There is so much here to love. The worldbuilding is top notch, so much so that I could see this world easily while listening, and the mythology around the stone eaters, orogenes and stills was deftly handled and never felt info dumpy. Jemisin borrows from the history of slavery to create this world, and it highlights many things that are often overlooked or unacknowledged, such as how slaves were bred together or experimented on. There's also the Fulcrum, an institution run by the Guardians, who are truly horrifying. They believe they're making the orogenes better by training them to control their power (to cause earthquakes, among other things), and they're as ruthless about it as they are happy to do their jobs. *shudders*
The narration by Robin Miles is also top notch. She reads with clarity and only uses emotion when needed; she doesn't overact the parts and she was easily to follow along with.
There's also diversity up the wazoo. Virtually everyone in this world, by its nature, are mixed race. It's incredibly rare to find anyone who isn't. There's also LGBT characters, who at times face their own issues when it comes to the Fulcrum and what they believe people should and should not be doing with their breeding potential. *glares*
Most of all, we get three storylines each with a female POV, Demaya, Syenite and Essum, which is pretty darn rare in fantasy. None of them are hysterical females or damsels in distress, and they each have their own agency - or as much of it as they can have given their statuses - either as slaves or in hiding while passing as stills.
I figured out pretty early on that none of these storylines were running parallel to each other, and suspected about halfway through they were all the same character, which in fact they are. But because of the way its written, the two past storylines don't read like flashbacks at all.
Where this fell short for me was the writing style. The first time I tried one of Jemisin's books, I didn't even finish it (though that was mostly because I saw the romantic pairing that was coming and just couldn't be bothered with it). This was definitely an improvement. The characters were engaging and their stories were interesting and intricate and highlighted the different ways that the system is set up to keep orogenes in check and under control, while also setting up that something else was yet lurking beneath the surface - and that could be literal as well as figurative.
But something kept me from getting wholly invested in the story, and that was the way Essum's storyline was written. I was constantly taken out of her plot by the use of the second-person narrative. I've only encountered those in CYAO stories, which this certainly was not, and I felt as if I was being preached at to a certain degree or being told how I should be feeling or reacting to things that were happening to her, which just wasn't necessary at all. I don't need to *be* the character to empathize with her and this would've worked much better for me if it had been told in third-person like the other two. I'm hoping the second-person narrative will be dropped in the next book, since there really is no reason for it at this point in the story that I can tell - but then I didn't see any reason for it to begin with either.