The Magician King by Lev Grossman

I’ve been out for a bit, dealing with school and family issues, but I wanted to post a review for a book I’d read a bit ago. I’ll try to keep up, but the next few weeks might be a little inconsistent. Thanks for sticking with me.

Quentin and company are the Kings and Queens of Fillory. This includes Eliot, Janet, and (to Quentin’s surprise) Julia, even if she’s not quite the same Julia that Quentin used to know. In reality – a strange word to use for the fictional world of Fillory – ruling requires very little of the Brakebills’, so they spend their time waving to their constituents and hunting the Unique Beasts of Fillory. Quentin, in need of a quest or a renewed sense of purpose, volunteers to head to the Outer Islands to collect long overdue taxes, instead finding himself thrust into a mission to save magic.

I liked The Magicians because I liked its edge. The Magician King takes that edge and knocks it up to 11, and it kind of works. The Magicians had a big focus on the “reality” of magic. With this big, great power of magic, we begin to see how trivial the world is, at least through Quentin’s eyes. They spend a lot of time partying because really, what else do you do with endless amounts of time and nearly unlimited power and money? In The Magicians, we see how the Brakebills come into their power.

In The Magician King, we don’t see so much of the party that is magic. We see the struggle someone will undergo to get there. Julia is my favorite character in the show, and she’s one of my favorite characters in this book, too. One of the biggest complaints about her is that she’s so angry. I’d be pissed, too. She’s witty, resourceful, and smart – smarter than Quentin. I find it nearly impossible to believe that Quentin would have done the things that Julia has done to discover magic on her own. This may be my favorite quote from a book of all time (it’s definitely my favorite quote right now):

“Honestly, he was decent-looking, better-looking than he thought he was, but that moody boy-man Fillory shit cut like zero ice with her, and she was smart enough to know whose problem that was, and it wasn’t hers.”

Julia’s got a point when it comes to Quentin. Not just her opinion of Quentin-that-was, but also what she thinks of Quentin now, and the rest of the Brakebills. They are… ungrateful probably isn’t the right word. Whiny might be? I understand Quentin and his need to be constantly moving, constantly on a mission, constantly after some goal. And I understand that lost feeling when it seems like you’re just existing. But they have this entitlement. They believe that at the end of your story, you’re the hero, and there are no consequences for the hero. The Brakebills have come to know magic in a safe, controlled way. And for Julia, the world has never been that easy.

I liked The Magician King a lot more than I remember liking The Magicians. The story arc is more consistent, with a clear goal throughout the entire story. I also genuinely think that part of my enjoyment comes from Julia’s presence throughout this novel. My biggest complaint is that this novel has an edge to it. Not like, a depression edge, because I understand where that’s supposed to be coming from. But like, an “I’m smarter than you,” edge to it. As in, you might have to put the book down to look something up that the character just knows. It lends an overly cerebral air to the book that I’m not sure I love.

I’m looking forward to reading the final book in The Magicians Trilogy. Grossman’s world-building s rivaled by few, and these novels offer a thought-provoking look at how getting everything you thought you’ve ever wanted still may not be enough. On a more surface level, they’re also a really enjoyable read.

Majesty by Katharine McGee

As expected, all my holds at the library holds became available at the same time, leaving me two weeks to read 5 novels. So, I’ll try my best, but we wanted to hit Majesty first since I’ve been waiting for it the longest.

Majesty, by Katharine McGee, picks up weeks after American Royals left us. The King is dead, and Beatrice is queen, though her coronation won’t take place for at least a year after her father’s passing. In his absence, she’s decided to forgo her relationship with Connor, her Guard. Instead, she’ll go through with her arranged marriage to Teddy, the one-day Duke of Boston. This devastates her sister Sam, who thinks she’s in love with Teddy, driving a wedge between the queen regnant and her heir apparent.

The point of this book was a weird game of musical chairs about who ends up with whom, but I still don’t understand the stakes. There’s no big, tragic if this, then that which the characters are trying to avoid. They’re all just milling about with no real goal in mind. This leads to major plotting problems: if there’s no big oncoming catastrophe, where is the tension? How do you create a climax, when people aren’t doing anything interesting, they’re just existing?

