I had problems with this book. Mostly confusion. This is the third book in the trilogy and by now I guess I should be used to Jemisin's method of jumping around between time periods and characters, without warning and without explaining who is what, as well as introducing new characters or concepts with no background or preparation. But this one really threw me for a loop and I spent maybe the first quarter to third of the book floundering and trying to find my feet.
In the end though, I was so bowled over by the creativity of her imagination and the uniqueness of the world that she has built for us in these books that I sort of gave her a pass on her confusing method of presenting the story. Her descriptive writing is clear enough that one can see - or "sess" - the overall picture that she is presenting even when individual parts remain baffling.
So, Syl Anagist? What's up with that? Has it been mentioned in the other books? Not that I remember. Apparently, it was the great founding civilization on the planet and they created the stone eaters as a kind of bridge - "tuners" - between ordinary humans and the powers of orogeny which the Syl Anagistans sought to control. They created the stone eaters in the image of the Niess, a tribe of people who were proficient at using magic. The Niess were destroyed and dissected by the Syl Anagistans in order to try to understand the source of their magic. (I guess the idea of just observing or asking them never occurred to the "great civilization.")
So, we get all this background on Syl Anagist, as far as I can tell, through the voice of the stone eater Hoa, who was Essun's companion and protector in the previous book. Stone eaters, it seems, live forever. Or at least for a very, very long time. And they have unique powers. For one thing, they are able to travel through the center of the Earth to get from one hemisphere to another or one side of the world to the other. Not only that but they are able to transport humans with them and that is an important factor in the development of the plot.
And the plot here is that Essun is still searching for her daughter, Nassun. Nassun, now ten years old, still has Schaffa, the Guardian, as her companion and protector. Essun continues to travel with the people from the comm Castrima as they look for a new place to live after their last community was destroyed.
Father Earth is a sentient entity and he is still furious with humans and essentially trying to wipe them off the planet in revenge for their many sins against the planet, but especially because they caused the Moon to be flung out of its orbit long ago. Earth has been wreaking vengeance against humans for the loss of his child ever since.
This, then, is the story of the separation of parent and child and of trying to get the two back together again. Essun has a plan. She will harness the power of the obelisks to bring Moon back to its orbit and make Father Earth happy again and make him end the destructive "Fifth Seasons." Meanwhile, Nassun also has a plan for harnessing the power of the obelisks. Like mother, like daughter. And Hoa will transport Essun and some members of her comm through the center of Father Earth to the place where Nassun is. The stage is set for an explosion of powerful forces.
Well, this is fantasy after all. The laws of physics do not apply. Anything goes. One just has to suspend disbelief and hang on tight for the ride. And enjoy the fantastical artistic vision and exquisite writing.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars