The first book in a trilogy, The Fifth Season is the tale of an alternative world, the Stillness. Ironic, as this rocky world is constantly roiled by seismic activity. Multiple times through history this has resulted in near-extinction events – the Fifth Seasons – that wipe out civilizations. Every time, enough people survive to rebuild, using the Stonelore that passes from generation to generation as a guide.

Some beings in the Stillness have the ability to control seismic activity. They can quiet the world’s tremblings, or use their ability to manipulate geothermal energy for their own purposes. Called “Orogenes”, they are feared, reviled, and yet essential to life in such a world. And so they are subjugated and deemed sub-human. Orogenes are found when they are young, taken from their homes, and raised in the controlled environment of the Fulcrum. There they are trained, restrained, and oppressed. Each Orogene is assigned to a Guardian – a strict overseer who can mute an orogene’s power when the Guardian chooses. 

The Fifth Season follows three separate point of views: 

  • Essun, a middle-aged Orogene whose husband has murdered one of their children and taken the other. She is on a mission to avenge her son and rescue her daughter.
  • Damaya, a young girl who has just revealed herself to be an Orogene and is turned over to the Guardians for training and safekeeping.
  • Syenite: a young adult Orogene fresh from her training at the Fulcrum, trying to forge her own path within the constraints the Guardians have placed on her kind.

The world-building in this book is so deep, so rich, I found myself completely entrenched in the Stillness. I cared deeply about the characters, aching with them when they hurt and celebrating when they triumphed. There are strong female leads, a diverse cast of characters, wonderful found families, chillingly believable antagonists… It’s been a week since I finished and I still haven’t completely escaped the thrall.

A word of caution: it takes a commitment to get into this book. Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked! But it took three separate attempts for me to lose myself in this book. The prologue is heady. Lots of world building, with no obvious clue as to the direction we’re headed. Trust Jemisin’s process. Commit to reading the prologue and the first three chapters. In them, you’ll meet Essun, Damaya, and Syenite. Let them – the grief-stricken mother, the frightened child, and the pragmatic young woman – convince you The Fifth Season is well worth your time.

By Karena

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