To summarize my mixed feelings about this book, The Obelisk Gate is majorly inflicted with the infamous second book syndrome. For reasons I can’t mention to avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that the first book has the advantage of being fresh in every element Jemisin implemented and in my opinion, she failed to live up to it. It’s not a surprise, I knew right after finishing the first book that the second book won’t be as good, but I just didn’t expect it to be this much.
Told only from two main POV and one minor POV, Essun’s POV is where I had tons of problems with. Within the first 70% of the book, her story is heavily filled with tons of info dump fired off in rapid succession, and I know I’ll forget most of them within a week after reading. Some of them are interesting for sure, but I was mindlessly bored reading her POV. Few revelations to the story aside, there’s nothing interesting out of Essun’s POV this time for me, her character doesn’t develop much, she resides only in one location throughout the whole book, and admittedly I actually fell asleep reading her story and had to force myself reading through it. When some actions did appear in the end, the damage has been done and I can’t bring myself to care anymore towards anything that happens in her story at this point because of how stagnant her character development has been compared to before.
The other major problems I had with the book this time lies within Essun’s second person present tense narrative. In the first book, it’s understandable to use this choice of narration for her POV, I feel like there’s no reason to use it again in the second book, can’t tell you why for spoiler reasons again. Plus, in the first book, the story was told from three main POV’s switching back and forth equally, with the other two characters done in third person perspective narration, Essun’s narration style didn’t felt as distracting, instead it felt fresh to go back to because there was enough break between her and the other characters chapter. In here, there are only two main POV, reading Essun’s second person present tense perspective style in heavy dose is really something I can’t tolerate.
It’s not all bad of course because I thoroughly enjoyed reading the other main POV. To make my review completely spoiler-free, I won’t even mention the name of this character but the storyline that was told from this character is amazing. Full of character developments; deal with tons of Xenophobia topic, and also, in my opinion, the most important aspect in preparation for the third book. This character also shed some light and complexity to Schaffa’s character. Another positive part of the book is that the world-building is still great. Basically, this POV and the world-building are the only factors that stopped me from DNFing this book.
That said, I still will continue to read the Stone Sky because everything in this book is truly a setup for the final installment and I’m intrigued to find out how it all ends. However, even if the third book ended up being something I thoroughly enjoyed like The Fifth Season, I know this is a trilogy that I won’t be rereading again in the future. All opinions are based only on my experience, the high chances are that you’ll have a different experience from me, and I sincerely hope that you love this more than me. I am basically on a lonely island screaming “I don’t like this book” to Spongebob and Patrick right now.