Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Fifth Season

As someone still tenaciously clinging to the title "aspiring fantasy author," I continue to intentionally keep up with what's going on in the genre, especially when something decidedly different hits the market. In this case, as I was searching online for new books, I came across The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin.

The Fifth Season tells the tale of Essen, a seemingly ordinary woman living in a small town, whose husband murders her youngest son and flees. On the same day, the mighty Sanzed Empire collapses, and a giant rift splits the land, spewing forth ash that will choke the land, killing hundreds of people, and uprooting many more. Thus starts what is commonly known in the land of the Stillness as the fifth season, a time of cataclysmic events that seem as cyclical and commonplace as the weather.

The world-building in The Fifth Season is phenomenal. In a world where disaster strikes so regularly, civilization survives by means of a strict caste system and codes of civilization, wherein an uneasy mix of science and magic helps humanity survive each new cataclysm as cities rise and fall. Those gifted with magical abilities to shape the earth and tap into its destructive powers are called orogenes, and unlike it most settings, these practitioners are feared and essentially enslaved by state-run schools to serve the people or be put down when their usefulness is at an end. And it is three of these orogenes whose actions will play a major role in whether civilization can survive this new cataclysm.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of The Fifth Season however, is the author's voice and ability to weave together multiple viewpoints in a way that I have never seen done before. One such viewpoint is told in second person, while the others are told in third. While at first this might seem strange, by the time the book winds to its conclusion, the brilliance behind that choice becomes apparent as it leads to an awesome payoff and reveal. And despite this unorthodox method, Jemisin's writing is crisp, clear, and evocative, pulling you deep into this strange, broken world and the people that dwell in it.

In case I haven't been clear, let me spell it out. I greatly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. In fact, next time I am at the library, I will be sure to check out Jemisin's other works. If they are as good as The Fifth Season, I have no problem saying that I have found another favorite author. So go pick up this book for yourself. You won't be disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the suggestion. I feel like I've been spoiled by the likes of Steven Erikson, George Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson but am 'stuck waiting' for them to get their next one published and always on the look out for new authors to be spoiled by. I will try her out! This is even better given that she has a few books to catch up on. :)