Mark Reads ‘The Obelisk Gate’: Chapter 7

In the seventh chapter of The Obelisk Gate, this one chapter alone was the wildest ride imaginable. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Broken Earth. 

Trigger Warning: For brief discussion of conversion therapy, internalized homophobia, and abuse

The Moon.

She finds The Moon. 

Y’all, this chapter… wow. WOW. Oh, shit, this managed to connect multiple existing plot threads into one heart-rending chapter, and I’m just so, so impressed. I should have seen this coming, but I didn’t! 

Let’s go through this chronologically, and I’m first going to point out that a world dealing with massive, un-ignorable climate change is… uh… well, it’s real fun to read in 2020, isn’t it? ISN’T IT. Which I suspect is partially the point, in the sense that I gotta imagine N.K. Jemisin was drawing from our real-world spiral into an environmental disaster. (Not to suggest we aren’t already in one, but that we just continue to plummet.) With that in mind, I love what Jemisin has to say about the end of the world: some people are great. They are kind, and fair, and caring, fully understanding that everything is awful, so there’s no sense making anything worse than it already is. Some people are terrible. They are selfish, self-centered in the most violent ways, and will do anything they can to survive. (Also a real weird thing to type in 2020.) We get to see bits and pieces of Jija and Nassun’s journey south towards the Antarctics, and these flashes of perseverance and struggle provides an imagery of the world rapidly shifting to a new existence. It also manages to tie up certain plot points from The Fifth Season. Now we know why Essun couldn’t catch up to these two: they traveled by horse cart. We also know that Nassun felt Ykka’s summons from Castrima… ten miles past the underground comm. 

Which does make me wonder: Why was Hoa so certain she was there? 

The journey also provides us with emotional context. We see more and more of Nassun’s attempts to work within her father’s anger and disgust, and no scene exemplifies that more than the crossbow comm, the one that Nassun freezes to save her father’s life. Despite that she did what she could to help him, this is his reaction:

(She will never do this again. The way Jija looks at her afterward.)

At this point, Jemisin doesn’t even need to tell us what that look is. We know it. He is disgusted and repulsed by her orogeny; he believes his little girl is gone; he has no room for appreciation for what Nassun can do. So she must adapt constantly, to only strategically use orogeny because Jija is so damn delicate. And that’s really what this is, isn’t it? He’s delicate. He can’t handle even the slightest whiff of orogeny before it sends him into an anger that’s almost incontrollable. He controls it for his daughter… to an extent. He doesn’t comfort her nearly as much as he did in the beginning of this journey. In fact, is there any scene (aside from the moment where he tells Nassun to run from the bandits) in this chapter where he seems loving?

Ugh. My heart goes out to Nassun.

And then Jemisin veers this story into a beautiful, beautiful chaos:

“Tell me,” she hears Jija whisper to a woman who was out scouting for a local comm, after they have shared an evening meal of meat she caught around a fire Jija built, ”have you ever heard of the Moon?”

The Moon.

That’s where Jija is taking Nassun, apparently to be cured.



One of my initial thoughts was that Jija and Nassun were bound for SPACE because… well, that’s where moons should be??? Except then I remembered that the Moon was “lost,” and that meant… what the fuck, y’all, was the Moon actually on the Earth? Jemisin brilliantly builds the tension of this up because we know some things that both these characters don’t. The Moon is apparently integral to the end of the Seasons, but was that the same thing as the place they were going?

I just had to know. I had to know why Jija was so certain this was the place that would heal orogenes, too. And that aspect… lord. As they come upon The Moon—which visually did not seem like a moon, but something much, much different—Nassun has to unpack that reality. She’s already very careful and calculated about what she tells her father, even when that information—like who made the Moon structure and how she can use it—is vital to his understanding of the place. It reminded me so much of a dynamic you often see in abusive relationships: adapting to shifting goalposts so that you don’t “anger” the abusive person. Which I have experienced in multiple relationships! It’s a survival mechanism, a means of keeping someone’s rage and violence at bay. Nassun is coming to understand what triggers her father, which is… lord. It’s so upsetting. 

I found the talk of curing Nassun to be more upsetting, though, and it was real hard for me not to see a specific experience in this: conversion therapy. I never went through it, but I was threatened with it when I was 18, and it led to my falling out with my church at the time. (Not the sole factor, obviously, as I’ve spoken at length in the past about what I’ve gone through.) Much of the reality of that feels like this scenario, especially this line:

A cure. A cure. For orogeny? She hardly knows what to think. Be… other than what she is? Be normal? Is that even possible? 

And it really is so hard to fathom! How do you change who you are? What does that even look like? As a closeted queer kid, I certainly had lots of moments where I longed to be straight because I assumed that would make my life easier. Yet when I was faced with this opportunity to do that, I couldn’t even entertain it, not even for a moment. How? How could I possibly change who I fundamentally was?

To make this all even more fucked up, Jija watches Nassun’s reaction with anticipation, and he’s pleased when she doesn’t immediately seem resistant to the idea. Which is… so fucked up??? Lord, I can’t get over this. He flat-out tells her to her face that he wants his “little girl back,” as if she suddenly became a different person. That’s what is so harmful and insidious about this. Nassun is still the same person! She hasn’t stopped being his daughter. But people with bigoted beliefs like this refuse to expand their knowledge of another person, and thus, they feel like the person has “changed.” Not just changed, but needs to be cured. 


