The Stone Sky: The Broken Earth, Book 3, WINNER OF THE HUGO AWARD 2018 (Broken Earth Trilogy)

by N. K. Jemisin

Paperback, 2017



Call number



Orbit (2017), 464 pages


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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member iansales
The final novel in the Broken Earth trilogy, each book of which won the Hugo Award for best novel in three successive years. The first, The Fifth Season, was a worthy winner, but I’m not so convinced books two and three were. To be fair, neither 2017 nor 2018 had particularly good shortlists.
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There were perhaps a couple of books more deserving on the 2018 shortlist, but the 2017 one was pretty awful. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. The Broken Earth trilogy is a good trilogy, and while the second book, The Obelisk Gate, does the usual treading water thing, The Stone Sky is very much a conclusion, and actually takes the story in a direction not hinted at in earlier volumes. It also deliberately positions itself as far-future science fiction, while still presenting its ideas as fantasy tropes. In hindsight, I suspect the trilogy is a good candidate as a future genre classic. It does interesting things with narrative in the first book, the worldbuilding is excellent, it makes a series of important points about race and slavery, and it manages to build up to a big, if not entirely plausible, idea that provides a fitting capstone. Essun, and her daughter Nassun, both powerful orogenes who can control the obelisks, make their way independently to Corepoint, a research station/city in the middle of the ocean on the other side of the planet to the Stillness. Both have the same aim – stopping the cycle of seasons (by returning the Moon to its orbit) – although at the prompting of different factions of stone eaters. A narrative thread set in the past reveals the origin of both the obelisks and the stone eaters. It’s all fascinating stuff, and if the villain of the piece, as revealed in the final chapters, takes a bit of swallowing, there’s no denying Jemisin’s ambition. And, to be fair, she nails it. I still don’t think all three books deserved to win a Hugo, but I do think the trilogy belongs in the “canon” of great sf works.
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LibraryThing member Cecrow
Quirky problems arise to a degree I didn't notice in the other two books. Essun conveniently forgets/remembers that Hoa can take her anywhere at a moment's notice, as the plot requires. Too much of Essun's planning happens offstage. The Onyx can teleport? Brushing those aside, this conclusion
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achieves its obligations as per tradition. Events and characters converge as they ought, and artificially suspended mysteries are finally answered. Most gratifying are the strong emotional moments delivered by the finale, and this is one instance where reading the author's acknowledgements augments their impact.

Whether it was her primary desire or not (she says not), Jemisin achieved a trilogy that makes some pretty plain statements about our own world today, a fact that I think lent more than a little to its Hugo wins. The most fascinating element to me about its construction isn't the narrative tricks (irritants, rather) but the absence of a stock villain. This is a study about pain, fear and anger as motivational drivers, and the options for what's to be done with them. When powerful emotions like these swell up inside us like an Obsidian Gate that demands discharge, the choices we make are all that matters.
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LibraryThing member Stevil2001
I found the conclusion to the Broken Earth trilogy way less satisfying than the two books that preceded it. Maybe I was in the wrong mood, but it just felt like the first two-thirds or so was a lot of wandering around without clear narrative purpose. Neither Essun nor Nassun's stories were as
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captivating as they were in the previous volume; how much of Essun trying to integrate into a community and not doing too well at it do we have to see? I don't think a point was made in this part that wasn't better made in a previous part. Plus the interstitial parts about the history of the world I found disruptive, with a lot of what we might call thaumababble: I found it difficult to follow or care about the minutiae of how orogeny worked, especially once a second system of magic was introduced. The first two books were very strong, and the conclusion to this one was decent, but I was nowhere near as into it as I was its predecessors.
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LibraryThing member asxz
It was tough going with that nagging sense that this was some weird, uneven fan-fiction. I so wanted this to be a grandstanding finale but there was just too much plinkety-plunkety exposition and description of veins and silver and magic and squiddly-plonk and suspiddly-bonk. I guess this means
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that I'm not that into fantasy, but I can't help feeling that this just wasn't all that good. There were definitely some moving moments around parenting and the quest that took place over three books was ultimately resolved, but it took the long way round and not in a satisfying manner. i have no idea when I'll ever pick up a fantasy series again given that this won all the awards and yet, after three books I remain almost completely immune to its charms.
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LibraryThing member Vinjii
I loved The Fifth Season. It is different; plays with a second person point of view and makes it work; the writing is poetic and enthralling, and the world building is some of the best I've ever seen.

