The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Digital Audiobook narrated by Robin Miles
Published by Orbit on September 4, 2016
Series: The Broken Earth #1
Genres: Dystopia, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction
Length: 498 pages or 15 hours, 27 minutes
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Three terrible things happen in a single day.
Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world's sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes -- those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon -- are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.
She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
I expected a lot from The Fifth Season. Not so much from this book, but from anything written by N.K. Jeminsin. I have heard a lot about this author and the depth of her worlds. I wanted a deep fantasy tale with characters that tempt you into their stories. I wanted a book that teased me never to put it down. The Fifth Season met my expectations.
There is some discourse about the actual genre of The Fifth Season. I’m going against the grain to say this feels more like science fiction than fantasy to me. First of all, it’s dystopia, which fits snugly in the science fiction parent genre. The other reason is the magic. It’s not so much magic as evolution. The Origins are fascinating, and the Guardians are too. Terrifying and curious. The way humans have been manipulated by both the earth and one another to adapt to the seasons is an interesting study in natural sciences and neurology. I suppose in many ways, it’s easier to think about the orogeny as a type of innate magic… but this is human evolution through-and-through. Very cool.
The characters here are so good. They’re faceted and growing. Kyanite is a particular favorite for me. The summary of this book as seen on Goodreads discusses Essun, but it was the Kyanite storyline who captured my heart. A woman who rises to every challenge with a complicated emotional response to almost everything. That said, all the characters are really fantastically written. Characters who pull my heartstrings and intrigue me pull me into a book more strongly than any aspect of worldbuilding and Jemisin’s subtle yet direct style of storytelling is incredibly good. Of course, those who have read the book will know exactly how cleverly done the POVs are, but I don’t want to spoil that here, because it was a complete surprise to me and I loved it.
The deeper I got into the book, the more and more engrossed I became. The action is subtle and the scenery is vast. Jemisin’s writing style is slow paced, but it never feels slow. Everything is so well-described, so well-explained, and to be completely honest, I’m excited to dig into The Obelisk Gate. The ending left us with so much possibility and a possible flip in world-view, and I’m … I’m just excited. 🙂
I think that you have to like fantasy to really enjoy something as deep and detailed as this… but I love it. Only one book under my belt and I feel confident enough to say that N.K. Jemisin is going to leave behind a legacy as a fantasy great. This story and her storytelling style felt so next-level. It’s really, really good and I wish I read it years ago.
What was the last truly great fantasy book you read? There are a few here and there that capture me so completely like this one… The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Name of the Wind come to mind as well. Tell me your favorites so I can add them to my TBR!