Oh my goodness gang, I haven’t even started the book club selection for fantasy, but it should have been this one. It’s a little long, but it’s Oh. So. Good. I’ve heard of N.K. Jemisin for a few years, and have been wanting to give her fantasy a try as that’s a genre I’m trying to give a chance right now. Enter an audible sale, a holiday break, and then not wanting it to end so I slowed down my listening.
The Fifth Season begins with the end of the world. Someone has torn the world apart in the capital city setting off a shake felt by half the continent at least. From there the story unfolds through three characters point of view: Essun, the mother, Syenite, the eager to prove herself trainee, and Damaya, an unloved little girl. The three stories are told simultaneously, interspersed with little bits of world building, but really it was best to go in blind.
This one starts out in a brutal way (I was driving and crying home from the Christmas holiday), but it’s worth getting through. And holy crap is Ms. Jemisin an amazing world builder. It’s incredible, and complex, but you never get weighed down. I haven’t read very much “true fantasy”, but I have read Kushiel’s Dart, which I love, but she does spend the first chunk of the book laying out the world before anything gets going. Ms. Jemisin doesn’t do that. She throws you right into all the stories, but along the way creates a very real place filled with very real people who are all just figuring it out as they go along.
My only complaint, and it’s not really a complaint, it’s more a challenge with the medium I chose to read it, is that I couldn’t flip back easily. I think I would have picked up on a lot of things sooner if I had the ability to flip back and forth throughout the book. Audio just doesn’t easily give you that option. Also The reason I gave almost no names/wordings is I have zero clue how to spell any of it. That also happens with the audio.
DON’T READ THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK! I do have one SPOILERY question though for those who have read this one:when Syenite sees Schaffa at the end how is she able to pull on the amethyst? Wouldn’t the Guardians have shut down her cessapeina (sp?) so she shouldn’t have been able to do orogeny? Or does that only apply to the earth and not to the obelisks? Inquiring minds want to know. END SPOILERS.
Anywho, this was a great one! I already have the sequel queued up on audible ready to go, but I had to write this review first so I didn’t mix up plot points between the two. This one won the Hugo last year I think, and it totally deserved it. It’s incredible, complex, and beautiful. If you’re looking to dip your toe into the fantasy waters here’s a great place to start!