This felt like a post-apocalyptic story within a post-post-post-apocalyptic story. In the aftermath of the last Fifth Season (a catastrophic event that causes massive destruction and changes the face of the Earth for an unspecified amount of time; the last one started in the first book), Essun finds herself in a new community, with everyone learning how to live and work together. There are bandits and bad communities, internal strife, lack of food and resources, and the usual post-apocalyptic worries.
Of course, this being an N.K. Jemisin book, there is so much more to it. In this book, we get to see what happened to Nassun, Essun’s little girl she was searching for in the first book. It is predictably heart-breaking. This nine-year-old orogene is stuck in a crumbling society and countryside with a father who’s afraid of her and hates her abilities. Nassun and her father find themselves in a community with a couple of…retired? broken?…Guardians. As Nassun learns to hone her skills, Essun is learning new ones, and unlearning some of the lessons the frightening Fulcrum beat into her. Both of them are using their brains and abilities to protect those around them.
This felt like a second in a trilogy, but that’s not at all a bad thing. The stakes seemed a little lower than the first book – it’s too late for the apocalypse to be prevented, so now it’s just about survival – but the new characters are interesting and complex. The second-person chapters are still a little jarring, but I understand why they’re written that way. Looking forward to the next book, and all the rest of the Jemisins after that!