I did it y'all! After receiving the box set of N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth
trilogy from my generous and thoughtful friend Sho
last December, I read it all in under a year! It took me from December 2021 to September 2022 to finish The Fifth Season
, and a mere three weeks to finish The Obelisk Gate
in October. Admittedly, I dragged my feet on finishing The Stone Sky
because I didn't want this epic story to end, but I did manage to finish it on Thanksgiving so I could write this review before November's over. As a reader and reviewer reading 1200+ pages of a genre that's outside my wheelhouse, I am very proud. And as a new fan of this trilogy, I am forever changed. [UPDATE 12/4/22: See the end of this review for physical evidence of me being forever changed, as of my 30th birthday yesterday!
The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
For all those who have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question
(Epigraph for The Fifth Season)
To those who have no choice but to prepare their children for the battlefield
(Epigraph for The Obelisk Gate)
To those who've survived: Breathe. That's it. Once more. Good. You're good. Even if you're not, you're alive. That is a victory.
(Epigraph for The Stone Sky)
When I posted the link to my review of book 2 on Facebook, I wrote, "Earth
has a grudge against humanity, there's 'magic' everywhere, and a
super-powered mother and daughter are about to be on opposing teams." Little did I know how excruciatingly true that last part would be in book 3.
Keeping the preamble short this third and final time around, I'll only mention a few things. Once again, as I've done in my reviews of book 1 and book 2, I'm explaining this novel to y'all as I'm explaining it to myself, since science fiction and fantasy are not my strong suits. As such, this review will be as long and spoilerific as it wants to be. Additionally, just like she did with book 1 and book 2, Jemisin divided The Stone Sky
's chapters among three main characters, and this time our narrator Hoa is one of them. Through his chapters, Hoa finally reveals what his pre-stone eater life was like, dispelling the major myths that have been used
to manipulate recorded history and justify orogene enslavement for
tens of thousands of years.
Hoa. In Hoa's youth, ages before the Stillness was united under the Sanzed empire (the prevailing colonizing race of Essun's time), there was a megacity called Syl Anagist. This ancient city used magic, the silvery essence of life itself, as a power/energy source to sustain its civilization. The continent was previously composed of three nations, one of which Syl Anagist was established in, but Syl Anagist expanded into a city-state that swallowed up those nations and all the various ethnic groups within them. One such ethnic group was the Thniess (Niess, Niespeople) who were known for having pale skin, "icewhite" eyes, "ashblow" hair (ash-colored afros), and being the inventors of the "Plutonic Engine" (what folks called the Obelisk Gate back then). Niess plutonic engines were exquisitely efficient technological feats, yet were also small and presumably made for art or curiosity's sake; certainly not for any world domination or resource extraction purposes. But the Syl Anagistines (the colonizers of Hoa's time) couldn't bear being outdone, so they spread lies about Niess inferiority and non-humanness to the masses, committed a genocide against the Niess, and imprisoned the few remaining Niess to be experimented on. However, those experiments only proved that the Niess were humans just like anyone else. And since colonizers can't stand having their lies—and thus their insecurities and wrongdoings—exposed, the SAs proceeded to create an entire system to uphold and perpetuate their lies. They drilled obelisk pits around the world in which to build gigantic obelisks ("plutonic fragments"), and then spent years charging them up with magic. All of this in hopes to one day lift the obelisks out of the ground, start up the Plutonic Engine, and send the onyx obelisk down to tap Earth's core for its resources, thus securing a never-ending supply of magic (a state they called "geoarcanity"). The SAs also dug a subway system ("Deep Earth route") that went from Syl Anagist, through the center of the Earth, to an oceanside city on the other side of the world called Corepoint, which was built around the pit where the onyx was planted (the largest and most forceful of all 256 obelisks that were made back then).
