The first two books in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy have received deserved accolades for their compelling characters, vivid setting, and a plot that keeps the reader turning pages. In The Stone Sky, Jemisin sticks the landing, successfully bringing plot threads and character arcs to a satisfying close.
The Stone Sky resolves mysteries that were set up in the earlier books, such as the origin of the stone eaters and the nature of the Guardians. When a story reaches this point, it can sometimes feel like a letdown. This book avoids that pitfall by having some of the answers be truly awe-inspiring (or terror-inspiring, as the case may be). It also suggests the truth of an old quote: “The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of mystery.” The ancient civilization that built the obelisks isn’t the oldest civilization, and there are hints that other cultures may have known things they didn’t. This allows the setting to maintain a sense of wonder even as the directly plot-relevant mysteries are being solved.
We also see the payoff from character development that has been building up over the first two books, primarily Essun’s gradual acceptance of being able to rely on other people. One moment, in which several characters agree to undertake a perilous journey with her, is particularly touching.
Finally, the book establishes the reason for a narrative convention that I mentioned in my review of The Fifth Season: having some chapters written from a second-person point of view. While I still think second-person POV doesn’t read smoothly over such a long story, the full revelation about why these chapters are written that way is one of the reasons why the novel (and thus the series) ended on a strong note.