Mark Reads ‘The Stone Sky’: Prologue

In the prologue of The Stone Sky, Hoa takes us back. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Broken Earth.

Okay, before I get started: Let’s talk predictions! I did this entire section before I read a single word of The Stone Sky, which I am clearly not ready for. So, how did I do predicting the previous book?

  • The moon? I mean, yes. There was the Moon!
  • I think we’ll find… a gate? Made of obelisks? I tried.
  • (This is going to be so hard, oh my god.) It wasn’t very good.
  • Okay, I think Alabaster meant that he wants to see if orogenes can use their orogeny using the moon as a source of power. This was a decent prediction!!! I get why I made it! Still fucking wrong!
  • I also think Alabaster is going to die in The Obelisk Gate. Oh, wow, I got something right! Could I be wrong instead.
  • 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 TRULY DID NOT KNOW I WOULD BE GETTING NASSUN AND SCHAFFA
  • I will also find out the true purpose of Castrima. I think it’s not just a new home for mostly orogenes. Interesting prediction! Because I mostly didn’t find out its true purpose in the way I thought I would. It was just… a home underground!
  • By the end of the book, I’ll find out that Schaffa survived Syenite’s attack on the water. Hahahahaha, oh, Mark.
  • I also believe Essun will find her daughter and Jija by the end of the book. OH, MARK.
  • I think Essun will kill her husband. mark MARK WHY
  • Essun will join forces with Ykka, Tonkee, and many others to begin to dismantle and overthrow the hold of the Fulcrum on the world. they fucking DIDN’T NEED TO because the Fulcrum BASICALLY DIDN’T EXIST ANYMORE. I don’t think I truly appreciated how DONE the world was at this point.
  • 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. Hey, at least I was honest.

And now, as I face down the final book in The Broken Earth, I am going to do my best and attempt to guess what’s about to happen. Here we go:

  • The title is referring to… the Moon?
  • We will find out that Alabaster was “resurrected” in a way, but as a stone eater. Don’t ask me how that’s possible, I don’t know.
  • We’ll get a scene where Hoa eats part of Essun’s stone body.
  • I think the stone and the pure magic will spread evenly over Essun’s body. I LIKE SYMMETRY.
  • At some point, Nassun and Essun will be reunited.
  • And as much as I hate to say this, I think they will not be (initially) on the same side.
  • I think Steel is manipulating Nassun on behalf of Evil Earth.
  • I also think Nassun will reject her mother in some way.
  • We will officially meet Evil Earth in some form on the page. 
  • Schaffa will die. 
  • Ykka and Essun will go get drunk together at some point. 
  • We will learn where the Guardians actually came from and the original intent of their creation.
  • WE WILL SEE THE MOON look it’s an easy one.
  • The Moon will successfully be returned to the world.
  • But Essun will die in doing so. 
  • And Nassun will be the one to use the Obelisk Gate, not Essun.
  • I think Nassun will also kill Evil Earth. I DON’T KNOW HOW THIS IS POSSIBLE, but I’m trying to predict haphazardly here because maybe it will help.

All right, friends. With all that said, I’m gonna go dive in to The Stone Sky. 

To those who’ve survived: Breathe. That’s it. Once more. Good. You’re good. Even if you’re not, you’re alive. That is a victory.

What a thing to read in September 2020. As I said below, reading this just hit me so fucking hard. Because what an awful fucking year of my life, of the collective life of all of us on this planet.

But hey. We are alive, and that is a victory. 

Anyway, this prologue is… well, I remain impressed at how frequently Jemisin can shove us all off the cliff, and this opening is something else, y’all. Stylistic, it’s so thrilling to read, and I love how Jemisin has written Hoa. It’s very voice-y first person with a little second-person twist, and now, as we enter the final book, we’re given even more context as to why Hoa has been narrating as he has. Throughout the series, the “past” has been a story told to us. Alabaster referenced lost tablets and lost knowledge, and because whomever was in control wrote history, we don’t actually know what really transpired on the Stillness. We can make conjecture, we can guess, and I suspect that Alabaster was telling what he believed to be the truth of what he’d pieced together. The same goes with Tonkee, who has been researching the hell out of history for a long time. 