This is the conclusion, and I must admit I liked the journey more than the destination. The world
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building and writing remain wonderful to the last word. There's strong female characters throughout this book. They feel natural and well developed. Jemisin talks about segregation and racism in a profound way.

I think this is an important trilogy and deserves to be read by all fantasy fans. I can't comment on plot more without spoiling, but I just wasn't a fan of the way it ended.
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LibraryThing member questbird
The final installment in this interesting trilogy. Mother and daughter Essun and Nassun have allies, power and motivation. They are on a collision course to Corepoint on the other side of the world. And a Stone Eater narrator tells us how it all began.

This was a competent drawing together of the
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threads of the trilogy, but not my favourite of the three. I had a couple of problems with Nassun's arc. One was that with just native talent she was able to tap into and even understand the obelisks' power, something which had destroyed many orogenes before her. The other was the coincidence of finding Alabaster's notes in Corepoint and working out that they were connected to her mother. The reunification with her mother was under dramatic circumstances but an emotional anti-climax. They hardly talked. Still, overall a satisfying story well-told in a very original setting.
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LibraryThing member mpho3
Giving this book a less than 4-star rating is a first for me as an avid fan and reader of N.K. Jemisin. Were I compelled to do it all over again, I would have read Book 2 in closer temporal proximity to having read Book 1, but I would have given myself a longer break between Book 2 and Book 3. I
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don’t know if that would have changed my impression of The Stone Sky, but I suspect it would. I didn’t dislike it, but I had hoped to like it more.

The conceit of The Broken Earth trilogy is that though orogenes are essential to making life in the Stillness viable, they are pariahs and actually worse than that. Serving as the finale of the series, The Stone Sky has the tall order of resolving the problem of such deeply ingrained and systemic resentment towards orogenes while also delivering on the hero(ine)’s journey/quest to save the world. I think that if anyone could pull it off, it’d be Jemisin; however, I don’t think she entirely succeeds.

Maybe my take is due to my own failure as a reader. I pre-ordered The Fifth Season and jumped into it as soon as it was available. As I’ve come to expect from her work, the worldbuilding was outstanding, and I love how in her fiction, Jemisin derives her storylines and 3d characters from the worlds she builds rather than building worlds to suit story and/or characters. But unlike The Inheritance Trilogy or the Dreamblood Duology, the books of which could work as standalone novels, each of The Broken Earth books continues from where the preceding one left off. This is not unusual in multi-series works, but had I been aware of that, I probably wouldn’t have read The Fifth Season so far in advance of Book 2. By the time I got to The Obelisk Gate, I’d forgotten the details of Book 1, and I found it challenging to re-orient myself. Hoping to avoid the same occurrence with Book 3, I picked up The Stone Sky almost immediately after finishing Book 2.

Reading Books 2 and 3 back to back was like eating too much of a luscious dessert; what started out as incredibly delicious began having less and less appeal with each bite. The story wore on, and I found myself getting impatient. I just wanted get to the bottom of the bowl and be done with it. I could be wrong, but perhaps Jemisin herself felt a sort of fatigue, because the storytelling feels less and less organic in the later chapters as she resorts more to telling and less to showing. Her tendency not to do that is what has made her other books so great. 3.5 stars
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LibraryThing member kgodey
I’ve been looking forward to the release of The Stone Sky ever since I read the previous books in the series, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, (both of which have now won the Best Novel Hugo!) earlier this year. I devoured it as soon as I received it and it’s just as good as I thought it
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would be.

I don’t want to say too much about the story, it’s the third book of the series so pretty much everything is a spoiler. The Stone Sky does add a new viewpoint and it’s probably the most fascinating one so far. We explore the history of the world and how exactly it ended up being the way it is. We see things from the perspectives of Essun and her daughter Nassun, of course, they are the heart of the book.

The end of The Obelisk Gate had mother and daughter on a collision course (somewhat literally) and I wasn’t sure how the book would wrap up the story in a satisfying way because both characters were equally sympathetic, they’d both been through more than their fair share of horrible things. The conclusion was completely satisfying though, now that I’ve read it, I can’t imagine how else it would have ended.

Like the previous books, this book is sometimes agonizing to read, Much of fantasy focuses on the best things about people (honorable, idealistic, heroic, etc.) but this book does the opposite. It shows people at their worst, but not unrealistically so (I wouldn’t call it “grimdark”), and some of things that Essun and Nassun do and have done to them is quite unpleasant to read about. But there are still uplifting moments, and that’s even more hopeful than always seeing people as good because you see humans do good things even when everything around them is terrible.

