Mark Reads ‘The Obelisk Gate’: Chapter 1

In the first chapter of The Obelisk Gate, I can’t. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Broken Earth. 

Trigger Warning: For talk of trauma, grief, death of a child


So, rather than have a whole separate post on this, I’ve decided from here on out that predictions will be folded into the first review of a new book or season of a series that I am covering. These posts were generally a placeholder and a break when I was doing five reviews a week per site, so it doesn’t make sense to add them in when I’ve got a new normal. As a reminder, since I have done predictions on Mark Reads in LITERAL YEARS: Please be wary of spoilers and even hinting at whether I got something right or wrong with these predictions. I don’t want to be biased about what I’ve predicted if I look in the comments when this posts. So, please use care and lots of rot13!

Here’s what I think The Obelisk Gate will be about.

  • The moon?
  • I think we’ll find… a gate? Made of obelisks?
  • (This is going to be so hard, oh my god.)
  • Okay, I think Alabaster meant that he wants to see if orogenes can use their orogeny using the moon as a source of power. 
  • I also think Alabaster is going to die in The Obelisk Gate.
  • Structure-wise, the book will mostly be narrated by Essun with occasional appearances of her past selves to fill in some gaps of the story. 
  • I will also find out the true purpose of Castrima. I think it’s not just a new home for mostly orogenes.
  • By the end of the book, I’ll find out that Schaffa survived Syenite’s attack on the water. 
  • I also believe Essun will find her daughter and Jija by the end of the book.
  • I think Essun will kill her husband. 
  • Essun will join forces with Ykka, Tonkee, and many others to begin to dismantle and overthrow the hold of the Fulcrum on the world. 
  • I think there will be a cliffhanger at the end of the book. Good luck getting me to try to guess it because I have no fucking clue what I’m doing with these predictions.

And with that…now I am off to read the first chapter of The Obelisk Gate!

Nassun, on the rocks

That chapter title… UGH. I CAN’T DO THIS. You know, by the end of this chapter, I was aware of the sheer potential that Jemisin has to tell any sort of story, especially if someone like Hoa is the narrator. I still get the sense that there’s some greater reason why Hoa is telling this all to Essun. More importantly, though, is the fact that we could jump to any character that Hoa has knowledge of. If Essun most know something, then there’s a chance that person might get a chapter. Will most of this be in this strange first- and second-person narration? Will there be other tenses or POVs? WHO KNOWS?

But I don’t want to escape the pure shock of seeing Nassun’s name in the chapter title. Holy shit, y’all, I was both oddly prepared with one prediction, yet completely not ready. So, Nassun and Essun will be reunited! “That’s not a spoiler,” Hoa says, since Essun “knows” this. (That suggests very heavily that this is being told to Essun in the future for a reason. WHAT REASON IS THAT.) And then we are dropped back into the opening of the previous book, but this time, we see things through Nassun. 

It’s hard. Heartbreaking. There is so much joy, hope, and kindness on display before Nassun’s entire life is changed by the murder of her younger brother. Nassun wanted to be a lorist! And I loved that Jemisin then grounded us in that decision. What did it mean to be a lorist? Why was it important that this young orogene, who had hidden her power for years at the urging of her mother, wanted so badly to be someone who studied history? It’s fascinating to me that the lorists are both respected in some sense—look at how Jija treats Renthree—while also existing almost on the fringes? No one seems particularly excited for their children to be lorists; lorists are, on the whole, not taken too seriously. They’re “entertainment.” They tell stories. Do people believe those stories? Perhaps only peripherally. Lorists tend to move around a lot, they often have other professions to make a living, and their role in the world has often been purposely diminished: 

They used to chisel stonelore into mountainsides in tablets as high as the sky, so that all would see and know the wisdom needed to survive. Alas: in the Stillness, destroying mountains is as easy as an orogene toddler’s temper tantrum. Destroying a people takes only a bit more effort.

The Regwo, from whom the lorists originated, are now completely gone, and lorists honor them by painting their lips black. I can’t ignore, then, what Alabaster said of stonelore in the previous book: How many important tablets were destroyed? How many lies have been told to the people of the Stillness? There’s even that line in this chapter about how the lorists have forgotten all they’ve forgotten. What if very little of lorist knowledge is even correct anymore? 

