Bingo Square: White Whale
I attempted to read this last year because it had so many rave reviews and I also felt like it was something I should read to explore more diversity in sci-fi/fantasy. I think I put it down a few times too often because I kept losing the thread, and combined with the portions in second person, I simply couldn’t get into it. As a result, it seemed like the perfect fit for the White Whale category.
It still took me a while to get used to the second person of the narrative. After beginning from the perspective of an unnamed man who decides to destroy the world and start a Season (periods in this world that mark apocalyptic weather patterns and quakes – there’s more to it than that, but this seems like a good shorthand description), the novel flashes between three character perspectives. Essun’s portion is told in the second person. She is an orogene or rogga who has been living in hiding, and not even her husband knows. At least he didn’t but when this novel starts, he has obviously figured it out because he has beaten their son to death and left with their daughter. This all occurs around the same time as the world breaks so Essun’s portion explores her journey to find her daughter through the beginnings of the Season.
Damaya is a young girl who has recently discovered that she is an orogene – she figured it out at the same time as the rest of her community and her parents. Ever since then, she has been locked up in the stable as her parents wait for a Guardian to come and take her away to the capital where she will be trained. Orogenes are people that have the power to manipulate the earth and stop or start earthquakes. In the fractured world they live in this is an important but dangerous and feared skill. Too many orogenes cause deaths when they lose control or aren’t properly trained which is why so many without the skill respond to them with fear or violence. Through Damaya, the reader sees the training process though it is unclear at first whether her story takes place before this Season started or after it ended, and how far removed from it she is.
Finally, the last main character is Seyenite. She is in her early 20s, a Fulcrum trained orogene who already has four rings which reflect skill level. She is set on a mission with a 10 ringer, the highest an orogene can hope to achieve. Seyenite is very disgruntled, and has quite a few opinions, but as she travels with this older, more worldly orogene, she makes discoveries about the system she is a part of, and starts seeing herself as more of a cog in the system.
Seyenite was probably my favorite one to read about since it involved all kinds of discoveries about how the world worked, but there are so many details in the novels that add richness to it. It might take a few chapters to get into the narrative but it is definitely worth sticking out to see how everything ties together. Jemisin provides enough answers by the end of this first novel to prevent the reader from being frustrated while also leaving so many mysteries and questions left unanswered for the rest of the trilogy.
I previously read The Inheritance trilogy, and while I liked it just fine, it really barely touched on Jemisin’s potential as an author, and is not a good gage of what to expect from this novel at all. So far, I’m definitely blown away by how all the details are coming together and how every little detail matters. Nothing is superfluous.
Bingo Square: White Whale
Also, Bingo! Finally. First column (Underrepresented, White Whale, Two Heads, Backlog, Cannonballer Says)