N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy is a triumphant achievement in fantasy literature

The Stone Sky is a phenomenal end to a fantastic series

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It’s easy to be hyperbolic when praising novels: every promising new author’s work is described as a “future classic.” But last week, fantasy author N.K. Jemisin became one of a handful of authors to win the Hugo award for Best Novel two years in a row, first for her 2015 novel The Fifth Season, then for its 2016 sequel The Obelisk Gate. After reading the final book in the trilogy, The Stone Sky, I think it’s likely that she’ll do it again next year. The book is a phenomenal end to one the greatest works of fantasy literature ever put to page: the Broken Earth trilogy

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There are some spoilers ahead for the entire trilogy.

The Broken Earth trilogy is set on a massive continent called the Stillness, in a far-future Earth wracked with periodic disasters known as Seasons. These Seasons aren’t just bad storms: they’re massive, apocalyptic events that last for generations, reshaping the world and its inhabitants. Those who survive huddle into Comms, protected communities that try to wait out the destruction, then crawl out and rebuild civilization before the next event. There are also remnants of an advanced civilization that persist throughout the destruction: giant, floating crystals called Obelisks.

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Among the survivors of humanity are “orogenes,” individuals who can draw incredible magical power from reservoirs of the Earth. But while these orogenes serve a useful purpose for society, their training and treatment is brutal. They’re taken from their homes as children and brought to the Fulcrum, an order that trains and certifies them under the supervision of yet another order, known as the Guardians. When the Seasons come, they’re often singled out for death from Stills, their non-magical counterparts.

Jemisin sets up a fantasy world unlike any other that I’ve read, blending together fantasy and science fiction in this far-future Earth, and building up a magical system based around the forces of geology: indeed, the name orogene comes from the word orogeny, the process of mountain-building. Once they complete their brutal training, orogenes draw their power from the Earth’s crust, and are sent to where they’re most useful: quelling Earthquakes to trying and hold off the start of the next apocalyptic Season. As someone who grew up with a deep appreciation for rocks, and later studied geology, seeing magicians deal with the Earth as a dynamic object is a real treat to behold. And while epic fantasy often deals with titanic periods of time, Jemisin is the first author I’ve come across who truly understands the sheer scale of time when it comes to geology. keep reading 

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