Series: The Broken Earth #1
Published by Hachette Audio, Orbit Books on August 4, 2015
Genres: Adult SFF, Fantasy
Length: 15 hours, 31 minutes
Narrator: Robin Miles
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*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.
This is the way the world ends. Again.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze -- the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years -- collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She'll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
THE FIFTH SEASON was an absolutely amazing read. I was a bit nervous at first because its darker in tone then I usually enjoy but in this case the heartbreak was worth it to me. I guess that proves to me that I can’t always shy away from books that bring the sadness. While there was plenty of harsh realities and I was treated to the full force of just how brutal people can be – there was also that thread of hope interwoven in the story. I personally need that and it quite literally makes all the difference.
This is a story that spans years. I didn’t realize it at first but there are jumps backward and forward in time. Once I caught onto that it doubled my enjoyment. I felt like I knew these characters so much more intimately.
Oh the setting! This world! – it was so unique!
Can you imagine people building their societies around the certainty that a “season” would come that would/could wipe out your whole civilization? That they counted on that happening and were always preparing for it, basing the way they structured their social hierarchy off of it. Creepy to think about. But if you didn’t have a useful thing to offer society you were cast off. It was so fascinating.
And the Magic system – love it, hands down.
I have a hard time explaining it other then usually the people around the magic users died (iced or frozen to death) because that person could control the earth in ways….hmm for instance they could quell or start an earthquake – to know more you’ll have to read. What made it even more interesting to me was that those that had the gift (more like curse in this case) were hated and feared. That is such a difference to a number of fantasy books I’ve read where magic users are usually the people with the most power – instead here they are basically slaves to society. One toe out of line and its the chopping block for them. Hard to imagine that would be the case seeing as they have power but it totally works and makes sense in this society.
Someone might have to school me – but I’m thinking this is epic fantasy. I’m definitely not an authority on that subgenre, and I think most of those have tons of characters and this one thankfully did not, but all of the other elements felt like they were there for me. The fabulous world building and “big picture” sort of feel to it yet it was still very character focused. Sometimes I feel like you can get lost in the world building of an epic fantasy book, or drown in the number of characters that I end up not caring about any of them, or one big thing dwarfs all other aspects of the book – anyways that didn’t happen here. I was just as fascinated by the world as I was by the characters.
It took me awhile to get around to writing out my thoughts on THE FIFTH SEASON because there was just so much to take in with this book. I didn’t realize it when I finished but normally that kind of ending would have ticked me off. I usually want some big plot point to come to a head and get some closure even if the bigger story arc is going to continue. So after really thinking about it I don’t think I got any kind of closure to what I felt was one of the big plot points (I’m sure that’ll come in a later book) thus I mulled it over and I was left wondering – what WAS the main point or arc of this particular book? – and I couldn’t pinpoint it. Was it just that we the reader were a witness to the full character growth/cycle that the main character Essun goes through? That is all I could come up with. Her life story is a good one and if that was the point of this first book then it was well worth it. Normally I would have reached the end and been peeved but her life was just too interesting, her struggles so intense and the ones of the people around her and loved ones just as much so. I fell hard for this book can you tell?
But the pain – I mentioned it brought the pain right?
I experienced some extreme emotional pain (normally I hate that because hey reading is my hobby and I don’t like to hurt and this this hurt – hurt me so good?) The dark occurrences in this book were used not used poorly. They were placed to give you that punch in the gut that was needed to drive certain things home. It especially effected me because I have a son the exact age of the son Essun lost and I have a newborn. And you know how sensitive new mothers are to seeing child abuse? Let me tell you…bawling…tears…I had to stop listening for a few minutes but there was no way I wasn’t going to go back to it and continue on because I was emotionally attached from the first few minutes of Essun coming on stage.
I can’t help comparing books sometimes to other books I’ve read…
I actually finished THE FIFTH SEASON several weeks ago and just several days ago I finished another fantasy book. Both books had very strong and sometimes harsh themes and featured a strong woman as the main character. I think they even shared some character traits. I always thought that darker books aren’t for me but now I’m thinking that’s not the case – it depends on the writing and the characters and if I feel like there is a point to the punch. Anyways, there was all of that here and I’ll definitely be coming back for more. Whereas the other book had me questioning if I should even bother picking up “epic fantasies” at all as if they just aren’t for me. I’m glad that it’s not the case because it would have been a shame to miss out on this experience. Now I need to kick my butt in gear and read Jemisin’s other books. You can count yourself informed – read it, its a must.
Thoughts on the narration
I don’t know if it was because I was so emotionally attached to Essun but I loved this narration. Lets just go ahead and give the credit to Robin Miles though because I’ve listened to samples of other books I’ve considered reading and instantly knew their voices weren’t for me. She was able to do both jaded child and woman alike. The distinct personalities came out so perfectly that I was so fooled …so fooled til I figured it all out later. I applaud her and know I have to check out what else she has narrated.