A few years ago I came across an excellent review of N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, book one of the Inheritance trilogy, and was instantly intrigued. It was put on my “in case of birthday or Christmas, please buy me” list and fortunately I received it later that year. I was blown away by Jemisin’s incredibly creative world building and could not put the book down. The third book in the Inheritance trilogy did not hold up as well as the first two, but the series as a whole had me eagerly looking for other works by Jemisin.
I received The Fifth Season as a present last year and in the time it has taken me to get around to reading it has won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel. I went into the book with high hopes and Jemisin did not disappoint. In the “Broken Earth” trilogy she has created a turbulent land that is prone to earthquake and volcanic eruption, ironically called The Stillness. It is a world with five seasons, where the fifth season is death and comes on the heels of geological catastrophe. Entire civilizations have been wiped out with only odd relics remaining. As paper is a poor storage medium in a world that can be subjected to decades long winters caused by volcanic ash in the atmosphere, the most important information is passed down through “stone lore”. Wisdom that has been literally carved into stone tablets regarding food storage, roles in securing communities in times of crisis, and what to do to in order for humanity to survive another season.
Amongst humanity are those born with the ability to “manipulate thermal, kinetic, and related forms of energy to address seismic events”. This ability is called orogeny and those who can wield it are formerly called orogenes but most commonly, and derogatorily, they are referred to as roggas. An untrained rogga has the power to instinctively negate an earthquake, however their lack of training can also cause them to be extremely dangerous, as orogeny can be devastatingly powerful. They are both feared and despised but also necessary. To keep roggas in line is The Fulcrum, where orogenese are trained to become tame tools of the Sanze empire.
Essun is a rogga and a mother searching for her daughter Nassun, who has been abducted by her father, Essun’s husband, on the eve of the cataclysm that sets off a fifth season. Syenite is a Fulcrum trained orogene being sent on assignment to clear coral from a bay, but also with an unspoken mission of becoming pregnant from her more powerful mentor assigned to accompany and oversee her work. Damaya is a rogga who has been given away by her family to be properly trained at the Fulcrum. An outsider, unlike those born to the life from within the Fulcrum, Damaya does not have an easy transition to the life of a “grit”. Jemisin deftly weaves the three story lines and your understanding expands as she reveals more details, you begin to piece together how everything fits and realize how horrific this fifth season is going to be.
The Fifth Season was published in 2015 so fortunately for me now that I have discovered how amazing it is the second book, The Obelisk Gate, has already come out (I was able to pick it up today after having finished The Fifth Season yesterday) and the third book, The Stone Sky, is coming out in August! I love starting a new series when I don’t have to wait long to complete it.