CBR11 Bingo – And So It Begins
This trilogy has long been on my radar and I picked it up on vacation at the beginning of the month, knowing that I’d have a few interrupted days to really dig my teeth into them. [the bonus I didn’t realize until after the fact: each book satisfies a bingo square requirement; thank you vacation-packing gods]
The Fifth Season introduces us to The Stillness, a fictional, futuristic land. It’s a land populated by humans, but some of these humans have the gift of orogeny, and are known as orogenes (or by the derogatory slur, roggas). These orogenes have the ability to draw power from the heat of living organisms around them and use it to control the earth and other elements; it’s a gift that can be deadly if they don’t learn to control and direct this power. Because of this danger, the rest of the world is afraid of them and seeks to either destroy or control them (in sometimes cruel and inhumane ways). We are also introduced to Guardians (beings with gifts of their own, who are tasked with training and controlling the orogenes), and stone-eaters (creatures born of the earth that wield power, and often serve as protectors of certain orogenes).
This first book follows the stories of three female characters, in alternating chapters (a few spoiler-ish things follow):
1- Essun – an orogene living in a small village while hiding her identity from her husband. When their two children inherit orogeny, the secret comes out. It results in the death of her toddler son, and leads Essun to flee her village in pursuit of her daughter – all in the wake of a natural disaster that is having disastrous effects across the continent, and which is soon to be setting off a ‘Season’ (a time where the world goes into disaster mode, basically). As she flees, she meets up with a young boy, Hoa, who is also travelling alone, and who has some unusual traits that give her pause.
2- Syenite – a trained orogene who is being sent on a mission to deal with some environmental concerns in the north. Syenite is a four-ringed orogene (each ring being earned as she progresses through her training). She is paired up on this mission with Alabaster, a ten-ringer, and arguable the most powerful orogene alive; he is commissioned with training and supervising her along the way. Despite their initial and ongoing animosity towards each other (partially due to personality clashes, and partially due to the government issued order for them to procreate and produce another powerful orogene), they begin to rely on each other through the adventures that arise after the ‘simple’ mission turns out to be anything but.
3- Damaya – a young girl whose family has just discovered her orogeny. They are fearful of her powers, and eagerly hand her over to the Guardian Schaffa to transport her to the Fulcrum (the capital, of sorts) for training. Her story outlines the thorough and sometimes cruel training that young orogenes are subjected to in order to rein in their powers to be useful for the government.
The three women are connected in a way that isn’t revealed until the end, so I’ll avoid it here:)
The book on the whole is fascinating, with Jemisin creating an entirely new and unique world. The chapters about Syenite and Damaya are written in third person narrative, with the chapters about Essun being a bit different. They are narrated, but we are informed early on by the narrator that WE, the reader, are Essun, so they read a bit differently.
As with any completely original universe, there is a lot of orienting yourself to it at the beginning, and some confusion can arise – Jemisin does less ‘explaining’ than others, and you just sorta have to pick up what things mean as you go.
Overall, I really enjoyed it, and couldn’t wait to immediately pick up book 2.