This post on fantasy book series discusses N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth Trilogy and Myke Cole’s The Reawakening Trilogy/Shadow Ops Series. It contains spoilers.
“When the music’s over
Turn out the light.”
Two of my favorite fantasy book series have come to an end—N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth Trilogy and Myke Cole’s The Reawakening Trilogy.
It is a little bit ironic that both of these series ended at the same time, because I found Jemisin and Cole at the same time. A year and a half ago, I had reached a point where I felt unchallenged by what I’d been reading lately, so I went searching for new writers to discover. Through a combination of the serendipity that is the daily life of a Book Riot contributor and the chaos that is twitter, two names caught my attention.
N.K. Jemisin and Myke Cole.
A couple of sure-why-not-induced mouse clicks later, and their books were on their way to me in the mail.
The first book—or should I say books—by N.K. Jemisin I ever read was The Inheritance Trilogy omnibus edition. I read the three novels and the bonus novella as one consecutive story. They all blew my mind. So I went searching for more and found The Fifth Season, part one of The Broken Earth Trilogy.
If The Inheritance Trilogy was a mind-opening experience, The Fifth Season bent my mind out of shape and it hasn’t straightened out yet. After finishing The Fifth Season, I wrote the following in my reading journal:
“Ingeniously written by a master of character and voice.”
I still stand by that statement. The Fifth Season is brilliantly written. I can’t say it enough. It is brilliant.
By now I have read The Fifth Season three times, and every time I ask myself, How does Jemisin do it? How is it possible to tell the story of three people, and at the exact right moment reveal that they are in fact one and the same individual?
Perhaps that was why, when I read The Obelisk Gate, part two of The Broken Earth Trilogy, I felt a tinge of disappointment. The crafting of the story is on the level of The Fifth Season, but the structure of the narrative is more conventional. Parallel stories are told, and this time, the characters are, indeed, separate individuals. Still, I found myself returning to The Obelisk Gate, just like I returned to The Fifth Season, and I enjoyed it so much more the second time around.
And then, on August 15, 2017, it all came to an end with the publication of The Stone Sky, the third and final part of The Broken Earth Trilogy. So far, I have only read The Stone Sky once, but I already know that I will return. If only to be able to speak the title of this novel.
The Stone Sky.
Stone. Sky. Solid. Ethereal.
Modifier and noun at odds, and still making sense, bound together by alliteration.
The imagery and emotion evoked by the inherent dynamics of this book title is beyond any other book title I have come across.
Myke Cole, too, knows how to give a novel an intriguing title.
Just from reading those titles, there is no doubt that we are dealing with powerful stories fueled by powerful narratives.
The first book I ever picked up by Cole was Control Point, his debut novel and the first part of the Shadow Ops series. I was hooked from the first page and raced through the other two parts of the series. I then turned my attention to Gemini Cell, part one of The Reawakening Trilogy. Gemini Cell is an excellent read which, together with Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon, competes for first place for the coolest book cover.
Gemini Cell did not disappoint, and neither did Javelin Rain, which avoided the trap of becoming a second-book slump. By the time Siege Line was announced, I was looking forward to it so much that I named it my most anticipated book of 2017 in the annual Book Riot round-up. Only to find out soon after that the publication date had been pushed forward six months.
On October 31, 2017, Siege Line finally hit the virtual and physical bookshelves. It was well worth the wait. Wilma “Mankiller” Plante is a protagonist to be reckoned with, just as Cole kept saying when he was asked to explain the change of publication date. Also, while I was reading, I truly enjoyed the argument between two undead brothers as to which one of them has the correct interpretation of the achievements and legacy of Alexander the Great.
But if Control Point is the debut novel and Gemini Cell is the first part of the prequel, where should you start reading? Well, because Cole pulled a George Lucas on us, there are two answers to that question. And to be able to provide those two answers, another question needs to be asked first.
Are you interested in the development of the story? Or in the development of a writer’s craft?
If you are interested in the story, start with Gemini Cell. This is where it all begins, and by the time you reach Siege Line, the stage is set for what is to come in Control Point.
If you want to follow the artistic development of an author from his first novel to his latest, start with Control Point. When you read Control Point, you can tell that it is a debut novel. By the time you get to Siege Line, Cole’s story telling and writing style have merged into a solid unit.
It is always with a tinge of sadness that I put down a book I have enjoyed, even more so with the final part of a series. But N.K. Jemisin and Myke Cole have more to offer. For the latter, The Armored Saint sets a new path. By the former, I have The Dreamblood Duology yet to discover.
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