To do the dirty work of preparing and operating the Plutonic Engine, the SAs created people in a lab who were artificially engineered to resemble the Niess and be able to interact with the obelisks. (We later learn that their ability was a combination of both orogeny and magic.) These people, classified as non-humans, were called "tuners". They were the precursor to orogenes, all of them had -wha suffixes to their names, and Hoa (Houwha) was one of them. In the part of Syl Anagist where they lived, Houwha and his siblings were separated from each other and imprisoned within a hexagonal complex (the precursor to the Fulcrum) that was built around the amethyst obelisk. (This is the same amethyst that Essun, as Syenite, used to destroy Meov in her filicide/suicide attempt in book 1.) All the tuners were constantly monitored and told what to do by "conductors", the precursor to Guardians. Fortunately, however, the tuners developed their own language ("earthspeak" or "earthtalk") which allowed them to communicate with each other via vibrations within the earth, without having their conversations detected by the conductors. By the time Houwha led a slave revolt and obliterated Syl Anagist—an event called "Burndown", a precursor to the Rifting that Alabaster used to destroy Yumenes in book 1—there were only six tuners remaining. All the others had been "decommissioned" to "the briar patch". More on that momentarily.
The tuners' dear sibling Tetlewha had just been suddenly and mysteriously decommissioned, and Launch Day was only four weeks away, when a woman named Kelenli introduced herself to all of them. Apparently, she was a prototype to the tuners; her earthspeak was elegant and undeniable, but she wasn't created in a lab and didn't possess any discernible difference from regular humans except for her sessapinae. She also had more knowledge of history and how the outside world worked, was feared less and trusted more by the conductors, and was afforded more leeway and decision-making authority within the complex because of her relationship with head conductor Gallat. As an experiment, Kelenli was raised in the same family as Gallat—with neither learning that Kelenli was different until they were teenagers—and as adults Gallat became both Kelenli's boss and lover. (Although, if we know anything about power dynamics on plantations, and since this complex was a futuristic version of a plantation, then their relationship was likely not consensual on Kelenli's part.) By the time Kelenli met Houwha and his siblings, she was secretly pregnant with Gallat's child and full of unspoken rage at being forced to pretend that she wasn't a person. She saw it as her duty to not only liberate herself and her fellow tuners, but also claim the role of the last Niess lorist, the last truth-teller to make sure accurate history got passed down. So Kelenli gently but firmly radicalized the tuners, preparing them to revolt via earthspeak conversations, a field trip to a museum that housed an original Niess-made Plutonic Engine, and having them spend a night at her home, where she revealed the truth about the Niess and why the tuners were made. Houwha was especially fond of Kelenli and fascinated by her prowess, but he also became the most disillusioned after learning from her, because he'd always taken the most pride in being a "tool". After being shown the next day that "the briar patch" was actually a mass of not-quite-dead Niess and tuner bodies (including Tetlewha's), surrounding the base of the amethyst and having their life force drained to supply more magic to it, Houwha and his siblings were ready to burn Syl Anagist to the ground.
On Launch Day, the conductors took the tuners to a different complex ("Zero Site") surrounding another obelisk that had been planted on the Moon, which would be their vantage point for starting up the Plutonic Engine on Earth. (Because of course, the SAs colonized something as magnificent as the Moon, only to use it
as a charging station for their wackadoo plot to suck Earth dry. The audacity! The arrogance! The lack of imagination!) Houwha and his siblings intended to subvert their captors' plans by unleashing the power of the Plutonic Engine on Syl Anagist itself, instead of on Earth's core. But both the tuners and the SAs neglected to consider that Earth itself was sentient ("alive"), and that it had been using the iron shards within the obelisk pits as its army, gathering intel on what the humans were plotting. So when the tuners gathered all the obelisks from around the world and activated the Plutonic Engine, Father Earth—his consciousness contained within the core—intercepted it and wrested away 27 of those obelisks, determined to destroy all life on the surface so that humans would finally leave him alone. Because, just like the SAs had learned after experimenting on the Niess, people are just people, and Earth made no distinction between tuner and non-tuner.
