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The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)
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2016 Book Discussions > The Fifth Season - First Interlude and Chapters 09-19 (August 2016)

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Whitney | 2202 comments Mod
Please avoid spoilers for anything happening after chapter 19.


A brief summary:
An interlude. Out of site = out of mind. Oceans and islands are dangerous, and there is something missing from the sky.

Syenite releases an obelisk from the ocean floor, angering the guardians, - or maybe just a faction within them. A stone eater whisks her and Alabaster away to the island of pirates. Essun finds herself in an underground city of crystal, which is full of orogenes and stone eaters. They have plans to survive what is going to be a really, really long Season. We also learn that the stone eaters have their own agenda, though what it might be remains a mystery. Damaya makes a friend of sorts and discovers a strange secret and an unhinged guardian at the heart of the Fulcrum. And we say farewell to little Damaya, as she will now become Syenite.

Damaya becoming Syenite was the big reveal (among many) for this section. What did you think? Does Syenite seem like the person that Damaya would become? How did her feelings about the Fulcrum and the guardians change, as Damaya and as Syenite?

The Essun sections of the book are essentially a post-apocalypse story. How does it differ from other books (or movies or graphic novels) in the post-apocalypse genre?

Does the rigid caste system make sense in this world? What is the function of stonelore?

As usual, no one need restrain themselves to the questions for this discussion. Please ask any questions of your own, or tell us what you are enjoying (or hating) about this book.

Thread for discussing the entire books will likely be posted on Tuesday.


message 2: by Marc (last edited Jul 19, 2016 09:21AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2823 comments Mod
Syenite seemed a bit more bitter and harder than Damaya, but that seemed like a logical progression given age and experience. Syenite's experience with Alabaster seems to reveal to her a broader context for just how enslaved she is and that the system is not going to protect her even if she toes the line.

I kind of didn't buy Essun's concern (or lack thereof) for her daughter. It felt more like a plot device. Maybe the sheer need to survive is what she has to be concerned with, but I kept thinking there should be more urgency and emotion to her quest. I expected it to consume her every waking moment, but it felt like it was more like a secondary thing (oh, yeah, anybody happen to see a guy and a girl come through here; ok, thanks for checking). It didn't really feel like hope giving way to despair so much as the writer choosing to make that less significant.


Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Marc wrote: "I kind of didn't buy Essun's concern (or lack thereof) for her daughter. It felt more like a plot device. "

I think maybe Essun has become an expert at not thinking about things she can't do anything about right now. People in impossible situations often do that in order to survive. It's not like she ever left her daughter's trail.


Marc (monkeelino) | 2823 comments Mod
Peter wrote: " It's not like she ever left her daughter's trail."
Very true!


Whitney | 2202 comments Mod
That's how I saw it as well. Early on when she's sitting with Uche's corpse, Essun is carefully shutting down her brain from thinking too much to prevent herself from becoming lost in grief. She needs to edit her emotions to be able to function in finding her daughter. And as an undercover orogene, she already has had to become skilled at doing that.


Veronique I also believe Essun has disassociated herself from her emotions (her self) in order to 'function', survive and find her daughter.

Well now it makes senses - if Damaya is Syenite, then 'they' are Essun too I guess. I did wonder at the several mentions that names are not everything throughout the novel. Each name seems to include a different personality. Does that mean she will turn into someone/something else?

The Guardians are to me scarry in their behaviour, control over the Grits and Orogenes, and ultimately the power they hold. Are they the Masters of the Emperor as per the prologue? Looks like it. And did they garner they power/knowledge through the Obelisks/secret room. It's as if there is a Being we are not yet privy to, pulling strings.

Everybody is scared of someone else - the Still against the Orogenes, the latter of the stone eaters. How do the guardians slip under the radar? By having a rigid caste, a puppet emperor and a 'national fear' of the Orogenes, they can do whatever they please, such as re-writing History (History is written by the conqueror after all). Stonelore is just another smart way to control people.

Don't know enough about post-apocalypic stories to compare. The ashes did remind me a little of Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy (oh and the rings).

The main narrator seems to have each time experienced something of profound importance: the secret room with the rogue 'possessed' guardian, the lifting and power surge of the Obelisk, and now what?!?!?! :0)


Whitney | 2202 comments Mod
Veronique wrote: "Well now it makes senses - if Damaya is Syenite, then 'they' are Essun too I guess. I did wonder at the several mentions that names are not everything throughout the novel. ..."

Good catch, I didn't pick up on the various references to names not being everything.

I like your assessment of the social system in The Fifth Season. In a place where everything falls apart on a regular basis, it's easy to maintain a level of fear, and fear makes it easy to maintain a system of oppression. I think Stonelore functions in the way laws and traditions frequently do. It contains wisdom needed for society to survive, but also serves to enforce the oppression and power structure of that society.


Michelle (topaz6) I'm not entirely convinced that Damaya/Syenite are Essun, if only because Syenite encountered a stone eater in the obelisk, and Essun didn't recognize Hoa until very recently.

It does seem to me that Essun is in the middle of things (i.e. a geode-comm) and that she has good reason to not be thinking of her daughter at the moment, she doesn't even know if she will allowed to leave the comm!


Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
I was definitely surprised by the Damaya/Syenite reveal. I was expecting at least two of the characters to be connected somehow but for some reason didn't put these two together. I thought it would be more likely that Syenite and Essun would be connected (though I'm not sure how). Syenite seems far more mature and hardened than Damaya, though I suppose that makes sense because a few years have passed since she joined the fulcrum. I'm not sure it was her transition from Damaya to Syenite that made her change her mind about the guardians and the Fulcrum - that seemed to come more from her relationship with Alabaster and following events (node station, obelisks, hiding out on an island, etc.).

I'm enjoying the Essun chapters quite a bit now, though it is reminiscent of other post-apocalyptic novels I've read and movies I've seen. Though she does seem more concerned about her daughter's whereabouts at first, it's clear she still cares when she reaches Ykka and learns that her daughter has not passed through the area. I'm worried about what's going to happen to her and her little group next!

My mind keeps darting about trying to figure out how Essun is connected to the other pieces of the story. Maybe she's connected to Ykka's grandmother (or great grandmother?) somehow? I suppose I'll have to keep reading to find out!


Michelle (topaz6) When Syenite arrived in Allia, she mentioned something about "home being a fusty blanket" (I can't remember an exact quote) and I think that's what got me wondering about a link between Damaya and Syenite...


message 11: by Whitney (last edited Aug 16, 2016 10:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Whitney | 2202 comments Mod
I was a little skeptical of the revelation at first as well, but for almost opposite reasons. Damaya realized early on that the orogenes are slaves, and it seemed like Syenite had to learn that all over from Alabaster. On reflection, though, I thought the transition was more subtle and entirely believable. Damaya knew that she was a slave, but had bought into / been brainwashed into the conventional wisdom that orogene slavery and the fulcrum are necessary and justified for society. As such, she grew into someone grudgingly accepting of her fate and determined to get ahead within the system. What she learned during her time was Alabaster was that the treatment of orogenes wasn’t so obviously necessary or justified. Someone less inquisitive or mildly rebellious than the young Damaya had been would probably have been more resistant to the change in perspective.


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