And then!!!! Because everything was already tense enough!!!! A chaotic fight breaks out, and initially, I could not tell if Jija had been harpooned (HARPOONED!!! THROUGH THE CALF!!!!) by the comm or by someone else, and everything was a fucking nightmare. Yet it provided a test for Nassun: Would she utilize orogeny to save her father? Would she listen to his demand that she run and save herself? Where were the goalposts then? This passage summarizes her struggle with heart-crushing clarity:

Bandits. Kill them. She knows she must. If she does not, they will kill her.

But her father wants a little girl, not an animal.

She stares and stares and breathes hard and cannot stop staring, cannot think, cannot act, can do nothing but stand there and shake and hyperventilate, torn between survival and daughterhood.

I’m just… crushed? Crushed by the idea that Nassun has been wedged into such a nightmare of a choice, y’all. Who deserves that kind of life? Jija certainly thinks his daughter does. Actually, he probably hasn’t even considered what this is like for her. Does he even care? 

Ugh, this hurts so much! I feel so directly attacked! Because I know EXACTLY what this sort of pain feels like when you know that your own parents’ love for you is conditional and exact and calculated. Because as calculated as Nassun is, I don’t want to lose sight of how Jija is doing something similar in reverse: His love for his daughter requires a complicated formula, one where she behaves and believes as he does, where she is fundamentally a different person.

Mama is not here, and death is, and her father is the only person left in the world who loves her, even though his love comes wrapped in pain.

It’s crushing, isn’t it? She chooses her father even when her father does not choose her. 

And I should have known. I should have known who would choose her, who would talk to a young orogene just like that, who would ask if he knew Nassun because HE SAW SYENITE IN HER FACE. Y’all, this bit alone was a fucking tell.

“The beasts are dead. I came to help you, didn’t I?” Something is off about the question. he asks it as if he seeks confirmation: didn’t I? It’s too sincere, too heartfelt somehow. Then he says, “I won’t let anyone hurt you.”

IT’S SO OBVIOUS NOW. And Nassun relaxing in his presence? I… I can’t. All the signs were there. 

Nassun can’t take it anymore. “What is the Moon?”

“Found Moon.” The man inclines his head. “That is the name of our community. A very special place, for very special people.” Then he sheaths the knife and extends one hand, palm up, offering. “My name is Schaffa.”

I tried as best as I could to replicate the visceral reaction I had to this, but suffice to say, if there had been a video, you would have seen me LITERALLY GET UP AND LEAVE MY DESK. I just had to walk away from the book. I was both shocked and furious. Look, I know something happened to Schaffa when he made that deal, and he’s got something inside him that’s guiding him, but that doesn’t mean I trust him even 1%! I hate him! I hate everything he has done! And even though I also don’t understand the context of some of what he does here, I STILL DON’T LIKE IT. What is his duty now? He touched Nassun on the back of the neck; does that hold the same meaning or power it used to? Is he bonding her to him? What do they actually do in the comm of Free Moon? Is Schaffa truly “curing” orogeny? Why would he do that? Does he have any agency after making that deal? WHAT DOES THAT QUOTE MEAN AT THE END ABOUT HOW WARRANTS ARE MADE? I remember Schaffa’s full name! Was he made?



  • This chapter title punched me in the face
  • I was truly not ready for it at all.
  • she… what? SHE FINDS THE MOON????????
  • oh, THAT is why they got so far ahead of Essun
  • so why was Hoa so certain Nassun was there?
  • hey everything is a nightmare!!!!
  • oh, no, nassun. CHRIST. She saves him and he still judges her!!! he still makes her feel terrible to be who she is! 
  • hi, that tree that attacks: what the FUCK
  • WHAT
  • STOP
  • THE FUCKING MOON?????????
  • HOW
  • I do not know what to do with myself right now
  • lmao are they gonna have to go to SPACE
  • I am genuinely so nervous about what is about to happen.
  • oh no. what is this structure they’ve come upon?
  • oh, that passage about Nassun understanding her father? help.
  • made by orogenes????
  • hexagonal?
  • how did Jija know about this place?
  • what’s “better” than the Fulcrum? Literally anything, I suppose, but what does that mean?
  • cure??? I still don’t think that’s possible.
  • haha wow, he just called her an animal to her face.
  • a year!!! it’s been a YEAR!!!!
  • A CHAIN???
  • WAIT why can’t she sess that bandit when he hits the ground???
  • y’all what the fuck is HAPPENING
  • this is the Moon????
  • fuck you
  • fuck you now
  • fuck you all forever
  • fuck you fuck you fuck you 
  • no!!!!!
  • no!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • I went from excitement to EXTREME RAGE in like a whole second!!!!!!!!
  • you’re kidding me!!!!
  • “He’s not alone in there.” HI. WHAT. WHAT?????
  • adfkj;sljf;alsjdf;afja;jf that quote at the end!!!! I’m never going to be okay. 

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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