Jemisin, N.K. The Fifth Season. New York: Orbit Books, 2015.
Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0316229296 | 468 pages | Science Fantasy
I held off on reading The Fifth Season for a long time, mostly because there are portions in second person, which threw me off in my first half-hearted attempt to get into the book ages ago. But this is the book I constantly heard raved about where N.K. Jemisin was concerned, and there’s been buzz around it recently on Book Twitter and BookTube. And despite everything, I found myself really enjoying it this time.
To start with, the world building is wonderful, feeling both fantastical and startlingly current, with its focus on intense climate changes. I also loved the deeper lore demonstrating that somewhat cyclical nature of these “fifth seasons.”
As for the characters themselves, it is deeply moving reading about how each of them, in their own unique circumstances makes their way through the Stillness. And despite the fact that it also contains one of my least favorite elements of fantasy, the inclusion of several different POV characters with only vaguely connected plot threads, I found I appreciated it more this time around due to the purpose of the book, demonstrating how these women managed to survive in spite of their bleak situations. Surprisingly, given my initial reticence, I found myself most drawn to Essun, the character whose POV is written in second person, and her journey to find her husband after he ran off after killing their son. Jemisin demonstrates a truly great use of second person here, managing to engross me deeply in her narrative. However, I also enjoyed Damaya’s journey of self-discovery as an orogene and Syenite’s training at the Fulcrum, and felt like the book balanced all of these perspectives.
I really enjoyed this book, much more than I thought I would, and I think it’s because of the way it manages to do a lot right, including some of the stylistic things that typically get on my nerves. I would recommend it to sci-fi/fantasy fans, especially those who want to try something a little different and more experimental than the norm.