I’m done with a couple of the novels before the short story, after all. Went on a brief tour with a singing group over the week end and read on the bus. Jemisin’s novel was published by Orbit. It ended up with 11 recommendations on the Nebula Recommended Reading List.

After Nassun’s father Jija kills her brother Uche, he takes her south ahead of the smoke and ash of the Rift, eventually ending up at the Antarctic comm where the Guardian Schaffa welcomes them. Essun, meanwhile, is still at the Castrima comm, where she and the stone eater Hoa have found a group of people accepting of orogenes. The dying Alabaster, who tore the Rift in the continent, is also at Castrima, and he tells Essun she needs to learn to connect the obelisks in order to correct the moon’s orbit and stop the Seasons that have nearly caused human extinction. Paradoxically, Schaffa tells Nassun the same thing. While Essun is still struggling with controlling her powers, Castrima is threatened by another comm. Can she defeat the invaders and save the world?

I wasn’t looking forward to reading this one, as I actively disliked last year’s The Fifth Season. Maybe I was just ready for the scenario this year, but this one suited me a lot better. Pros: The story is complex but narrated fairly consistently this time (second person for Essun and third for Nassun), which makes it quite a bit more readable. It still moves at a glacial pace, but the action rises continually to a nice climax at the end. With the plan to rescue the moon, we have some hope of making things better, but the risks here are such that I’m not expecting any of these people will survive. Maybe Nassun.

Cons: Introducing magic into the mix sort of muddies the waters. I thought orogeny was a natural, inborn talent to manipulate the earth and that this was science fiction, but now these people look like witches instead and I’m uncertain about the rules of their magic. Also, I’ve lost that little pique of wonder about the obelisks, but it’s balanced a bit by some scary things going on related to free will. I still don’t much like the characters, but this novel looks quite a bit more award worthy than Jemisin’s entry last year.

Four and a half stars.

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