The Fifth Season - N.K. Jemisin, Robin Miles

This book has reminded me just why it is that I like reading series which are already complete, so I can just go from one to the next and not have to wait, damnit! *sigh*

 

The Fifth Season is the first of a new trilogy by an author whose books I've previously really enjoyed (see, for example, the Inheritance Trilogy, which starts with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms) and yet I think this series has the potential to be even better than that one - it certainly starts out with a bang in this book! It's also one of two books so far this year, the other being The House of Shattered Wings, which have made me go 'what the hell?' when they finish and desperately want to know what happens next...

 

Anyway, these books are set in a big ambitious stage of a universe, where cataclysmic events have happened on a regular basis - we're talking global-sized fungal bloom decimating crops, supervolcano eruptions that cover the planet with clouds of ash and so on - with another of these Seasons just on the horizon. To some extent, minor versions of these can be controlled by those who are orogenes (or, as they're dismissively called by some, 'roggas'). This is a natural gift for some, which is hunted down by a creepy bunch of folks called Guardians whose job it is to keep the power wielded by the orogenes under control, one way or another.

 

The main way is via a place called the Fulcrum, where child orogenes are trained and effectively brainwashed into doing as they're told or else. Some have been rescued by this place, because many places will kill someone who demonstrates this power outside of that context, but that doesn't excuse the massive amount of control and coercion that goes on. For example, because orogeny is thought to be genetic, those who have that gift and are part of the Fulcrum are expected to breed whether they like it or not and then give their children over to the same process they have already been through. As we discover fairly early on in the book, even those orogenes who are not compliant can be made to work one way or another and if you're squicked at all by non-consensual body modification (though it's not particularly graphic, it's certainly there) then The Fifth Season is probably not going to work for you.

 

Alongside all of this, there are also two other things (at least!) going on: firstly the obelisks floating above the planet's surface, which nobody seems to be able to explain other than by saying they are relics of a former civilisation, and secondly the stone eaters. They are decidedly not human, but seem fascinated by the orogenes in particular and can walk through any thickness of stone.

 

The Fifth Season also begins with the discovery of a murdered child, the young son of one of our point of view characters (Essun) - she is an orogene, her children have the same gift, and she then sets off on a journey to find her missing daughter. Alongside that story, told in second person, we also meet Damaya as she starts her life in the Fulcrum and Syenite who is sent out on a mission and also expected to make a child for the Fulcrum with her half-mad but extremely powerful new mentor. As you can probably imagine, these stories are all designed to come together and do so about two-thirds of the way in.

 

Anyway, I recommend The Fifth Season highly for anyone who likes inventive and well-written fantasy. The only downside? The next book in the series, The Obelisk Gate, isn't out till sometime next year. :(