I also can’t ignore the potential importance of an OROGENE becoming a lorist. What happens when an orogene studies the history of their world? What happens if Nassun does somehow train in being a lorist and comes to find out just how many lies they’ve been taught? Granted, I don’t know how Nassun would train in this while the world is also ending? Shit, maybe Tonkee would teach her something? I don’t even know if geomests and lorists get along???

I’ll cross that bridge if it even shows up. For now, though, I want to talk about how Jemisin adds a layer of tragedy to an already tragic story. Because y’all, Nassun didn’t realize that by giving Renthree that stone with the diamond, her act would be the last straw. It’s kindness that undoes Jija. It was kindness that guided Nassun to give Renthree such a wonderful and valuable gift, one that would have changed Renthree’s life for a long time. And it was kindness that led to Renthree giving it back, knowing that Nassun had essentially overpaid her; she couldn’t cheat these people out of what was theirs.

Unfortunately, it’s the confirmation that Jija had been dreading. Jemisin might put us in Jija’s head here, but she doesn’t exonerate or excuse him at all. Seriously, it’s disturbing to see him put two and two together; it’s even more haunting to know what the precipitating factor was for him to snap and murder his child. (Uche knew that his father had a shiny rock in his pocket.) If anything, I’m even more fucked up by the death of Uche. How can someone be so calculating and just detach from their own child so quickly? It’s obvious later that Jija simply could not see his son as a human once he knew. He struggles with that notion when it comes to Nassun, however:

And of the two of her parents, it is Jija to whom Nassun has always been closer. She’s his favorite, too: the firstborn, the one he never expected to have, the one with his face and his sense of humor. She likes his favorite foods. He’s had vague hopes of her following in his footsteps as a knapper.

So, only because he sees himself in Nassun is Jija able to humanize HIS OWN DAUGHTER. Which is… so fucked up, y’all. But this didn’t throw me for a loop. It gave me a new understanding of the motivations for this tragedy, but no. It was this line that concerned me:

“We’re going somewhere you can be better,” he says gently. “Somewhere I heard of, where they can help you.” Make her a little girl again, and not… He turns away from this thought, too.

First of all: “make her a little girl again.” THAT LINE IS SO AWFUL, EVERYTHING HURTS. She is a little girl! But that’s what happens here; stills do not see orogenes as people!!! Just knowing Nassun has this ability makes him think she’s not a little girl. Also: Somewhere she can get better? That… that’s not possible, is it??? What the fuck is he talking about? What does that mean? Is that why they went towards Castrima? Ugh, y’all, I still don’t get why Hoa took Essun there! WHAT’S THE CONNECTION?

I’m completely not ready for this damn book. NOT AT ALL.


  • oh.
  • oh so my predictions are all trash, aren’t they
  • oh no
  • this chapter title has already ruined me
  • “That’s not a spoiler” lmaaaaaooo I love Hoa’s narration so much
  • “Whom you will get back” WHAT WHAT WHAT
  • A LORIST?????
  • OMG Will I get to learn more about lorists????
  • oh, wow, so lorists are not exactly popular.
  • HELL YES, QUEERNESS AGAIN. hi renthree!!!!
  • ohhhhhhhh, this is how it’s connected to Nassun!
  • ohhh, she just wants to leave tirimo, my heart is SHATTERING. 
  • “More on this later.” Will there be more Nassun chapters???? please????
  • oooooh, what’s a geneer?
  • oh
  • oh no
  • this is how jija found it, isn’t it
  • NO
  • my heart is broken all over again
  • oh the gesture
  • I can’t 
  • I’m in PIECES
  • make her BETTER??? what?????
  • what the fuck does that mean??????

Mark Links Stuff

You can now pre-order my second YA novel, Each of Us a Desert, which will be released on September 15, 2020 from Tor Teen!
– Not only that, but my very first pre-order campaign is now live for North American readers! If you submit proof of pre-order, you can get a limited edition print that comes with the book.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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