Upon finishing the The Stone Sky, the first thing I did was return to my review of The Fifth Season to refresh myself on why I was confused about my own thoughts on it. I was confused because I enjoyed reading it, couldn’t put it down, loved the characters, loved the writing, had no complaints whatsoever, but despite all of that, did not feel consumed by it. I even said that I didn’t think it would stick with me in a long-term way like all my favorite books do. I struggled to express this well the first time, and I’m not sure I’ve done a much better job now, but I bring it up again for this reason: The Stone Sky consumed me. Or more specifically, the last three chapters did.
One thing I repeatedly noticed as I read this trilogy is how I was reading faster than my brain could keep up with. There are many sections in the book that get almost technical in their description and explanation of the geological events that are occurring, and I would fly through all of it whether I fully comprehended what I was reading or not. I don’t think it’s inherently bad to read in this way, it’s the way I tend to read a lot of page-turning fiction, but it is definitely a shallower, surface-level method of reading. The point of explaining this, however, is to emphasize that the moment I started the third to last chapter of The Stone Sky, I was suddenly reading slowly…one sentence at a time…one word at a time. I had been racing through this crazy chaotic emotional turmoil of a trilogy, and then the last 60 pages hit me so hard that I stopped in my tracks and had to slow down and take in every single word. There are many great novels that don’t need their endings or don’t truly have one, and their effectiveness is found in the telling or in the small moments or in the overarching message. The Broken Earth trilogy, in contrast, is made complete by its ending. The ending is the heart of the story, and I wasn’t able to fully love the story until I reached it.
There’s so much about The Stone Sky and the entire Broken Earth Trilogy as a whole that is remarkable. One of the most notable is something I also talked about after reading The Fifth Season, which is that it forces you to see the injustices of your own reality more clearly by making you look into another’s as an outsider. It’s been a troubling year to say the least, and The Stone Sky throws punch after punch of reminders that our country and our leaders are going the wrong direction. Making the wrong choices. Choosing the wrong priorities. Jemisin shows us how much worse-off the world can become if we continue to follow this path, while also showing us that it is never too late to change course. And this is what the ending encapsulates in a remarkable 60 pages. It’s tragic, gripping, emotional, realistic, but ultimately so full of hope. Heart-wrenchingly full of hope. How often does that happen? How often do we get to be crushed and then uplifted by a realistic conclusion? It’s a rare thing and it’s the difference between loving a book and being consumed by it.