Completed 2/16/2020, Reviewed 2/16/2020
I was a little disappointed in this last installment of The Broken Earth Trilogy. I thought it was slow going. It’s basically a travelogue of two of three the main characters. It probably didn’t help that it took me two years to read this third book, but still, because of how good the first two books were, I thought this would hold my interest better. It helped that there was a Glossary at the end of the book, which I reviewed early on in my reading to refamiliarize myself with the jargon and concepts. Still, I thought there could have been immediacy written into the traveling, as their actions at their destinations would determine the fate of the Earth.
As with the earlier books, there are three narratives. The narrative of Essun, the Orogene who is trying to save the Earth by bringing the approaching moon back into its orbit, is told in second person present. This in itself had previously been rivetingly told. Here, it was more about her relationships with several people in a newly formed community looking for a home. Yes, she was also searching for her daughter, Nassun, the subject of the third person narrative, but it just wasn’t gripping really gripping. The narrative of Nassun was also a mixed bag. She was going to the Obelisk Gate to destroy the Moon, which would destroy the Earth. She had seen a lot that was not good with humanity and thought it best to put it out of its misery. She’s only eleven years old at the time, but has seen the horrors that Stills inflict on the Orogenes, that is, the people who do not have any control over the seismic activities of the earth versus people like her who do. The third narrative told in first person by Hoa (Houwha), a Stone Eater, was much more interesting. It is a flashback into how the Moon was released from its orbit and how he became a Stone Eater. But even that plotline took an awfully long time to rev up.
The writing is still marvelous. The book was very readable even if the plots were slow. Her word selections were inspired. It went hand in hand with the world-building, which was quite excellent, even though most of the world-building had already happened in the first two books. There was so much more that was revealed in the deadcivs, that is, the ancient civilization’s cities that they encountered. The one part that was really riveting and terrifying was when Nassun and her Guardian travel through the middle of the Earth on something like a subway, passing through all the magic of the Earth’s center.
The ending was also riveting, which I was grateful for. You know it’s going to be a showdown between Essun and Nassun, but how it happens is quite a surprise. I’ll leave it at that as to avoid spoilers. But was it worth the wait? Not necessarily. All too often throughout the book, I just wanted it to get there.
The characterization is excellent. Even though it had been two years since I finished the second book, Jemisin did a great job of recalling the characters and their emotional lives. I felt like I had just put the books down yesterday, and she didn’t even have massive recaps at the beginning of the book. It was just enough to get me back into the swing of it, along with the reading of the Glossary.
I give the book three stars out of five because it just felt too long. About halfway through, I wanted to be done with it. I think part of the problem with the book is also that it is very depressing. There is very little humor in the book. We’re still in a Fifth Season, that is, six or more months of devastation from seismic and volcanic activity. So there’s desolation everywhere. And even though there’s diversity in the characters, the persecution of the Orogenes by the Stills is depressing. Particularly, Nassun’s view of the world at age eleven is just heartbreaking. There needed to be some type of levity to keep it from being such a drag to read. Reading the reader reviews, a lot of people loved this book. I can say I liked it, but didn’t love it as much as the first two. Still, I’ve become a fan of Jemisin’s writing and will definitely be reading more of her.