The Fifth Season is a fantasy novel by N.K. Jemisin. I’ve had this book on my list for a while, but I don’t read fantasy as much as contemporary fiction. I’m happy I finally made time to jump into the The Broken Earth series.
In The Fifth Season, we follow a cast of characters as they struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. A series of events, called seasons, are unpredictable and have devastating effect.
Jemisin is masterful at world-building, providing rich detail to craft the cities of her world, presenting a variety of cultures and systems, and complex politics
Verdict on The Fifth Season
There is a lot of detail in this book, things that will become relevant later on as the series progresses. The story is intricate and pulls you into a world of magic, exploring themes of power, oppression, systemic racism, and environmental destruction. While these are themes are explored from a new angle, in a different form, they will feel familiar and provide a way to explore those big concepts differently. However, it only takes a step rather than a leap to see how the themes transfer to our current world.
Read on for all the spoils (and let me know if I’ve missed something important)
When Essun reaches home to find her 3-year old son dead at the hands of her husband and her daughter missing, she is inconsolable. Although she is an Orogene, she has lived in Humaness for ten years.
She had to leave Humaness to find her daughter. On the way, she met a “boy”, Hoa. She agreed to travel with him even though she couldn’t quite place him. He had white hair, skin, eyebrows, eyes. Only his eyes were Sanze. Then she met a geomest at a rest stop for water, Tonky.
At the rest stop, they were about to be attacked by a kakuza, a feral animal. Hoa stuck his hand inside the animal’s mouth, and it stiffened, turned to stone. After that, Tonky joined their group, curious about Hoa
The three travelled together. Hoa was leading them to find Essun’s daughter. However, the trail went cold in Castrima, an underground comm(unity). They decided to check out the comm.
In the comm, Cyonide learns that Tonky is someone she knew from before, a girl who was called Binoff, and Hoa is not a boy but a stoneater. Even more surprisingly, someone she knew well 10 years before, with whom she’d fought off an attack, Alabaster, is in Castrima, convalescing. He’s been slowly turning to stone since the attack and is tended by a stone eater, Antimony,
Damaya was sent away from her family in Palayla, given to a guardian, Schaffa. She needs a guardian because that’s how it works for Orogenes. Her nature is to move the earth whenever she is threatened. Schaffa teaches her that she can’t control her nature. He broke her hands as part of this lesson, before setting her bones back.
At the Fulcrum, Damaya is hazed until she makes a plan to turn the other students, grits, back on themselves.
One day, Damaya goes exploring with another child, Binoff, who is not from the Fulcrum, even though she knows it’s wrong. They were looking for a hidden room and found it. But then, a Guardian found them before other Guardians joined. The guardian who found them spoke as one possessed, and the another Guardian killed her for the “contamination”.
Schaffa does something and blood comes out and bones crumble. He gets a blood covered thing that he gives to another man.
Without any practice, Damaya takes and passes the first ring test as an Imperial Orogene. When she passes, she gets to choose a new name, Cyonide.
Cyonide is an Orogene who works for the Fulcrum. She has an assignment to produce a child within a year. She has to follow, or she will be punished, given less interesting work. However, she’s allowed to go on an important mission with a more advanced Orogene, Alabaster.
On their way, Alabaster and Cyonide felt a shake. They were surprised because there should have been a Node to take care of quakes. She and Alabaster managed to work together to quell the quake. Then, they visited the Node to see what was happening. In this way, Cyonide realized that Node maintainers are Stills, Orogenes who were used as children, perhaps because they were not fast enough or couldn’t control themselves. They are set up at a Node with a guard and a doctor, kept alive within a wire frame.
In Allia, Cyonide and Alabaster pull an obelisk from the water. Afterward, the guardians show up and attack them, but the obelisk saves her. In the process, her orogeny was negated which means that her guardian can’t find her. Alabaster’s can’t find him as well.
A stone eater, Antimony, saves Alabaster and Cyonide after Allia. She brings them to a new comm by the sea, Mayov??, lead by Innon. Innon, Cyonide and Alabaster become lovers and Cyonide has a baby.
After staying home with the baby for two years, Cyonide convinced the men to let her sail with them on their pirate heists. However, this may have been a mistake.
One day, scouts notice four ships heading for Mayov?? carrying men in burgundy outfits, guardians. Alabaster, Innon and Cyonide try to defend their home, throwing rocks at the ships and blocking off the harbor. However, the ships are not deterred. They have an orogene helping them, and they kill Innon, turning his orogeny inward.
Cyonide will not let the guardians get her son, so she kills him before she “tears the world apart”.
The Ending of The Fifth Season
Alabaster is the one who caused the rift of the earth that started this season, with the help of the obelisks and node maintainers. He wants her to help him. He is becoming stone, but he has a plan and needs Cyonide’s help with it.
He’s never been crazy. He’s planned it all.
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