Review: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

fifth-season This was a very interesting book.  I can see why it won so many awards.  It is beautifully written and has a well crafted world that brings you in.  That being said, I did find it hard to get into at first.  I think it had to do with the sort of complicated world the characters inhabit and having three different narrators that seem to living in the same nation but not at the same time. As one is living at the end of the world, while the other two are not.  Once I was able to grasp that the timelines of the three narrators were different, it made it much easier to enjoy the storytelling.  The story begins as Essun, is mourning the loss of his son who was murdered by her husband for being an Orogene.  Orogenes are powerful beings that can derive power from the earth but are feared for this power because it’s unpredictable and can destroy as easily as it can save.  Damasaya is also an Orogene, who has been locked in her families barns after she was discovered.  And finally Syenite, a powerful orogene who has been given two different assignments that involve the most powerful orogene in the world.  Each narrator is different.  Damasaya is young and unsure of her future as she is afraid of who she is while Syenite is the opposite.  She knows exactly who she is and how good she is.  She is confident in who she is and ambitious to boot. Essun is definitely a woman who has seen and knows way too much.  She is strong but even the strongest of us breaks.  When her husband kills her son and possibly her daughter she is at a loss.  Soon revenge becomes her only motivating factor.  Essun’s story is also effected by the beginning of the Fifth Season. Every so often the Earth turns against the people and sets off catastrophic natural disasters.  Some season’s last years while some last decades. It’s clear to Essun that this season is going to last centuries.  So she sets off to find her husband while knowing the world is ending soon.  Syenite and Damasaya are not experience the same end of the world troubles that Essun is and at first this was confusing since both were headed towards or living where the disaster had occurred.  This was what made me think that the narratives were not all happening at the same time.  The narrators do not seem to have much in common beyond they are all women and orogenes but it when it’s revealed what there relationship it was a gut punch.  I didn’t see it coming.  I think that  is because it’s so well written.  You could literally get lost in the writing as N.K. tells these women’s stories.  They all have such hard struggles as they live and work in a very rigid society.  People of this world are separated into different Comm names and it defines who they are what they do. If you don’t fit in a Comm you are in trouble when the seasons come. They all must try to do their best to find their own voice while still playing by the rules and of course there are far more rules for women.  So even though it’s a fantasy novel, it’s still very much set in real life too.

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