I’ve had this book recommended to me multiple times over the past year, but just recently picked it up. I’m glad I did!
The trilogy of novels started with The Fifth Season is critically acclaimed, the first book winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2016.
The Fifth Season is three stories in one, told throughout the novel. The first follows a young girl who revealed supernatural powers, the second follows a young woman in the Fulcrum (which is essentially a guild for the orogenes), and the third story is in second person following an older woman. The stories switch between each POV throughout the story.
Throughout the three stories you explore a little about the characters but a lot about the world. Honestly, the world as a dying Earth with strict social structures and a magical system based on geology was creative and unique.
A few things I don’t like:
- Damaya doesn’t seem to have much of a character, and is a little obvious as far as her characterization goes. She has no real growth or change, and seems to remain the strong-willed overly intelligent girl right from the beginning.
To be fair, she does have some interesting storylines, like the one with the kids bullying her in the Fulcrum. I also like the interactions she had with her Guardian.
- The second person sections were creative, but difficult to read. Honestly I had so much trouble adjusting to it, but once I did, I enjoyed what I read.
A few things I like:
- Syenite and Alabaster’s story is the most interesting story in the book. It’s got character development, growth, change, and mysteries that are explored. I loved it.
Syen is a little shallow, but Alabaster was fascinating. When they’re first introduced it was awkward and uncomfortable. As they went on, they maintained a level of awkwardness but it was understandable.
- The big star was the worldbuilding. N. K. Jemisin’s worldbuilding is fantastic. From the fully-developed organization and culture to the magic system everything is fleshed out and interesting.
Before I get into spoilers, let me say this: the book is award winning. It’s well deserved.
I think this is one of the best written books I’ve read in the fantasy genre, and would recommend it to anyone who errs on the side of experimentation and creativity with genre fiction. Despite how picky I am, I would say it’s fantastic.
The first main twist in the book is the fact that all three storylines follow the same character. I absolutely loved that revelation. Syen as a character was a little boring, but the story was told so brilliantly that it didn’t matter.
What’s more is that Alabaster basically made up for Syen’s lack of depth. ‘Baster was forced to continually impregnate other orogenes due to his status as a ten ring. However, he was most likely a closeted gay man. He also never fell in love with Syen, which made a ton of sense.
I think at this point my other major complaint can be aired: the lack of love. I understand this was probably intentional, given the world the story takes place in, but it felt alien and inhuman, transferring that oddity to the characters. It was also apparent when Syen had her first child. You felt little to no love between mother and child, and made Syed seem robotic.
Now, I want to talk about the ending, so I’ll give you a nice warning and white out the text below:
Syen ends up killing her son in the end, to kill the Guardian that was bonded to her. It was heartbreaking and sad, but also felt soulless because it didn’t seem like Syen even cared about the kid to begin with. I kind of don’t understand why she had to kill him anyways if the obelisk was all ready moving towards her for aid, or why she didn’t just launch more projectiles at the ships.
The ending revelation as to what caused the Earth to get into its “current” state was interesting. I also noticed the distinct lack of description of the moon, and when they revealed that humanity killed Earth’s child, I knew it was the moon (as did most readers I’m sure). So for the book to end with the question from a damaged Alabaster concerning the moon was a nice surprise.
All in all I would, again, recommend this book.
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You may also like some of my other reviews:
Book Review: Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine
Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Book Review: Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon