The Obelisk Gate picks up where The Fifth Season left off and continues the harrowing tale of survival in The Stillness when a fifth season (the season of death) is upon the land. Now we learn the stakes are higher than just survival. An ancient war has been brewing in the background for so long that not all the players are even aware one is occurring. The fifth season has fully gripped the land. Comms band together for mutual support and weaker comms fall, to the commless or a stronger comm. New horrors are discovered as animals and insects adapt to life in a season. People hope for acid rain to add some acidity to the alkaline soil that is being perpetually covered in volcanic ash.
In The Fifth Season N.K. Jemisin did an excellent job of setting up the character Essun, going into The Obelisk Gate you have a good understanding of why she is the way she is and her motivations. The season and a cold trail has made Essun give up her search for her daughter to focus on survival and the study of magic. Up til now, Essun has always thought of her orogeny in terms of forces, pressure and will but the deeper into orogeny she studies the more mysteries she finds. This book also introduces two new points of view giving deeper understanding of the Guardians and what a feral orogene can accomplish with guidance and freedom from the strictures of the Fulcrum.
The Obelisk Gate is easier to follow right from the start of the book as time proceeds in a linear fashion. This is different from the first book, where depending on who’s story line was happening would dictate which time in history it was. I’m sad to admit it took me an embarrassingly far amount into the book before realizing what was happening with time. The Obelisk Gate is an excellent follow up to the first volume in the Broken Earth trilogy. I am eagerly looking forward to the final volume The Stone Sky which fortunately comes out next month so I won’t have long to wait!