The Fifth Season is the best fantasy I’ve read in a long time, it’s just outstanding. If you’re interested in geology and seismic activity as well as epic fantasy, this is the series for you! I had only really heard about N.K. Jemisin in relation to the Hugos, an award I generally haven’t had much faith in, so I don’t really run out and buy the shortlists. I’d noticed a few more people on bookstagram reading this trilogy, especially with the recent release of the final instalment, so I bit the bullet and gave it a go. I’m so glad I did!
This is the way the world ends… for the last time.
This is a world in constant preparation for a major ecological event. Called the Stillness, the earth is never still for long. There is a huge amount of seismic activity causing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. The people live in secure walled comms, easier to defend when the season comes. They stockpile food and everyone has a use caste which determines their use when the end of the world happens. Only, this time, this will be the last time the world ends.
Even the hardest stone can fracture. It just takes the right force, applied at the right juncture of angles. A fulcrum of pressure and weakness.
The story is told from three perspectives, Essen, Syenite and Damaya. They all have something in common, they are oregenes. This means they can sense activity in the earth and control rocks and minerals. In such an unstill world, they are a useful tool, and in Yumenes, they are enslaved to serve the stills. In the comms, people have been taught to fear them and free oregenes hide their power or risk death or capture.
It is a story of prejudice. In this world, the majority of peeople have dark skin, which would make sense in such a unpredictable climate, so it’s not based on skin colour. Parallels can be drawn between the treatment of the oregenes and slavery, but it is never heavy handed. Oregenes are called, roggas, a derogatory term, but one which some claim for themselves. They are treated as less than human, bred for power and exploited time and time again.
Why all who come out of that place seem so very competent… and so very afraid.
The people live by something called stone law. I loved how this was incorporated, the sense of something being written in stone both literally and figuratively. The laws aren’t questioned, they are assumed to be complete and unchanged. They are written in stone to survive the seasons and pass on knowledge to survivors after all.
Essen’s chapters are written in second person present tense, which sounds horrific but it just goes to show how good this book is that I was sucked in enough to barely notice. The other narratives are also present tense, but it just works. When a character talks of something in the past, it makes it so much more final. It is gone.
And then he reaches forth with all the fine control that the world has brainwashed and backstabbed and brutalized out of him, and all the sensitivity that his masters have bred into him through generations of rape and coercion and highly unnatural selection.
There are also mysterious obelisks in the sky, stone eaters who can move through stone, cruel Guardians and a whole bunch of threads that are coming together already. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait for the next book!
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Book Source: Purchased