Book Review of The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin pulls no punches in the conclusion of her epic trilogy, set in a world where every couple of centuries, a natural disaster spontaneously plunges civilization into a post-apocalyptic nightmare. The questions that readers have been puzzling over for hundreds of pages are finally answered in The Stone Sky as Jemisin interrogates oppression, motherhood, and the relationship between humans and their environment. The tension palpitating through the pages of the first two books of this trilogy reaches a boiling point that reveals the earth in all its molten glory, personified as an ancient and magical creature. And this living creature is angry.

It is hard to look at Jemisin’s vindicated earth and not think back to the way we treat our own earth. As oil companies drill deeper and industries funnell noxious pollutants into the air, temperatures rise and our earth is thrown out of its natural cycles. If our earth were a living, feeling being, what would it say? Would it embrace us like an old friend or would it lash out at us in the face of its exploitation? Can we even call the earth ours when we treat it so poorly? Jemisin’s recount of a society’s perish following its attempt to harness the earth implores us to ask these questions of ourselves, and the answers we find in this novel are as terrifying as they are poignant. 

In The Stone Sky, Jemisin not only explores the exploitation of the earth, but of people too, through her world that scrutinizes the select few within the population that have the power to control tectonic plates, called Orogenes. Jemisin confronts disparate feelings amongst oppressed peoples by pitting main character Essun and her daughter, Nassun, head to head. Both characters have faced the tremendous weight of oppression for all their lives, but react to this oppression extremely differently. Jemisin gives this mother-daughter duo the ending they deserve, and despite their ideological differences, they share an understanding of pain and love. 

As much pain as there is in The Stone Sky, Jemisin does not shy away from joy. Even this dark world teems with friendship that shows that light can be found even in the most desolate times. As we approach the end of the novel, we are forced to ask ourselves, does a world built on oppression have any hope of being better? Does it even deserve that chance? As friends turn into family and the messy but interconnected relationship between the earth and its people is finally brought to light, this book has an answer. It resounds, Yes. 

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