N.K. Jemisin’s next project is apparently a contemporary Lovecraftian fantasy series set in New York, and I can’t wait for that to come out.
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LibraryThing member quondame
Well done, but not a world I enjoy spending time in. There is love, but little fun or wonder.
LibraryThing member jdifelice
That ending was amazing.

This was such a well crafted novel, I don't think I could have asked for more. N.K. Jemisin just delivered on everything. The writing was phenomenal, the story was phenomenal, the characters were phenomenal. I just loved it all, and I loved every single character in this
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series. It was wrapped up so well, and everything was answered and things that seemed so complicated were explained.

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LibraryThing member nmele
I don't want to say too much for fear spoiling the experience, but I can say Jemisin brings this complex trilogy to a surprising and suspenseful conclusion, along the way revealing the deep history of racism in the world she created (and also in ours).
LibraryThing member bell7
The third book in the trilogy starts very soon after the last book's end, with the comm of Castrima now on the move. Essun's actions saved many lives, but destroyed the place they were living. Meanwhile, her daughter Nassun - a powerful girl in her own right, able to move mountains and turn people
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into precious stones with the aid of the obelisks that her mother can also maneuver - has killed her father and wants to end it all, all life, all Earth, by controlling the Obelisk Gate. Essun still wants to find her daughter, but she's also being pressured to put everything right as only she (or maybe Nassun) can.

It's impossible to understand this book if you haven't already read the first two, but I will say - it is completely worth the rollercoaster ride. We finally get the story of Hoa, the stoneeaters' creation, how everything went wrong, what the obelisks are... it all comes together. I won't say it all works out, because that's too much to hope for in a society where any people group is oppressed, a familiar theme that runs throughout the story and doesn't beat you over the head but definitely makes you sit up straighter and think about our own present world. But it is, I think, ultimately hopeful in people who try their best, imperfectly, to make the world a better place and I found it incredibly satisfying.
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LibraryThing member greeniezona
This was an amazing conclusion to the series, and it felt extra appropriate that I ended up reading most of it on the day of the eclipse. So much was resolved in this volume. The origin of the stone eaters, why father earth is so angry, what happened to the moon, the purpose of the obelisks... The
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only thing I don't feel was really successfully explained was the Guardians -- I mean, I understand that father earth is controlling the Guardians, and they would want the orogenes under control, but why let any of them train? Why let them be strong and counteract some of the possible season-causing events?

Anyway, this volume shows off the thoroughness of Jemisin's world-building. Not to mention her understanding of the emotional damage we do to each other, often without meaning to. And the value of community.

One of my favorite currently working authors.
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LibraryThing member indygo88
In this, the 3rd in Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, Essun and the people of Castrima-under travel north to the deserted Rennanis, hoping to find a new habitable "home". Her daughter Nassun, meanwhile, begins the trek to Corepoint with her Guardian Schaffa, hoping to activate the Obelisk Gate and
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thereby control the course of the moon as it approaches earth. Essun is somewhat torn between staying with her new comm and setting out to find Nassun.

Unless you're familiar with this series, that plot summary won't make much sense. Unlike many reviewers, I think I probably enjoyed this last installment the best. I read it the fastest of the three, at any rate. And while it attempted to answer many of the questions I had in the first two books, I was still left not necessarily understanding a lot of what I read. This is truly a unique series -- one that makes the reader pause and rethink how one looks at the earth itself and its relationship with humans. My mind is still trying to interpret some of what I read, but overall I did enjoy this series and I appreciate it for its uniqueness, forcing me to read a little bit out of my typical comfort zone.
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LibraryThing member andreablythe
The Stone Sky is a powerful conclusion to N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy. Essun has grown into immense power and is determined to end the seasons (times in which the world tears itself apart), while her daughter, Nassun, with her own power and burdened by the memories of cruelty enacted on her
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and other orogenes, sets out to destroy the world for good. The character walk through an apocalyptic landscape of ash and cold, a world coming undone, each marching to their own destiny — and in the end a beautiful conclusion full of heartbreak, forgiveness, and ultimately love. The Broken Earth trilogy is brilliant from start to finish — one of my favorite reading experiences in recent years.
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LibraryThing member gypsysmom
I see that I am rating this trilogy conclusion a little lower than other readers and certainly lower than I rated the other two books in the trilogy. Don't get me wrong; I think this threesome is a wonderful creation but I thought the end dragged a bit and some things were not explained as clearly
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as they could have been.