To end the battle, Earth sicked iron shards on all the SAs gathered within Zero Site (basically invading their bodies and eating their brains, Gallat's included), and transformed Houwha and his siblings into stone eaters. Although Syl Anagist would be a lost cause regardless, before being transformed the tuners managed to redirect the Plutonic Engine's excess power toward the Moon in order to protect the rest of humanity. (This is what flings the Moon out of Earth's orbit, contrary to what people are led to believe for generations to come. It was the colonizers in power, not the tuners/orogenes of that time, who were overzealously exploiting the Earth. And while the tuners/orogenes were responsible for making the Moon go away, it was to spare humanity, not to make it suffer more.) The tuners were also able to delay the rapid descent of the 27 rogue obelisks, so that those obelisks' inevitable piercing of Earth's core wouldn't happen for another 100 years, giving humans just enough time to prepare for surviving "the Shattering". (This is the cataclysmic event that Earth, newly agitated, used to begin the first Season. So the removal of the Moon and the beginning of the Seasons were more a matter of correlation than causation, and those events did not immediately happen in tandem like people in Essun's time would be led to believe.) As for Houwha and his siblings, these six original stone eaters eventually found ways to create more stone eaters as an eternity of loneliness set in. While most forgot who they were pre-transformation, Houwha held onto as many memories as he could, renaming himself Hoa as a tribute to his former self. He and Kelenli never saw each other again, but Kelenli survived, had multiple children, and became the
mother of all modern lorists. (It's also implied that orogeny became hereditary through her offspring, which would make her the mother of all orogenes as well.)
Essun. After passing out from using the Obelisk Gate to secure Castrima's victory against the Rennanis army—making Castrima unlivable and getting her right arm turned to stone in the process—Essun awakens on a stretcher, being carried along as the Castrimans walk northwestward across the continent to the now-vacant Rennanis (their intended new home). Once she can move around on her own, and once she has Hoa take her somewhere private to eat her stone arm so it won't weigh her down, Essun immediately wants to go retrieve her daughter Nassun. But she is still weakened, and she can't use her powers; using either orogeny or magic will accelerate her body's stoning process. Also, as Hoa explains, Nassun is already on the move, accompanied by her two nefarious guardians (and Essun's mortal enemies) Schaffa and Steel/Gray Man. Nassun intends to open the Obelisk Gate just like Essun does, it's just a matter of who can get to Corepoint and open the Gate first. To demonstrate how dangerously powerful her daughter has become without Essun knowing, at Essun's request Hoa transports her to Found Moon to see Jija's bejeweled remains from when Nassun killed him.
Horrified and disheartened, but also recognizing that she has a real community now among the Castrimans, Essun decides to stay with them until they arrive safely in Rennanis. During that journey, Essun uses her powers when Castrima is ambushed by a band of commless raiders, and her left breast turns to stone as a result. (She lets Hoa eat that as well.) Also during that journey, I get my wish and Essun and her doctor friend Lerna—who's been in love with her since book 1—finally begin a sexual relationship, and it's not until everyone's settled in Rennanis that Lerna brings Essun's attention to the fact that she hasn't menstruated in a while. In other words, she's pregnant! Having already had parts of herself stoned as a consequence of opening the Gate, she and Lerna both know that the baby wouldn't survive if she goes through with her plans to open the Gate again. And she does briefly consider not doing it, so she can temporarily have a family with Lerna before everyone dies from the unrelenting conditions of this Season. But Essun ultimately stays the course, knowing that saving the world (especially the Castrimans) from a never-ending Season is bigger than her own immediate personal happiness. Plus, she still has to get her daughter back.
