The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin


Rate: 4/5


Medium: Book


Overview (No Spoilers):

It is rare that I let a highly anticipated book set on my bookshelf for months after the release date, especially when it happens to be the culminating installment in a trilogy. Alas that is what happened to The Stone Sky. Despite thoroughly enjoying The Fifth Seasonand The Obelisk Gate, I couldn’t seem to get into The Stone Sky. Three or four times I picked up this novel, only to read approximately 15 pages, get distracted and put the book aside whereupon I had to start the process over again. My apprehension was due in part to the anxiety felt whenever starting a book that you’re been looking forward to as it might not live up to preconceived expectations. As well as, the writing style being one that takes work and effort to acclimate your brain to translating, especially when it has been months since finishing The Obelisk Gate. As such, one has to be in the right mood and have the right time allotment available to make the needed adjustment. Needless to say, once familiarized with the previously traversed literary terrain, this final segment satisfyingly fills in many of the puzzle pieces that had been eluding us from the beginning. Of note, we finally learn Hoa’s and the stone eaters backstory, specifically their involvement in the current state of affairs. Additionally, we are treated to a our two diverse parties embarking on dangerous journeys that yield fantastic, previously unmentioned realms leading to a slow building up of events worthy of the two earlier brilliant novels. Alas, multiple times throughout The Stone Sky, especially during flashbacks, I had the realization that I, as a reader, was completely lost as to what was occurring. As someone that delights in excessive details, it is rather painful to admit that I knew what was being described was momentous, however even with rereading the sections multiple times I couldn’t quite fathom the specifics of what was occurring. I was left with the hazy feeling that I could infer the gist of what had just happened without being able to describe in detail the actual events. Perhaps that was the point as Hoa was recalling these memories which originally took place forty thousand years ago. As frustrating as that type of reading is, the rest of the book more than made up for those few blurred passages. I’ve enjoyed reflecting throughout reading The Stone Sky on the growth that this series has undergone, from the readers understanding of the world to the key characters. Overall, I would highly recommend this exceptional trilogy to any lover of detailed world building, coupled with a truly unique, elegant prose, all employed to deliver the thought provoking premise of an abused Father Earth taking revenge on the masses after being pushed past his breaking point.


Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • The trek across the desert sounded so brutal. I loved Hoa’s account of the little ways that he helped. Why didn’t he help more? Maybe transport the people wholesale across the killing zone?
  • How long did it take Essun to hatch out of her geode? Hoa describes it as without any emphasis in timing but it could have been years, centuries, if not longer. Is everyone she knew dead? Will she seek out Nassun?
  • Did the other orogene children that Nassun and Schaffa abandoned survive?
  • How will the new stone eater Essun interact with stone eater Alabaster?
  • Do stone eaters love/have relationships or is Hoa unique?
  • I thought it was interesting that the key players in Hoa’s back story turned out to be the stone eaters of the current narrative. How will this information change how the reader would view them in the first two novels?
  • Who trapped Hoa in the obelisk? How did it get submerged? Maybe I’m misremembering this part?
  • Schaffa was suppose to be old enough to remember the splitting. Who was he? Was he in the initial room with the iron split? How did the Guardians get started? How did orogeny get started? From the race that had been enslaved?
  • Are the guardians really destroyed or were there others still roaming the earth?
  • Did the season end with the moon returning to orbit?
  • Will Nassun continue to mature or rue the day that she almost destroyed the earth?
  • Will she be able to not use her powers?
  • What happened in the city that was domed in by lava?
  • Can stone eaters really never die? Didn’t Hoa almost die in the last book? What happened when Essun trapped them in the crystals?
  • Does Tonkee survive? I felt like her unique character never fully lived up to her potential. She should have been able to hold her own with the tinkering or creating.
  • Poor Lerna. Another mildy utilized character. His character’s death was so abrupt and shocking that if we had developed more of an attachment it would have been devastating. What was he thinking when he died? Was it painful? Did he even realize what had happened? Essun being pregnant with his child felt like a cheap ploy to make us connect with him. When Essun was remade as a stone eater, is the child somehow still part of her since she was remade from her stone body?
  • Why didn’t the rival faction of stone eaters continue to fight above ground once Essun arrived in Corepoint?
  • We were finally treated to the reunion so desired! Essun and Nassun! Granted it was a bit anticlimactic in its brevity, however Essun giving in so that Nassun might live was indeed a powerful scene.