The Earth in which this trilogy takes place is subject to violent storms and geological explosions every hundred years or so. In the first book one of these Seasons, as they are called, started as a result of an event caused by an orogene. Orogenes are people who can manipulate geological features to, usually, prevent death and destruction but their talents can also cause death and destruction. Nessun is an orogene, probably the most powerful orogene left on the planet. When the Season started her husband had taken their daughter Essun to the Antarctic region to try to "cure" her of her orogeny. Orogenes are hated by non-orogenes (known as stills) and are frequently killed. Nessun followed her husband and Essun but had to take shelter in an underground community which she helped protect from attack by a bigger community. Her assistance caused her arm to turn to stone and she was in a coma for some time. When she woke up the community was on the move to take over the home of the soldiers who had attacked them. Nessun has no choice but to continue with them even though she is moving farther away from her daughter. Meanwhile her daughter, who has become quite powerful for a ten year old, has killed her father who attacked her when he realized she would always be an orogene. The Guardian Schaffa, who was teaching Essun skills, leads Essun away from the Antarctic because it is no longer safe for her. Schaffa is not well and Essun hopes to take him to a place where he can be cured. That place is also where Nessun will head in order to try to recapture the moon into the Earth's orbit. An experiment gone awry millennia ago ejected the Moon from the Earth's orbit and lead to the series of devastating Seasons which have plagued earth since. Although they are mother and daughter, the long estrangement between Nessun and Essun and their differing purposes will cause problems. Read the book to find out how it is resolved.

The first two books in this series won the Hugo awards in 2016 and 2017. Will Jemisin get the trifecta? Some people think so but I'm not so sure. Maybe I just expected too much from this final book but I was not as satisfied with it as I was with the first two. I still recommend it since you just have to know how things work out.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
I really enjoyed the first two books of this trilogy, and I was looking forward to the conclusion. Unfortunately, I really had trouble focusing on it, and I think I missed some details, so I was confused for a lot of it, and until the end, it felt like not much happened. I think this is all
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probably because I read the first two books really close to each other, and then waited a long time before reading the first book. In other words, I didn't like it very much, but I think that's more because of me than because of the book. It did, however, provide a very satisfying ending to the trilogy. ("Satisfying" as in, "that was a good ending and tied up all the loose ends", not "satisfying" as in "that made me happy".)
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LibraryThing member rivkat
Nessun and Essun, daughter and mother, are racing to control the obelisks, which are remnants not only of the ancient culture before the Shattering but also of a hideous, ancient crime, as we learn in this final volume of the trilogy. Nessun wants to destroy the world so that the pain will stop;
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Essun wants to bring back the Moon, which will lessen the Seasons and give humanity a chance, of sorts. If it’s true that cruelty is a choice, then don’t we have to side with Essun, to see if the choices can be different without Guardians to torture and control orogenes, without Seasons to encourage non-orogenes to fear and enslave orogenes? It’s a dark book, and I felt it did it best with the idea that there is no real closure, but there might be continuation.
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LibraryThing member Kristelh
Conclusion to the Broken Earth Trilogy. I found this book to equally enjoyable though maybe not as quality as the first two. This one was obvious about racism and also ecology. Overall, a successful conclusion to the series. i really like the audios of this series. Very well done. Themes are hate,
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racism, danger of abusing natural resources, importance of recording and sharing story.
Quote: " the one's most hurt by racism and ignorance who must use their power to make a world a better place."
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LibraryThing member albertgoldfain
A masterpiece. Jemison uses all of the capital she has built up in this world. The resolution is satisfying as a balance is struck between the overarching teleology of the characters and the blow-by-blow drama.
LibraryThing member TheDivineOomba
While this is a great conclusion to the Broken Earth Earth Saga - I found it severely lacking when compared to the previous two books. Some of the characters were irrelevant to the plot (Lerna, for example) and the final explanation, at times seemed to convoluted (why two magic systems?). I also
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didn't understand how the guardians played into this whole world - It seemed that their dual nature wasn't explained well enough.

Of course, this is a book by N.K. Jemison - and she is a master of the genre. So, while the book isn't the best one in the series, its loads better than most things in the genre. This world is amazing - and you will not be disappointed reading this series.
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LibraryThing member andrlik
A breathtaking conclusion to the trilogy. Beautiful, complex, and pays off the reader’s expectations and then some. I’ll be digesting this one for a long time.
LibraryThing member LisCarey
What can one say about The Stone Sky?

