The fifth season, the season of death, has begun, and ash falls continuously from the sky. Essun’s journey leads to the underground geode city of Castrima, where she finds her old teacher and lover, Alabaster Tenring. He’s destroyed his body breaking the continent, and now Essun must learn all she can about the ancient obelisks in order to save the world. A slight backtrack in time from the end of the first book shows the journey of Essun’s daughter Nassun and her father, Jija, as they move south.

A worthy sequel despite initial pacing issues, The Obelisk Gate excels in world-building and subtle, masterful storytelling. I get the feeling that N. K. Jeminsin is calculatedly revealing each detail of her crafted plan, and it feels good. Each character perseveres against all odds, especially discrimination and cruelty, and even though I am frustrated by Essun, Alabaster, and Nassun’s decisions, I also understand their choices because of their flaws.

The Stone-eaters capture my imagination in chapter 1 of the Fifth Season, and with Alabaster himself slowly turning to stone, several more Stone-eater characters are involved, with varying degrees of intimacy. But the unexpected highlight of the middle book of the series turns out to be Nassun, who desires only to be loved by a father who hates what she is, and who killed her little brother in a fit a passion because of their curse. But Nassun and her father meet someone on the road who changes everything.

I cannot wait for the conclusion of this mesmerizing series! Highly recommended for fans of diverse scifi and highly intricate fantasy worlds!

“You obeyed, once, because you thought it would make you safe. He showed you—again and again, unrelentingly, he would not let you pretend otherwise—that if obedience did not make one safe from the Guardians or the nodes or the lynchings or the breeding or the disrespect, then what was the point? The game was too rigged to bother playing.”