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THE FIFTH SEASON by N. K. Jemisin – double review!

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.

Title : The Fifth Season
Author : N. K. Jemisin
Series : The Broken Earth (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)/Paperback
Page Count : 378
Genre : fantasy / science fiction / dystopia
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : August 4, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5/ ★ ★ ★ ★

Hollis’ 4.5 star review

So, wow. I’m not sure I actually have anything to really say? Particularly that hasn’t already been said a hundred times.

Reading this book, this series, is incredibly overdue and to be honest I didn’t know what to expect beyond the apocalypse. And yeah that happens. A lot. And is happening again. I was totally drawn in the moment I started this, to the point I read almost 50% in one sitting, and then felt a moment of astonishment when I finally put something together. And considering the weirdness of this world, the complexity, which we learn about as we go but is so smart, I mean.. it made me feel pretty smart for having figured something out.

[..] she [pays] no attention to the world that is ending outside. Her world has already ended within her, and neither ending is for the first time.

This story is cleverness and heartbreak and not only weaves in very relevant (always relevant) discussions about systemic oppression and internalized racism but gives us powerful POVs from Black women, features queer characters all along the spectrum, and.. honestly, you need to read it. Sooner rather than later. Now, even.

Micky’s 4 star review

Complex but worth it
Themes that will resonate
Shockwaves of twists
Use the glossary

Having just finished this, I am aghast how cleverly woven this book was. This world, so different to ours in contemporary earth but so so similar in many ways, it felt strangely familiar. A cross of dystopian and sci-fi in genre, The Fifth Season introduced you to three main sets of characters. I am not going to fully elaborate on those three sets of characters but holy twist on a stick, I was blown away by how this came together.

Syenite and Alabaster were my favourite, ill-fitting characters. I felt like these two really taught me about the broken earth, orogeny (the ability to manipulate the earth, rock) and their standing in this caste system. Slavery, racism and slurs were on the menu (here’s where things really resonated) and it took time for me to see the social construct in full; it didn’t make a pretty picture at all.

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

The gifts of the orogenes and others were truly fascinating. How these ‘grits’ were trained was unpleasant and some of the reveals were pretty discomforting. This story was told over time and you never really could believe a time of settling because seasons and the earth were always around the corner to mess life up.

One of the beautiful things about this story was the found family that emerged in the parallel storylines. The Baster-Syen-Innon family was special. In a world of difficulty, you need hope.

I am left with SO MANY QUESTIONS and I know I’ll have to read on soon while the world building is still clear in my mind. I found this story easy to get into, so don’t be put off by it’s complexity, it is relatively easy to follow but concentration is needed – the glossary at the back is your friend. There are lots of triggers, so DM me if you want details or check other reviews to find them.

Thank you to Orbit Books & Tandem Collective for the review copy.

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