Author’s Note: This review contains spoilers for previous books in the Broken Earth trilogy.
Essun has searched for her daughter Nassun for years since the most recent Season began in the Stillness, and she finally found her — under the worst possible circumstances. Now, as Essun prepares to catch the moon in order to appease Father Earth and stop the last of all Seasons, she also faces the knowledge that her greatest enemy is also the person she loves most.
The Stone Sky is the final installment of N.K. Jemisin’s award-winning Broken Earth trilogy. In 2016’s The Obelisk Gate, protagonist Essun learned to harness the power of the eponymous gate, which she used for… somewhat less than savory purposes. But Nassun, who’s so young she hasn’t hit puberty yet, also learned to harness great orogenic power as well as magic, and she’s become convinced that some things are too broken to fix.
That concept — things too broken to fix — is a theme woven throughout the novel, and one that builds all the way into the climax. While framed as a question for two women who will decide the fate of the world in the midst of the apocalypse, it’s an especially timely question in the United States, where politically conscious citizens are forced to look at whether some of our systems are, in fact, too broken to fix.
The Broken Earth has always been sobering, but The Stone Sky takes that to a new level as Essun and Nassun come closer to the truth of what happened in the Stillness. A world built by people so blind to the concept of compassion that they ripped apart the very planet they lived on.
The Stone Sky deals very much with how children suffer from their parents’ choices, both literally in the case of Nassun and more metaphorically in terms of how the people who now live in the Stillness continue to suffer because of the choices made by their forebears. The questions that Essun faces are questions we also have to ask ourselves: how do we repair the damages done by the founders of our society? How can we improve our society even as we’re struggling just to survive in it?
Jemisin is a master worldbuilder, and in the Broken Earth triolgy, she’s crafted something truly spectacular. The social structure of the Stillness — which has a more or less unified culture under the former Sanzed Empire — is well-developed, and some of its intricacies are integral to the plot, which makes for a truly immersive reading experience.
Yet the Stillness still has things readers will recognize from their own societies: privileges based on physical attributes, sometimes made even more pronounced because of the Breeder caste; rifts between the rich and poor; prejudice and hatred is there, as is unconditional love.
The Stone Sky is a heart-stopping conclusion to the trilogy, and I highly recommend the series. It’s an excellent next read for those who have been following shows like The Man in the High Castle and The Handmaid’s Tale but found the series lacking in representation; it’s also a fascinating story for readers who feel something “off” about the world they live in.
5 out of 5 stars
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