I don’t often do series reviews because I don’t often marathon series these days. So I’m going to have to try and figure out a format for this. Also, check out my spoilery discussion if you’d like to hear more in depth thoughts.
Books in the series: The Fifth Season (4/5 stars); The Obelisk Gate (5/5 stars); The Stone Sky (5/5 stars)
Overall series rating: 4.75/5 stars
Genre: Adult, fantasy, sci-fi
Author: N. K. Jemisin
Synopsis: THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS. AGAIN.
Three terrible things happen in a single day.
Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world’s sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes — those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon — are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.
She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
The series’ first book was by far it’s weakest link. It was a bit confusing as you do get thrown in at the deep end. Which is something that I enjoy, but this world is so complex that it was difficult to follow at times which takes away from the story. I suspect that a second reading of the series would reveal a lot of things that I completely missed the first time around due to not understanding how things work. Beyond that, I have only one other complaint about the story overall, and that’s quite subjective. I will talk about it more in my spoilery discussion, which I will have up soon, but there is a polyamorous relationship in the first book that I just didn’t really enjoy. Which means that there was a good 100 pages of the book that I just didn’t enjoy. Which in all honesty is probably why it got 4 stars.
The writing style I absolutely loved. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a second person narrative before. At least not with this kind of second person narrative and it’s a bit strange at first, and I did find it a bit off putting in the first book, but by the end of the series, I came to love it. I think it adds so much as you learn more about the the narrator and the person that it’s narrated to. It’s just beautiful and I loved it.
Characters. I can’t think of a character that I didn’t like. Even if I didn’t necessarily like them as people, I liked them as characters. They’re all complex and deeply flawed and so well written. Every single character that is even mildly significant has at least a little bit of development. Even if the story isn’t at all focused on them. It just makes them feel as actual people with their own stories which we may not know, but they exist. As opposed to them just being fillers. And I cared about them so much. I felt feelings when bad things were happening to them (which was all the time) and also when good things were happening to them (almost never).
The series is incredibly diverse in every and any way possible, which is something that earns books cookie points with most people. And I’m not saying that that isn’t something that I like and want to see in books and media, but I am so tired of books getting praise for no other reason than them being diverse. Just because I feel like we should be past that infancy of “omg there’s a PoC, what a statement! Let’s celebrate.” And I know that diversity in media is still young, but I feel like it’s maybe a toddler by now. And it annoys me when I read a book and I feel like the author is constantly trying to say “Look how diverse my book is! Do you see how diverse my book is? But really… diverse… this book is it…” Which is why I love seeing diversity without attention being drawn to it. Which this series does so well. Most characters here are PoC and most of them are women and of course it’s mentioned. But not in a “look at me I’m diverse” kind of way.
The story is so intricate and unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s a strange mix between fantasy and sci-fi. Actually, I think the best way to describe it would be as a sci-fi that’s set in a fantasy world. But it also has elements that are just fantasy. It’s hard to describe, but it’s great. It just draws you in and completely immerses you in this world that is ending and at times, I was so into it that i actually felt like I was breathing ash and fighting for my life. The way the plot is built is masterful. I honestly had no idea where the story was going even from page to page, let alone overall. It was awesome.
I cannot recommend this series enough for any SFF lover. It’s just beautiful and masterfully told and just read it. You’ll love it.
As an additional note, I listened to parts of the series on audiobook and the audiobook for this is also very good. I really liked the narrator and I even felt like it was easier to follow on audiobook because of the second person narration. So do check that out as well.