With only a few days left until the Moon is the closest it will ever be to Earth before floating away again, Essun needs to leave for Corepoint now. Hoa chooses this moment to conveniently reveal that he can transport multiple people through the earth at once, so long as everyone is touching. Essun is initially reluctant to burden her friends by asking them to accompany her, but Hoa basically says, in the gentlest way possible (and I paraphrase), "Let people help you, dammit!" So a handful of folks come to bid Essun farewell the next day (including headwoman Ykka), but only four join her on the trip: Lerna (for obvious reasons), Tonkee (for scientific research purposes), Hjarka (one of Ykka's advisors who became Tonkee's girlfriend in book 2), and Danel. Danel was the general of the Rennanis army who sicked a Guardian on Essun in book 2, then became one of the POWs held by the Castrimans as they traveled to Rennanis, and has since been allowed by Ykka to join Castrima as a labor-contributing member of the comm. However, during the long trek to Rennanis, Danel revealed to Essun that she was actually a lorist in the before times. And as a lorist, Danel now insists on witnessing what Essun will achieve at Corepoint so that she can record it for history's sake, doing her part to change the world through storytelling and the written word.
Holding each other's hands, Essun's crew begins to travel through the earth. As Hoa takes them past Earth's core, Steel (or one of his allies) tries to unlink Essun from Hoa so that she will be vaporized by the surrounding heat and pressure. The attack on Essun fails, but Lerna is lost in the process. No one realizes this until they've arrived at Corepoint, and there's no time to mourn our favorite neighbor/doctor/lover/friend because the time to stop Nassun (who got there before Essun) and recapture the Moon is running out. Speaking of which, mother and daughter have an abrupt and unhappy reunion. Nassun is too far gone in her jadedness, and Essun is unable to prevent her from climbing atop a giant tower and opening the Obelisk Gate. Essun summons the onyx obelisk to help her open a secondary Gate to counter Nassun's. She draws energy/magic from whatever source she can, including the still-active Rifting in Yumenes, and all the world's remaining Guardians who've been stored, hibernating, underneath Corepoint to wait out this Season. (Essun kills them all in the process of extracting their corestone implants.)
Mother and daughter reach a stalemate wherein Essun realizes that Nassun intends to make everyone in the world a stone eater (I'll explain why later), that Corepoint and its surroundings will crumble if she and Nassun continue wielding magic at this scale, and most importantly, that Nassun's left hand has become stone as a result of using her Gate. Not wanting Nassun to be stoned to death like Alabaster was (and like Essun is already in the process of being), Essun stops fighting, disabling her Gate and forfeiting her dream of saving the world so that her only remaining child will live. As more of Essun's body solidifies (including her internal organs), she looks up from the ground to where Nassun still stands atop the tower, meeting Nassun's gaze. Essun simultaneously cries and laughs in pride at how amazingly powerful and beautiful her daughter has become, and then she dies. Hoa later takes her statue somewhere deep beneath the nearby ocean floor, where he reconstitutes her into a stone eater. Eventually Essun emerges as a yellowish-brown stone eater with deep red locs, and Hoa explains that he wants to spend eternity with her because community is the only way that people (including stone people) can move forward. Essun, even in this form, still wants to make the world a better place, and Hoa agrees to help her with that. But first, she needs to know her own life story so that she can maintain a sense of who she was before.
("Oh. My. Goodness. So this whole trilogy is basically Hoa retelling
Essun's life back to her so she, as a stone eater, can remember who she
is???" That's the message I sent Sho immediately after finishing The Stone Sky, and to answer my own question: Yes indeed, that's exactly what it is! This is actually where the novel ends, but I haven't addressed world-weary Nassun yet, so let's continue.)
