The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Published by Orbit on August 4, 2015
Series: The Broken Earth, #1
Genre(s): fiction, dystopia, fantasy, post-apocalyptic
Format & Length: paperback, 468
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THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS. AGAIN.
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.
Highly praised and widely loved, The Fifth Season has been on my radar for some time, and I was excited to finally pick this up and find out what it was all about.
“The world is not fair, and sometimes it makes no sense.”
Maybe it was all the hype, maybe it was the timing, or maybe it was just me, but I was so surprised when I started reading to find myself incredibly lost and confused. Jemisin drops the reader right into this new world without preamble and runs with the story, providing details along the way. Each new nugget of information serves to answer questions you have as to what is happening while at the same time opening up several new questions as to what that now means for the world and the story. I was so bewildered that I began checking reviews online to get a handle on whythis book is so popular, screw the fact that I might see spoilers. And I’m so glad that I did! Stumbling across a review mentioning the fact that there is an appendix was a game changer. Having that glossary really helped to understand all the terms being thrown around and what was going on.
As I continued reading, it became harder to put this down as I acclimated with the world, the characters, the language, and the rhythm of the perspective changes with each chapter. Not only does it follow the point of view of three women, Essun, Syenite, and Damaya, but Essun’s chapters are told in the second person, which threw me off at first but ultimately helped pull me into her story. Jemisin takes her time developing the characters and pulling the storylines together, but it was worth it in the end when they come crashing together in an altogether satisfying way. At the conclusion, I had done a complete 180, insistent to know what happens next and immediately purchasing the other two books in The Broken Earth trilogy.
“This is what you must remember: the ending of one story is just the beginning of another. This has happened before, after all. People die. Old orders pass. New societies are born. When we say “the world has ended,” it’s usually a lie, because the planet is just fine.”
Intricately plotted with complex characterization, The Fifth Season is a metaphor that works on multiple levels. I am not going to delve any further into specifics but I will say it is well worth the read. When you read this, you willhave questions, and every answer will prompt several more questions. Read the appendix, and refer back often. Push through. If you are struggling, give it at least through Chapter 6.