Am I glad that Beatrice is happy with Teddy? Of course. Did I care what happened to Connor, or even consider that to be a loose end that needed tying? No. Beatrice’s need to be a monarch in her own right, without a man at her side, is not only understandable. It is obvious. If I were Beatrice, I would have fired Robert when he first said that she shouldn’t speak at Congress. When he undermined her at whatever the Congressional house is in this book, I would have had him stripped of rank and sent him to live in poverty. Beatrice is weak in this book, pandering to the opinions of lesser men and the PR gods, whoever they may be. It’s insufferable.

Sam’s echoing disappointment in the adults in her life is entirely relatable. She’s disappointed in her mom, for not being the support Beatrice needs. She’s disappointed in the Chamberlain, not that she expected much from him to begin with, for his concern with image. But Sam also finds this growing disappointment in herself and her behavior. Sam’s growth throughout the novel, identifying who she is and what she wants, is commendable. As a character, she really grows into the woman she’s supposed to be.

I don’t hate that none of the book chapters are from any of the men’s points of view. However, I stand by my observation in the last book that with so many characters, things get lost. It’s hard to bond with any individual character if I have to worry about five other women. Getting invested in a single plot is hard because every time one line gets saucy, the chapter ends and the reader finds themself whisked away to another character’s story.

It’s interesting to read a book about American Royalty and the passage and maintenance of power while we’re going through… what we’re going through in the United States right now. I think there’s some peace to find in the stabilizing force of a monarchy. The author also did their best to incorporate some current tensions in this book. Mirroring Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s romance, Sam starts dating a black duke, and the backlash from the public is swift and ruthless. Even in American Royals, Nina, a Hispanic woman, starts dating Prince Jefferson and the vitriol is remarkable. So, while there might be some comfort in knowing who is next to lead, even in this imagining of America, there’s still a lot of progress to be made.

I finished Majesty feeling underwhelmed. I had hoped for Beatrice to be a stronger central figure. While she certainly finds her voice at the end, getting there felt long. I wish all the characters had been more memorable, or had some inner obstacles to overcome. The premise is so interesting, but the execution just fell flat.

What do you think? Did you read Majesty and think I’m way off the mark? Let me know in the comments!

Project Tau by Jude Austin

Fair warning: this is an edit of one of my book reviews posted on Online Book Club. Ordinarly, I try to avoid reposting, but I really enjoyed reading Project Tau and am working on reading its sequel, Homecoming. Feel free to check out the original by following the provided links.

Kalin Taylor is a lonely medical student. He’s never really had friends, and he wants to feel like he’s part of something, so he rushes a fraternity at Sanderson College of Arts and Sciences – a prestigious, off-world university. As part of his initiation, the brothers of the fraternity dare him to sneak into the highly secretive GenTech facility and get a picture of one of the few successful human clones, Project Tau. When Kalin breaks in, he is captured, taken into custody, and subjected to terrifying body modifications and gruesome training. To survive, he’ll have to become the assassin they’re training him to be: Project Kata.

I like the prologue a lot. It gives meaningful insight into where we’re going together and lends some hope to a dark storyline. The prologue was also the first time I noticed how good the author is at building tension. Almost the entire time I read the book I was nervous. Part of what makes her so good at it, I think, is her character-focused writing.

Kalin is an idiot. Don’t get me wrong, his motivation is clear, but sometimes this kid makes unilaterally dumb choices. Like breaking into a top-secret science base for a frat stunt in the first place. Or signing a contract at that top-secret base without reading it, and just trusting it would be okay. TK. He didn’t have much of a choice, but watching him act with so much naivete was frustrating.

Kata’s character development arc is really strong. It captivates the reader and makes them want to keep going. I needed to know what was going to happen and how he was going to react. Tau, in contrast, stays relatively static. He doesn’t change much throughout the story, but he’s useful as a stand-in for the audience. The author uses teaching moments for Tau to show the reader about the universe we’re living in. Austin skillfully weaves these two character’s stories together to paint us a full picture of the atrocities taking place in the GenTech facility, and the world that allows that to happen.

The point-of-view style is inconsistent. Written in the third person, the story predominantly follows Kata. Because of that, Kata can’t know the opinions and feelings of the other characters, but they’re often explained as if he does. If there’s a considerable chunk or scene told featuring an entirely different character, that’s easier to distinguish. There tends to be an obvious break where these sections begin and end, and a clear point to those moments. But slipping in and out of specific views pulls the reader out of the narrative.

