Mark Reads ‘The Obelisk Gate’: Chapter 11

In the eleventh chapter of The Obelisk Gate, Schaffa dreams. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Broken Earth.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse, trauma, PTSD, and nonconsensual medical procedures

Look, I don’t necessarily like Schaffa, but what Jemisin has done with his character in this book is incredible. It’s not really a redemption narrative, or at least I don’t sense that it is heading in that direction. In part, that’s because of the complicated nature of his life being saved. As I had written about before, I couldn’t quite figure out where Schaffa started, where he ended, and how much of his behavior was due to the being that now controls him. I think after the last chapter that I feel safe in stating that Earth saved him, and now I suspect that this is the perversion mentioned during one of the memories in Schaffa’s dreams. Were the Guardians meant to be used by the Earth? Was the Fulcrum created to keep the Guardians independent from Father Earth? Maybe? Now that I’ve typed that out, I’m not so sure about this theory, but there’s something here, I KNOW IT. 

Anyway, I think that until the very end of this chapter, everything is Schaffa. This thing in his body only appears to push him in a certain direction, one that involves subjugating orogenes further. Which would mean that his changing feelings on his own complicity are his own; he isn’t being compelled to feel that way. Still, this dream sequence is horrifying and confusing as we jump from one memory to another, so I wanted to pick out a few details to discuss. Like the very first one! That image of Schaffa’s parents gave me an interesting detail: Schaffa’s father was most likely a feral orogene. So, Guardians are orogenes, then. Or at least they had the potential for it? And that operation—whatever the fuck it is—takes place at Warrant, and the implant is what allows Guardians to be who they are. They have extremely long lifespans, they can connect with orogenes, etc. I feel pretty sure about this one! But then this line:

(He remembers learning, around this time, that original purposes can be perverted easily.) 

It haunts me! Because did this process have a different purpose? Or did Guardians have a different purpose? Who perverted it? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN

…because from this moment forth his own sessapinae will be repurposed, made sensitive to orogeny and not to the perturbations of the earth.

Is that the perversion? Is it a deliberate process to stop them from being orogenes? OH I FEEL LIKE I’M SO CLOSE TO FIGURING THIS OUT.

The Earth is indeed evil, and it is cruel, and Schaffa would protect them all from it, if he could.

All right, maybe I need to truly start considering Earth as the true antagonist here. Because prior to this, I thought the phrase “Evil Earth” was just like… a colloquial term. But after the previous chapter, I’ve got to re-think this. What if Earth is evil? Spiteful? Cruel? What if Earth never wanted humans and has been trying to get rid of them the whole time? How can an Earth be evil?

AND WHAT ABOUT LESHET. Or the fact that Guardians aren’t supposed to have children? I guess that makes sense; those in power want to control breeding, right? We also know from prior clues that Guardians live a very long time, but Leshet… Schaffa was surprised to see her aging. Does that just never happen? Nothing here suggested that Guardians are immortal, so do they just… die one day? What does that mean? Why was he tracking her? Why did he kill her? WHAT ELSE DON’T I KNOW ABOUT THE GUARDIANS?

The chapter focuses on Nassun in the end, and we get confirmation that Schaffa has figured out that she is Syenite’s daughter. But there’s a growth on his end that came after he nearly died. He is actively rethinking his complicity in all these systems. He is asking himself why he caused such immense pain in others, why he killed so many people, why all of this used to be normal for him. I loved that unnerving moment when Nassun tells him she is never afraid of him, and he quietly counters it with, “Never again.” It seems like a real promise he is making, and it’s followed with this:

What happened before does not matter. That was a different Schaffa. He has another chance now. And if being less than himself means being less than the monster that he was, he cannot regret it.

It’s right at this point that the thing controlling Schaffa awakens and sends a bolt of pain through him, which tells us that Schaffa’s thought was wrong to it. It wants Schaffa to “break” Nassun, and that’s why my theory is that this voice is Earth. If this is really a multi-pronged war, which side would want this type of cruelty? Only one of them truly makes sense. So Earth saved Schaffa and is trying to use him for… what? To what end?


  • his name gives me HEART PALPITATIONS
  • “you don’t like being him to any degree” hi what the FUCK does that mean????
  • oh shit, that object makes it so Guardians rarely have to sleep?
  • ugh this is all so haunting, I love this prose so much
  • hi, schaffa’s parents??????
  • oh my god is this the procedure that made him a guardian???
  • “original purposes can be perverted easily” HI HELLO. what?? Meaning that this machine had a different purpose before it was used for this?
  • an obelisk????
  • “sensitive to orogeny and not to the perturbations of the earth” okay, that confirms something hinted at in the last book. Guardians could have been orogenes but got made into… this?
  • okay, so the Socket is a direct connect to Earth, then! That’s the voice that you hear, right???
  • what the fuck
  • okay so they can’t have children???
  • oh so he just killed them all
  • just… what the
  • wait, is it significant that Leshet aged???? she was hiding????
  • oh my god this is TOO MUCH
  • welp, he definitely knows who Nassun is
  • oh, the confirmation of all the people he killed. DAMN.
  • this transformation FASCINATES me
  • hey what the FUCK is this voice
  • what the fuck!!!!!! this whole chapter was A Lot

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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