It’s funny–I really liked this book, but find myself struggling a bit to remember what happened specifically in it. I remember the broad strokes and the feeling of finishing it very well, but not so much the details of the plot.
As a set up: we’re still focusing on the travails of Essun, orogene par none (maybe), and the counteracting travails of Nessun, her daughter, orogene of renown. What really set this novel apart from the prior entry was the emphasis on ‘how we got here,’ aka that contentious tool: the flashback.
Which is to say, how much you like this book will absolutely boil down to how much, in general, you enjoy backstory and world building and details. For someone like me, who finds the appendices of LotR more enjoyable than any of the books themselves, plotlines/chapters like this are literal catnip. I would probably read an entire other book on the history of the Stillness and what came before the Shattering and the Shattering and some of the stories hinted at in the appendices of these books (like, the various other Fifth Seasons of the past).
It might not come as any surprise to astute readers, but as always I am not that and am a very present reader.
Another win for me, which might turn off other readers: the grand final climax is less along the veins of the Battle for Gondor and is very much a Frodo-and-Sam-at-Mt.-Doom type situation. And I can’t say that the ending is truly a neat and tidy one, because there’s a decent amount of uncertainty left to work through (you cannot change an entire society’s racist views by force, show of heroism, or anything) (right? how can you? has anyone figured this out?). But it’s a good ending, emotionally satisfying, and ties everything together in a truly clever and creative way.