After Nassun stones her father, Schaffa disposes of his two fellow Guardians and leads all of the Found Moon children away from the Antarctics before the people of Jekity can find out what happened to Jija and retaliate. At some point he sends the other kids off to fend for themselves while continuing to travel with Nassun. Given all the suffering she's witnessed and been through, and with Steel's lingering nihilistic influence, Nassun has a meltdown and concludes that the world cannot be fixed or redeemed. There are too many wrongs to be righted, Father Earth is a bully, and stills refuse to be decent to orogenes, so she will use the Obelisk Gate to obliterate everything. With Steel's directions but without Steel's assistance, Nassun and Schaffa head to the underground remains of Syl Anagist, where Nassun must use her magic to reboot the Deep Earth route that will take them to Corepoint. They travel through the earth in a grasshopper-like "vehimal" (vehicle + animal), and as they pass through the core, Father Earth agitates Schaffa's corestone implant as a form of torture while communicating to Nassun
through earthspeak. (Nassun has been shown in book 2 and book 3 to be able to receive messages and visions from the obelisks, but communicating with big-E Evil Earth himself is totally new for her.) She demands that Earth stop torturing Schaffa, to which Earth retorts (allow me to paraphrase again), "Don't blame me! Blame the
Syl Anagistine colonizers who weren't satisfied with colonizing other
people, and tried to pillage my inner depths for more
resources than they ever could've needed, not considering that I feel pain too! The havoc I wreak upon humanity is my
due! The souls I collect are my due! These is reparations! I got a right to be mad [cue Solange
], and you do too,
Nassun! Aren't you tired of people robbing you and not leaving you alone, just because you are who you are and you got something they don't? Tell me I'm wrong!" Schaffa doesn't die, but does enter a catatonic state as the vehimal progresses toward Corepoint.
Once above ground again, Nassun sees that Corepoint is now a city inhabited solely by stone eaters. (This is where, as Alabaster recounted to Essun in book 2, his stone eater named Antimony took him to recover after the battle at Meov.) Nassun drags Schaffa to an apartment that Steel directs her to. Corepoint's stone eaters are standoffish, but a few pop in and out of the apartment to help Nassun get by as she tends to Schaffa. Meanwhile, Nassun finds and reads Alabaster's diary—because, as it turns out, she's staying in his old apartment—learning about his connection to her mother and the occasionally-incoherent discoveries he made about how the obelisks, the obelisk pits, and the Obelisk Gate work. When Nassun realizes that Schaffa is dying and that Steel knew this would happen if Schaffa got too close to Earth's core, she threatens not to end the world like Steel wants her to. But Steel counters that Schaffa can't be healed, and will only suffer constant pain if he continues to live. So then, Nassun considers using the Gate to turn Schaffa into a stone eater instead so he can live without pain and never die, but the massive power of the Gate would make every human being a stone eater in the process. This is when Steel gets buck on her, shouting that eternal life is not a reward but a curse, a cruelty, a prison. That's why he's spent so long searching for someone who can destroy the world with the Gate, and why he's manipulated Nassun to be
that someone, because he wants
his own agonizing 40,000-year existence of loss, lovelessness,
and longing to finally cease. He wants a mercy killing, and if all other life on Earth must perish so he can be
relieved, then so be it. Furthermore, he asserts that Schaffa—who's at least 4,000 years old already because Guardians don't die—would only suffer the same anguish as a stone eater that Steel does.
(In case anybody is confused like I occasionally was, dying by statue-ification and being turned into a stone eater are two different processes. Nassun considers making the later happen to all people, while she herself would automatically undergo the former due to operating the Gate. Alabaster and Essun experience both.)
As the Moon rises and Nassun accepts that she can make neither Schaffa nor the world better, she decides it's time to end it all by crashing the Moon into the earth. She goes near the obelisk pit at the center of Corepoint and begins connecting obelisks together in the sky but is distracted by the sight of Schaffa, reanimated by Father Earth, entering a building near her and heading underground. Nassun follows him into what's revealed to be Warrant, the Guardian-only comm that's been referenced in book 1 and book 2, but that no one except Guardians have known the location of. In Warrant, Nassun finds Schaffa in a huge hall where implant surgeries are performed, and where all the hibernating Guardians are stored. Schaffa's implant has just been removed and he's been restored to full consciousness, as a gesture of goodwill from Father Earth. Perhaps, now that Schaffa has been revived, maybe Nassun can ensure he remains alive by not destroying Earth, and going the planet-full-of-stone-eaters route instead? So Nassun changes her plans, and returns above ground just in time to run into her mother for the first time in two years. Nassun turns her back on Essun, she opens the Gate, she and Essun fight as I've already described, and as Essun accepts defeat and dies in statue form, Nassun is transfixed by the sight of her mother smiling at her. (Apparently Essun had never smiled at her own daughter before?) She realizes that even in the end, her mother still believed there was something in the world worth saving, and that something was Nassun. At just that moment, the still-activated onyx communicates Essun's last wishes to Nassun, and Nassun changes her plans again at the very last minute, bringing the Moon back in alignment with Earth since her mother couldn't.