Hoa is telling a story, too. He hasn’t been the most reliable narrator, either, and we also know he struggles with the notion of time, given that he’s been alive so long. That being said? This is the first time we’ve ever had a first-person account of the time of the obelisks, when all two hundred and fifty-six of them were active and being used. Why? To unite the massive city of Syl Anagist. Everything about this is just so beautifully overwhelming, y’all. Like… yes! I don’t understand “sprawl” in the way that Jemisin uses it here. This isn’t like… a big city as we understand it. It would be like if all of North America was just one big conjoined city. I’m used to the massive regional differences that come with living on this continent, but as I understand it, this wasn’t like that:

Your perception of their connectedness is correct: They have the same infrastructure, the same culture, the same hungers and fears. Each city is like the other cities. All of the cities are, effectively, one city.

There’s that extra contrast, too: the Stillness isn’t a nation. It might be a single body of land, but they aren’t connected in the slightest, at least not outside of “paranoid city-states and communes agreeing to share, sometimes, for survival’s sake.” With the unity of Syl Anagist comes a society that is technological advanced beyond anything the current world of The Stillness has achieved. Like… hover technology??? What the fuck? But here’s the thing: This all came with a cost, didn’t it? You can’t develop a world like this without a sacrifice of sorts. Who is sacrificing what to power the obelisks? What price had to be paid to construct them? One of them we’ll learn by the end of the prologue. On top of that, Hoa makes it clear that in many ways, Syl Anagist is utopic. It seems like this magical, wonderful place, where resonant potential is used to maintain a certain quality of life. And then that utopia is broken by a single image: Hoa inside a prison cell. What sort of prison was this? Why did Hoa say this?:

No need for guards when you can convince people to collaborate in their own internment. 

Why was he there? Was this before or after what he does at the end of the chapter? There is a direct parallel between the events of this prologue and the prologue of The Fifth Season: both feature characters using the Obelisk Gate to utterly change the world. Alabaster opened the rift that brought about the Season that everyone is currently dealing with. But long ago, at what I assume is the start of the very first Season, Hoa helps the people of Syl Anagist suffer the consequences of their action. They constructed their city along a fault line, and I’m guessing that was to exploit something, right? More energy, more power for their city, more everything. And then:

So now I will tell you the way that world, Syl Anagist, ended. I will tell you how I ended it, or at least enough of it that it had to start over and rebuild itself from scratch.

I will tell you how I opened the Gate, and flung away the Moon, and smiled as I did it.

Fuck. Everything. THIS WHOLE TIME, HOA WAS THE ONE WHO FLUNG THE MOON AWAY? Who damned the Stillness to all the Seasons??? WHAT POSSIBLE REASON COULD HE HAVE HAD??? 

As I said: one hell of a way to start this book. It’s a genius framing device for the story, since this book inevitably has to deal with Essun and Nassun getting the Moon back. I’M READY, INJECT THIS SHIT RIGHT NOW.


  • hey that dedication/epigraph? made me burst into tears. reading that right now, in 2020… fuck. it was a lot
  • end with the beginning of the world???? omg.
  • I’m beginning to understand hoa’s strange narration style more and more. he’s so damn old that he speaks strangely, especially when it comes to references to time, memory, or identity.
  • omg three lands???
  • “The planet is just fine.” Yeah, it’s us. we’re the ones who ended. 
  • one giant sprawling city??? on the Stillness???
  • holy shit, Syl Anagist is… a whole civilization???? WHY HAVEN’T WE HEARD OF THIS, oh that’s probably for a reason
  • it’s so interesting to me that none of the people currently in the Stillness (or those who’ve lived there for a long time) know what a nation is. THERE ISN’T ONE
  • I assume the people of Syl Anagist are better at magic?
  • what the fuck, obelisks!
  • why does hoa keep reminding us that life is sacred in Syl Anagist? I’m scared.
  • what what
  • a prison????
  • oh
  • OH
  • what does all of this mean!!!!!
  • oh god it was built right on top of a fault line???
  • WHAT 
  • THE
  • FUCK
  • WHAT!!!!
  • WHY
  • W H Y 
  • I
  • I wasn’t ready I WAS NOT

Mark Links Stuff

My second novel, EACH OF US A DESERT, is now out in the world!
– If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in The Broken Earth, The Stone Sky and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.