starting the fifth chapter of The Fifth Season

Photo by Katriona McCarthy on Unsplash

I have started reading The Fifth Season, as I promised myself I would.

Essun has lost Uche, the man with the stone-eater friend has broken Earth in Yumenes, the floating obelisks have been described, the boy has crawled out of the geode. And I am confused about the chronology of it all, but I’m not terribly worried about that right now.

I am really enjoying it – the language is delicate and beautiful, taking its time to paint the details and create an atmosphere that feels unique. The author has her own voice, and is confident with using it. I like that.

Damaya has been taken from her afraid parents by her Guardian, Syenite has performed her service with the ten-ringer, and Essun has betrayed her identity to the town of Tirimo — first by protecting Uche’s body from the shake, and then by defending herself against the linch mob’s crossbow bolt. Last I heard, at the start of Chapter 5, she was on the run, looking for Jija in the hopes their daughter is still alive.

There has been enough allusion to theme that I feel like I’m getting an edifying read, but not so much that I’m feeling whacked over the head by any kind of moral. I like that too.

I’m expecting this book to be one of those light-reading heavy-lifting metaphors: the subtitle (every age must come to an end) and the epigraph (for all those who have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question) suggest themes that I dig.

I know that the status quo of our current “age” cannot last forever, and that in our future there is equality, harmony and sustainability for all, regardless of race, gender, religion, whatever. I know that books such as The Broken Earth trilogy are helping to change the narratives we tell ourselves about what is an acceptable or normal state of affairs.

The caste system has been alluded to, the towns are in lockdown with curfews, the sky smells of sulphur, and the feared and loathed orogenes are being pressed into service of the State. I appreciate that Rask was honourable and empathic enough to jeopardise his political position by helping Essun through the locked gates, and I’m sad that he got caught in the ice. I’m glad that Karra copped it though — his hate-filled reactivity is what got him killed. It’s impressive that Essun was able to sense the aquifer breaking underneath her, and I like how this sets up the reader to observe the domino effect this will have on the town and on The Stillness.

In general I appreciate that Jemisin is confidently revealing such dribs and drabs and trusting the reader can hold all the threads together. I trust her, and am happy to be going along for whatever this ride will bring.