It's the utterly wonderful third book of an uttlerly wonderful trilogy. One could make equally excellent cases for it being science fiction or fantasy, but Jemisin says it's fantasy. (And as the author, she gets a vote, right?)

It's the most complete, compelling,
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original world-building I've seen in fantasy in years. The characters are complex, interesting, and compelling.

The trilogy starts with the end of the world, and why not? And then we learn both how we got there, and where we're going after.

I'm honestly not sure whether a reader who hadn't read the previous two volumes could find their feet by starting with this third volume. On the other hand, skipping the two previous books would be a real loss, so, go get them. Read the whole trilogy.

This volume brings vital threads to a conclusion, and answers questions that have been haunting the reader from the beginning. The ending leaves room for further stories in this world, some of them involving characters we've met, if Jemisin is so moved, but they would be different stories, not continuations of this one.

For myself, I don't care what Jemisin writes next. I want to read it. She's a stunningly good writer.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.
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LibraryThing member pwaites
The Stone Sky is a phenomenal end to one of the best fantasy trilogies I’ve ever read. Seriously, this series is amazing. If you haven’t read The Fifth Season (aka book one), then you need to get on that right now.

And yes, this is a series you need to read in order. I actually wish I’d read
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these three books back to back, because I kept forgetting secondary characters and some of the nuances. The good news is that this series is definitely worth rereading, so maybe that can be a future project.

Essun has learned to take control of the Obelisk Gate, but she’s now suffering the same side effects as Alabaster. Every time she uses her powers, part of her turns to stone. Still, now she’s powerful enough that she might be able to use the Obelisk Gate to bring back the moon, appeasing a planet dead set on killing all of humanity. But which is more important: saving the world or saving her daughter, Nassun? Nassun doesn’t want to save the world. After everything she’s been through, she’s decided it’s better to burn it all down. And her power is growing to rival her mother’s.

Like the previous books, The Stone Sky has three primary perspectives. Essun and Nassun are a given, but the novel also dives deeper into a character who’s been there from the very beginning: Hoa, an immortal stone eater who’s been guiding Essun’s journey. While the majority of the book is set in the timeline of Essun and Nassun, Hoa’s chapters flashback thousands of years, before the Shattering, showing how humankind’s hubris lead to the series of constant apocalypses. If you thought the scale of this story was already vast, it just got larger.

“They’re afraid because we exist, she says. There’s nothing we did to provoke their fear, other than exist. There’s nothing we can do to earn their approval, except stop existing – so we can either die like they want, or laugh at their cowardice and go on with our lives.”

Like the best works of speculative fiction, The Stone Sky is as much about our world as it is a fictional one. Sure, this book might be about an apocalypse. But it’s also about all the horrible things people can do to one another and how we can deny the humanity and personhood of other people. Like many other apocalyptic stories, it asks whether the survival of the human species is worthwhile if we loose our humanity, but it also dives deep into topics like oppression, slavery, genocide, and how past injustices effect the present. These are powerful themes, and The Stone Sky handles them brilliantly.

However, the heart of the book is the relationship between Essun and Nassun. Essun isn’t a particularly gentle or affectionate mother; there’s a horrifying moment in The Obelisk Gate where I realized she was inflicting some of the same childhood abuse she’d endured onto Nassun. She wants her daughter to survive, and she puts physical survival ahead of kindness or softness. It makes a horrifying sort of sense when you consider that Nassun is the only one of Essun’s three children who’s still alive. Essun loves her daughter, but she isn’t able to give Nassun the sort of parent-child relationship the girl needs.

The Stone Sky caps off the Broken Earth trilogy with a potent cocktail of emotions, powerful thematic material, stunning prose, and the innovative structure that’s become the norm for this trilogy. In short The Stone Sky solidifies how impressive Jemisin’s work on this trilogy is. I think we’re seeing a genre classic in the making.

Review from The Illustrated Page.
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LibraryThing member Guide2
Very good conclusion to the series that finally clears up a lot of hanging threads. Very ingenious world building overall.


Hugo Award (Nominee — Novel — 2018)
Nebula Award (Nominee — Novel — 2017)
Dublin Literary Award (Longlist — 2019)
Audie Award (Finalist — Best Female Narrator — 2018)
Locus Award (Finalist — Fantasy Novel — 2018)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

464 p.; 7.72 inches


0356508684 / 9780356508689
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