Dec 272018
 

By its end, this trilogy reveals itself to be nothing less than a deep thinking through of the historical consequences of racism and its relentless transformation of the world day-by-day, year-by-year into something worse. The corruption is familial, it is sexual, it is social and political, it is climatic. 

The fantasy here is not that a wrong can be righted, even if only allegorically. The novel doesn’t right the wrong.

No, the fantasy is the idea that with courage, sacrifice and love, on-going destruction can be halted and the wound staunched long enough, to leave room for people of good will to begin the hard work of building up something better from the ruins.

What I find most political about this fantasy isn’t the representation of characters who are women and brown and queer, as powerful as that clear commitment to their visibility and their stories is. No, I think it is the hope that (and the confidence that) enough people will want to stop the destruction and that they can do so, even though the work required will necessarily begin with and take as its materials a world made a wasteland by the horrors of the past.

Dec 152018
 

The second book in The Broken Earth trilogy shifts the narrative in ways that I found disorienting for the first half of the book.

In part this was because—as was the case in The Fifth Season—narrative point-of-view is so central to the effect the book is aiming for. Again the principal point-of-view is a disorienting second person and it’s used to put identity—who is speaking? to whom?—and my efforts to “identify with” on centerstage as questions. By the end of the book, I’d finally clued into the fact that in being constructed as challenges, these concepts were also being thematized.

I was also slow to catch on to the new narrative stakes. Narrative lines established in the first book seemed to have faded into the background here without me having a good sense of what was taking their place. With the point-of-view holding me at arms length from the characters, my uncertainty about the direction of the story initially made for shaky (pun intended) reading.

Only once I was past the mid-point had I settled back in enough to catch on to the true source of my problems: the scale of the story had changed dramatically. What I’d understood as a of coming of age fantasy—a young country woman is brought to town, educated, discovers she’s important—wasn’t. Or at least it wasn’t simply that familiar story and resemblances to it were a distraction. The stakes here were social, historical and philosophical and the narrative was reaching for and attempting to establish the cultural resonances that support strong allegory.

I’ve already read The Stone Sky as I write this, so I should probably go ahead and admit that this second book in the series remains my least favourite. But seeing how successfully the final book arrives at the deep allegorical force this book is building toward makes me admire this one for all the work it does to make that final triumph possible.

Mar 132018
 

I read this book in a rush, caught up in the world and the characters. This is great fantasy writing.

I also really like that nothing here is a revamping of Germanic or Nordic mythology and that this isn’t a world of wise, white men helping young white men discover themselves and save the world. That’s a shift from the norm and it feels right.

Narratively, this book takes all kinds of risks with point-of-view and plotting. Yet somehow, by the end it pulls everything together. It’s a feat of strength and makes the book extremely satisfying.