Book Review: The Fifth Season

When The Fifth Season hit bookshelves in 2015, it took home an armload of rewards, including the Nebula. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, and it delivered an avalanche of tense, heady action. Jemisin unleashes a relentless assault of emotional jabs and hooks leaving your head spinning in a haze of excitement and pain. 

The Basics: 

Title: The Fifth Season
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Drama
Publisher: Orbit, 2015

Spoiler-Free Summary: 

The Fifth Season takes place on a planet wracked by extinction-level geothermal events every few hundred years. With the fate of the species on the line every few generations, survival is the only ethic. Because the stakes are so high, innovation is discouraged: people stick with what works, even if their methods are brutal. 

They’re beautiful.. (Photo by Johannes Plenio on

Is it any wonder their mythos considers the Earth Itself evil? It is constantly trying to kill them, after all. So, what should they make of the orogenes – the magical few blessed (or cursed) with the ability to manipulate the earth? 

This first installment of the Broken Earth trilogy follows the interwoven lives of three orogenic women who come into their own around the beginning of the end – an apocalypse to end all apocalypses. The end of the world is almost a secondary concern, taking a back seat to personal sagas of revenge, enlightenment, and self-realization, all while dodging terrifying assassins, monsters, and their personal demons. 

Why This Book Is For You: 

Jemisin is a master of language. Her prose is lyrical, hard-hitting, and surprising. She takes big risks and experimental swings, and they work. 

It’s cliché to declare the setting a ‘character’ in fantasy and sci fi, but in The Fifth Season, it really is. The constantly broken world shapes everything – religion, politics, language, even the protagonists’ personalities. The personified Earth really does seem to actively thwart the main characters. We fear the world like we fear the cold-hearted Guardians, or the roving bands of uncivilized cannibals. 

… until they try to kill you (Photo by Pixabay on

I love a well-thought-out magic system, with a clearly defined source, limits, and consequences. Orogeny is right up there with the netherworld-fused magic of The Rage of Dragons with respect to its gritty, challenging, and costly use of magic. Any magical infant can move a mountain, but it takes years of training to master the control necessary to lift a single stone. 

I’m a genre-savvy reader. Although I am not someone who reads to try to “solve” the book, I cannot help but follow the trajectory of many fantasy and sci-fi books. The Fifth Season genuinely surprised me several times over. 

This is a fantastic book. I really cannot praise it highly enough. Do yourself a favor, and pick it up. 

Where Can You Learn More? 

You can read Jemisin’s fascinating life story at The New Yorker. Check out the author’s website or her backlist on Goodreads

Thank you thank you thank you for joining us this week. Happy reading, and happy writing.

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