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Coming Soon: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

stone-skyTitle: The Stone Sky

Author: N. K. Jemisin

Series: The Broken Earth #3

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: August 15, 2017

The Overview: THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME. The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women. Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe. For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

 I raved about this series in my reviews of Fifth Season & Obelisk Gate, and can’t imagine Stone Sky being any less brilliant. It’s such a unique story. Maybe a little hokey on occasion, but I guarantee you’ve never read anything quite like it. I’m mostly looking forward to having all of my questions answered… there are so many layers of mystery in this series that will hopefully come together with a bang.

Is anyone else excited for this one too? :-)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemison

Title: The Obelisk Gate

Author: N. K. Jemisin

Series: The Broken Earth #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever. It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy. It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last. The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken. -Goodreads

The Review:

The Broken Earth series is an experience. It’s so off the beaten path of typical fantasy novels that I feel like I’m getting a special treat every time I pick one up.

Jemisin gets major kudos for originality, creating one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read. Her world building and overall concept for the story was delivered with a shadowed, almost creepy atmosphere that will stick with you long after you put it down. The real brilliance lies in the writing. In the Fifth Season, Jemisin wove her story through three different perspectives, the most compelling of which was told in second person (which utilizes the “you” pronoun – “You walk to the edge of the cliff. You don’t much like heights.”) It’s a writing style you don’t see very often because it’s difficult to pull off. The Obelisk Gate was told with two POVs, the primay of which also utilizes second person. The way Jemisin wove all of those POVs into a braided plot was phenomenal.

Obelisk Gate was a strong sequel, keeping all of the amazing attributes from The Fifth Season (for the most part). There weren’t quite as many moving parts, as the story narrowed its focus, but it still had a cool atmosphere, interesting POV’s, and loads of great world building. And answers. A lot of mysteries were introduced in The Fifth Season without really being expanded on. Many events that happened started to make a lot more sense in hindsight after the revelations revealed in Obelisk Gate. What’s more, it set up new questions that promise an epic conclusion with The Stone Sky, currently slotted for release on August 15, 2017.

While reading The Broken Earth trilogy, I constantly marveled at how brilliant I think it is – five stars across the board. When finished, however, I always seem to look back on it fondly, but with a slight pit in my stomach. Some of the scenes are so profound that I doubt I’ll ever forget them, which is a mark of a truly exceptional writer. But it’s that pit that makes me constantly question my rating. I’m not used to books throwing me into such turmoil long after I put them down. I change my mind about the rating for this series on a daily basis, bouncing back and forth between 4 and 5 stars. I’ve landed on a solid 4.5 stars, but regardless of the exact number, just know if you decide to give this series a try, you’re in for a stellar read.

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by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Title: The Fifth Season

Author: N. K. Jemisin

Series: The Broken Earth #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries. Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

The Review:

“The Fifth Season” by N. K. Jemisin first came across my radar when one of the authors I follow casually mentioned that it had a lot of great world-building. In fantasy, I find the more expansive the world-building, the more I tend to become immersed in the story. It has the power to leave me feeling like I’d done more than read a good book, I also had an experience with it. This is probably why I value world-building so highly when evaluating speculative fiction titles. Anyway, when “The Fifth Season” was announced as a nominee for the 2015 Nebula Awards, I knew I had to read it asap.

And it was one of the coolest books I’ve read in ages!

One of my favorite things about the book (and there were many) was the story construction. It was unconventional and totally unlike anything I’ve ever read. Jemisin wove together three POVs (one of which was written in 2nd person) that at first seemed unrelated, but you still got the sense that they’d eventually come together brilliantly (which they did). Jemisin broke rules left and right, deviating from what we are taught makes up solid story construction, and it was fantastic! She clearly knew enough about the rules of writing to break them and still have a solid piece of work to present. If I ever teach a class on writing technique, “The Fifth Season” will be one of my favorite books to have students analyze – it really was that well-done.

Jemisin created a world in which the very earth itself rises up against its inhabitants. The people are at the mercy of the various “seasons” which decimate the population whenever (and wherever) they strike. With such unstable environments, you’d think working together for survival would be everyone’s primary concern. People will be people, however, which means there was no shortage of politicking, power-seeking, and discriminating to be had. It was a fascinating composition of elements that somehow managed to be both foreign in presentation yet completely relatable in concept.

For example, prejudice is very prevailent through the book, but the targets are those gifted with the talent to sense and manipulate movement within the earth. It’s a subtle representation, but definitely makes you aware of the unfairness of each situation based on unjustified things beyond the victim’s control. It’s an aspect I really loved about “The Fifth Season” because it helped make the story thought-provoking and not just downright entertaining. The book also showed diversity in sexual identity and orientation, which you don’t come across too often in fantasy works. I applaud the author for not discriminating in her character construction and reminding us that, at the end of the day, were all just people doing our best to survive and find a measure of happiness.

Overall, I can see why “The Fifth Season” is getting so much attention and think it totally deserves every bit of it. It provided everything I want from a fantasy novel while shattering boundaries and disrupting the status quo at every turn. If I had any complaints, it’s that I’m craving to understand how this world works even more, and the second book (“The Obelisk Gate”) doesn’t come out until next August – woe is me! Fair warning: sexual content and language.

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by Niki Hawkes