The people of The Stillness live at the will of the Seasons–world-ending tectonic disasters that occur without warning.The Stillness has not always been this way and this current season might just be the last.
I bought the box set of this series in 2018 and have just gotten around to reading it. This immersive series is a dynamic blend of science-fiction and fantasy that is must listen on audio. Narrator Robin Miles did her thing with these audiobooks. She has amazing range and her multifaceted performance highlights the epicness of this earth-bending series.
A fantasy series is a successful read for me when I CANNOT figure out how the author came up with the story, world or concept. To that end, this series is a smashing success. The characters and the struggles they encounter felt real and lived in. There are actual worlds in Jemisin’s head. That is the only explanation.
The Fifth Season
Life in the Stillness, a vast dystopic landscape, revolves around Seasons– apocalyptic natural disasters that occur without warning. The earth has it out for humanity and the only ones who can control it are Orogenes, those born with the ability to control kinetic and seismic energy. To be an Orogene is to be feared, enslaved, and abused.
The first book follows Essun, a 40-year-old Orogene in hiding, as she attempts to outrun the current apocalypse to exact revenge on her son’s murderer. Unfortunately, this is not an ordinary Season and Essun is soon pulled into a large conspiracy that will change everything.
I don’t know what I can say about Jemisin’s award-winning series that hasn’t already been said. It is an immersive and well-imagined tale. Her storytelling is unique (it’s in the second person) and she masterfully weaves multiple POVS in an unexpected way. I will say it took me a few chapters to get into, but once you get into the flow it’s hard to put down.
A majority of the characters are Black. Ir is delightful reading a fantasy book where caucasian features aren’t the automatic default. There is also a healthy intersection of LGBTQ characters and representation.
My only critique is that I had a hard time picturing exactly what the setting looked like. They mention gaslights and horses so at first, I imagined a dystopian early 20th century–but something about the clothes and the way medical devices are described felt a little more 90’s ? IDK. Maybe it’s supposed to be like Mad Max vibes ?
The Obelisk Gate
Jemisin’s storytelling ability is still going full force in the second book. Essun and her motley crew of travelers have been volun-told into joining a utopian underground community. In between dealing with community politics, Essun learns the whole truth about this very unusual season. This is a stationery book and I was sad to see we don’t get to watch the characters travel.
Essun’s ten-year-old daughter Nassun has a POV and look, I’m not the biggest fan of children’s POV in brutal adult books but I think this one worked well. Nassun has to grow up fast as she learns about her potential as an Orogene and what it means to sacrifice. One of the characters, Chaffa, is a Guardian whose job is to control Orogenes in a harsh but gentle manner. I’m not really understanding what Jeminisn is doing with this character or what they add to the story. This character’s origins, motivation and purpose just never made sense to me.
The Stone Sky
The world’s fate is now in the hands of a mother and daughter on two sides of a millennia-long war.
My favorite part of this book is the flashbacks that finally reveal the origin of The Stillness and what the mysterious Stone Eater creatures are. Reveals like this are why I enjoy speculative/dystopian stories. This book languidly moves towards the finale, which honestly wasn’t as massive and action-packed as I thought it would be. I thought the ending was fitting but I can’t say I truly understood parts of it or that it gave me the emotional punch I was hoping for.
I’m sold on Jemisin as a writer and am up for checking out her other series. These last few years I’ve been diving into fantasy by POC writers and it never disappoints. I think there is freedom to storytelling when you break away from the stereotypical fantasy setting
Pastoral England where?
Anyway… I’ll wait here until someone casts Danai Gurira in the movie adaptation.