It’s been almost two years since I read the first book in this series. I enjoyed the story of The Fifth Season, but the writing style was difficult for me. When I saw that The Obelisk Gate (and then The Stone Sky) had also won the Hugo, I was a little disappointed, because I wasn’t inclined to pick it up, but I knew that I would need to eventually to maintain my goal of reading every Hugo award winner. Fortunately, I enjoyed the book far more than its predecessor.
For me, the biggest difference between this book and the first one has been style. The first book seemed to be experimenting a lot with perspective, timing, and narration styles. The book bounced around a lot between second and third person narration, which is unusual. That style also made it difficult to tell when events were happening. Many of those issues are gone in the second book and the focus is more on the story. There are still second person narratives, but the purpose of them is clearer.
The other part of The Obelisk Gate that made it more enjoyable than its predecessor was the amount of answers the book gave. While the first book explained some aspects of the world, it left out many of the details. This book addresses many of the unanswered questions, so that by the time the book ended, I felt like there was a definite direction for the series. Even though many problems weren’t resolved, there were possible solutions and foreseeable challenges. That changed the way I viewed the series and made me look forward to the next book.
There were very few new characters in this book, so far less time was devoted solely to character development. I felt that this actually worked in the book’s favor. Because most of the characters had been established in The Fifth Season, this book developed those characters by putting them in new situations and having them respond. For Essun, the main protagonist, this just confirms who she is. For Nassun, who is just a child, we see her personality being shaped. Then there’s Schaffa, the guardian, who’s personality completely changes following an injury, and has to relearn who he is. The balance between these three characters is fantastic.
The first book was good, but not great, and didn’t really inspire me to continue the series. The Obelisk Gate was far better, and got me excited for the third book. I want to see what happens to the world, and how the budding conflicts are resolved. I want to know what happens next.