Review: The Fifth Season

The Broken Earth trilogy: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I learned about this author through taking her Masterclass for Creative Writing. I tend to lean toward teen and young adult science fiction and fantasy, rather than adult fiction like hers is, but I felt that I would enjoy the series, so I bought all three.

Read: May 8 – May 12, 2023

Buy Your Own Copy


Book contains: violence, somewhat explicit sex, foul language, abuse

Such a Well-Developed Story!

Essun is an orogene. She is also a grieving mother. Her son, Uche, was beaten to death by her husband after he discovered Uche’s powers, and now she’s on a journey for revenge—and to take their daughter back from him.

Damaya was abandoned by her family. After discovering her orogenic abilities, her mother gave her away to the Guardians, who raise and train orogenes at the Fulcrum, where they are little more than slaves. She can excel, but first she must survive the training.

Syenite is a four-ringer. She’s rising up the orogenic ranks, but now she’s being sent on a mission with a ten-ringer, who she must also conceive a child with. She hates him.

This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before. It follows three characters, and at first, it’s unclear, but hints are given throughout the book that not all is as it seems with them. The world is ending—it ends every few centuries or so, but now it’s for the last time, and I find the whole system of it fascinating. What they call the Fifth Season is more or less a year or decade of destruction caused by tectonic plate shifts or volcanic eruptions which kill off many citizens of the Stillness. This increased shake activity has also caused humans to develop the ability to sess, to distinguish movements in their surroundings for recognizing earthquakes, like how some animals can.

Something very unique about this book is the perspective shifts. Essun’s story is told in second person, and while I was unsure of it at first, Jemisin does a fantastic job of writing it this way. It’s not something I usually choose to read, but I found I quite enjoyed it. Damaya and Syenite’s portions are told from regular third person limited point of view.

Essun is around forty years old, and she’s been hiding in a small town, because orogenes are called rogga and hated by nearly everyone on the continent. She’s crafted a new identity for herself, and it’s interesting to see her shed this identity—this pleasantness—as she tries to survive the journey south to find and kill her husband. She, like many others who don’t have a community (comm) for the Season, is willing to do whatever it takes, though that doesn’t stop her from collecting a few group members along the way.

Syenite is twenty, and she’s very sarcastic but also excellent at hiding it because of her Fulcrum training. She must be able to smile at someone even if she hates them. She’s also used to being treated as less than dirt because of what she is, so her ten-ringer mentor is a great surprise to her in how he acts. Their back-and-forth banter is extremely entertaining, and I found her the most interesting of the three perspectives to read. I was always excited when her chapters came up.

Damaya is just a young girl, but already she knows more pain in the ways of the world than most adults. She’s aware of what she is and how people hate her for it, and everyone around her is either open about their disgust or hiding it behind a veneer of kindness. It’s actually quite sad to hear about but is a very real horror of this world and its ways.

The quality of this book is superb (though, surprisingly, I found at least two spelling mistakes). Something about this book that’s different to the usual Teen and YA books I read is that when a character comes to a realization, it doesn’t outright share that realization. It only offers clues and expects the reader to be able to follow along, so it’s definitely a book that requires a higher level of thinking. There were times that I understood the depth and times where I was completely lost.

I have to say I wasn’t sure where the plot of this book was going. Essun is on a journey, Syenite is on a mission, and Damaya is going to an institute for learning, but where is this heading? It comes in bits and pieces throughout, but only becomes completely clear about three-quarters of the way through the book, and I have to say, I was not expecting it! The book takes place over the course of years or months (depending on the character) but I have to say that the pacing never felt too slow or moved too fast. Parts of the journeys or days were summarized where they needed to be, and all the scenes were necessary and compelling.

The first quarter of this book I was able to listen to, but the rest wasn’t read by anyone online, so I read it the old-fashioned way. Still, there were no parts in which my mind wandered to far (though it was still a problem) because I was thoroughly engaged every time I picked it up.

This is an amazing book that’s great for adults (not for younger because of the more mature themes). If you’re sensitive to subjects such as selective breeding, implied sex with a minor, or other issues like that, it’s not the book for you, but if you don’t mind getting into the dark and gritty realities of a dystopian world, it’s a deep and entertaining story. I definitely recommend it.

Related Reviews:
The Broken Earth book 2: The Obelisk Gate
The Broken Earth book 3: The Stone Sky

2 responses to “Review: The Fifth Season”

  1. […] Reviews:The Broken Earth book 1: The Fifth SeasonThe Broken Earth book 3: The Stone […]

  2. […] Reviews:The Broken Earth book 1: The Fifth SeasonThe Broken Earth book 2: The Obelisk […]

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