Project Tau, by Jude Austin, was an enjoyable read for me. “Fun,” probably isn’t the best word for this book, but it’s quick, action-packed, and easy. Austin masterfully crafts tension and follows through on its promise by developing the characters. Kata’s relationship with Tau provides all the motivation we need to understand how we got from Kalin Taylor, medical school student, to Project Kata, killing machine. Fans of the science fiction genre and the thriller genre will enjoy this book as much as I did.

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Before you read Obsidio, make sure you check out the first two books in The Illuminae Files: Illuminae and Gemina.

The Mao is headed back to Kerenza. It’s their only option: they’re running out of fuel and resources, and they have to hope that the Kerenza IV colony hasn’t been completely wiped out. In their first stroke of luck since this entire disaster began, (some) of the colonists are alive. And they’re fighting back against their BeiTech occupiers.

We already know where the story is heading. From the beginning, it’s framed as Hanna running them through how they got home. It’s like skipping to the last page of the book. Does the middle matter anymore? Maybe, but it sure drags getting there.

AIDAN is, again, the most interesting character. What is worth a sacrifice? And what is a worthy sacrifice? Ella finds him incredibly alarming when he asks her if it’s worth killing 1,000 people to save 1,001? Your classic trolley problem on a bigger scale and in outer space. And real. What would you do?

The logistics of the Kerenza colony could use clarification. These people live in A) the middle of nowhere on B) an icy rock that cannot possibly actually sustain life. How? How do they eat? Even after the occupation? I find it difficult to believe that the army brought enough food for a 7-month occupation, and I find it difficult to believe there’s a 7-month store, even with massive casualties. Also, why are major corporations allowed to own and operate their own military forces? It feels like the UTA was begging for this to happen. It’s not adding up.

While I still found the stock character usage underwhelming, the “found family,” theme around this massive atrocity is working. Isaac Grant with Ella is the heartwarming highlight of the novel. Through this development, they were better able to help me connect with the characters in the series. For the first time, I what happened to them.

Regardless of my issues with character creation and development, I really enjoyed this series. Between the beautiful formatting and action-packed chapters, I was hooked. I found I had trouble putting the book down when it was time to go to bed (and the nightmare fuel did its job, even when I managed). If you’re looking for a new Sci-Fi Disaster/Thriller series, look no further than the Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

Reasonable Response in a Time Beyond Reason

Over the last year, I’ve resolved to make political statements less often on social media. My reasoning is that it adds to the noise. If there’s a loud cacophony of people saying similar – but not the same – talking points, it becomes incoherent. The message gets clouded and unfocuses, and I’m often not the most eloquent at expressing those concerns. I let others more skilled in communication do the talking, and I try to speak with my actions.

I resolved to act. I signed up with the American Red Cross to serve my community. I worked the polls on election day to preserve the integrity of our elections. To stay apprised of the current news, I subscribed to reputable newspapers from different sources to view issues from other angles. Instead of arguing with my family about what they’re saying, instead of demeaning their opinions, I resolved to listen to why. To ask questions instead of shouting. I wanted to understand.

But the events of Jan. 6 are beyond understanding.

I didn’t know the exact date the MAGA crowd was planning on rallying, but I knew something was coming. They’ve been posting about civil wars on social media, conservatives and liberals have been buying firearms at unprecedented rates. We knew this was coming – or anyone who paid basic attention did.

Calling the attempted coup d’etat on Jan 6, 2021, a coup is the first step to recognizing the seriousness of the situation. That was a violent attempt to overthrow a seated government and place our impeached-President at the helm. An act of insurrection and domestic terrorism. And the events on Wednesday were foreseeable.

The news has us focused on imbeciles like “Q Shaman,” and former WV representative Derrick Evans, but it’s also important to realize that there were individuals there for a man-hunt. There have been pictures of individuals dressed in paramilitary gear toting around zip ties. Gallows were erected on the West Side of the Capitol Building. Police and federal officials found bombs in the Capitol building. One insurrectionist even died by his own taser. They were out for blood.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

And still, the Republicans and the Trumpists will deny their involvement. They already have. They’re attempting to lay the blame anywhere but at their own feet, claiming BLM and ANTIFA involvement. Any article that challenges that, they decry “Fake News,” attempting to further erode trust in American democracy. Instead, managing to further shorten the fuses on those who’ve had to put up with them for the last several years.

