Mark Reads ‘The Obelisk Gate’: Chapter 12

In the twelfth chapter of The Obelisk Gate, I have been defeated by this book. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Broken Earth.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse, grief, and slavery

Holy fuck.

Well, I know more things, don’t I? I imagine that re-reading this trilogy has to be a delight. I’m so enamored with the way that Jemisin reveals information throughout the story and how much of it is tied to these deeply emotional moments. It’s exposition done cleverly and believably, y’all. Nassun has so little knowledge about the world, about herself and her powers, and that means these important learning moments for her can also be a means to reveal things to the reader. We’re grounded first in a rare thing in this series: joy. I could feel it in these sentences. Nassun was home. She was in a place where she belonged as best as she could, where she was accepted, and now, she was able to just… be herself. Be an orogene. Gone are the times when she had to “wait until the dark of night, lying awake after her parents have gone to bed.” Now, she gets to use her orogeny out in the open. 

And I can’t deny that a huge reason why she feels this way is because of Schaffa. Schaffa, who terrified me and enraged me, and who, especially after the last chapter, appears to genuinely be on the path to becoming a different person, one of who doesn’t want to harm an orogene again. Well, within his own morality. Again, he isn’t redeemed at all, and I don’t want this to come off like he’s “cured” or anything. But as it stands right now, he does seem to be telling the truth: He doesn’t want to do what he did anymore. So, Nassun’s perception of Schaffa affects her happiness. In short: He provides her a safety she has never had. 

Now, that still doesn’t necessarily make him a good person, and I think I need the context of the entity controlling Schaffa to understand if he is using Nassun like a pawn, even if it’s unknowingly. But for now… look, the three Guardians here in Free Moon aren’t doing what they were taught to do. They aren’t! They’re open about the past of the Fulcrum, despite how intensely uncomfortable that is. They offer up information to Nassun as she asks for it, and their teaching is devoid of the violence and abuse that I got used to in the previous book. IT’S VERY SURREAL.

And it all is in glaring contrast to Jija. I suppose it was only a matter of time before he figured out that this place isn’t for curing orogenes. Still, it was so difficult to read that exchange between him and Nassun about Eitz and training. He is sticking to his assertion that orogenes are not human, that his daughter must be cured for her to be fully loved by him, and… well, the denial is strong in Jija. There’s that moment later on where he tells Schaffa that his daughter isn’t an orogene. Which… man. Like… what sort of dissonance is living in his mind that he could actually say that out loud? The whole reason he brought her here was because she is an orogene. But I think this is a sign of how he is compartmentalizing this. She’s not an actual orogene because that can be changed, so I feel like he states this less as an observation and more as a misguided piece of hope. That’s what he hopes she is.

But it’s not the truth, and I’m getting increasingly worried about what this is going to mean for the remainder of this book. How much more of this will he be able to tolerate, and what will it look like when he can’t? We get a glimpse of that when he rushes onto the complex and tries to threaten Schaffa, and I don’t see a version of this where Jija survives. RIGHT. Let’s be real, he’ll lose a fight against the Guardians, and Schaffa has made it painfully clear that he will put Jija down if need be:

“I will kill him if he ever hurts you, Nassun. Keep that in mind, if you value your father’s life more than your own. I do not.”

WELP, THERE IT IS. It’s so crushing to Nassun because she is torn: between the joy that her freedom brings and her intense need to be loved and validated by her father. She wants both things, but the way life is working for, it’s apparent she can’t have both. I don’t see Jija coming around on this, you know? He literally murdered his younger child for being an orogene. I know that Nassun is alive because of her special and close relationship with her father; that was examined at length earlier in the book! I do love that this book is making me think about what it means to love a family member. From Jija’s perspective, it’s easy to imagine why he thinks his actions are a manifestation of his love for Nassun. It doesn’t seem toxic or inappropriate for him to do what he’s done! But like the opening paragraph points out, this shit is complicated. Jija doesn’t know his daughter like he claims to!

But let’s go back to that conversation about Nassun being a pawn. I know I’m still trying to figure out Schaffa’s complicated identity, and this chapter adds another huge wrinkle to that. I got absolute confirmation that there is an endgame at work here that Schaffa hinted at early in the book. He is seeking to undo “a great mistake,” one that encompasses both the enslaving of the orogenes under Guardian control and the Shattering. It’s two-fold, and we are at least seeing how, on this very small scale, Schaffa is changing how he treats orogenes. At times, he goes a bit overboard in his defense of them, like what we saw with Eitz’s family or when he threatens Jija. (And that joy he experiences when he does that kinda shit? It’s… deeply unnerving, to say the least.) And we also know that when Alabaster opened the Rift, he dumped the Fulcrum of Yumenes into it, so it’s not like Schaffa has to worry about them finding him. 

