Cezara's Reviews > The Fifth Season

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

Yes, 5 full stars for this one because it's everything I want in a fantasy book. I will explain.

I don't read fantasy and sci-fi because I like magic or space ships or laser swords or what have you. I read fantasy and sci-fi because I want to see something new, and there's no other genre that allows this much freedom of imagination, this much flexibility and bending of reality and this much room for "what ifs". The genres are ripe with tropes and cliches even so, and I'm at that point where it pains me to have to read again through a story about the noble hearted what's-his-face who saves the land of medieval-Europe-plus-elves-and-dragons with the help of the wise mentor and the pretty princess. Show me something else, something truly weird, I say! And N. K. Jemisin delivered.

Let there be a world wracked by earthquakes and volcano eruptions, she says, restless and hostile. Let there be apocalypse-level events every hundred years or so. Let this world be inhabited by people who believe the Earth hates them, who value survival above all else, and have organized their society around making sure some of them will make it through the years of darkness, and famine, and poisonous air and water that follow such geologic disasters. Let there be among them those who have the power to control the earthquakes, to start and stop them at will, and let that society hate them, while doing their best to exploit them at the same time. Let there be another sentient species, strange creatures of stone whose motivations are unknown, who share this world with humans.

Then come the the details. The mysterious ruins of the many civilizations that came before this one, some considerably more advanced. Their artifacts endure to this day, their purpose unknown and maybe unknowable now that their makers have been dead for thousands of years. The harshness and ruthlessness of a society living on the brink of extinction, where value is based on usefulness and where, come Seasonal Law, those deemed useless are left to die in the wastelands. The purely utilitarian approach to building in a world where a balcony is unquestionable proof of foolishness or privilege, where decorations are a waste of time and resources since they'll be wiped out in a few years without fail. The surprisingly advanced science, focused - unsurprisingly - on geology, chemistry and physics. The hatred and exploitation of the orogenes, those who have power over the earth itself, by a society that both fears them and desperately needs them if it is to survive. The secrets and the lies and the rewriting of history and the suppression of lore by those who want to keep the orogenes willing slaves. The horrifying abuse, and the inescapable brainwashing, but the training and education too. A system meant to make them more powerful and more powerless at the same time so that it may better make use of them.

And then Jemisin pushes further. She goes so far out of the medieval Europe setting that she ends up on the Equator. She makes the other sentient race truly alien, as a different sentience should be, lest you end up with just stranger looking humans. She makes the humans different races, and *gasp* doesn't put the paler one in charge. Just as the characters span the gradients and combinations of human races, they span human sexuality too, from straight to gay with blurry boundaries all over the place. There's love and family and sex, but they're not the kind of relationships you're used to. Why should they be? This is not our world with some magic, mythical creatures, and sword fighting mixed in. This is something else. Something new.

And yet, as you read, you get the feeling that this could be our world with some magic and some mythical creatures mixed in. You get the feeling that it was this sort of world at some point, and then something maybe went wrong, and everything had to change, to adapt, and this is the inevitable result. The world is strange, but it's not strangeness for strangeness's sake. It all makes sense, everything fits together, and while you can see that some things could be different, you understand perfectly well why they're not. It's like a gnarled and twisted tree growing on a rocky windswept mountain top. It's not like other trees, but not because someone decided to take an ax to it and make it as different looking as possible. No, once the seed was planted, there simply was no other way it could grow.

I can't say more, especially about the characters and the story line, without spoilers, even though I feel I could rant about this book for days on end. Go read it. I can't begin to imagine the level of skill required to create a world so different, and then make it feel so real. N.K. Jemisin deserves your attention.
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Reading Progress

March 16, 2014 – Shelved
March 16, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
August 4, 2015 – Started Reading
August 5, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-45 of 45 (45 new)

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message 1: by Erika (new)

Erika Staackmann Thank you. This was the best review I've ever read.

Cezara Thank you :) I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

Alla I agree. This book is a marvelous creation of art.

Chi-Chi An amazing review. Yes!

message 5: by Erika (new)

Erika Love this review! That's exactly how I feel about fantasy and why I took a long break from it. I'm so happy to see authors breaking out of the box these days. Going to check this out now, thanks!

message 6: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Johnston Great review. Starting it right now !

Ashley This is an excellent review. Exactly how I feel about the book. I can't wait until the next is released.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Fantastic review! I'm not the fantasy/sci-fi reader you are, but I'm going out to look for this book.

message 9: by Evance (new) - added it

Evance Tairo Great review ..i was just passing through ..but i guess i will have to read the book ..hope it is as good as this review.

Megan Grant After reading your review I feel like reading this book is my only purpose in life now. I truly how it's as good as you make it sound. A tall order indeed.

GarlicPrincess Exactly why I loved this book! Different AND excellent!

message 12: by Mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mark Fearnley awesome review

message 13: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I agree with C Lovejoy! Your surprisingly stirring review not only convinced me to read this book but completely captures what draws me to this genre. It's the ability to imagine what society could be like without all of the assumptions of how things work or how humans should be.

Hope to read your work one day!

Andor I almost never comment on this site, but this review is so spot-on with what I feel it's uncanny.

Douglas I read this this review & moved The Fifth Season to the top of my list...
Then this morning I saw the announcement that it won the 2016 Hugo for best novel!
Can't waste anymore time here, I'm off to buy it.

Angela Hell, yeah! Now I really can't wait to start reading this. Thanks for your review!

Spencer This is truly a stellar review. Thank you for this.

Saumya {abookzealot} Does this book have even a tinge of romance? Or is it just without any romance between the protagonists?

message 19: by Sheri (new) - added it

Sheri Thank you for making me think!! Finally! This sounds truly awesome. Wonders review.

message 20: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Your description of why you read Fantasy and Sci-Fi will resonate with so many people, it certainly applies to me. You have also sold this book to me, i was on the edge; i have now ordered it, thanks :)

message 21: by Natalie (new) - added it

Natalie Amazing review! I also love your reasons for reading fantasy and sci-fi. You definitely sold me on the book!

Erginartesia Well said! I like sci fi and fantasy because the author can take you to places that make you think more about the real world. It can go far beyond situational, and any good book in the genre will do that. But it must do it through story, compelling enough that I seek to learn more.

message 23: by Niki (new) - rated it 5 stars

Niki Patel Just finished this book--my mind has blown!!! N. K. Jemisin is pure talent. The world and character building, the writing style, and even the way she strings the words and sentences together--amazing. No wonder she won the Hugo award (2016). Her other books have also been nominated, short-listed, and won awards.
I Couldn't agree with you more, Cezara.
Now, I'm on to its sequel The Obelisk Gate. That one won a Hugo in 2017.

Pauline Well said!

Benjamin D. I wrote a 5-star review, too, but now I see all I needed to do was add a like to this one, because: EXACTLY!

message 26: by Marcia (new) - added it

Marcia Van Camp Wondering if you like Brandon Sanderson as well, I love him for his mom traditional fantasy as well

message 27: by ZOë (new)

ZOë Thanks! I’ve been looking for a good start in fantasy genre- looks I found it!

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gordon williamson . u. i

message 34: by Carroll (new)

Carroll Butcher Late to the party. Finished it tonight. Girl you have skills yourself btw. Totally agreed with everything you mentioned. Five stars for sure. Simply loved the way the author played with tinelines. Fresh! Now Where's that Sequel!

MangoLoverReads What a Great review. Thanks for the perspective Cezara! I read to find concepts that make me think and characters I can get lost in.

message 36: by Susan (new) - added it

Susan Great job at introducing us to Jemisin. I read the third first by happenstance and am now reading the beginning!!

Amber Great review.

message 38: by Erin (new) - added it

Erin Incredible review. I've never had a bit of interest in fantasy, now I'm going to be getting this book.

message 39: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Campbell The description of this book didn’t sound super interesting to me, but after reading this review I’m adding it to the list.

Katie Ann Wow really great review!

message 41: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Great review. Took the words right out of my mouth and then put them in a rock tumbler making them more beautiful.

Sandy I've read a couple plot-less books in a row and am trying to pre-screen my next book to make sure I don't hit another ... and your review has me really inspired to read it. Fingers crossed I love it as much as you clearly did!

message 43: by Evan (new) - added it

Evan Kuma Amazing review!

Helmor12 Yes totally agree with you

Bananarchy Why isn't there an option to "share" reviews? I was trying to convince my friends to read this book, and you've put it vastly better than I could!

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