After Nassun has her stone hand amputated, after she stays in Corepoint for several months to grieve her mother with her mother's Castriman friends, and after Schaffa dies (good riddance), Nassun boards the vehimal with Essun's crew to begin their journey back to Rennanis. But not before Hoa appears before her to announce that he, Antimony, and Steel have negotiated a truce with Father Earth. (It's revealed that the three of them used to be siblings; Antimony was a tuner named Gaewha, and Steel was a tuner named Remwha. Of the six original stone eaters, these three are the only ones who still remember their past identities. As a prerequisite to their truce with Earth, Steel has promised Hoa and Antimony that he'll chill out on trying to kill everyone.) The Moon is back, all obelisks have been dissolved or buried (no more Gates will be opened to potentially antagonize Father Earth again), and though certain environmental disasters are inevitable, there will be no more Seasons. Hoa tries to encourage Nassun that there are many paths forward and many ways to change the world for the better, even if she can never use her powers again. Whatever path she (or the world at large) chooses, the key to any lasting, stable, and equitable future will be for people to cooperate with each other. With that conversation over, Nassun and her mom's friends are on their way, and Hoa begins working his magic on Essun's remains.
Whew. Okay. Wow, right? I had so many additional notes I wanted to share in this review of The Stone Sky
, but it's already gotten pretty long even for me (which is saying A LOT, I know). This is not a dissertation, and I've had to remind myself multiple times while writing about the Broken Earth
trilogy that my task is merely to summarize these stories as I understand them and try to make interesting points, draw interesting connections, or ask interesting questions based on my understanding. No need to write the books all over again.
So out of all the extra notes I had, I'm most strongly left contemplating all the things Essun, our hero, doesn't get. She doesn't get to tell Lerna she loves him. She doesn't get to have a happy home life with Lerna, their new baby, and Nassun once everything has been resolved (a potential fourth family for Essun, after having lost the one she grew up in, the one she had with Alabaster and Innon, and the one she had with Jija). She doesn't get to repair her relationship with her daughter, or even see Nassun through the rest of her childhood and approaching adolescence. She doesn't get to avenge her son Uche's death because Nassun kills Jija before she can get to him. If we're being real, she doesn't even get the triumph of achieving the enormous moon-wrangling mission that Alabaster bequeathed to her (even though it's her influence that ultimately prompts Nassun to do it for her). Essun is a reluctant hero to begin with. And even after accepting her role and stepping up to the gargantuan task placed before her, she's a hero who, technically, fails. Depending on if Danel and/or Nassun is successful in championing Essun's legacy to the masses, Essun might not go down in history as the 44-year-old, Black, dreadlocked, widowed, disabled, pregnant mother who escaped slavery and used her superpowers—powers for which she was subjugated and discriminated against—to spare humanity from extinction.
Nevertheless, there are important things that Essun does get. She gets to use her dying moments to show Nassun how much she loves her and is proud of her, something she neglected to express as a parent because she was focused on making sure Nassun had the tools to survive. Finally expressing her feelings toward her daughter in a way that her daughter could understand and receive, is what makes the difference. Furthemore, after her rebirth as a stone eater, Essun gets to spend eternity fighting for justice and improving the world, a desire that's been brewing in her all along (but especially since the time when she, as Syenite, first became a mother). And also, with Hoa literally taking her hand and encouraging her to never be patient or complacent, she gets to never be alone or fight alone again. And also, who knows whether she won't still be guiding and looking after her daughter as Nassun's new stone eater companion, even if Nassun can't use her powers anymore?
