The novel “The Stone Sky” by N. K. Jemisin was published for the first time in 2017. It’s the third book in The Broken Earth trilogy and follows “The Obelisk Gate“. It won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, and Locus Award in the fantasy category as the best novel of the year.
Essun has awakened from the coma-like state she had fallen into and must deal with the aftermath of the events, what she did, and the powerful magic connected to the Obelisk Gate. She recovers but the Moon is approaching and will soon reach the closest point to Father Earth, a moment when Essun can try to bring it back into its ancient orbit. To do this, she has to go to Corepoint, on the other side of the world, and the stone eater Hoa offers to transport her across the planet.
Nassun showed that she has enormous power despite being just a little girl. She has her own idea of what to do with the Moon and she decides to go to Corepoint to try to carry out her plan together with her Guardian Schaffa. Mother and daughter have different ideas on how to end the Fifth Seasons, a further complication in plans that require them to manage immense powers.
“The Stone Sky” ends a trilogy that contains a single big story and therefore must be read completely. From the beginning, the genre was poorly defined even if it could be considered a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel in which there are people with powers such as orogeny. The second novel leans more towards fantasy with various mentions of magic, and in this final novel, there are both mentions of magic and ancient technologies. For this reason, it’s generally labeled as science fantasy, a hybrid between the two genres.
This trilogy is set many millennia after a catastrophe that caused enormous consequences on the entire planet including the loss of the Moon. The Fifth Seasons are periods of particularly intense geological activity. Only some people endowed with the power of orogeny can contain those catastrophes allowing the survival of the human species. Despite this, orogenes are hated and suffer discrimination.
The theme of an oppressed minority is present from the beginning of the trilogy, particularly through Essun’s story, which shows the life of the orogenes. It’s a theme that was further expanded in “The Stone Sky” with the story of Nassun and also in the flashbacks where the events leading up to the catastrophe are told.
In The Broken Earth trilogy, the events that caused the catastrophe continue to directly affect the future even after many millennia. A conclusion required actions connected to those events, so it makes sense that in this final book N. K. Jemisin created a way to tell them.
The story of the catastrophe makes the drama even heavier in a trilogy you should really not read if you have any tendency to depression. In the course of the great story told in the three books, above all, humanity’s negative sides emerge and the final theme of “The Stone Sky” concerns the salvation of the species with the doubt that it’s not worth saving.
In the end, Essun’s story is used by N. K. Jemisin to tell a big story that goes beyond the Earth and covers many millennia of history. Genre labels are limiting for a trilogy that uses some classic elements from different genres to address important themes, so I recommend it to anyone interested in those themes regardless of genre labels.