The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) — Dystopian Science Fantasy That Will Enchant You

You can also see this post on my website about sci-fi by women and non-binary authors. You’ll find some posts there that aren’t available on Medium. If you are interested in sci-fi, check it out!

Okay, I have to say right away, I feel like it’s more fantasy than sci-fi, but it was recommended on a podcast as sci-fi, and once I’ve started reading it, I couldn’t stop. I believe it can be classified as science fantasy though — a mixed genre that combines elements of science fiction and fantasy.

‘The Fifth Season’ is the first book in ‘The Broken Earth’ Trilogy, and it’s not meant to be read as a standalone. It has won the Hugo Award for best novel.

The Fifth Season book cover

The book was quite confusing in the beginning. It started with the end of the world and with a third person narrative that, for some reason, switched to the second person (someone addresses you or maybe someone else). The author introduced some context about the world, but it didn’t clarify too much, and there were all those specific terms that were unclear. But as I was reading on, all of it started making more and more sense. I actually enjoy being thrown right into the narrative from the very beginning and uncovering details about the world and characters on the go. Later I couldn’t put the book down: it became quite a page-turner! As I finished it, I immediately started the next book from the series.

I loved ‘The Fifth Season’! It’s a very original book, with an imaginative and rich world, filled with unique details, creatures, powers, problems, food, slang, races, slurs, injustices, even types of hair. The protagonists are compelling and flawed, and they have to go through a lot of challenges and troubles. The plot is interesting and captivating, there is a lot going on and a lot of mysteries to uncover.

There is a dedication in the beginning: “For all those who have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question”. This is important because that’s exactly what the protagonists have to face all the time. Exploitation, discrimination, being rejected for who your are by the society and even one’s own family — those are the underlying themes of the book. And even though those issues are specific to the world the author has created and have no direct links to our world, I couldn’t but draw the parallels and think about the people who have to experience it in reality. No, those are not the subjects of the book as such, but they explain a lot about the world and the characters, their rage, dissatisfaction, distrust for others. I believe the author did a great job exploring those subjects while creating an enthralling story about a different world.

The story seems to have many layers, and as soon as I discovered one of them, I started seeing the next. It’s such a complex world, and there is so much to it that it feels real. However, once I finished reading, there were still a lot of unanswered questions. I hope I’ll find answers to them in the next books of the trilogy.

All in all, this is one of my favorite books now, and I highly recommend it!

The author

N.K. Jemisin is a New York Times-bestselling author of speculative fiction short stories and novels, who lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY. In 2018, she became the first author to win three Best Novel Hugos in a row for her Broken Earth trilogy. She has also won a Nebula Award, two Locus Awards, and a number of other honors.

Check out her website and her Goodreads profile.

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