The Stone Sky provides a twisting, satisfying conclusion to the story of the Final Season.
As the final book in the multi-award-winning The Broken Earth trilogy, The Stone Sky provides a twisting, satisfying conclusion to the story of the Final Season, the orogene known as Essun and a magical world that has raised many mysteries to snag readers’ interest. With the seemingly bleak future of that world on the line, Essun is forced to face off against both her own nagging sense of inadequacy as well as an opposing side consisting of her daughter and her old nemesis Schaffa. N. K. Jemisin crafts the showdown so that everything in the trilogy crescendos into one final set piece. It is the usual way of wrapping up a fantasy trilogy, but The Broken Earth closes with a particularly well-executed one.
In The Stone Sky, Jemisin maintains much of the style and structure she adopted in the first two books. Namely, she employs the second-person point-of-view, the use of three point-of-view characters in alternating chapters and a fictional universe where the rigorous magic system functions much like a science, though it does veer more towards the inexplicable as the book progresses.
One major shift in The Stone Sky from its predecessors is that the narrator here becomes his own point-of-view character, joining Essun and her daughter Nassun. This means that in alternating chapters, the address shifts from “I” to “you” to “Nassun,” from first-person to second-person to third-person. This works really well. For book one, The Fifth Season, the second-person technique was shocking and made the book stand out. For book two, The Obelisk Gate, that same second-person innovation was already getting stale and limiting. Here, by making the narrator also a POV figure, Jemisin has provided proof of concept: the second-person perspective was a necessary structural conceit for telling this story. The three different POV characters and their individual perspectives let Jemisin both finish filling in the lore of the trilogy’s universe as well as progressing the story to the final set piece battle. It ensures that the many moving parts of the story are all propelling the same machine.
In completing the trilogy’s lore, Jemisin also finalizes the trilogy’s sweeping metaphor. Specifically, the orogenes are shown to be descendants of a previous race of people who were nearly completely exterminated by a rival race thousands of years before the events in the trilogy because they were viewed as a threat—they represented a different way of life—to their dominant rivals. This earlier, nearly-wiped-out race was also exploited by their rivals as a key labor force in generating unlimited wealth. This previous race war triggered the events that ultimately created the trilogy’s events. Jemisin has some fun with winking at the reader to suggest that the world of the books is also our world far in the future, thereby completing the metaphor: this is a story about the deleterious consequences of othering, enforcing a single way of how to live and, ultimately, white supremacy. This is a story that celebrates the historical underdog eventually becoming the all-powerful being that will save us all. This metaphor—of the orogenes as oppressed peoples of color and their masters as the superior race—was in the trilogy from the opening passage of the first book; after all, the derogatory slang for “orogene” in the books is “rogga,” whose proximity to our society’s own vilest slur is definitely not a coincidence. But only in the final chapters of The Stone Sky is all its symbolic power realized. Get it? To create capitalism and reap its massive profits, white people had to brutalize, enslave and colonize peoples of color, in the process creating a system that destroys the natural world and triggering a looming climate catastrophe.
The Stone Sky, then, is an exciting action novel where the main characters are placed on an inevitable collision course to decide nothing less than the fate of the world. But it is also the capstone of a grand metaphorical vision about the importance of diversity and open-mindedness. It achieves both of these goals without getting bogged down in explaining subsidiary points and delivers an ending that was predictable in broad strokes but quite surprising in the way the details were resolved.