I don’t have any new perspectives or original news, but my resolution to act compelled me to write, to condemn, and to offer responses.

Respond

  1. Write to your congresspeople. Senator, Representative, State-level legislators. Write to them ALL. Let them know you’re done with the rhetoric and the attempts to undermine the election results. Trump said he wouldn’t go peacefully, so make it less peaceful. Encourage your legislators to impeach and remove him from office.
  2. Stay informed. Take a break when you need it, but know what’s happening. Check out IsThisACoup.com and ChooseDemocracy.us for some action items as the situation continues to evolve. Also, take some time to read Hold the Line, a Guide on Defending Democracy for thoughts on where we go from here. Be ready to mobilize if the situation requires it.
  3. Report. If you have any tips on the insurrection in DC (like you know someone who participated in the violence, or you’ve seen that officials are looking for an individual and you know their location), share them here. If you have any information on potential future violence from family members or friends, also share that with federal officials as potential terrorist threats.
  4. Resist. Instead of punching Nazi’s (I know, it’s tempting), recognize that non-violent means of protest and civil disobedience are the methods through which real change is created. Commit to that. Don’t get angry and react – think through your response and resist. Coups fail because regimes don’t have the support they need. Deny them that support and watch them crumble.
  5. Be ready for the next time. By now, anyone who paid attention to this election cycle knows who Stacey Abrams is. Over the last decade, she’s served Georgia as a spearhead of several grassroots campaigns to get out the vote and reduce voter suppression. The blue wave in Georgia can be attributed to her, those she’s worked with, those she was inspired by, and those she inspired. But Georgia is not unique. The same can happen where you are. Organize. Volunteer in your community. Make it your mission to listen to the needs of that community, and serve those needs. Develop trust and work in the best interest of that community to foster real, systemic change.

It’s been a stressful 5 days, I know. I believe the Doctor says it best: “Darkness never sustains. Even though sometimes it feels like it might.” We’ll get through this. Together.

Gemina by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff & Marie Lu

Gemina is the second book in The Illuminae Files, and the authors added Marie Lu as a contributor to this high-adrenaline sequel.

While the people of Kerenza IV are running for their lives in a hobbled spaceship, the messages they send to the Heimdall way station are being intercepted. Life is continuing as normal at the wormhole, and the WUC base built around it. Hanna Donnelly thinks living here with her father is so boring, she might die. She doesn’t expect that the day it gets exciting, she actually might die.

Hanna Donnelly and Kady Grant are the same. While we’re at it, Nik and Ezra are also the same. Don’t get me wrong, I like them. But they’re stock characters. Spunky, sassy teens with little substance behind them. This both works and doesn’t. Typically, I find a change in perspectives between books disorienting; I get attached to characters, which is probably why I like books in series. But a switch in characters is hard because I don’t know these new folks. Why do I care what’s happening to them?

In this case, I care because Kady & Hanna and Ezra & Nik are the same people. They make the same jokes, have the same sense of humor, and have the same determination. The difference is in their Tragic Backstory ™. Even Isaac Grant comments that he’s terrified for the day Hanna and Kady meet. This is helpful, in a way, because it provided the continuity I like.

I want to know what these authors’ obsession with the nightmare fuel is? WHY? And they narrated it through AIDAN. Which is also terrifying because he’s terrifying. Writing about/worshiping the lanima in verse did not make it suddenly palatable. Looking at them as the perfect predators through a demented, killer AI’s mind made it even spookier.

These authors do not shy away from violence, and they’re pretty clear about what’s happening. If that’s bothersome, consider whether to read this series. I understand Kady’s revenge mission, I do. The assault BeiTech planned was unimaginable and horrific to begin with, and it went even worse than it should have. On its own, BeiTech’s acts were a war crime. In the end, it turned into genocide.

For me, the hardest part of reading this book was thinking about what happens after. The point of this book was surviving a hit-team on the Heimdall station, but I kept thinking about the people who were killed. It felt like the characters had no one left at the end, which was hard to conceptualize. For me and the characters. The reader can see Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik all grapple with the reality that many of their loved ones would not survive this attack. It all felt so heavy and impossible.

