The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1), by N.K. Jemisin
Description: (from Hachette book group)
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.
The Fifth Season is one of these novel that is so hard to talk about without revealing too many informations that are best being discovered while reading. But let me tell you right now: it is well worth you time, attention, and money. A 5/5, new favourite for me.
It’s a bit confusing at first, and upsetting because it starts almost right away with a woman discovering her son’s corpse. It’s violent, and it’s a punch in the face but the narrator is gentle and it really feels like someone is trying to tell a story, and telling it just right. It’s not a nice fun little story, it’s a story set in an unforgiving world.
The novel follows a young girl, a young woman and a woman in her fourties. I loved to learn about them, and learn about the power that some people have in this fantasy world. It is a power called orogeny, an ability to handle kinetic forces and basically everything related to the Earth; it made me think of the earthbenders from the Avatar animated show. So that was pretty cool!
These women have very difficult traumatic lives, which doesn’t stop them from being amazing characters to follow, strong women who will face whatever this world throw at them.
One of the point of view is in the second person and it can be challenging to get used to it at first but it quickly became easy for me; I love books that surprises me with their narrative structure.
This fantasy and sci-fi novel overflowed with awesome twists and engaging and diverse characters, intriguing worldbuilding and magic system.
The side characters are super great, I really thought that it wouldn’t matter to me because the three women the novel focuses on are so interesting already, but the whole cast of characters add so much to this story!
N. K. Jemisin manages to bring together the things I love most: good characters I cared about and an amazing rich world.
Another thing: I loved how people’s skin colours and physical traits were always described and made me have a more acute vision of the people living in this world, and how this is also something important for the characters. No “I don’t see colour” bullshit here. While it is unfortunately out of print, take a look here at the particularly gorgeous cover of this book edited by Subterranean Press (click the link to see it better, plus the description they have is different from the one I put up there and is also really good.)
While there are appendices at the end explaining the seasons and the words used, it is not *really* needed during the reading. There are no info-dump moments, the informations about the way this world works and the way the society is organised felt natural especially since there is a narrator addressing us (or the person addressed to in the second person). It is done little by little, made-up words are understandable in context; and while this is a book that left me confused at times, it’s still a good kind of confusion. There are a lot of things left unsaid, but it also is a very stimulating thing, trusting the reader to figure things out by themselves.
The first pages are also confusing, but the kind that makes total sense once you come back to it at the end of the novel: re-reading the first chapter felt like an epiphany!
The appendices are still a good addition to read afterwards, to get a better understanding of the world, like bonuses, or for people who take time to read a novel and might not remember from one session to the next what one world meant.
There is so much more that I could say to make you want to read this book, but it would involve hinting at things or spoiling and I really do not want to spoil this brilliant book for anyone. The awards and awards nomination it received are so so so well deserved.
So this is one of these “PLEASE READ IT IT’S SO GOOD I CAN’T ARTICULATE MY FEELINGS” kind of books, and if you feel up for it (see: content warnings bellow) pick up the Fifth Season and get ready for an amazing adventure and reading experience. Make sure that you can order/access the following books once you’ve finished because it’s one of these trilogies that is best experienced when binge-reading (yes, I’m reading the third and final book at the moment and it’s very good.)
Content warnings: mass death, death of children, violence, violent death, mention of rape, forced breeding, mention of cannibalism, torture