“Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.”
I’m reading The Broken Earth series with the lovely folks over at the Fantasy Buddy Reads Group on Goodreads. Beyond Middle Earth and Westeros, I haven’t explored the world of fantasy fiction much. Nevertheless, since I enjoy the genre on both the big and small screens, I took the plunge. And am I ever glad I did.
The Fifth Season is the first book in The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin. In this epic dystopian fantasy, Jemisin narrates the events that led up to the end of the world and the effect it had on the inhabitants of the Stillness.
In The Fifth Season, Jemisin gracefully explores what it means to be human and how ignoring our innate worth can have severe consequences.
“That we’re not human is just the lie they tell themselves so they don’t have to feel bad about how they treat us.”
As a start to the series, it introduces the geography, history, and politics of the Stillness. The Fifth Season also shapes the main characters, giving the reader a look at their humanity and brokenness. It also provides an intro to orogeny which is a valuable but dangerous super power. By the end of The Fifth Season, the reader knows that the world has ended, who caused it and why.
What I liked
I enjoyed Jemisin’s narrative style – which switches between second person and third person depending on the POV. It reminded me of Toni Morrison’s style in The Bluest Eye, which I’ve actually missed in the books I’ve read of late. Jemisin’s ability to weave story lines and arc in an engaging way is remarkable.
Each storyline developed at a great pace filled with action, romance, and suspense. Each character developed through the challenges they faced and the secrets they discovered about the world, the Stillness.
The visuals were great too, from the obelisks to Yumenese and the islands, Jemisin paints lovely and gruesome pictures that allow the reader to escape into Stillness and experience life with the characters. The nature of orogeny and the extent of an orogene’s capabilities is revealed in stages, which lets the reader discover new capabilities with the character.
The foreshadowing in the novel is another well-written feature. There’s an appealing balance between what is revealed and what remains a mystery.
Alabaster was definitely my favourite character other than Syenite. Reading the Fifth Season was also fun because it felt African. The dreadlocks and complexion aside. For instance, there’s a scene where Damaya’s mother calls her “Dama Dama” and it felt like reading something homegrown. It was refreshing.
What I didn’t like:
It took a while for me to realize that the story is set in three eras. This made the geography confusing at times. I didn’t care much for the love triangle.
The Fifth Season starts with the end of the world and then moves on to more interesting things. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the Stillness and its people, and Jemisin’s writing. The Fifth season is definitely making my top ten list. The Prologue was also confusing at first. However, when I finished I re-read portions of it and it made more sense.
This read had so many memorable moments and tweetable quotes. Choosing my favourites proved difficult. But here they are:
“He takes all that, the strata and the magma and the people and the power, in his imaginary hands. Everything. He holds it. He is not alone. The earth is with him. Then he breaks it.”
“Nothing to do but follow your crazy, though.”
“The source of the glow is beyond the mountains, as if the setting sun went the wrong way and got stuck there.”
“neither myths nor mysteries can hold a candle to the most infinitesimal spark of hope.”
About the Author
N. K. Jemisin is an author living and writing in Brooklyn, NY. This is fortunate as she enjoys subways, tiny apartments, and long walks through city parks. Her short fiction has been published in a number of magazines and podcast markets, and has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula award. She won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award.