Book Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)

by N.K. Jemisin.

The Fifth SeasonSometime far, far in the future, Earth (is it Earth?) is unrecognizable. The landmasses have shifted into one big, volatile continent called The Stillness. Every few centuries or so, this volatility causes a fifth season. It’s a different animal from the other four (spring, summer, autumn, winter); always inhospitable to life, it can vary in its length (months, years, decades) and the specific calamity involved. This book opens at the dawning of a new fifth season. The story is told via 3 characters: Demaya, a young girl from the countryside; Syenite, a talented journeywoman at a specialized academy in the city; and Essun, a mother of two living in a remote village. Each is capable of wielding orogeny (earth magic) and each sheds light on the history and society such an angry planet has wrought. There are secrets, politics, strange beings, great power, unlikely friendships and love stories. There’s a quest, and a reveal, and several surprises. It is at once an epic survival adventure, and an intimate character portrait.

It’s also extremely well-done and well-written. This book just won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and for good reason. The complex world-building and plot intersections are masterfully done. And, as far as I can remember, this is the only time I’ve encountered 2nd-person point of view (“you walk down the road”) in a novel. Every section with Essun is narrated this way. Which, admittedly, I wasn’t sure I liked at first and it took a little getting used to, but Jemisin ends up pulling it off. That is not an easy feat.

The magic system she’s created is really interesting. It’s a mix of earth sciences (plate tectonics, geology, physics) with the inborn ability to control those forces. Obviously, that makes those who can wield this power extremely dangerous- but also necessary given the uneasy earth humanity lives upon. Orogenes end up as second-class citizens at best, slaves at worst. It’s a precarious balance of power between the political and the magical and the earth itself. This just adds more tension to an already tense and sometimes brutal story.

I also have a point I both want and don’t want to bring up, and it’s this: this book has a lot of diverse characters. By that I mean: not everyone is white, not everyone is straight, not everyone is monogamous, not everyone is gender-static. It’s a good mix of all the possibilities on the spectrum, not just the usual. I wanted to bring this up, because I liked it. I didn’t want to bring it up, because I feel that such variety of characters should be the norm, not an exception worthy of note. So take that for what you will.

Overall, this was really well done, and really good read. My only slight critique is that certain plot points or character decisions weren’t fully explained, but I’m hoping book 2 will help clear some of that up. I already have it checked out from the library. 😀

I give it 4.5/5 stars.

Buy From Amazon

The Fifth Season

Continue Reading

Book Review: The Waking Fire

The Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria #1) by Anthony Ryan. Imagine if dragons existed (in four colors: Black, Red, Green and Blue), and each type of blood granted certain powers to a select few of the population. Imagine the era of monarchies and governments had faded, to be replaced by corporations- who, of course, control access to this dragon blood. They’ve gotten rich and powerful off it, particularly the Ironship Syndicate, which has empire-like control of vast lands. Decades pass. And now the breeding lines of drakes are weakening, and the wild ones more scarce. The old myth of the […]

Continue Reading

Book Review: Children of Earth and Sky

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay. What do a pirate, a spy, a painter, a merchant, and a soldier have in common? They are all key characters in this book, and they are all more than they seem. Children of Earth and Sky is a story about intertwined lives and how sometimes small decisions can have far-reaching consequences. It’s a beautifully-written epic that muses on the nature of humanity, love, war, and fate. It’s set in a fictional Renaissance-style world and while there are some small elements of folk magic, it is more focused on adventure and […]

Continue Reading

Series Review: Red Rising

Red Rising Red Rising (#1) Golden Son (#2) Morning Star (#3) By Pierce Brown. I’m just going to state up front that this series will be really hard to talk about without spoilers. So please forgive vagueness while I try to convey what I liked, what didn’t work, and why this series was so good- all without giving anything major away. The Red Rising trilogy takes place in the far future, where humanity has expanded their empire out into the solar system’s other planets and moons. They’ve also expanded and ‘refined’ what it means to be human. Mankind is a […]

Continue Reading

Book Review: Thief’s Magic

Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule #1) by Trudi Canavan. Thief’s Magic starts the tale of two different young people, both suddenly thrust into a world of magic. Tyen is a archaeology student in a steampunk type world, where industrial pursuits are fueled by magic. On one of his digs, he unearths an unusual book: it can read his thoughts and respond to him, and claims to have once been human. It contains centuries of information, dating back to one of the greatest sorcerers of all time. Its existence sets off a chain of events as different parties vie to claim or […]

Continue Reading

Book Review: Fool’s Quest

Fool’s Quest (The Fitz & The Fool Trilogy #2) by Robin Hobb. First things first, if you are new to Robin Hobb’s Realms of the Elderlings books, stop reading this blog post immediately and go pick up Assassin’s Apprentice. Then make your way through the rest of the Farseer trilogy, the Liveship traders trilogy, the Tawny Man trilogy, the Rain Wild Chronicles, and then the first book of this trilogy. Yes, that’s 14 books before the events of this book, and even though that’s a serious long haul of a series, I promise you it is worth it. This is, […]

Continue Reading

Series to Read While Waiting for GRRM’s Next Book

Assassin's Apprentice

If you’re a Game of Thrones/Song of Ice & Fire fan, you’re in a bit of a tough spot right now. It’s the break between TV seasons, and the next book in the series is nowhere in sight. If you’re waiting for the next book in particular, you likely have more than enough time to read everything on this list before it appears. So if you’re jonesing for an epic fantasy fix, I’ve got some suggestions for you: Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings Great characters, above all. If you think you care about GRRM’s characters, Hobb’s about to school […]

Continue Reading