But this part feels like the biggest clue yet: 

“I present its wishes to you as a choice, and I will abide if you say no. It is… less trusting of your kind. Admittedly, for good reason.”

In this ancient war, who would be less trusting of orogenes? Earth, right? Which means that… christ. Earth is what saved Schaffa’s life, and Earth is now trying to get Shaffa to do their bidding. If that’s the logic and it sticks, then I’m still worried! Because I don’t know what Earth wants right now. To purge all humans? For peaceful coexistence? I’m guessing not the latter, so it brings up an important question once more: Is Nassun a pawn, too? 

More on that at the end, because we have to talk about The Thing. The exceptionally terrifying and confusing and shocking Thing that happens here. Two major things come of it: We learn of a brand new power that orogenes are capable of and that there’s still a Fulcrum base that wasn’t purged. Nassun’s new power is… fuck, y’all. It’s hard to talk about it because it’s all wrapped up in something deeply traumatizing for Nassun: She killed one of her only friends accidentally. She can turn people to stone. To gems. It’s a kind of orogeny that is “slower, crueler, yet much more refined.” “Artful,” Hoa describes it. 

It’s horrifying. I don’t understand how it happened. I get that Nassun called her obelisk to her; I get that she had an instinctual reaction to “falling up” the blue column of light; I get that she could sess the node maintainers and other communities of orogenes. (But not Castrima, of note.) She was in a heightened state of awareness due to her panic and fear. But literal stone? I don’t get it. I don’t get how that becomes part of her power. It’s a molecular change, y’all! That shows a ridiculous control of her orogeny. 

While this chapter sinks into the terrible grief of Nassun, I was left wondering what was going to come of all this. I suspect that the Guardians are after the Antarctic Fulcrum; they want to destroy it before they are found out. I bet Schaffa sees that as good for Nassun, but I’m still not convinced that he’s the best thing for her. If he’s been fighting Earth this whole time, what happens when he can’t stave off the pain? Or ignore it? What if Earth retaliates? WHAT IF I’M NOT EVEN RIGHT ABOUT ANY OF THIS. 

This chapter was just… holy shit, I’m still floored.


  • Falling up? Hey, no thanks. 
  • These asides from Hoa are so fascinating!
  • seek understanding of WHAT
  • ugh, nassun experiencing the joy of freedom for the first time HELP
  • the parallels between her relationship with schaffa and her mother’s relationship with schaffa are PAIN
  • yooooo she is learning with instinct rather than obedience YOOOOOOOO
  • So, even the Guardians are changing how they teach. that’s interesting.
  • Forbidden to reach for the sky… where the obelisks are, eh?
  • oh, I’m so glad nassun is asking these questions re: the guardians!!!
  • I love the sea 🙂 🙂 🙂
  • I do not love whatever the fuck a SANDTEETHER is
  • ugh, so things are still tense between Nassun and Jija
  • oh, so that’s what Jija meant
  • it’s so sad to me that she is negotiating this because I TOTALLY GET WHY
  • ugh I feel so much for nassun! this is heartbreaking
  • I’m sorry, she’s made for WHAT
  • okay to remedy… the moon? the shattering???? Schaffa contributed to the Shattering??? WHAT IS HAPPENING
  • holy shit???
  • oh god, of course it’s hard for her to see Schaffa as the person he is claiming to be. her whole experience with him is tenderness and care!
  • allies. that is… an interesting word choice
  • so wait
  • which side is he on, though? because if my theory is right—that Earth is speaking within Schaffa—that makes me very worried.
  • oh my god it IS Earth, isn’t it??? who else would have a good reason for not trusting Nassun’s kind?????
  • she WHAT
  • “He is a beautiful failure.” I… I can’t. I can’t do this.
  • okay so I can’t even breathe right now reading this.
  • she called her obelisk to her, right? and a stone eater is coming for her too? 
  • oh no JIJA NO
  • this confrontation has me shaking, i’m so nervous
  • she fell UP???!?!?!?
  • “connected” TO WHAT
  • oh fuck the node maintainers?
  • oh god the antarctic fulcrum
  • that fucking ending
  • oh my god
  • y’all
  • what the fuck

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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