28. Wild Card: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
List Progress: 15/30
The halfway mark, just as we head wildly into the second half of this very strange year. I have put off reading anything by N.K. Jemisin, a big name in contemporary SFF, for too long, and decided now was the time to take a crack at her work. Her 2015 novel The Fifth Season is the first installment in The Broken Earth trilogy and won many awards when it came out, including a 2016 Hugo Award. The sheer volume of world-building (and -breaking) in this book is truly stunning, and I did come to care about the main characters, even as I occasionally had quibbles about the pacing. But as the first third of a longer story, this book leaves a real mark and made me intrigued to see what comes next.
The Fifth Season takes place in a world that keeps being broken apart, literally. The Stillness is the only major continent left on a planet that is continuously disrupted by huge earthquakes and the mini-apocalypses (or Seasons) that they trigger. Part of this is inherent in the world, and part of it is due to the presence of “orogenes”, people who are born with the ability to cause earthquakes at will. The three parallel plotlines follow Syenite (a trained orogene who lives and learns at the mercy of the controlling capital city), Damaya (a young girl just discovering her powers), and Essun (a orogene hiding her powers and trying to live her life in secret). Getting to see this society from three different perspectives at once helps to thrust you into the story, even if I was still wishing for a bit more of a primer on the rules of this world by the end. Jemisin clearly wants to throw you into the deep end and let you learn the rules as you go, which is fun for a while, but a bit frustrating by the conclusion. But again, this is just the conclusion of this first book, and I know there will be a lot more to discover in the later books.
The story moves quickly and carries you along through the three adventures, and I was busy emailing my fiancee who has already read the book when I reached different plot twists. The ending does feel a bit cluttered as pieces are being moved for each protagonist to come to the end of her story at the same time. I had a lot of fun and definitely recommend the book; I just have enough quibbles that I will be reading a couple different books before I check out the sequels, The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky. But I have no doubt that I will finish it out at some point, just to see what other beautiful imagery and complex world-building Jemisin can weave out into this setting.
Would I Recommend It: Yes.