My rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars
Pacing: Slow to Normal
Published: August 4th, 2015
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. – synopsis from Goodreads
“It’s a gift if it makes us better. It’s a curse if we let it destroy us.”
It’s been a couple of days since I’ve finished The Fifth Season and I have spent the time in between me finishing the book and writing this review thinking about what to say. Don’t get me wrong in no means was the book bad, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I only mean that I’m not quite sure I ever read a book like this.
This is the first book I ever read by N.K. Jemisin and from the very beginning you can see that she is a seasoned writer. The storytelling level in this book is in another dimension completely. The intricacy and complexity of the story, the way details are woven and the way they unfurl right before you is absolutely astonishing. Just something to think about before you dive in, I felt the pace of this book to be on the slower side. The story is continually moving but there isn’t nonstop action. This is a story that builds and grows the more you go through it. Since it is a trilogy it felt like this book served more as an introduction to the world it is set in and the characters it follows.
One thing I felt was very interesting was that though The Fifth Season has multiple points of views, three to be precise, this is the first time that I read a book that has a second person one. It was very different and I must say that I quite enjoyed it. It seems to put us right in the middle of the story instead of being a spectator on the outside. Later on when there is a revelation, this use of the second person POV was very suiting in my opinion. It made absolute sense to use this instead of third or first person for this character. Rest assured the other two POVs are third person.
As for our main characters, I feel they are very hard to put in a box and illustrate who they are. As I started the story I wasn’t sure how I felt about them. Some seemed a bit more relatable then others but I wasn’t certain who to connect with. And I think that is exactly what the author wanted. We follow the story of three girls/women while they go through their journey. Damaya the young girl coming to grasp with who she is, was at first probably the most relatable character. Her story is one that I think most of us goes through: peer acceptance, coming to grips with who you are, you know the normal teenage rite of passage I would describe it has. Syenite was bit more complex. She is a young woman hungry for power and full of ambition. I can’t say that I liked her at first but the more I got to know her, the more she grew on me. With hindsight, I wonder if the fact that I was put off by her at first is related to society making us dislike women with ambition and character. As for Essun, our last character but probably my favourite, she is a middle aged mother. This is not the typical character that you see at the epicenter of an epic fantasy book. Looking back I want to ask the question, why not? Why wouldn’t a middle aged mother woman of colour be a protagonist of a story no matter the genre? I found nothing to rebut that this isn’t valid story. I found myself confronted by the conventions that have been integrated in my reading habits. As you can see I am very conflicted by the emotions that these characters have sprung within me. It made me take a closer look at the conventions that society put women in and for that I am thankful. Though I am a feminist I did see that some of these conventions had still reach my way of seeing things without even me realizing it.
When I first sat down to write this review, in my head I was going to make it a mini review, lol, but the more I wrote about The Fifth season the more I found I had things to say and needed to give the book justice. It is an amazing book and I cannot wait to continue the series and know what happens to these surprising characters. I do hope you guys give it a chance and pick it up.