Recommendation: Must Read
The Stone Sky, the final book in the The Broken Earth trilogy is a satisfying conclusion to the series, but not a feel good one. The underlying feeling of despair and fatalism remains. While the ending was positive, it was still dark and bitter. All of the story threads are neatly wrapped up, this is far from a fairy tale ending. It has a feeling of, “We passed this hurdle, but the race isn’t over.”
It’s hard to write a review of this book that really does it justice. While I wouldn’t call any of the books in the series action-packed, The Stone Sky was a lot less action-oriented than the previous two books, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate. It focuses mostly on rounding out the characters, putting on those last minute touches that make them feel so realistic. That’s not to say there aren’t action sequences and conflict throughout, but the focus of the novel isn’t on Michael Bay-style battles. It’s the quiet moments of self reflection that drive this story more than anything else.
The plot revolves around Essun and her daughter Nassun separately rushing to the other side of world to an ancient city called Corepoint to end the conflict with Father Earth. Nassun’s solution is slightly more fatalistic (OK, a lot more), and Essun travels to Corepoint to confront her daughter before she ends the world. What I loved about this was how believable Nassun’s early teenagers solution to the problem – it was un-nuanced and ham handed–everything I expect from teenage problem solving.
For all the focus on the central players, the supporting characters felt more hollow this time. I had trouble understanding their motivations at times as they seemed more like plot devices than characters. The one character, a Lorist — basically a warrior-sage — was especially interesting to me, but she never really evolved beyond a loosely sketched character with lightly drawn motivations. I wanted to know more, to have more details, but the lines never really got filled in.
There was a bit of a plot twist that I figured out about half-way through the book. It was satisfyingly done and the realization sneaked up on me. The hints were there, scattered throughout all three books, and when everything clicked, I was pleasantly surprised as how well I had been guided through the whole realization.
I especially enjoyed the additional story about Hoa, the Stone Eater. Jemisin included flashbacks to when Hoa was much younger and provided context on who is, and who the stone eaters are and how they came to be. Most importantly, we find out the story of how the world came to be as it is today.
As with the previous two books, there’s an underlying fatalism, or despair that courses throughout the story. It fits in the world, and makes sense. I’ve written about it a fair amount in the other two reviews, so I’ll keep it brief here. You don’t realize how optimistic many other stories are until you are read a story where no one is, and where there is no real happy ending.
This was a fitting end to the trilogy. I hope Jemisin goes back to the world in the future with new stories because I think there’s a lot of fertile ground there for more. This book, like the whole series, isn’t a feel good story–it’s dark, sad, rife with conflict and loss. I think that’s what makes it so important to read and so powerful. This series will stay with me for a while, as well it should.