This is the way the world ends. For the last time. A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great, red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal,and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the Earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy. A new fantasy trilogy by Hugo, Nebula & World Fantasy Award-nominated author N. K. Jemisin.
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An intriguing concept and story. It wanders far and then comes back to tie up loose ends. Very well performed and beautifully -- poetically -- written. Robin Miles is one of those great narrators who becomes the book so that you don't notice her at all because she is the characters, she is the story. I will be very happy to recommend this one to everyone who likes speculative fiction and very interested to read the next episodes!
The description is a bit deceptive. It sound depressing, but it isn't, not at all. There is magic ... of a kind. Not traditional magic or traditional magicians. No elves, wizards, or other standard fantasy elements. This is the first book I've read in quite a while that has not been derivative of someone else's foundation story. A breath of fresh air after a long run of Tolkien wannabe tales.
It is set in a time outside of time. It could as easily be before now or anytime in the future. You will have to decide for yourself. The author doesn't tell you. Lots of hints, but nothing specific enough to use as evidence. I suspect more will be revealed in subsequent books.
It's also, in its own way, rather sexy. Non-traditionally sexy -- so if you are one of the "traditional family values" crowd, this is probably not for you.
Three threads tell the intertwined story of Orogeny, a form of magic in N.K. Jemisin's vision of Earth that allows control of seismic, volcanic, and other geologic events, and the social and political structures built around this critical skill in a world wracked by earthquakes, eruptions, and tsunamis.
One thread follows a girl with orogenic power as she is taken from her village to the big city to learn how to control her skill. Another follows a young woman at the height of her powers as she is sent on a mission. The third follows an aging orogene trying to track down her husband after he kills their son and kidnaps their daughter.
Jemisin builds her world through the process of developing character, slowly and patiently, in a manner strongly reminiscent of similar stories of environmental disaster by Hugh Howey (Wool, Sand) and Paolo Bacigalupi (Windup Girl, Ship Breaker), as well as John Scalzi's Human Division (minus the action sequences).
The writing is impeccable, the characters are well-developed, the metaphors are subtle, nuanced, thought provoking -- just take the word orogeny that Jemisin coined, which sounds exactly like erogeny, which suggests origins or aboriginals, which seems like it could be an etymological construct that means golden people, all relevant to the themes she tackles.
And yet... the pace is glacial, nothing much happens, and much of what does happen is the height of implausibility, not properly explained by Jemisin or her characters. The big reveal -- the primary reason to keep reading -- is telegraphed about halfway through. And the segue to the next entry in the series (yet to be written), though not quite as obvious, becomes easy to predict over the last few hours.
Hours... there's the rub. This would have been a knockout at 8-9 hours. At nearly double that length, it drags on and on for long stretches. Edit, edit, edit! That's what they tell my kids at school. That's what my editor tells me. That's my advice to Jemisin. Concise and precise, those are the primary Elements of Style. But what do I know? Everyone else loves this book.
The one thing I love is the thread that's told in the second person. That is really hard to pull off, especially risky to even attempt it after Bright Lights Big City laid claim to that conceit forevermore. But Jemisin does attempt it and succeeds masterfully. Even better, it seems to me to be a point of view that works particularly well in audio. The best aspect of this book by far.