Yeah, no, that’s it, that’s my review — that one sentence at the end of a preview drew me in, and if you’re not at least a little curious this book might not be for you. But if you are curious…
Unavoidable spoilers for the first book follow, though really this series is largely unspoilable due to the books spoiling themselves all over the place, so… your mileage may vary. Suffice it to say that if you haven’t read the first book, I really do very much recommend it and you can come back to this after you’re done reading it.
Okay, so. This book picks up just after the end of the last book, I think, with Essun chilling in Castrima-under, the world’s weirdest geode. Essun would really rather leave this comm and continue searching for her daughter, Nassun, but pragmatism and Alabaster keep her in Castrima, where she can better survive and maybe learn how to end the terrible season that Alabaster started.
But actually, the book starts with us finding out what’s up with Nassun. After her father murders her brother he realizes maybe murdering children isn’t the greatest idea, and so he decides to take Nassun to a comm called Found Moon, where, allegedly, orogenes go to become stills. But of course, that’s not exactly what Nassun finds when she arrives.
The first book of this series was a huge exercise in world-building, giving us the lay of this land through the history and experiences of Essun. This second book does a little bit more of that, explaining the moon thing and giving us more info about stone eaters and obelisks and Guardians, but it’s also about power and how it’s wielded and who gets to wield it and why and how.
The first book wasn’t exactly subtle about its allusions to our current racial tensions, but this book digs in a little deeper and makes some very direct comparisons that I found pretty interesting. I know it’s pretty common for fantasy stories to portray societal norms in a way that makes people re-think them, but I really like that this one makes sure you know that’s what it’s doing but still offers up a story that isn’t just the one thing.
I missed the emphasis on action and adventure of the first book, and it took me a while to get into the more talky aspects of this one, but I still really very much enjoyed this book. As always, the world-building and characters are excellent, and the writing is just absolutely amazing and includes all the right swears in all the right places. And, you know, it doles out all the good tidbits of story at precisely the right moments to make you want more. Like right now. It’s a good think I’m still catching up on Jemisin’s backlist, or it might be a code red around here.
Recommendation: Read only after reading the first book, but absolutely go read the first book.