Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Series: The Broken Earth
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Maturity Level: 5
(Content Warnings: child abuse, harm to children, enslavement)
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

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.


WOW.

I’ve slept on this book before trying to start the review because I am just IN AWE, but I still don’t know what to write. How do you review on of the greatest pieces of speculative fiction of the 21st century?

The writing completely blew me away. It’s definitely … unusual. Many (but not all) of the chapters are written in second person, which takes some getting used to. And the present tense used, especially in the first chapter, isn’t your typical present tense. You very much feel the passage of time in the way she writes it. So yeah, the first few chapters were a little uncomfortable and awkward. But once I got used to it, the book just flowed so beautifully. It felt like being told a story by an ancient storyteller in the folkloric tradition. Somehow (don’t ask me how) Jemisin captured that spirit.

And the world building! Jemisin created a world that is bigger than she has the need to tell you about, so there are a lot of details hinting at more. I think this is what bothered me about the last book of hers I read, but in this context, humans after many thousands of years and multiple dead civilizations, it worked and made sense. It also left me itching to read the next book in the series. I have questions and I want ANSWERS!

I could keep talking, I guess, but I don’t have anything coherent to say. I loved everything about this book. I loved the story, the characters (they were so complicated!), the way it was organized, just everything about it.

It’s not often that I read a book that I think is an exceptional piece of art or literature and then I actually enjoy reading it. But that’s The Fifth Season. This book is absolutely BRUTAL, it’s heartbreaking, it has difficult themes, it has artistic, stylized writing and fully fleshed-out characters, and yet I was still turning pages like I was reading a thriller. I was completely engrossed. I loved it. I can’t wait to read more. And I can’t recommend this book highly enough. READ IT.

18 thoughts on “Review: The Fifth Season

    1. I mean, I may be exaggerating because that’s how I *feel*, but it’s a PRETTY BIG DEAL. All three books in the series won the Hugo which is unheard of, and the only reason (IMO) it didn’t win the Nebula is because it came out the same year as Uprooted and I mean, come on. But yeah, it’s on that level. Definitely a book that we’ll remember over time.

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    1. Yeah, that’s reasonable. I didn’t have as hard a time with that as I expected to because the way she approaches it is very detached and matter-of-fact. There’s no details. But I mean, it’s not easy or sugar-coated.

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  1. Okay this sounds really dark… but I love it. Haven’t heard about it before but will totally look for it. Great review!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read The Fifth Season yet, but I have read The City We Became and after really liking that one I’ve learned from others that this is considered one of her best works, so I’m definitely going to read it too. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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