Regardless of how painful this book can be to read, I find myself needing to know what happens next. What is left for them on Kerenza? What does their supply level look like – will they even make it back to Kerenza alive? Does BeiTech have any other nefarious act planned for the refugees? So I’ll be looking forward to finishing out the series with Obsidio.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

The BeiTech corporation reached out to The Illuminae group to compile available information about the attack on Kerenza IV. They want to know exactly what evidence they’ll have to face when the corporation goes to trial over the botched mission. The Illuminae files are this collection of transcripts and files.

BeiTech attacked an illegal mining colony of its competitors. They killed innumerable men, women, and children of the colony, but they didn’t expect a dreadnought of the United Terran Authority to come to the rescue of the colony. Now the Kerenza refugees aboard three space ships are on the run from BeiTech’s Lincoln.

This group of ships cannot catch a break. It kind of felt like an amalgam of never-ending troubles was used to up the stakes. Don’t get me wrong, it worked. I was tense the entire time. But it was a poorly veiled, in-your-face tactic. First, they have to deal with the destruction of their home. They become refugees aboard ships that are damaged beyond repair and not designed to transport that number of people. Second, they’re being chased by one of the still-functioning enemy ships. And she’s gaining on them. Third, BeiTech released a viral bioweapon that’s running rampant on one of the ships. And a virus is really not something you want to have to deal with in such close quarters. Fourth, they’re dealing with a homicidal AI.

I loved the formatting. At first, I found it disorienting, and the opening interviews were not the strongest start, but once the reader gets the hang of it, it helps characterize the situation. The video file transcripts were transcribed like regular stories, with clipped on commentary to offer context. AIDAN’s typography added a lot to the mania of the AI’s contribution to the story. His photos and illustrations were beautiful, and AIDAN had a surprisingly poetic voice. He wrote like he understood the vastness of the universe, and the tiny insignificant speck he was protecting.

Actually, I just really liked AIDAN (apparently I’m not alone if the authors are writing a novella about AIDAN’s system damage). He’s damaged data, but it’s made him a little more… real? Not exactly human, but enough to question his sentience and what it means to be alive. Is he alive? Regardless of whether he’s alive, he’s the most nuanced and interesting character in the entire book.

AIDAN’s core directive is to protect the fleet, and through the course of the book, he makes decisions based on calculated probabilities that contradict that core directive when taken at face value. It’s an interesting conversation starter on global compassion. Is it worth cutting the loss of the few to protect the many? Do you make the active choice to kill a few unlucky people, or do you passively let fate take its course with an entire population? Classic trolley problem, but put the trolley in space with higher stakes.

Kady and Ezra are exhausting. So what if he doesn’t want to go off-planet? Go without him. Jeez. I get that this is a YA novel, so there have to be confused teenagers, finding themselves in the middle of all this chaos. But the clip-in notes are right, they’re trying to survive a deadly assault and space-chase. Find something useful to do with your illegal chat platform.

This entire book read like a disaster novel. Everything that could go wrong, did. There’s little pick-me-up to look forward to at the end. I kept getting overwhelmed by the thought that these kids have no one left but each other. It’s a war story, and it’s haunting. Like war stories are supposed to be. Here’s to hoping Kady and Ezra find some peace in Gemina (but probably not).

Phone apps that help me find my focus

We live in an increasingly virtual, connected world. This can get overwhelming. I’m constantly being pinged with feedback from friends and family on social media. News outlets bombard my email with notifications of awful, stressful worldwide events. Not to mention the constant communication with colleagues and bosses that take place via cell phone.

But it can also be really useful. I have a wealth of information at my fingertips, and I’ve never felt more prepared to play Jeopardy! With my phone, I can also plan out my life and keep track of tasks in a more streamlined, effective way. Using technology intentionally is integral to my ability to work in society.

These are the most useful apps I keep on my phone.

1. Canvas. If this isn’t your school’s online learning management system, you can ignore this recommendation. If it is, the phone app is incredibly helpful for quick glances at the calendar, keeping an eye on due dates, and quick & mobile review of material. If your school uses a different management system (ie. Blackboard, Ctools, etc.), and they have an app available, be sure to download it and explore its capabilities.

