The Fifth Season
by N.K. Jemisin
The Broken Earth, Book 1
Published by Orbit in August 2015
In The Fifth Season there is the Stillness, a continent plagued by cataclysmic seismic disasters known as Seasons. Entire civilizations are lost during Seasons while new ones spring from their ashes. The Fifth Season begins while the world is ending. A woman holds the body of her dead son in her arms and hundreds of miles away a man cracks open the earth, destroying Yumenes, the capital of a vast empire, and kicking off a new Season.
The woman is one of three point-of-views told in the book. Her name is Essun. The other two story lines are told from the POVs of Damaya and Syenite. Essun is the mother, Damaya the young eager student, and Syenite a young woman who thinks she’s got it all figured out. All three female characters are orogenes, or the more offensive term rogga. Roggas can control the earth around them. They can move it, reshape it, destroy it, or protect it. Because of their power, orogenes are feared and outcast or treated like slaves.
With the three plot lines to follow, there’s a lot going on. Jemisin doesn’t spend time explaining all the terminology (fun fact: there’s a glossary in the back of the book that I didn’t discover until I was halfway through) so it can be hard to follow at times. I’ll admit, the book was a little difficult to get into at first. As the stories progressed, my interest in the characters deepened, and by the end of every chapter I felt like I had a new favorite among the three.
The world building in this book is absolutely stunning. The Fifth Season is what fantasy should and could be– completely original, yet reminiscent of our own world in many ways. The characters are complex in their thoughts, desires, and actions, but I could relate to them all at different times. The writing itself is beautiful and envelops you with every sentence.
Honestly, if I went into the plot or different characters in any depth, I could write a book, but to wrap things up I’ll just say that while difficult to get into at first, The Fifth Season is worth the effort in the end. It may not be for everyone– readers looking for quick fixes and romantic subplots will be disappointed– but if you are in the mood for an intense, intricate fantasy novel about three spectacular female characters, you should give this a go. I’ll be looking forward to the next book in the series.