The Fifth Season

the-fifth-season

Title

  • The fifth season / N. K. Jemisin.

Authors

  • Jemisin, N. K.

Publication Info

  • New York, NY : Little Brown & Co. [2015]

ISBN

  • 9780316229296 : $15.99

Length

  • 498 p.

Genre

  • Fantasy epic
  • Dystopian

Formats

  • Paperback
  • eBook Audio
  • eBook

Rating

4Q, 4P

Reader’s Annotation

In a season of disaster, a woman with unimaginable power searches for the daughter taken by her murderous husband.

Summary

In the Stillness, a land of cataclysmic seismic activity, live the Orogenes, a hated, hunted, but needed race. Orogenes have the power to move or still the earth, quelling quakes and volcanoes or touching off a disaster. Orogene Essun comes home to find her young son murdered by his own father when the child’s abilities are discovered. The man has also taken their daughter and disappeared, even as a Season (a time of great distress due to a major seismic event) begins. Essun sets off through an apocalyptic landscape to find and save her daughter. As she travels with companions who are more than they seem, Essun must face her past and deal with her desire to make things right.

Evaluation

This is a powerful tale of fear, loss, and social injustice, told in a compelling voice that grabs the reader’s attention and keeps you turning the pages. It is gritty and dark, yet somehow leaves you hopeful that a better world can rise from the ashes with Essun’s help. There are some interesting surprises throughout the novel, though not too shocking for the observant reader. The author builds a detailed new world and creates complex, interesting characters. Though Essun is grief-stricken and bristling, she is a sympathetic character, especially as you learn her backstory.

The book does contain characters with sexual fluidity and some semi-explicit sexual descriptions. Language is largely  made up curse words unique to this imagined world, although there is some more familiar swearing. The Stillness is a violent place, and so some graphic descriptions of violence are to be expected, though the gore-level is low.

The Fifth Season is a great read for anyone who loves world-building, supernaturally powerful characters, and dystopian tales with a side of social commentary.

Significance

N. K. Jemison is one of the greats of a small but hopefully growing number of fantasy authors of color.

Author

Visit the author’s website

An interview with The Guardian

New York Times interview

Reviews

Goodreads

New York Times

Kirkus

Appeal Factors

This book will appeal to fantasy readers, especially those who love world-building and really imaginative and different worlds. Dystopian readers will also find much to like. Finally, fans of diversity in fiction, especially fantasy, will like this book.

Readalikes

Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor. The Fifth Season is set in an imagined world, while this novel is set in post-apocalyptic Africa, but both have detailed world-building, complex characters, and persecution of racial groups.

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler. Both novels feature a protaganist suffering persecution because of special powers and/or race.

Planet of Exile, by Ursula K. Le Guin. This novel is more science fiction than fantasy, but both include detailed world-building and deal with issues of race relations.

Awards

Hugo Award; Library Journal Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books; New York Times Notable Books

Booktalk Ideas

A booktalk could center on the opening scene–the creation of the Rift, describing how the man reaches to grab the earth and take power from above. However, since the main character is the woman, a talk centered on the loss of her son and her reflections on her identity might be more of a focal point.

Discussion Questions

Where do you think the stone eaters have come from, and what is their relationship to the orogenes? What do you think they want?

The desire to kill or control orogenes seems to come from fear of their unrestrained power. What better solution could the society come up with to deal with the risks?

What do you think is the origin of the obelisks? What might happen with them in the future?

Do the guardians really care about their orogene charges? How would you describe this relationship?

Why I chose this book

This was a book group pick. The world Jemisin has built is very interesting, so that is a draw.

Memory Hooks

Earthquakes/volcanoes; orogenes/roggas; Syenite;

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