The world is ending, and this apocalypse promises to be so much worse than the others. Father Earth has been shattered at its center by a mysterious man, one of several individuals born with the ability to connect to the earth, move it, manipulate it, save it, or break it. People who, in this world, are not considered people. Orogenes.
Essun has been hiding the fact she’s an orogene for over a decade. One day she comes home to find that her son, who was only two years old, is dead, brutally murdered by his father. Her daughter is missing.
Young Damaya’s orogeny has been discovered, and her parents have called to have her taken to the Fulcrum, where orogenes are trained, and controlled. A pale man arrives to bring her to her new life. He promises that he loves her, and will end her life if she dares step out of line.
Syenite has mastered her orogeny faster than most who train at the Fulcrum. With her power and control comes a new responsibility: to become pregnant by the most powerful orogene in existence.
So begins The Fifth Season, the first book in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. With a mother who loses her son, her quest to find her daughter and have her revenge. With a little girl betrayed by her parents, frightened of everything, including herself, as she’s forced into indentured servitude. With a powerful young woman who finds she never knew what being a “rogga” in this world truly means. And a man who just wants it all to end.
The Fifth Season deserves every bit of praise it has gotten, and more. With this first installment, Jemisin shows us that she is a legendary writer, and not afraid of anything. The story is told from three alternating points of view, three different timelines. She writes in past and present tense, and third and second person (Essun is you). And nowhere amidst this out-of-the-box structure does it ever feel disjointed. Rather, this bending of the rules leaves you with a feeling that you are experiencing something entirely new.
Jemisin leaves questions unanswered in this first installment. Who is the narrator? What are the guardians, and what do they want? What are the stone eaters, and what do they want? The magic system — which is unlike anything we’ve ever seen — is hardly understood by even those who wield it. About this, and other world-building elements, Jemisin is intentionally vague at times. And that’s okay. She does not underestimate her readers, and so refuses to spoon-feed us. She wants us to be empowered to tease out these details for ourselves.
If you don’t typically read trilogies, if you are a stranger, or even a deliberate avoider of the fantasy and sci-fi genres, I urge you to branch out for The Fifth Season, because odds are, this book is for you. The themes of the story are complex, and heavy. The characters are complex, and diverse! It is an interesting and amusing read, and it is also a powerful metaphor addressing: oppression, responsibility to the earth, and responsibility to our children.
I am someone who rarely reads past the first book in a series. I picked up The Fifth Season because of peer pressure (which shows that peer pressure can be great for your health if coming from the right peers). Some friends of mine raved about this book; they would not shut up about it for weeks. Now…I have a hilariously Long TBR list, as I’m sure most of us do. I’m not one to drop everything to read something because it’s popular. I’m very skeptical of “popular” books. But there was something about their sheer enthusiasm, and the promise of a twist ending (I can never resist a twist). I decided I had to drop whatever else I was reading, whatever else I was doing, and go pick it up at my local B&N. Either it would be as special as it sounded, or I would know to only take future recommendations from those friends with a grain of salt. I’m so happy that it turned out to be the former.
I’m willing to bet that if you read this book, you will continue through the series. In fact, the very last line will give you absolutely no choice.
The Fifth Season won a Hugo Award for Best Novel, and this week it was announced that the third installment The Stone Sky has been nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel. I cannot wait to read it!
If you read The Fifth Season, let me know what you thought about it. If you read the rest of the trilogy, let me know that too! But please, no spoilers.
The Fifth Season
Length: 468 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Orbit
ISBN 0316229296 (ISBN13: 9780316229296)
Hugo Award for Best Novel (2016), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015), Locus Award Nominee for Best Fantasy Novel (2016), World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2016), The Kitschies Nominee for Red Tentacle (Novel) (2015)
[Next will be a review of Stephen King’s book of short stories: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams]