Chris Comerford's Reviews > The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
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it was amazing

It's tricky to be objective and rational about a book which is just so demonstrably good. Employing a unique style and a gripping anachronic structure, The Fifth Season is one of the most ambitious books I've ever read. Fortunately, that ambition is more than met by the talents of author N.K. Jemisin.

The world's ending, and Essun has lost her family; her 2-year-old son has been murdered by her husband, and her daughter has gone missing. Leaving the safety of her village to find them, Essun crosses paths with others who seek to weather the coming apocalypse. Concurrently, a girl named Damaya is forcibly inducted into an order of terrifying power, and a young woman named Syenite travels with her irascible companion to solve a far-off coastal town's shipping woes. All three stories might just be connected to each other.

The vague plot details above are thin frosting on a delicious mudcake of high concept ideas, plot turns and character beats, masterfully put together in a dizzyingly deep world by Jemisin. This is a well-paced story that plays out in an engrossing, richly-layered world which can stand with the best of Brandon Sanderson and J.K Rowling; a living, breathing narrative landscape with an immediate lived-in quality.

As good as it is, The Fifth Season's high quality is matched only by the degree to which one can't (or, perhaps, shouldn't) talk about it. Jemisin succeeds not just in executing the twists themselves, but in developing a method which makes even the more obvious turns much more gripping. I guessed one of the mid-book reveals quite a ways before it came to pass, but I wasn't prepared for how that reveal would be made, nor its ramifications. Veer away from spoilers on this one, folks.

The unique style also comes with a massive Your Mileage May Vary tag, with each plotline told in present tense with both second-person (Essun) and third-person (Damaya and Syenite) viewpoints. That style actually leads to one of the book's more significant plot twist, but it may not work for those who prefer a more straightforward narrative style. I personally loved it, absorbing the story more smoothly than I'd've expected for such an experimental way of telling it.

The Fifth Season is, unequivocally, a must-read. This is not always a happy book, detailing quite a bit of misery and hardship, featuring at least one scene that made my eyes misty. But there's still an innate hope at the centre of its gut-wrenching, apocalyptic narrative, all the better to enliven an enthralling cast of characters in a complex fantasy world. It's a book any self-respecting fantasy fan should read.

Also, it won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel, marking the first time ever that an author of colour has walked away with that accolade. So, y'know, it's kind of a big deal.
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Reading Progress

July 14, 2017 – Shelved
July 14, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
July 30, 2017 – Started Reading
July 31, 2017 –
page 88
July 31, 2017 –
page 158
August 3, 2017 –
page 310
August 6, 2017 – Finished Reading

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