Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall; Death is the fifth, and master of all”
Synopsis from GoodReads: Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
The book opens with the beginning of the worst Fifth Season in recorded history. The government maintains the Fulcrum, an army of enslaved orogenes with the ability to control energy, particularly that of the ground and temperature. Their abilities give them power geological activity and temperature so that they can both cause and prevent earthquakes.
The Fifth Season is the first book in the Broken Earth Trilogy. I think it could fit into either science fiction or fantasy; it is hard to tell because it leans so heavily on Clarkes Third Law
The Fifth Season is darker than most books I read. I suspect the question of whether it has a pessimistic worldview doesn’t make much sense outside the context of the trilogy as a whole, so I will come back to that when I finish rereading The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky.
The first book is technically mostly setup when you look at it in relation to the other books, but
it doesn’t feel that way! I think this is something to do with how the book does so much of its worldbuilding through characterization & plot. In this book, all those things go together perfectly, while the other books rely more on exposition.
There are three points of view: the young girl Damaya, in training as an orogene; the young woman Syenite; and the grieving mother Essun. Essun’s perspective is given in second person and present tense; there is a plot-related reason for that, but Jemisin doesn’t reveal it in the first book. I loved the writing! Essun’s perspective felt odd at first but I got used to it. Here are some of my favorite quotes:
– “Yumenes is not unique because of its size. There are many large cities in this part of the world, chain-linked along the equator like a continental girdle. Elsewhere in the world villages rarely grow into towns, and towns rarely become cities, because all such polities are hard to keep alive when the earth keeps trying to eat them… but Yumenes has been stable for most of its twenty-seven centuries.
Yumenes is unique because here alone have human beings dared to build not for safety, not for comfort, not even for beauty, but for bravery. The city’s walls are a masterwork of delicate mosaics and embossing detailing its people’s long and brutal history. The clumping masses of its buildings are punctuated by great high towers like fingers of stone, hand-wrought lanterns powered by the modern marvel of hydroelectricity, delicately arching bridges woven of glass and audacity, and architectural structures called balconies that are so simple, yet so breathtakingly foolish, that no one has ever built them before in written history. (But much of history is unwritten. Remember this.)”

– “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. But this is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. For the last time.”

– “Friends do not exist. The Fulcrum is not a school. Grits are not children. Orogenes are not people. Weapons have no need of friends.”

Published by Beth @ Beth's Bookish Thoughts

This blog is for my thoughts on reading. A couple of my friends on GoodReads have blogs, so eventually I decided to start one myself. I hope to get involved in the book blogging community and become a better reader and writer! I am not accepting copies of new books for review, but I would be interested in new editions or new translations of classic authors. Find me on Upwork (as an editor) in the profile link. From September 2018 to October 2020 I blogged at Blogger.

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