Bullet Review: The Fifth Season


The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin
Published 4th August 2015 by Orbit (Kindle Edition) | Purchased
★★★☆☆ (.5)

Three terrible things happen in a single day.
Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world's sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes -- those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon -- are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.
She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

I have NEVER given a book a .5 rating, but I guess that's because I've never read a book that I was that torn between. I spoke about doing more book reviews at the beginning of the year; it's nearing the end of March and I've finally decided that this will be my first of, hopefully, many. I started my blogging journey, years ago, by consistently posting book reviews, so let's get back to basics.

This book has got quite a complicated world to explain in general, so I really hope I've done enough to convey what it's like in my points below:

• The storytelling in this book was absolutely wonderful. I felt totally immersed in the story and  never felt the book drag with its progression - there was always something of interest going on in each perspectives chapter, and I left each one not wanting to go onto the next.
There was a small but impactful aspect of creativity which moved this book from dystopian into a sci-fi territory - the addition of humans with the talent to move the Earth to their will. This was set in the time whereupon the Earth was prone to shakes, quakes, and tsunamis; and the orogenes (roggas) had the ability to exacerbate or quell the problem.
The book had an almost "Mad Max" feel to it with regards to surviving and battling the different conditions that the Earth was providing - there were communities (comms) and the people living outside of these boundaries (commless) who didn't have as much protection as those living within the walls. Everyone had to do what they had to do to survive a "season" which was an apocalyptic event that would happen without prior knowledge.
• Let's give a bit of background knowledge: The Orogenes are despised by much of the world because they can do frightening things like move the Earth to their will, and they are born randomly with their powers not always being so obvious to their owners until it may be too late. Most Orogenes end up going to the Fulcrum which is a kind of school to learn how to harness and focus their powers, because the world sees themselves much safer with a higher power containing these "reckless creatures" and putting them to good use. I'm going to call this next point the perspective arc; the idea of your perspective being changed throughout the book...does that make sense? But anyways, I found that happened, and I quite liked it! You find out slowly throughout the book that not everyone despises the Orogenes, and why they don't, which lends itself nicely to giving you a wider awareness of the bigger picture. Seeing these differing opinions give you more room to make your own decisions and to see that not everything is as formalised as it may seem.

It was confusing from beginning to end. Now, don't get me wrong, I understood everything that was happening to a point, and was able to follow the story throughout, but I was always half glazing through the terminology of the "magic system" and what it entailed to create it. Nothing was ever truly explained, even when following a young Orogene in their learning of the craft - I knew the overall basis of it, but it was always that little bit out of reach for me.
• I felt as though some big aspects of the book weren't explored thoroughly enough; you could counter this point with the fact that it may become clear in the second book, but it needed to be in this book to set a foundation. For example, a very important character was built up and built up, finally revealed and then not explained. It annoyed me to no end because I feel it would have wrapped everything up nicely at the end to follow on to the next book, but instead, this said character was put into a really unnecessary cliffhanger at the end.
• Following on from the previous point, I don't think everything wrapped up nicely enough. The ending seemed to go in a completely different direction to the rest of the book, that I ended up rereading the last page or so just to make sure that I hadn't missed something vital. It was as if the author just thought, oh, I need something to segue into the next book, let's do this! It just didn't work for me, and I found myself just staring at the pages looking confused.

Overall, The Fifth Season was a really good debut novel; it just needs a bit more explanation in the details of everything and it would be perfect. I'm definitely intrigued enough to pick up the second book in this trilogy, and hope to see some improvements along these lines. 

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