The Fifth Season
2015 • 421 pages


Average rating4.4


I don't know that I've ever finished reading a book, sat up in my chair, and then just started cussing it out for a full minute or so. I certainly haven't felt so emotionally affected by a book in ages. I've read Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy and loved them, but while these books are wonderful and connected, they also each exist as stand-alones. Different protagonists, different themes, connecteed by an amazing world. When I saw her new book sitting on a shelf at a used book store, I picked it up expecting it to be the start of a similar trilogy.

As I closed in on the final chapters and realized there was no way this was wrapping up to my satisfaction, I checked the release date on book 2. It's August 2016.

insert string of expletives I try really hard not to use on goodreads because my students could find me here

Then I finished it and another string of expletives came right out. I walked around my apartment shaking for a while and trying to figure out if I had anything else I could read as a salve. I'm not sure that I do. expletive

I should probably talk about the book. Jemisin is probably the best world-builder of my generation. I say that as a fan of Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Patrick Rothfuss, Octavia Butler, Ursula K. LeGuin and all of the other world builders I deeply admire and love. The world of Inheritance is rich and immersive, but the world of the Broken Earth? I don't know that I've every come across anything like it. We've got a magic system unlike anything I've ever read before, a power system unlike any I've ever read, and an apocalyptic setting that manages to be fresh and original in a world currently oversaturated with apocalypses. Jemisin takes familiar fantasy tropes and adjusts them just slightly to make something new. Father Earth hating his children. “Earth” magic that is far more an unstable science. Catastrophic climate changes as part of routine.

Then there are her characters. Jemisin is a stalwart advocate for diversity and her fiction demonstrates that without being overly preachy. Some authors try for diversity and end up with Power Rangers. Jemisin creates a world where race, gender, love, and power are so diverse, so fluid, and yet so intricate to the relationships developing in the story that her world is complexly diverse rather than statistically representative. I do think this is the first novel I've read with an openly trans character that wasn't about being an openly trans person. Maybe Sandman is the only other series I've seen it done so seamlessly without being an anvil on the plot. All of this allows Jemisin to address the issues of prejudice in all of its myriad forms without being a parable, with morality always a blurry line.

And then there is the story. I won't say it's completely unpredictable. Most of the major “twists” are easy to see, but in a way that made me feel like a smart, aware reader and not like the author just wasn't trying, and one element caught me genuinely by surprise. The time shifts take a bit of getting used to, but once you catch on are easy enough to follow. So are the shifts between third and second person. I'm not generally a fan of second person, but this is an author who can handle what should be a gimmick and make it into an effective tool.

So what I'm saying is don't read this book. Not yet. Wait until this series is completed because otherwise you're going to sit her for the next 8 and a half months like me, refreshing the pre-order button on your Amazon page and just hoping that release date will somehow magically change to today.

December 19, 2015Report this review