Vocabulary Builder:

When reading it is common that I encounter words that I’m not privy to the exact definition, however it is easy to infer the meaning of the aforementioned word based on the context of the sentence and story. As such, relatively new to the Critiquing Chemist, you’ll find an additional section that includes vocabulary words that I encountered upon reading the book being reviewed and either had to look up the definition or it is a word in which I would like to add to my repertoire. This endeavor is easier when in the Kindle format, and potentially impossible with audiobooks, however I’m going to attempt to continue this section for all future book reviews. I’ll be using the definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Atavistic: recurrence in an organism of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form and usually due to genetic recombination

Existential: having being in time and space

Belies to give a false impression of 

Incontrovertible: not open to question

Presage: something that foreshadows or portends a future event

Pique:a transient feeling of wounded vanity

Basalt: a dark gray to black dense to fine-grained igneous rock that consists of basic plagioclase, augite, and usually magnetite

Lahars: a moving fluid mass composed of volcanic debris and water

Disparate: containing or made up of fundamentally different and often incongruous elements

Quiescence: marked by inactivity or repose

Cabochon: a gem or bead cut in convex form and highly polished but not faceted

Pidgin: a simplified speech used for communication between people with different languages

Dichotomy: a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities

Inchoate: being only partly in existence or operation

Emulation: ambition or endeavor to equal or excel others

Enmeshment: to catch or entangle in or as if in meshes

Agglomerations: the action or process of collecting in a mass

Attenuated: to lessen the amount, force, magnitude, or value of

Rime: an accumulation of granular ice tufts on the windward sides of exposed objects that is formed from supercooled fog or cloud and built out directly against the wind

Caldera: a volcanic crater that has a diameter many times that of the vent and is formed by collapse of the central part of a volcano or by explosions of extraordinary violence

Poniard: a dagger with a usually slender blade of triangular or square cross section

Chitinous: a horny polysaccharide (C8H13NO5)n that forms part of the hard outer integument especially of insects, arachnids, and crustaceans

Basso: a low deep voice

Redolent: suggestive

Reticence: the quality or state of being reticent

Enervation lacking physical, mental, or moral vigor

Cautery: an agent (such as a hot iron or caustic) used to burn, sear, or destroy tissue

Filicide: the murder of one’s own daughter or son

Cavort: to engage in extravagant behavior

Judder: to vibrate with intensity

Truncated: cut short

Detritus: loose material (such as rock fragments or organic particles) that results directly from disintegration

Plinth: the lowest member of a base

Capitulation: the act of surrendering or yielding

Gawping: gawk

Capsids:the protein shell of a virus particle surrounding its nucleic acid

Diaspora: people settled far from their ancestral homelands

Pedagogical: of, relating to, or befitting a teacher or education

Transmuted: to change or alter in form, appearance, or nature and especially to a higher form

Pearlescent: having a pearly luster

Lapilli: a small stony or glassy fragment of lava ejected in a volcanic eruption

Denizen: Inhabitant

Prurient: marked by or arousing an immoderate or unwholesome interest or desire

Klaxons: used for an electrically operated horn or warning signal

Cabochon: a gem or bead cut in convex form and highly polished but not faceted

Extraneous: existing on or coming from the outside

Bereft: deprived or robbed of the possession or use of something

Fugue: a disturbed state of consciousness in which the one affected seems to perform acts in full awareness but upon recovery cannot recollect the acts performed

Morass: an overwhelming or confusing mass or mixture

Purview: the limit, purpose, or scope of a statute

Apatite: any of a group of calcium phosphate minerals occurring in various colors as hexagonal crystals, as granular masses, or in fine-grained masses as the chief constituent of phosphate rock and of bones and teeth

Beryl: a mineral consisting of a silicate of beryllium and aluminum of great hardness that occurs in colorless hexagonal prisms when pure and in various colors (such as green, blue, yellow, or pink) when not pure, that is valued as a source of gems, and that is the principal source of beryllium

Hematite: a reddish-brown to black mineral consisting of ferric oxide, constituting an important iron ore, and occurring in crystals or as earthy red ocher

Iolite: a blue mineral of vitreous luster and strong dichroism that consists of a silicate of aluminum, iron, and magnesium

Kyanite: an aluminum silicate mineral Al2SiO5 that occurs usually in blue thin-bladed triclinic crystals and crystalline aggregates

Scapolite: any of a group of minerals that are essentially complex silicates of aluminum, calcium, and sodium and that include some used as semiprecious stones

Scleral: the dense fibrous opaque white outer coat enclosing the eyeball except the part covered by the cornea

Placatory: to soothe or mollify especially by concessions

Striated: a minute groove, scratch, or channel especially when one of a parallel series


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