Book Review: The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin

Title: The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)

Author: N.K. Jemisin

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Adult, Post Apocalyptic, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy

Publisher: Orbit

Published: August 4, 2015

Page Amount: 468 pages

Goodreads Summary: This is the way the world ends… for the last time. 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.

Why I Read: Again, I can attribute this reading to Book Riot offering me good recommendations again and again. I can’t decode exactly which post led me to NK Jemisin first, but this is not my first run through with her. Her characters are always more diverse and no matter what I read, she always seems to have a unique perspective on what is “normal” in the dystopian science fiction world. 

Review: I’ve felt the beginnings of a reading slump lately and I can say that it is entirely the fault of graduate school. Granted, I am not writing my thesis in the English Literature department, but the sheer amount of things to do on a daily basis has prevented me from reading. I have the commute (when I’m not catching up on the podcasts that I’m behind on [yet again]). The Fifth Season was my way of breaking out (hopefully). N.K. Jemisin has a way of depicting a world completely different from any that I’ve read before. Just when you think you’ve gotten ahold of all of the science fiction tropes, she comes around and knocks you down.

That’s probably my favourite part about reading her books, because they leave me floundering. I feel lost and uncertain about what exactly I’m reading about. This is an apocalyptic book, I think, why am I suddenly reading about a child that’s acquired weird powers that cause her family to give her up. I won’t spill the details, but suffice to say that I was surprised multiple times in the book. Not only was the ending unexpected, but I was also taken aback by how open the characters were with their sexual orientations. We don’t get much more than the usual hetero- crowd in epic or high fantasy reads. Jemisin makes sure that those less represented are present, they are the Protagonists.

It’s from reading books like NK Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season” that I’m reminded of the powers of reading. While at the beginning, I was surprised by the appearance of non-conforming characters – by the end: it was second nature to see relationships blossom which I normally might of thought of as strange or an interesting choice for a science fiction book. More books like this should exist. I can only imagine what kind of people we would be if we were exposed to novels like this as children.

Beyond the more “big picture” issues of her novel, the story is fascinating. Jemisin explores ideas and plot bunnies that come out of seemingly nowhere (and yet were there all along). The best part is when everything comes together. It’s not just at the end. I found myself coming to realisations randomly throughout the book (and trust me: it’s fantastic). This is a highly highly uber-highly recommended read.

Favourite quote: “Survival doesn’t mean rightness. I could kill you right now, but that wouldn’t make me a better person for doing so.”

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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