Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin Review

It has been a very long time since a book made me as thoroughly happy as The Fifth Season has. I have to admit that the prologue gave me a "say what?" moment and I was a little concerned that this wouldn't be a good read, but man I am so glad that I was wrong. This book is absolutely everything that I could have asked for in a fantasy book. It has a unique concept, diverse characters that are so well developed that I became quickly and avidly invested in their stories. The world building is complicated and so detailed that I was able to vividly imagine what things looked like. The powers imagined by Jemisin are ones that I have not come across in fantasy writing yet, and I absolutely loved the idea of them. 

Jemisin doesn't just give her readers a good fantasy world, she fills it with political and social perils and injustices, unfairness, discrimination, bigotry, fears, deceptions, and the yearning for a sense of belonging that everyone strives for but is systematically denied to a small yet feared group of people. Jemisin wonderfully parallels much of the hatred, racism, and bigotry we see in the real world with people who are able to use orogeny in her world. They are feared, shunned, and even segregated in what are called Fulcrums that house, teach, and basically contain orogenes. The fulcrums, in my mind were like a more genteel version of a detention camp where the veneer is a 'safe' place for orogenes to learn to control their powers and contain their 'baser and evil' natures. Orogenes are sometimes derisively referred to as 'roggas' which has the exact same connotation as using the 'n' word when referring to an African American. The interpersonal relationships in The Fifth Season are complicated and intriguing. Everyone has a history that is opaque and will have you wanting to squint in the hopes of seeing that little bit more that is being hidden. Everyone from the adults to the children have hidden secrets and/or desires.

I can't even go into all of the awesomeness that is The Fifth Season without giving away too many plot developments. I will say that I saw one twist of the story coming, but the last one? No, this reader was shocked that the story came to the conclusion that it did! Jemisin manipulates events, personalities, and the story arc in amazing and sometimes devastating ways; and I loved every fracking moment of it. The world created by Jemisin is dark and fractured both figuratively and literally. An ongoing theme in this book is that valuable things sometimes have to be physically broken in order to save it's value as well as saving it from itself. (How about that for a tease?) This story is full of lessons hard learned and consequences that damage both the body and soul.  

My only complaint, which is more of a whiny moment than a complaint, is that this amazing book isn't available in hardback. It would be great to have a lovely hardback edition of this beautiful book sitting in pride of place on my bookshelf! The Fifth Season is obviously going on my favorites list. I will undoubtedly be reading this one again and again in the years to come. 


A season of endings has begun. 

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. 

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. 

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. 

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

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