In completing this trilogy, I'm reminded of the unexpected yet profound emotional and spiritual experience I had while reading Bernice L. McFadden's Nowhere Is a Place
over the summer. And just like with Nowhere Is a Place
, I feel like I've been brought to this body of N.K. Jemisin's work at the precisely right time. As a Black woman choosing to read the Broken Earth
trilogy as an allegory for Black people finding a way, for themselves and for future generations, to survive and mend a world that hates us, I find myself similarly touched and similarly encouraged not to yield to despair. So if the lesson I learned from The Fifth Season
was to imagine the possibilities beyond a status quo that isn't as natural or immutable as it seems, and if the lesson I learned from The Obelisk Gate
was to trust people and believe in community for my own sake, then the lesson I've learned from The Stone Sky
, as hokey and trite as it might sound, is this: I am not alone, none of us are, and it's okay (imperative) for us to want and demand the impossible.
|For Essun. The pomegranate is a separate thing.|
As soon as I read the last page of book 3, I wrote in the margins, "BRILLIANT. GORGEOUS. NKJ is a prophet! What a gift she's give us with this trilogy!" I feel like I've exhausted all my words at this point, and I'm getting teary again thinking about what a treasure this series has been to me. So in closing, I'll leave you all with the message I sent my friend Marlee
once I completed this journey on Thanksgiving (directly after messaging Sho): "And now I'm sitting in my room at my grandpa's house crying because I
just finished book 3 and I feel overwhelmingly grateful to have read the
trilogy, especially at this time in my life. It's hard to
explain, but you can tell NKJ gave so much of herself to write this
story that emphasizes hope (amidst hopelessness), and community, and not
being a colonizing a-hole, and letting Black people be, etc. in a way
that just goes... beyond, haha. And moms! There's a lot of stuff about
moms in there too. Oh and not exploiting/depleting the planet!
That's another big part of it too." Read this trilogy and maybe change your life!
"They're afraid because we exist, she says. There's nothing we did to provoke their fear, other than exist. There's nothing we can do to earn their approval, except stop existing—so we can either die like they want, or laugh at their cowardice and go on with our lives" (109).
"But there are none so frightened, or so strange in their fear, as conquerors. They conjure phantoms endlessly, terrified that their victims will someday do back what was done to them—even if, in truth, their victims couldn't care less about such pettiness and have moved on. Conquerors live in dread of the day when they are shown to be, not superior, but simply lucky" (210).
"I want to understand what she means us to learn... I also want to simply look at her face and bask in that deep, powerful orogenic presence of hers. It's nonsensical... I want her to look at me. I want to speak to her. I want to be her.
I decide that what I'm feeling is love.
...I think of what life I might want for myself, if I could have a choice... I think of living with Kelenli. Sitting at her feet every night, speaking with her as much as I want, in every language that I know, without fear. I think of her smiling without bitterness and this thought gives me incredible pleasure." (205, 261).
"Impossible to delude oneself in a moment like this. Impossible to see only what one wants to see, when the power to change the world ricochets through mind and soul and the spaces between the cells... Impossible not to understand that Nassun has known Schaffa for barely more than a year, and does not truly know him, given how much of himself he has lost. Impossible not to realize that she clings to him because she has nothing else—
But through her determination, there is a glimmer of doubt in her mind... Barely even a thought. But it whispers, Do you really have nothing else?
Is there not one person in this world besides Schaffa who cares about you?" (381-82).
"'The Fulcrums are wrong... Imprisonment of orogenes was never the only option for ensuring the safety of society.' I pause deliberately, and she blinks, perhaps remembering that orogene parents are perfectly capable of raising orogene children without disaster. 'Lynching was never the only option. The nodes were never the only option. All of these were choices. Different choices have always been possible.'
There is such sorrow in her, your little girl. I hope Nassun learns someday that she is not alone in the world. I hope she learns how to hope again" (395-96).