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Book Review: The Fifth Season

Table of Contents

“This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.”

Title: The Fifth Season

Series: The Broken Earth #1

Author: N.K. Jemisin

Page Count: 468

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Date Read: January 14th, 2023

N.K. Jemisin and specifically this series have been on my radar for a couple of years now. I had been intrigued by what I’ve heard of this world though I have certainly seen some polarizing reviews and ratings posted online for book one. I haven’t looked into the other two yet as in most cases if readers enjoy the first enough to carry on those seem to do well. So it was exciting when our buddy read group posted a poll on Twitter a month or two ago for our January read and this one ended up winning by a landslide even if it wasn’t my nomination.
To be completely honest, now that I’ve read this one I can definitely see why the reviews have been so mixed for this one. Most of the first book left me rather confused myself throughout most of it. I really wasn’t feeling this one much at all until about half way through and then I finally started to enjoy it. I didn’t hate the first half. I just wasn’t really connecting to anything and was so confused as to what was really happening. The last twenty percent or so redeemed this one enough that I do feel I will continue onto book two eventually but don’t feel a huge rush in doing so at this time.
The world building was probably one of the stronger aspects for me, which makes sense which that was what excited me about reading this one in the first place. N.K. Jemisin really created a unique and interesting world here to explore. I hope that continues throughout the rest of the series.
The pacing was hit and miss for me at times. I think this contributed the most in not enjoying this one as much as I could have. This comes back to my confusion. I don’t know if I’ll consider this a spoiler but others might. It also might help others enjoy this read more going in, but book one covers multiple timelines at once as you’re reading. I didn’t realize this until  sometime in the second half. It was very late in the book actually. I’m thinking if I would have known or picked up on this earlier it might have helped me tremendously.
The character development was solid in this one as well. I think the above mentioned trouble I had was both a blessing and a curse for this in my mind. When things begin to be revealed with some of our characters later in the book and I have my first moment of realization, things just began to fall into place a bit better. We certainly have some interesting characters and relationships in book one and it will be interesting to see who continues on in book two when I finally get to reading it.
All in all book one seemed to be a slightly above average read for myself this year. I was actually the only one of six in our buddy read that finished this one. It was just a swing and a miss for many of us. I will say that Jemisin definitely has a unique writing style and storytelling skill. It might take a of getting used to but it still has potential for being an enjoyable series in my future.
I’d recommend this to readers that don’t mind a second person point of view and are looking for a post apocalyptic world with some interesting magic and can keep up with the potential timeline jumps reading through.

World Building 4/5
Pacing 3.5/5
Character Development 4/5

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Chad Barnard

Owner/Operator of The Hiking Reader Blog. Sharing thoughts on books and hiking trails and trying to find ways to continue to incorporate both hobbies together.

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