The Broken Earth Series Review

Her family has shown her that love is a lie. It isn’t stone-solid; instead it bends and crumbles away, weak as rusty metal.

I became a fan of Nora’s after reading The Inheritance Trilogy—a brilliant trilogy that deserves its own accolades and review. This fourteen-hundred-page collection is gorgeously written and an amazing read.

Admittedly, I’m relatively new to the genre having only read maybe a dozen or so fantasy books. They’d all pretty much been consistent (read: white heteronormative bland European stan-fests), but this? I love Nora’s sly wit and imagination and the characters she wrote with such originality, empathy, and yes, a woman’s perspective—a black woman’s perspective and awareness that brutally lays open oppression and otherness; such a refreshing disruption to the entire realm of the white male-dominated literary fantasy world. I was shocked this series didn’t win any awards.

Well, then I read The Broken Earth Series.

“Tell them they can be great someday, like us. Tell them they belong among us, no matter how we treat them. Tell them they must earn the respect which everyone else receives by default. Tell them there is a standard for acceptance; that standard is simply perfection. Kill those who scoff at these contradictions, and tell the rest that the dead deserved annihilation for their weakness and doubt. Then they’ll break themselves trying for what they’ll never achieve.”

I start reading a book unconcerned with what it’s about. I dive in knowing no specifics, only vague references, and maybe the genre if it’s obvious. I read a book’s summary and possibly a review or two when it first debuts as long as the reviewer doesn’t give too much away.

I know I want to read a book by how that book has affected the person reading it. When someone tells me a book changed their life, I’ll search for it and read the summary to see if it’s something I might enjoy or find informative—anything I may learn from. If so, I’ll add it to my very long queue. I’ll get around to it eventually and at that point, I’ve already forgotten what it’s about so I dive in unawares.

During the reading of a book, I may go in search of various reviews to see it critically from different perspectives. I highlight, I write notes and thoughts and inspirations it gives me during the read. In the end, if the book has made an impression, I spend days and weeks thinking about it trying to come up with a review—something to convey what I learned or how I emotionally reacted to it. It inevitably ends up with me deciding that I cannot possibly give this book a review that does it justice; my failing—I completely own that. When I get around to reviewing it because I need to share and explain how deeply it influenced and affected me—writing actual words about it—I meander through trying to adequately relay the feelings the book evoked.

I’m still thinking about this series. How can you not? A review is ultimately about the reviewer and their judgment; the interpretation of the author’s words through the eyes of another; perspectives upon perspectives. Sometimes a review is enlightening and sometimes it can be dismissed with pfffttt, moving on.

I don’t remember reading any reviews of The Broken Earth Series. I didn’t want anything to spoil my adventure and from the headlines, it was gonna be a wild, fun ride, unlike anything we’d experienced in the fantasy world before.

This was an understatement.

If you want a summary, you’ll need to look elsewhere. There are hundreds—probably thousands of reviews that have critically poked these books till their raw. I’m not gonna do that either. I think you should dive in unawares with an open mind and view Nora’s words with a wide naked celebration; a celebration of her imagination, vulnerability, wit, and knowledge, and I promise you will not be disappointed.

I chose the following quotations (no spoilers) that I felt best fit with why I loved these books so much.

Thank you, Nora: you are a remarkable gift to this unkind world.

One cannot reasonably expect sameness out of so much difference.

Friends do not exist. The Fulcrum is not a school. Grits are not children. Orogenes are not people. Weapons have no need of friends.

This is why she hates Alabaster: not because he is more powerful, not even because he is crazy, but because he refuses to allow her any of the polite fictions and unspoken truths that have kept her comfortable, and safe, for years.

This is stonelore: Honor in safety, survival under threat. Better a living coward than a dead hero.

We all do what we have to do, comes the seducer’s whisper, and this is the same reasoning Schaffa has used on himself too many times, over the centuries. Justifying too many atrocities. One does what one must, for duty. For life.

It seems impossible that the old man does not know—but Schaffa has always been amazed at how little ordinary people understand about the world.

There is such a thing as too much loss. Too much has been taken from you both—taken and taken and taken, until there’s nothing left but hope, and you’ve given that up because it hurts too much. Until you would rather die, or kill, or avoid attachments altogether, than lose one more thing.

Letting out some of that accumulated horror by occasionally sounding like a frothing maniac is how he copes. It’s also how he warns you, you know now, that he’s about to destroy some additional measure of your naivete. Nothing is ever as simple as you want it to be.

But allies are needed for specific tasks, and they are not the same thing as friends. The ability to distinguish this is also something the road has taught her.

I must be respectful of their difference. We are the deficient ones, after all, stripped of much that would’ve made us human.

They’re afraid because we exist, she says. There’s nothing we did to provoke their fear, other than exist. There’s nothing we can do to earn their approval, except stop existing—so we can either die like they want, or laugh at their cowardice and go on with our lives.

But there are none so frightened, or so strange in their fear, as conquerors. They conjure phantoms endlessly, terrified that their victims will someday do back what was done to them—even if, in truth, their victims couldn’t care less about such pettiness and have moved on. Conquerors live in dread of the day when they are shown to be, not superior, but simply lucky.

Once, after all, I believed I was the finest tool ever created by a great civilization. Now, I have learned that I am a mistake cobbled together by paranoid thieves who were terrified of their own mediocrity. I don’t know how to feel, except reckless.

And from her acknowledgments:

Where there is pain in this book, it is real pain; where there is anger, it is real anger; where there is love, it is real love. You’ve been taking this journey with me, and you’re always going to get the best of what I’ve got.

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