Bingo Square (Round 2): This is the End
In this final Hugo Award winning novel of The Broken Earth trilogy, Jemisin finally takes us back to the Shattering, the beginning of the Seasons and explains exactly how the world as Essun and Nassun know it came into being. There have already been many reviews singing the praises of this trilogy so I am going to keep it short and basic.
Hoa has been the narrator throughout the trilogy but in this one, he finally narrates his own origin story while also telling the story of how Essun and Nassun reach the final parts of their journey to use the Obelisk Gate and end or save the world as they decide.
While the previous novels have already alluded to the hubris and arrogance of the deadciv society that broke the world, the origin of the obelisks is so much darker than expected. The post-Shattering societies have been built on the backs of the suffering and dehumanization of the orogenes. And yes, orogenes have potentially dangerous and terrible power but they are also the reason humanity has survived. Rather than working with them, though, and being thankful to them, society has turned them into tools and even made the orogenes hate themselves. As it turns out, Syl Anagist also saw humans more as tools and means to an end. Life is sacred to them but for what it does and how it helps their society run, not because of the individual. Alabaster was inspired to destroy the world to rid his people of their cages, and he is merely following in a long tradition of other subjugated peoples.
The other big theme running through these novels is motherhood and mother-daughter relationships. Jemisin explains in the afterword that her mother died while she was completing this trilogy, and why this topic ended up being on her mind even if she hadn’t quite realized it as she started.
This is a trilogy about the end of the world and cruelties humans inflict upon each other, and the choices that are made to maintain power. As a result, not many characters get the happy ending they deserve. Essun and Nassun have both been hardened by the world around them and how it views them, though they end up with slightly different outlooks for the future.
I quite liked the ending (even if I hoped for better for a few of the minor characters – Jemisin definitely takes a realistic approach in showing how often people don’t get what they deserve), and I appreciate how she answered so many of the questions. Sure, I would love more details about various parts of this world’s history but she gave the reader enough to understand the basics. There is no need to explain millennia of developments even though I would love to read more about them. In previous novels, the chapters ended with advice from the lore, but this novel focuses on historical anecdotes and records of how populations turned on orogenes or how often orogenes sacrificed themselves to save a community that hated them.
The ending isn’t clean, there isn’t a solution that suddenly makes everything magically better, but there is a sense of hope and possibility. Perhaps, this time around, humanity has learned and will try a different and better way. It is still tough going but it leaves something for the people to strive towards, and the trilogy has even introduced some people that might be the right ones to lead to that better solution.
Bingo Square: This is the End