The Stone Sky
File:Jemisin The Stone Sky cover.jpg|
|Author||N. K. Jemisin|
|Series||The Broken Earth trilogy|
|August 15, 2017|
|Media type||Print, e-book|
|Preceded by||The Obelisk Gate|
The Stone Sky is a 2017 science fantasy novel by American writer N. K. Jemisin. It was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2018. Reviews of the book upon its release were highly positive. It is the third volume in the Broken Earth series, following The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, both of which also won the Hugo Award.
As with the other books in the Broken Earth series, The Stone Sky is mostly set in a single supercontinent referred to as the Stillness by its inhabitants.
The Stillness is constantly wracked by geological cataclysms, and every few hundred years an event is severe enough to touch off a global volcanic winter, referred to as a Fifth Season. Some characters, referred to as orogenes, have the ability to manipulate geological energies on a large scale, as well as magic on a smaller scale. They are a persecuted and feared minority, though it is largely due to their efforts humanity has survived the Seasons at all.
Following the events of The Obelisk Gate, the former inhabitants of Castrima-under are moving north after damage has compromised the mechanisms of the geode and made it uninhabitable. Essun, who has been in a coma since opening the Obelisk Gate, awakens to find that her arm has turned to stone as a consequence of the massive magical energies of the Gate. She is nursed back to health, and finds that the Moon is approaching the closest point in its long, elliptical orbit, meaning that she has only a short time to return it to a normal orbit and end the Fifth Seasons forever.
Meanwhile, Essun's daughter Nassun is recovering from the shock of using an obelisk to kill her father by turning him to stone. Despondent and angry, she resolves to use the Obelisk Gate to cause the approaching Moon to collide with Earth and destroy both. Her Guardian, Schaffa, agrees to help her reach the only city on the other side of the planet, Corepoint; from there, the Obelisk Gate can be activated without the need for the central control obelisk that Essun used.
The comm reaches Rennanis after a costly desert crossing, where Essun learns that Nassun is planning to open the Gate as Essun did, which would almost certainly mean her death. She departs for Corepoint with a small company to intercept Nassun. Just prior to leaving, she learns she is pregnant with Lerna's child; however, as they traverse directly through the Earth (skirting around the core), they are attacked by a rival faction of stone eaters and Lerna is killed.
Nassun and Schaffa reach the ruins of a city in the Antarctic region, from which Schaffa believes transportation is available to Corepoint. They descend into the ruins, where it is revealed that the Earth is a living consciousness, furious with humanity's attempts to control it and the loss of Earth's moon, which Earth blames humanity for. The core is rich with the magical energy that forms the Earth's consciousness, and Nassun realizes this directly fuels the Guardians' abilities and longevity through an iron shard embedded in their brains.
After the Earth removes an iron shard from Schaffa's brain, dooming him to an early death, Nassun decides to use the Gate to transform everyone on Earth into stone eaters, rather than destroying the Earth and Moon outright. Essun arrives and attempts to seize control of the Gate using the central control obelisk in order to return the Moon to orbit, end the Seasons, and save Nassun from certain death. They struggle, but neither can gain an upper edge, and Essun gives up to allow her daughter to complete her task, rather than risk her destruction. She releases control of the Gate and is completely turned to stone. Nassun, moved by the sight, decides to complete her mother's task and use the Gate to return the Moon to orbit.
In the aftermath, Essun is transformed into a new stone eater, and she sets out with another character to make an improved world.
The Broken Earth series uses several different styles of narration. The most widely remarked upon is its use of second person. It is eventually revealed that the books' narrator is Hoa. In The Stone Sky, Hoa narrates portions of the book set in the past in first person, and portions set in the present in second person (for Essun's perspective) and third person (for Nassun's perspective). Jemisin has stated that she isn't sure what prompted her to try writing Essun's chapters from a second person point-of-view, but that she ultimately chose to keep writing in second person because it conveyed "disassociation of [Essun], the not-all-here of her".
The Stone Sky's release was anticipated on several "best of" upcoming science fiction and fantasy lists, including The Washington Post and io9, and reception upon its release was laudatory, with reviewers from Tor and The Verge asserting that it was likely to win Jemisin a third consecutive Hugo Award for Best Novel, behind The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate. These reviewers were correct as The Stone Sky won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2018, and brought Jemisin the extraordinary achievement of winning the Hugo Award for best novel in three consecutive years.
In starred reviews, Publishers Weekly summed up the novel as having "vivid characters, a tautly constructed plot, and outstanding worldbuilding" that came together in "an impressive and timely story of abused, grieving survivors fighting to fix themselves and save the remnants of their shattered home", and Kirkus Reviews noting that "Jemisin continues to break the heart with her sensitive, cleareyed depictions of a beyond-dysfunctional family and the extraordinarily destructive force that is prejudice." RT Book Reviews gave the book five stars, higher than the first two books in the series. Library Journal did not give The Stone Sky a star, but called it a "powerful conclusion" with a "fully developed world, detailed settings, and complex characters".
NPR's reviewer Amal El-Mohtar praised the novel's twist on traditional fantasy and science-fiction, which usually posits that a world is worth saving. "The Stone Sky rejects this out of hand", El-Mohtar writes. "If the Broken Earth trilogy as a whole shows a world where cataclysm and upheaval is the norm, The Stone Sky interrogates what right worlds built on oppression and genocide have to exist." Tor.com's Niall Alexander, who was critical of The Obelisk Gate, declared that The Stone Sky was a "comprehensive confirmation of N. K. Jemisin as one of our very finest fantasists", and that as a whole, the series is "one of the great trilogies of our time". Barnes & Noble's Joel Cunningham agreed, asserting that it "reshapes the face of epic fantasy", as did The Verge's Andrew Liptak, praising the book as "a triumphant achievement in fantasy literature". He concluded:<templatestyles src="Template:Quote/styles.css"/>
Every now and again there comes a work that seeks to redefine the face of genre literature, from Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness to William Gibson's Neuromancer. With the Broken Earth trilogy, Jemisin has made a place for herself among these greats, pulling off a landmark story that blends fantasy, science fiction, and post-apocalyptic tropes. Finishing The Stone Sky left me utterly breathless by the scale and scope of what Jemisin accomplished in these three books—narratively, technically, and thematically.
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- Liptak, Andrew (August 17, 2017). "N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy is a triumphant achievement in fantasy literature". The Verge. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
- El-Mohtar, Amal (August 19, 2017). "In 'The Stone Sky,' Some Worlds Need To Burn". NPR. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
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- Mason, Everdeen (August 4, 2017). "Best science fiction and fantasy books in August". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
- Eddy, Cheryl (January 9, 2017). "The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in 2017". io9. Gizmodo. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
- Alexander, Niall (August 17, 2017). "Till the World Burns: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin". Tor.com. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
- "The Stone Sky". Kirkus Reviews. July 4, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
- "The Stone Sky". RT Book Reviews. August 15, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
- McArdle, Megan M.; Chadwick, Kristi (July 2017). "science fiction/fantasy". Library Journal: 60.
- Christensen, Ceridwen (August 8, 2017). "The Stone Sky Is a Trilogy-Ender That Reshapes the Face of Epic Fantasy". The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog. Retrieved August 18, 2017.