THE OBELISK GATE by N.K. Jemisin
Last year when I read The Fifth Season for a book club, I was glad to have taken a step outside my reading comfort zone, because I ended up really loving it. I think N.K. Jemisin is a really brilliant writer, and it was one of the most original fantasy novels I’d ever read. I was expecting to love The Obelisk Gate even more, since I was going to be able to dive straight into it without the “what the heck is going on” feeling that plagued me for a large part of The Fifth Season until everything fell into place, but I think The Obelisk Gate fell victim to Second Book Syndrome. There was just so much filler and transition in this novel.
Hardcore fantasy fans probably love the way science and magic play off each other in this series – but I am not a hardcore fantasy fan. For me, Jemisin’s world building crosses the line from ‘thorough’ to ‘punishingly intricate.’ I’m awed by the complexity of this concept of orogeny that she’s created – I just don’t think she’s always able to communicate the nuances to the reader in an accessible way. That was my main hangup with this book – I got tired of feeling like I was groping around in the dark. But again, take that with a grain of salt – seasoned fantasy readers are obviously the target audience for this series.
But let’s move on. Jemisin’s characters are brilliant. I loved getting to spend more time with Essun and Alabaster, and enjoyed all the new characters who were introduced. Jemisin’s writing, as always, is superb – she creates a tone that’s tense and cynical and completely engrossing. The last 50 pages or so were epic – I just felt the book was rather stagnant until it got to this point. At any rate, I am looking forward to reading The Stone Sky and seeing how Jemisin concludes this series – I’m sure it’ll be amazing.