I feel like I should preface this review by saying that I’m pretty picky when it comes to fantasy novels. I’ve been reading the genre since I was in my early teens, and after a while you start sensing a certain sameness. The same type of worlds, the same type of characters, the same type of stories. So when I discover a new author, like N. K. Jemisin, who’s writing books that feel genuinely new and different, I get pretty excited! The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms trilogy, her debut series, was fantastic, so I had high hopes for her latest novel, The Fifth Season (Amazon). Having such high expectations can sometimes backfire when a book, no matter how good, just doesn’t live up to them. But I should have known that with Jemisin I can always count on something truly special!
In typical style, Jemisin throws you right into the middle of the action, hooking you at page one. This novel is quite dark, engrossing, and at times heartbreaking. Set in a far future post-apocalyptic landscape where the earth itself seems intent on destroying all life upon it, a long-lasting empire has survived through it’s brutal oppression and ruthless use of a group of people capable of controlling the angry earth itself. It’s those people who we follow, three different points of view in three different times and places, women who are struggling to survive, struggling with the truth, and struggling to keep those close to them alive.
It’s not always an emotionally easy read, but it is so well worth it, with major twists and revelations that easily keep your attention, not always the case with a multi-viewpoint novel. You’re left with some satisfaction, but mostly a lot left hanging to explore in the following two books of the trilogy. Easily one of the best books of 2015 as far as I’m concerned!