The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth Book 3), by N. K. Jemisin
This is the third in the award-winning Broken Earth series. So far the publisher’s wording hasn’t restricted it to “trilogy”. Tons of questions from the first two volumes have been answered, but there are a few that haven’t and one hopes that Jemisin can fill some of those out.
In The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate we follow the life of Essun from girlhood to the birth of her first child. She lives on an earth with a single continent called The Stillness that has regular seismic events. She is born an orogene. When trained in the mysterious and cruel Fulcrum orogenes can exert changes on the earth. But orogenes can also be dangerous and none of the other peoples in The Stillness fully accept them. In fact, Essun is discarded by her parents and taken to Fulcrum by one of the Guardians.
This book, like the first two, has an unusual lyric quality to the prose, telling the story from various perspectives as Essun learns to master orogenics, travels with the nearly insane Alabaster (trained by Fulcrum to be a 10th ring orogene, meaning he has passed ten tests and earned a ring for each) is pursued by Guardians who want to kill them, escapes with Alabaster, and has a child.
In this book we learn some of the following. (No spoilers. Just covering the questions that are answered, not what the answers are.) We learn the identity of the narrator who tells stories about Essun in the second-person-present tense. We learn that both Guardians and stone eaters are created not born. We learn that near immortality for these two races is painful. We learn that there are still remnants of an earlier civilization. We learn whether Nessun, Essun’s daughter who was almost killed by Nessun’s father for being an orogene, can overcome her hatred of her mother before the earth is destroyed. We learn whether the moon can be returned to its orbit. And we learn that “Father earth” may be more than a metaphor.
What would be worth another book is the backstory to all of this. The Fifth Season opens in an existing world with problems that have created a troubled civilization that may be killed off by the planet it lives on. What brought this on, what entity created the Guardians and stone eaters and for what purpose, and what happened to the dead civilization from earlier are all things that remain enigmatic. We’ll know whether Jesimin feels they deserve an answer when her next book is published.
Things that continue through this book include Essun’s relationship with stone eater Hoa, the fate of the underground comm (community) of Castrima, and the father/daughter relationship growing between the amnesiac Guardian, who tried to destroy Essun and Alabaster, and their daughter.
As with the earlier books, both Hugo Award winners, this book is hard to put down as Jesimin redefines the boundaries of science fantasy. Big stuff happens in an emotional finale. I’ll always think of this as an exceptional trilogy if it ends here, but I’ll be so happy if it continues in some way.