The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

The basics

Title: The Fifth Season


Series: The Broken Earth #1

- The Fifth Season (2015)
- The Obelisk Gate (2016)
- The Stone Sky (2017)

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Goodreads Summary:

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 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.

If you’re looking for a short summary of what happened in The Fifth Season (an award winning fantasy btw!) then we’re here to help. Below is a recap of what happened in the first book of the Broken Earth series.

what happened in The Fifth Season?

  • There’s an earthquake that originated in Yumenes. A boy is born/hatched from a geode.
  • Essun protects her town, Tirimo, from the shockwaves.
  • Essun’s son is beaten to death by his father. Essun shuts down. Lerna finds her and Uche’s body.
  • Lerna takes Essun to his house and says he won’t tell anyone that she has powers. He says that the town has already concluded that Uche had powers and that’s why his father, Jija, killed him. Essun sets out to find her partner, and her daughter, Nassun.
  • We meet Damaya, a young orogene who has been turned in to the Fulcrum by her parents. A Guardian called Schaffa comes to take her away.
  • We then meet a young woman called Syenite, who is currently training at the Fulcrum. She is told she is to go on a mission to Allia, a coastal town, with a ten-ringer named Alabaster. She figures they also want her to breed with him.
  • Schaffa threatens Damaya into obedience by breaking her hand.
  • Essun comes across a strange boy called Hoa. She lets him join her on her journey to find Nassun. It turns out that he can sense orogenes and he’s able to track Nassun down.
  • Damaya is bullied by the other orogene children. She gets her own back and the bullies are punished and sent away.
  • Syenite and Alabaster go to the coast. On the way they are hit by a shockwave. They find a node maintainer (a young boy whose mind has been messed with) dead (and clearly abused). Alabaster says he thinks his own children share this boy’s fate.
  • They reach Allia.
  • Alabaster is poisoned. Syenite tries tot shift the coral blockage herself but ends up raising an obelisk. Alabaster warns her not to tell anyone it was her.
  • Damaya helps a girl called Binof enter a “secret” area. They find sockets. They’re discovered and Binof is taken away. Damaya has to explain herself to a woman who starts talking nonsense. Schaffa arrives and rips out her brain stem.
  • Essun meets a woman called Tonkee and she joins the strange little gang. The group comes across some cannibals which is gross.
  • Syenite fights off a Guardian at Allia and draws upon the obelisk to protect herself. This opens up the earth and causes… problems.
  • Syenite and Alabaster are taken in by pirates.
  • We find out that Syenite is Damaya. What.
  • Syenite and Alabaster enter into a poly relationship with Innon, the island’s leader and pirate captain.
  • Syenite finds out she’s pregnant.
  • Essun is lef to a comm by Hoa, who says that a lot of orogenes are gathered there. She meets Ykka, who allows them to stay and introduces them to the underground comm.
  • There’s a two year time jump.
  • Syenite has had her baby, Coru, who is now a toddler. Syenite is getting restless and wants to be more useful. She asks Innon if she can join him on a raid. He eventually agrees.
  • Alabaster tells Syenite that their son is an incredibly powerful orogene and he’s been protecting the island.
  • Syenite goes on a raid. They attack a cargo ship, then another ship sees them. Syenite uses orogeny to sink the ships so that no one will know how powerful the pirates’ orogones are.
  • Syenite asks to see Allia, which is now a bubbling volcanic mess. There’s someone watching as Syenite tries (and fails) to fix things.
  • Essun comes across Lerna again in the underground city. She figures out that Tonkee is actually Binof. Binof has been looking for Essun for ages.
  • Essun receives a message from Alabaster, who is old and probably dying. We learn that Essun = Syenite. WHAT.

how did The Fifth Season end?

  • The island is attacked by Guardians in what we now know to be a flashback. Alabaster gets taken by a stone eater. Syenite kills Coru before Schaffa can take him. Then she draws power from an obelisk and destroys the ships.
  • Alabaster (in present day) tells Essun that he can’t forgive her for killing Coru. He says he caused the earthquake in Yumenes. He killed all of the node maintainers too, to free them. He wants Essun to finish what he started, and then mentions the moon??
  • As a side note, Hoa has been following Essun since she was Syenite.

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