2. Flora. Flora is a forest-building app. You build your personal forest by putting your phone down and leaving it alone. At the beginning of the semester, I deleted most of my social media apps (Facebook, gone. Twitter, gone), but sometimes I still find ways to be distracted on my phone. Checking emails via my phone creates a false sense of productivity. Or I log onto some of these other apps and call it “work.” Flora helps me carve out time and space away from my phone to focus on other things.

3. Plant Nanny. This application is less about productivity, but one of my health-based goals is to drink more water. In the app, the water that I drink contributes to the growth of my own garden of adorable plants. There are also badges to earn, and you can buy different pots and pets to make your garden your own.

4. Habitica. This is a nerdy app, but I love it. It’s a multi-player role-playing game that incentivizes habit formation. As a character, you create tasks for yourself and complete them to earn gold and dropped items like eggs and potions. If you need some inspiration for your goals and tasks, you can join challenges and compete with other players. For a more social gaming experience, invite your friends, create a party, and go on quests to defeat monsters and enemies of productivity.

5. Anki. This is both a desktop application and a phone application, but the two can be synced for an easy transition. The guiding principle of Anki is spaced repetition: brains commit information to long-term memory storage by repeated learning and recall. The more times a piece of knowledge is remembered, the longer it’ll be before the brain forgets it. Normal flashcards get the repetition and recall down, but Anki automates the timing. For example, if I make an Anki card and show that I learned it today, Anki will show me the card again tomorrow. If I remember it without a problem tomorrow, Anki won’t show me that card again for another 4 days. Ideally, I still know the information on the card, and the interval continues to increase.

6. Headspace (or the free MyLife application). I’ve used both applications before – right now I get Headspace for free because I volunteer with Crisis Text Line, so that’s what I use. But MyLife can be used as a completely free meditation resource. The point of using either of these apps is to take a minute to clear your head or practice intentional focus. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can be a really helpful tool for you to find some cool calm when you need it.

These apps have been great at helping me focus, find my grind, and stay healthy. If you’re a student and your collection is different from mine, tell me more in the comments!

Resist by Sarah Crossan

We’re finally getting back to the world of Breathe, by Sarah Crossan, and taking a look at its sequel, Resist. We open after the destruction of the Grove and see what new paths the characters decide to pursue. Alina & Grove co. are on their way to the sister resistance colony, Sequoia, managed by Petra’s sister, Vanya. Predictably, things go wrong. Bea and Quinn have taken temporary custody of Jazz, who is immediately seriously injured. They’re trying to meet back up with Alina, so they’re also heading to Sequoia.

On the inside of the Pod, the riots have been quelled, but there’s been a massive loss of life due to the unrest, and people are still on edge. The Ministry is gathering its special forces, Roland Knavery among them. He’s the late Pod Minister’s artist son, participating because his father made him. Horrified by the assault on the Grove and the killing of the trees, he wants out. And Jude Caffrey will give him that out. But only if he heads to the Outlands, finds Quinn, and brings him home.

If you remember my first review of Breathe, I didn’t love it, and nothing much has changed. There’s no real attachment I feel toward any characters, so there’s no emotional impact to this novel. One bad thing after another happens, and I’m not tense or sad or affected in any way. The novel is filled with poetic sentences like, “and there’s nothing he can do to sweep away the cinders of grief anyway,” that mask the fact that the characters’ real feelings are never addressed.

Jazz’s injury early in the novel serves no purpose except to illustrate that Roland is a nice boy. They were already on a time crunch because they’re attached to oxygen tanks, so it’s not like the injury made them move faster. We knew the author wasn’t going to let a child die – because she didn’t in the first novel. This was really just the catalyst to get Quinn out of the picture so Bea could meet Roland and realize he wasn’t going to hurt them. Which is fine, I suppose, but it was continually hammered home that he was. There’s also this strange arc between Vanya and Jazz that’s largely left unresolved. As a character, Jazz is largely reduced to a plot point in this novel.

Niamh as a villain makes little sense. I don’t understand what’s motivating her – I mean, I get that she’s livid about the death of her father. And I understand that she and her father were much closer than Roland and Cain, but she’s painted from the beginning as privileged and shallow. I find it difficult to believe that she’d work for someone who so directly undercuts her ideas of her own self-worth. As a reader, I needed to know more about her and how she felt, and what she thought of herself to believe her conviction. Otherwise, I see Bea and Roland giving up on her and am confused about why they don’t think she can be persuaded.

