish the 3rd book was out.
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LibraryThing member albertgoldfain
Largely sustains the intensity of The Fifth Season even with the two narrative arcs in stationary outposts. Superb as an audiobook.
LibraryThing member andreablythe
I absolutely adored The Fifth Season, the first book in the trilogy which presented a world constantly facing destructive (apocalyptic) seasons. This sequel not only reveals what happens to the characters in the first book, but also expands the universe in brilliant and startling ways. It's
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powerfully written and thrilling — compelling in all the best ways. I can't wait for the third and final book to be available.
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LibraryThing member Iira
A perfect sequel to Fifth Season, Jemisin is a superb storyteller.
LibraryThing member gypsysmom
I was not as impressed with this book as with the first one, The Fifth Season. Perhaps there was too long a time period between reading the two but I found it more difficult to figure out what was happening. I'm sure I will read Book 3 though.

Essun, the orogene from the first book who was trying to
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find her daughter, spends the whole of this book in an underground community called Castrima. Her mentor and former lover, Alabaster, is slowly dying in the infirmary but he has lessons to pass on to her before he dies. He wants her to bring the Moon back because that will stabilize the world and stop further seasons. Otherwise this season will last forever and eventually every person will die. Essun's daughter, Nassun, has been taken by her father to a community in the Antarctic where Guardians are sheltering young orogenes. Nassun is already a gifted orogene but she grows in her understanding of how things work within the earth and the role that magic plays. So both mother and daughter are honing their skills and by the end of the book they know where each other is and will, doubtless, meet up in the next book. It remains to be seen if they will be on the same side or in opposition to each other.
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LibraryThing member bell7
The second book in the Broken Earth trilogy finds Essun and her group of wanderers now settled down in Castrima-under, a community where orogenes - those who can move the earth or stop a shake - are essential and a part of leadership. Essun deals with the dangers still present in surviving an
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apocalyptic event and tries to learn more about the obelisks and what her power allows her to do with them. Meanwhile, her daughter Nassun has arrived at the community of Found Moon, where her father is convinced she will learn to stop being an orogene herself.

It is, of course, especially difficult to explain the middle book in a trilogy and this one is no exception. These three books are really written more as one overarching story split into three parts. Where the first book had three storylines that ended up being not three places but three time periods, this one is a little more straightforward in time but we're juggling both Essun and Nassun, and learning more about the nature of orogeny. Hoa, the boy who's actually an inhuman stone eater and has chosen to be Essun's companion, is the narrator and Essun's portions are written in second person, as he is telling the story to her. Excellent characters and worldbuilding make this a compelling series, and I'm very much looking forward to the third book.
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LibraryThing member indygo88
The Obelisk Gate, 2nd in a series of 3, picks up right where its predecessor, The Fifth Season, left off. Essun, the unsung "hero" of the first book, is now living in the underground geode known as Castrima-under. Meanwhile, her daughter Nassun is developing her own orogeny under the tutelage of
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Schaffa further south near the town of Jekity.

Similar to the first book, I felt like I was struggling to get a grip on what was going on in this story. It's such a unique world, with Orogens, Stone People and obelisks and such, which we were introduced to in the first book, but come to understand a little more in this 2nd book. While I enjoyed this one, I didn't like it quite as much as the first. I suspect that like most trilogies, this book is somewhat of a bridge to get us from book 1 to book 3, and I'm okay with that. This one answers some questions from book 1, but also creates more questions that we still don't really understand. At any rate, I'm quite curious to see how it will all turn out, so The Broken Earth (book 3) will be soon on my to-read list.
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LibraryThing member reganrule
My caveats are the same as in my review of the first of the Broken Earth trilogy. Come for the world-building, not the word-building.
LibraryThing member nmele
The second volume of this trilogy is as complex and brimming with energy and creativity as the first. Jemisin is a pleasingly audacious storyteller.
LibraryThing member quondame
The characters and plot and level of action are all good, with interesting details and world building, but something in the writing kept me from getting absorbed and flowing with the story.
LibraryThing member greeniezona
As soon as I knew this book was out, I had to run to the bookstore immediately to buy a copy. I'm actually a little embarrassed that I didn't know the publication date ahead of time. I mean, I loved the first book in the series, and even went to Book Riot Live in New York City mostly to see
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Jemisin. I don't know how this caught me by surprise.

This volume is heavy on heartache. The last one was, too, of course, but there was that nice reprieve for a moment, on the island. Any reprieve here is an illusion. Jemisin is adept at this kind of writing -- the kind that weighs your body down with sorrow, that burns in your gut with rage against injustice.

I have faith in Essun, but I know the next volume will break my heart. I cannot wait to read it.
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LibraryThing member RossWhippo
A return to N.K. Jemisin's marvelous and unique world, 'The Stillness'. It's always a pleasure to read such intricate and well crafted characters. I especially enjoy 'Ykka', the Castriman headwoman.
LibraryThing member ThePortPorts
I loved the first of this series (The Fifth Season). I broke my "rule" of not getting into a series until it's done (because... it's Jemisin....), and that made getting into The Obelisk Gate more challenging. This is not due to Jemisin making us wait - she's clicking along at a fine speed. No, it's
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because my memory for details isn't perfect, and Jemisin jumps right into this book as if it was a new chapter, not a new physical volume. Took me a bit to sink back into it.

But I did sink it. It's a great story, and the plot thickens. Things get more complex, and the stone eaters become much more important (or, rather, we begin to see that there is a larger story here). We have the added perspective of Essun's daughter, as well as some bits from Hoa.

Jemisin is a talented writer, and I find it wonderful to read her works as they come out. It's rare that I follow an author as she builds her bibliography. The Broken Earth series is crafted so well, so carefully, that I am eager to see where she goes from here. This is why I love speculative fiction.

So wonderful to have a woman author writing about women who behave as women. Complicated, imperfect, wonderful women.
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Hugo Award (Nominee — Novel — 2017)
Nebula Award (Nominee — Novel — 2016)
Locus Award (Finalist — Fantasy Novel — 2017)
World Fantasy Award (Nominee — Novel — 2017)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

448 p.; 7.76 inches


0356508366 / 9780356508368
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