Review: The Obelisk Gate


  • Release Date: August 16th, 2016
  • Author: N.K. Jemisin
  • Website:
  • ISBN: 9780316229265


When a customer comes to me for a science-fiction recommendation, the first thing I pull from the shelf is N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. “It’s like Between the World and Me written as an apocalyptic revenge saga,” I say with a grin, probably for the seventh time that day. It’s no secret that I’m a little in love with this book. Set in a world where bizarre extinction events happen every  couple of centuries, it begins with an earthquake that may have literally split the continent in two. The story follows Essun, a powerful orogene — a person with the ability to control (and cause) seismic events — after she discovers that her young son was murdered by her husband, who has fled with their daughter as the aftershocks of the earthquake begin to hit.

With The Obelisk Gate, Jemisin maintains her position as one of the most talented sci-fi/fantasy writers in the field. The Obelisk Gate is the middle installment in the trilogy and it picks up right where the first book left off (which is too big of a spoiler to reveal, so I won’t.) Unlike the first book, which carried readers to all corners of this strange world, the sequel stays fairly stationary. Indeed, in a lot of ways, The Obelisk Gate is a bridge book: compared to the kinetic years-spanning narrative of The Fifth Season, the sequel is a breather, giving the story and the readers a chance to process what has been learned while feeding in new twists of its own.

The most notable addition is the introduction of a new perspective character: Essun’s daughter, Nassun. Nassun begins the novel on the road with her father, who has just murdered her baby brother — and might murder her, too, if he realizes she is an orogene. Jemisin does a powerful and heartbreaking job of depicting the fear, trauma, and toxic coping mechanisms that emerge from cycles of abuse. I’m almost hesitant to see how it all plays out in Book 3.

But that’s just the thing: like I did when I finished The Fifth Season, I nearly chucked The Obelisk Gate across the room because I was so frustrated that Book 3 won’t be out for another year or so. This trilogy knows how to leave you hungry.