The Fifth Season

By N.K. Jemisin,

Book cover of The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1

Book description

At the end of the world, a woman must hide her secret power and find her kidnapped daughter in this "intricate and extraordinary" Hugo Award winning novel of power, oppression, and revolution. (The New York Times)

This is the way the world ends. . .for the last time.

It starts…

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. (learn more)

Why read it?

19 authors picked The Fifth Season as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The Broken Earth trilogy, of which The Fifth Season is the first book, three-peated at the Hugo Awards, for good reason. Jemisin masterfully weaves the tale of Essun, Damaya, and Syenite, ostensibly unconnected orogenes, a class of people capable of controlling the titanic tectonic forces at play in a world wracked by geological destruction. Because of their immense power—and the fact that they sometimes unintentionally kill living things when angry—orogenes are distrusted by wider society, and shackled in a number of literal and figurative ways. Essun in particular must deal with the grief and trauma of her past actions and…

From Katrina's list on characters who don’t trust themselves.

N.K. Jemisin has created a classic in the making with The Fifth Season. We enter a world quite similar to ours today in terms of injustice, prejudice, stereotypes, and the foundations of hatred that have seeded their way into systemic power structures of society when it comes to race. The elements of high fantasy accompanied with Jemisin’s expressive writing are a guaranteed page-turner and will have you connected to characters like Damaya, Syenite, and Essun as they navigate, grow, and rise above the various obstacles in this story. It is dark, it is real, and it is phenomenal. 

Essun appears to be an ordinary middle-aged woman living a quiet life, but that life is a lie; she is an orogene, someone who can manipulate the physical world. If she is found out, she could be exiled, imprisoned, or killed. But she may be the only one who can stop the extinction event that is threatening the Earth. Essun is also carrying another secret, one that is eating away at her soul. Jemison’s take on the heroine's journey shows us that motherhood may be the greatest trial one can ever face and the source of real courage.

As a writer of speculative fiction myself, I have been on a quest to find those writers who are able to not only construct complex and multi-layered worlds, but tell their stories with words so controlled and… well… beautiful that the surprises and delights not only come from the thrill of plot twists, but on the actual sentence level as well. N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy, and specifically book one, The Fifth Season, does exactly this. From the very first sentence “You are she. She is you. You are Essun.” We plummet into the chaos and terror of a…

The term “post-apocalyptic” is a bit of a contradiction, since “apocalypse” traditionally means the end of everything; nothing comes after. Perhaps then “post-apocalyptic” mirrors one of the oldest human impulses, the drive to continuously examine the limits of our existence, or maybe it reveals a newer development in our collective thinking, to better comprehend the social and environmental changes we are experiencing globally. N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season is an intricate example of civilizations recreating themselves anew, after not one but multiple, reoccurring seasons of apocalypses. Each apocalypse impacts the ancient lore of the world as well, illuminating how mythologies…

This book grabs the reader from the word “you” and never lets go. I am a complete sucker for non-standard narration and The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin doesn’t disappoint. Many authors might use second person narration as a gimmick, but Jemisin flawlessly integrates this with a totally immersive fantasy world. And if you are a part of the story, then who is the narrator? I just can’t say enough about this book that had me turning every page saying, “tell me more!” [Trigger Warning: child death.]

From Jen's list on unique narration.

I appreciate Jemisin’s treatment of race in The Fifth Season, as her characters are all people of color, but outside of the racial disparities of current America. This is one of the draws I feel toward fantasy: the genre allows us to explore current issues in alternate realities. But The Fifth Season is a dystopian novel, and that’s where “not choosing your family” comes in. Jemisin describes a group of people called orogenes, who can control the energy of the earth. They are reviled and controlled in this alternative Earth, and when an orogene shows up in a family,…

This trilogy is absolutely epic—in scope, in emotion, and in sheer craftsmanship. I love good bones, and the structural mastery displayed here is blowing me away. And the worldbuilding is immersive and all-encompassing. It sucks you in, and doesn't let you go even long after you finish the last page.

While not the typical quest in many ways, The Fifth Season certainly qualifies. All three of its interweaving plots boast characters seeking something, even if it's not always clear what that might be. This is a journey across both land and time, however, and even as the first installment in a trilogy, the intrigue and revelations are wholly satisfying to behold.

I have to be honest, I was a little off-put when I first read the opening lines of The Fifth Season, which are written in second-person: “You are she. She is you. You are Essun.” One of the first things I learned in Creative Writing 101 was to avoid writing in second person, and I had to push past that bias. I’m so glad I did. Jemisin is a masterful storyteller, and the way she intertwines the primary storyline with the backstory by alternating between a present-tense second-person viewpoint and a more traditional past-tense third-person viewpoint is remarkable—giving life…

Want books like The Fifth Season?

Our community of 7,000+ authors has personally recommended 10 books like The Fifth Season.

Browse books like The Fifth Season

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in psychokinesis, the apocalypse, and nonviolence?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about psychokinesis, the apocalypse, and nonviolence.

Psychokinesis Explore 13 books about psychokinesis
The Apocalypse Explore 64 books about the apocalypse
Nonviolence Explore 17 books about nonviolence