In The Broken Earth Series, I feel a lot of love. It may not be obvious, or conventional, but I believe that Essun does feel love. In some cases it may be a relationship between a mother and her child where the love is shown by protecting them, even in the most tragic of ways. In others, Essun’s love may be with a lover: the father of her children, a handsome pirate, or her mentor and best friend. In any case, Essun is surrounded by people that love her and want to protect her, providing this series with depth and heart.
Essun has had three children: a son with Alabaster, Corundum, and a daughter and son with Jija, Nassun and Uche. Throughout The Broken Earth Series, Essun tries her damnedest to protect them from the cruel world she knows all too well, and feels the unimaginable pain that comes with losing a child. In the act of protecting her children and the pain she feels when she fails, I believe she shows her love for them. At the end of The Fifth Season, while she is known as Syenite, the Guardians are trying to take Corundum away, Essun “puts her hand over his mouth and nose, to silence him, to comfort him. She will keep him safe. She will not let them take him, enslave him, turn his body into a tool and his mind into a weapon and his life into a travesty of freedom” (The Fifth Season, 441). Because she covers both his mouth and nose, and maybe because she’s feeling so many emotions at once, Corundum dies at the hands of his mother.
While raising Nassun and Uche, Essun teaches them how to control their orogeny in order to pose as humans in Tirimo without their father knowing to protect them. Essun learned how to do this in the Fulcrum, causing her to use those techniques to teach her children. For the most part, Essun is successful. That is, until Jija realizes that his entire family is comprised of orogenes. when this happens, he kills Uche and takes Nassun away to Found Moon for the slim chance that she can shed her orogeny. Because Essun loves her children, and because she wants to protect them, she teaches them how to conceal their orogeny.
I also see love between Essun and Alabaster. At first, their relationship is purely business, in fact, they hate each other, “‘I don’t like you'” (The Fifth Season, 70), but as they start a life in Allia and have a child together, I see their deeper feelings for each other arise. Innon observes of Syenite, “‘You’re a very good friend, I think,” to which she responds “‘Yes, I rusting am” (The Fifth Season, 357). Over time, Alabaster and Essun become the only people they know that has experienced the things they have, creating an even greater bond. Jemisin has also written her thoughts about these two on her blog that you can find here.
Finally, Hoa and Essun have a kind of love of their own. This is the only one I’ve mentioned where it is explicitly said that they love each other: “I resist the urge to crush his head. ‘I love her, of course.’ There; I’ve managed a civil tone” (The Obelisk Gate, 382), “Better to let Hoa chew you tp pieces with his beautiful teeth; at least you like him love him lo lo lo lo l o v e” (The Obelisk Gate, 372).
In The Broken Earth Series, Essun’s love for people is shown through how she strives to protect them and how she reacts when she fails. Love is a tricky thing and although it may not be “conventional” (I mean, what kind of love really is?), I believe that it is love, nonetheless.