Books, Reviews

Book review -THE FIFTH SEASON, by N.K. Jemisin


The official blurb:

A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

My review:

The Fifth Season is a masterfully told epic fantasy tale with a scope that covers thousands of years in the Stillness: a vast world that is strange and alien, yet hauntingly familiar at the same time. I won’t be talking much about the specifics of the story and plot here, because, well, it’s the kind of book that you should really read without knowing too much before you devour it.

From the very beginning this story is dizzying in its depth and detail, but what really pulled me in were the characters (isn’t that the way it usually is?): ornery, stubborn, willful, strong, complicated, richly drawn and deeply felt characters who end up doing things that are both astonishingly bad and astonishingly good… and sometimes just plain astonishing.

Jemisin’s world is a place where civilization has to live through more or less apocalyptic events again and again. Relying on tradition and “stone lore” keeps people alive, but also makes some of them more or less (read: more) slaves of the system. And this is where The Fifth Season really becomes interesting and complex in a way that I appreciate both as a reader and a writer: what does a society do when some people, but not all, can wield powerful, potentially earth-shattering magic? How will society use (abuse) and try to control such people? How will these things shape that society and the people in it?

As a writer I’ve considered such questions myself at times, and Jemisin explores these questions and themes in brutal and sometimes heartbreaking detail. There are so many layers, so many facets to this story: the way it keeps surprising and flipping the perspective on the reader, the way it hints at something even bigger and more ominous just beyond the knowledge of the characters in the story… until finally, in the very last sentence, it unveils a reveal that makes it really, really hard to wait for August 16th when the sequel ‘The Obelisk Gate’ comes out.

If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, and open to new twists on world-building, magic, and storytelling, then you should read this book right now.

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