Book Review: The Fifth Season

fifth

Cover image of NK Jemisin’s 2015 Hugo Award winning novel “The Fifth Season

“Jemisin is now a pillar of speculative fiction, breathtakingly imaginative and narratively bold.”―Entertainment Weekly

“Intricate and extraordinary.”―The New York Times

“[The Fifth Season is] an ambitious book, with a shifting point of view, and a protagonist whose full complexity doesn’t become apparent till toward the end of the novel. … Jemisin’s work itself is part of a slow but definite change in sci-fi and fantasy.”―Guardian

“Astounding… Jemisin maintains a gripping voice and an emotional core that not only carries the story through its complicated setting, but sets things up for even more staggering revelations to come.”―NPR Books

“Jemisin’s graceful prose and gritty setting provide the perfect backdrop for this fascinating tale of determined characters fighting to save a doomed world.”―Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“A must-buy…breaks uncharted ground.”―Library Journal (starred review)

“Jemisin might just be the best world builder out there right now…. [She] is a master at what she does.”―RT Book Reviews (Top Pick!)

“Wait! What? Sure, it’s an interesting story, but… –Me

I’ve read most Hugo nominated and award-winning novels from 1988 back to 1958, when the Hugos first came into existence, but recently, I decided for the sake of fairness, I should consume more recent popular SF/F novels and stories to see how cultural perception is changing the landscape of speculative fiction. The fact that N.K. Jemisin is a three-time Hugo award winner wasn’t lost on me, particularly after having read her latest controversial historic Hugo Award acceptance speech.

Fortunately, The Fifth Season (2015), the first book in “The Broken Earth” series, was available through my local public library system. Given its obvious “hype,” I was hoping for something spectacular and afraid that it wouldn’t be.

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The Oppressed People: From the Chronicles of the Diluvian Kings

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from “The Hobbit” (2012)

They gathered in defiance and rage at the base of the mountain. The dragon, that evil serpent of old, had terrorized The People for the last time. The people in the surrounding towns and villages never understood how horrible the dragon’s persecution was. To them, the dragon was a protector, a savior, and ally. To The People, the only People who have ever suffered the wrath of the dragon, the beast was always an invincible foe, a terrible enemy.

Three days ago, all that had changed.

Shay the Dragon had existed as far back as living memory could recall. Her tales were chronicled in the Scrolls of the Diluvian Kings beginning more than a thousand years ago. Her scales were always a brilliant gold, her fangs ivory six-inches long, her wings spread nearly the width of the village of The People, and when she took flight, there was the sound of thunder.

Except to The People, her tales always were sagas of benevolence, of kindness, of protection from evil, of security. But The People were always told that Shay was the bringer of terror, persecution, and slavery. Should Shay be seen soaring above the village of The People, it always meant that someone would die. It always meant some of The People would be taken to be slaves in the mines of Shay, digging for precious metals and jewels until the work exhausted and finally killed them.

Why Shay treated The People and only The People with cruelty was unknown, but The People among all the people of the surrounding towns and villages, eventually were considered to be outcasts since they alone suffered under the dragon’s horrendous claws.

These were the tales of The People. This is what the minstrels of the High King always sang of when they visited the village of The People, which was increasingly frequent these days. Children had nightmares of Shay visiting them in the night, stealing them from the safety of their homes. The dreams were especially vivid after a visit from the High King’s minstrels.

No one in living memory could actually recall the last time Shay appeared in the village of The People. They were only reminded of such events by the minstrels of the High King when they visited from the Bright Kingdom many leagues away. The minstrels, in the name of protecting The People, stirred up their fear, stoked the flames of anger, inspired a collective feeling of victimization and injustice among them.

Only the High King and his minstrels understood The People, understood that the dragon was the enemy of The People, and only the High King protected and defended The People.

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