This review is also featured on Ity Reads Books: The Fifth Season
Once in a while, a book will come along that deals with some pretty heavy hitting themes and nails them in a disturbingly perfect way. The Fifth Season is that kind of book. If you do not appreciate dark fantasy books, steer clear of this one.
Orogenes are seen as scum, less than human because of their ability to shift the tectonic plates and warp nature. The Fulcrum takes in orogene children and raises them into tools to prevent earth shattering quakes. They also have their own breeding program to create orogenes of certain power levels. The guardians keep watch over the orogenes, killing any that step out of place. But the Fulcrum could never predict the enormous shake that splits the world nearly in two.
The Fifth Season is one of those books that is hard to comprehend at first. N.K. Jemisin built an entirely new world setting, complete with a magic system, politics, castes, different cultures, common terminology, etc. I started with the audiobook and had to switch to the ebook long enough for my brain to latch onto the mechanics of the world. And for the first time in a while, I relied on the provided glossary. By the time I could understand all the inner workings of the world, I was fully invested in the story. And what a story it was.
Readers will follow the lives of three orogene females. Damaya has been rejected from her family for being an orogene. Syenite has become a breeder. And Essun, a woman who tries to hide her orogene abilities to live a normal life. Each has spent their time with the Fulcrum and as a result, became a different person. As the three storylines play out, puzzle pieces will begin to connect and readers will find themselves amazed at what the full picture reveals.
As mentioned previously, The Fifth Season does tackle tough subjects. Racism is the most prominent. Almost everywhere orogenes travel they are called derogatory terms and treated like animals. And if a person is discovered to be an orogene before the Fulcrum can reach them, they will most likely be killed. The Fulcrum indoctrinates orogenes into believing they will only be accepted by them, and only if they prove to be useful. This twisted mindset is one of the major subplots that the main characters struggle against.
But there is also a mystery steeped within the story. No one knows the true history of the world. It seems as if over time certain parts of history have been obliterated. And it will make you question all the foundations of the set world. Readers will follow breadcrumbs throughout the story, pulling pieces together and finding more questions than answers. When you reach the end of The Fifth Season, you'll be craving the next book demanding answers. I can't wait to start book two!