This is a (Gushy, Gushy) Review: The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin

March 25, 2016

You guys. YOU GUYS. You guys.

After a blissful two-week stint with it, I just finished the audio of N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, the first in her Broken Earth series. I managed to glom together enough of the puddle it reduced me to to grab my laptop and open up a new post draft. Considering this is only my second blog post in a month that's almost over, you might say this is big.

At its heart, The Fifth Season tells the story of Essun, a woman who comes home one day to find that the family—and the world—she's known has ended. She will never be able to go back to the way things were before, but she can track down the one who's responsible for taking it all away from her. Interwoven with Essun's story is that of Syenite, an Orogene (a master of the Earth's seismic activity) who is slowly uncovering the dark secrets of the academy that trained her, and Damaya, another powerful young woman who casts off her beginnings as a pariah in the hope of something better. I don't want to go into the specifics for fear of spoilers, but here are a bunch of generalities: this story is about race, caste, gender, and sex (the sexy kind, not the biological kind); it's about a cast of horribly interesting and diverse (actually diverse! not just pretend!) characters; it's about a mother's love and how far it will carry you before you break; and it's about freaking awesome earth magic and stone lore and mysterious gemstone monoliths that float among the clouds.

Although I'm certainly not shy about expressing my enthusiasm for the things I love, I would not call myself overly gushy when I review. No book is perfect, and I like to temper my positivity with the parts that didn't sit right with me, whether they're mountains or mole hills. Here? I've really got nothin'. This book had me by the throat from the very beginning and did not let go until more than 15 hours of audio had gone by. I am sitting here trying to think of a single negative thing to say, and the only thing I'm coming up with is that it ended.

I'm still only getting started with fantasy, and I think this would be a perfect start for anyone looking to break in to the genre. Jemisin's world is vast and thorough, layered with a mythology that's either all its own or based on one I need to learn much, much more about, but it does not feel intimidating or unwieldy. I remember feeling overwhelmed at the outset when I tried Jemisin's The Killing Moon last year, but I did not feel that same sense of disorientation in the Broken Earth universe. My audio book came with a handy PDF appendix that helped me over the initial hurdle, and it was smooth sailing from there.

In fact, I might be trying The Killing Moon again via audio next. I'm just terrified that no one can live up to Robin Miles in the narration department. She tackled an invented language, narration changes (a significant amount of the story takes place in second person), and a wide variety of voices with ease and more than a bit of sass. This is a story about women, and Miles took them off the page and made them live and breathe and just be, unapologetically.

As excited as I am to get my hands on The Obelisk Gate (Broken Earth #2) in August, I'm going to be sorely disappointed if Robin Miles doesn't eventually read and record it. I may just start a petition.

Go read and/or listen to this book. Now. Like, really. Close this page and go.

Have you read The Fifth Season? If not, you didn't listen to me, and I'm disappointed.

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