Title: The Fifth Season
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Series: The Broken Earth #1
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: elemental magic, science-based fantasy
This is the way the world ends. Again.
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.
Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
This is unlike any fantasy book I’ve ever read. It is very challenging. The writing style is very cerebral and literary. I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue reading after the prologue because I didn’t think I would be able to understand the book. The world building and magic system were so different from what I’m used to in fantasy. Chapters alternate between three POVs, one of which is written in second person, so even the reading experience was different. The book also hits a lot of heavy, difficult topics right off the bat (trigger warning: harm/death of children).
However, once I understood how to make sense of the book, I became completely absorbed in the story. The world building was so intricate, large-scale, and well-conceived. I was fascinated to learn about the elemental magic, the political system, and the “Seasons.” I became captivated by each narrator’s journey and development, and I could not wait to understand how their storylines might converge. Once I got adjusted to the writing style in the first few chapters, this actually became a fairly quick read that I always looked forward to picking back up.
This book is heavy and heartbreaking, and you definitely need to be in the right headspace to read it. However, I am so glad that I stuck with it because it was SO SO GOOD. The fantasy elements are heavily science-based in a very unique way.The writing and storytelling utterly impressed me, and the last few chapters had such a crazy pace. This is one of those books with an epic last line that totally hypes you up to continue the series. I am so curious to see how it all turns out. Highly recommend.