By Heather A.
5 out of 5 stars ★★★★★
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.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jeminsin was a refreshingly dark tale. Her craft for story-telling is impeccable and I was exceedingly surprised by this world she created. On a base level it’s easy to imagine it as some sort of dystopian earth, that’s gone through many seasons of destruction, but in other ways I imagined it wholly on its own, a planet among a galaxy far away. The inhabitants of this land live in tribes that promise to keep them safe when an earthquake or other large disaster takes place. These tribes have homes for normal people called “Stills” who don’t have the power the “Orogenes” have. Orogenes are able to control kinetic energy that can cause or quell a shake, freeze the air, move tectonic plates, crush volcanoes, and other useful skills. But Orogenes are oppressed. If discovered among a tribe, they are immediately sent to the capital for tagging, training, and supervision (if they aren’t killed first). They are a danger to themselves and others, allegedly. So we have this entire background of oppressed people, a dystopian wasteland—because we’re entering a new season, and a mother whose son was killed by his father and her daughter is stolen by the father.
What impressed me most was the pacing and storytelling, how readers get minute information that doesn’t become relevant until later. We are learning about the life of Essun through three different perspectives, one of which is 2nd person—a POV I have never liked. But it works! Everything about this book works so well together. It’s so powerful and raw.
Jemisin was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and NASA. These inspirations are so subtle, but still send a powerful message. Issues of race, sexuality, and love all play a prominent role in Essun’s life, and the life she had lived up until the end of this novel (thank goodness for the upcoming sequels). These issues are all built upon the guise of world building and how society expects certain people to behave or work together. The perspective of the middle of Essun’s life impacted me the most (so heartbreaking). I wish I could give more detail, but I want to avoid spoilers. Everyone please read this so we can talk about it!
I could not be more in love with this book. I went out and bought Jemisin’s other book The One Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to tide me over until the next novel.