Without that twist from the first book–and without having another large twist in this one, which would end up feeling a bit gimmicky–it’s inevitable that this second entry in the The Broken Earth series would be a bit anticlimactic in comparison. And true to form, it sort of is.
My hopes that the second person narration would fade away didn’t happen, but the second person narrator (driven by the character’s growing knowledge) does get more omniscient such that it’s less frustrating to read, and at times feels like you’re reading a ‘normal’ third person narrator.
How on earth to talk about what’s happening in this book without giving anything away? Almost impossible, I think. Sort of like how Jemisin has created a second book with stakes without resorting to an endless series of cliffhangers from the first book.
The broadest of outlines: we still have some of the POV characters from the first novel (the blurb tells you that Alabaster Tenring is back, along with Essun). While you’re predisposed to be on Essun’s side, and not on the side of the named ‘enemy,’ Jemisin manages the almost impossible (again) and gives the other side (Essun’s daughter, Nassun) a background and motivation that…you almost care about more?
To be clear, Essun and Nassun end up sort of on the opposite sides of the view that you can take on the Stillness (the world) and what it should be in the future. You’d think you’d be on the side of Essun, since that’s who we’ve known the longest (and because she’s the protagonist and hero) but Nassun ends up making some pretty decent points. It’s all very twisty and fits together perfectly and makes you reconsider every other author who you’ve ever deemed competent.
The magic system continues to hold and expand in a reasonable way as well–that’s another thing I remember being wowed by, how the abilities of the characters don’t magically change to serve a plot purpose.