Jude Caffrey is… also confusing? In the first novel, he displayed no interest in his son beyond the continuation of his legacy. Now he’s ready to become a turncoat and overthrow the government that’s made him a venerated hero because his son thinks they’re mean? Sure.

Abel’s return was a nice hearken back to the opening of Breathe (though I admit, I forgot who he was at first). It added an interesting point and was also useful in illustrating that perhaps Sequoia isn’t the safe-haven we hoped our heroes would find, which should have been obvious from the welcoming party. Speaking of fishy goings-on at Sequoia, what is wrong with Dorian? I get that he wanted to be safe somewhere, but he was so loyal to Petra. We know that Vanya left because of major differences between her and Petra’s leadership style and ideas, so I’m finding it difficult to believe he would automatically fall in line at Sequoia. Did they brainwash him in that first meeting?

My issue with Resist comes down to one major problem: the characters are under-developed. We know things about them, but we don’t know who they are, what they believe, or what they feel. Without any of that supporting information, characters aren’t people, they’re plots. If the reader doesn’t understand their motivation, nothing the characters do will be believable. I had hoped Resist would feel better than Breathe, because we’ve spent more time with the characters and gotten to know them better, but they still fall flat.

If you’ve read Resist and have some other thoughts on the conclusion in the duology, let me know in the comments. I’d love to discuss.

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

The Stone Sky is the thrilling conclusion to The Broken Earth Trilogy. It’s time for Essun to finish what her mentor and one-time lover started – she must catch the moon. But first, she must help her get her comm to safety in now-abandoned Rennanis. And she’s not anticipating racing agains her daughter, Nassun, accompanied by Schaffa and her own stone eater.

Where before, the purpose was posing our problem, the second book characterized the nuances of the problem, this book wraps up all our conflicts and ties up all the loose ends.

I finally understand why the book is written in the second person. I don’t usually like to read books written in the second person because I find them… creepy. Like someone is looking over my shoulder. But the epilogue does a great job justifying the second person decision, along with the actions of Hoa and the other stone eaters during the story. It’s really rewarding to finally see Hoa and Steel/Gray Man. To see who they are and their motivation for the things they’ve done.

It feels like we (the reader) understand. We can grasp the full extent of the problem and the length of time it’s been problematic. The storyline in Syl Anagist feels at first like it might be too much. There’s a new civilization to explore and understand. But they have the same problems our characters have been facing for the entirety of the series. As opposed to an additional storyline, the Syl Anagist plot runs parallel to Essun’s. It’s a genuinely clever way to illustrate the root cause of our strife.

This series all had a bit of a hopeless ring to it. Essun had the slimmest chance of succeeding to begin with. Nassun was actively working against her. The stone eaters wanted Essun to fail. And Essun was sure to die at the end. Not to mention all the loss she’d already endured to this point. The ending of this book, in contrast, was hopeful.

Yes, we lost Essun (I don’t feel bad saying this because we were headed this way the whole time). But she died protecting Nassun from the obelisk gate. She left her daughter with a community to which she could return and a family to keep her safe. Nassun leaves Corepoint with an idea of how to improve the plight of orogenes all over, without making the mistakes of the past. Out of all this strife, there is hope.

There’s this overlying concept of sacrifice for her daughter: she wasn’t always kind to her, so there’s the sacrifice of their relationship to keep her safe. Making sure Nassun has a home and a family to come to after Essun is gone. And the sacrifice of her mission, saving the world, because refusal to do so would destroy Nassun. Another interesting facet of this subplot comes from the world’s belief that Essun will be the one to save the world. She’s the Fulcrum-trained orogene, powerful enough to control the obelisks. But Nassun, made of Essun, but also more than Essun, can command the Obelisk Gate with a strength and creativity Essun can only dream of. This concept of legacy, of parents paving the way for their children to be more, drives home in The Stone Sky.

Back to front, The Broken Earth trilogy is a ride. It’s emotional, it’s raw, and it’s well-built. If you’ve ever enjoyed Sci-fi/Fantasy, this trilogy will not disappoint. I can’t recommend it highly enough: please pick it up from your local bookstore. I hope to have some thoughts on Jemisin’s other works in the near future, but there are so many books in this world, and so little time to enjoy them.