RIP X: The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin



It is with such excitement that I leap blindly into a new Jemisin book.

I leap, I dive, I plunge into a new world, trusting in Jemisin to lead me wherever she wants this story to go.

Entering a new world is never easy. It takes a while for a reader to understand the characteristics of this unique world, its people, its problems, because of course there are problems.

This time, it is the mighty empire of Sanze, it is where we find the oregenes.

Orogeny is a strange equation. Take movement and warmth and life from your surroundings, amplify it by some indefinable process of concentration or catalysis or semi-predictable chance, push movement and warmth and death from the earth. Power in, power out. To keep the power in, though, to not turn the valley’s aquifer into a geyser or shatter the ground into rubble, takes an effort that makes your teeth and the backs of your eyes ache. You walked a long time to try to burn off some of what you took in, but it still brims under your skin even as your body grows weary and your feet hurt. You are a weapon meant to move mountains. A mere walk can’t take that out of you.

It begins with the earth. It begins with the shaking.

It begins with a woman named Essun whose life, whose heart, is broken, after she discovers that her husband has killed her son and taken her daughter with him.

Needless to say, this is a dark place. And it is an especially dark one for orogenes, those who can feel the earth, who can both still a tremor and cause one. And for that they are hunted or sent to the Fulcrum – for training they call it, but really to be controlled.

“The orogenes of the Fulcrum serve the world,” he says. “You will have no use name from here forth, because your usefulness lies in what you are, not merely some familial aptitude. From birth, an orogene child can stop a shake; even without training, you are orogene. Within a comm or without one, you are orogene. With training, however, and with the guidance of other skilled orogenes at the Fulcrum, you can be useful not merely to a single comm, but all the Stillness.”

It is never easy bringing a reader into a new world, and making them want to linger and not shut the book (or device) and find someone else’s realm. Jemisin always does so well with her world-building, dark as they may be. Maybe it’s because her characters are diverse. They’re not all fair-skinned, golden-locked and dewy-eyed. They’re not all straight.

And there is no dark evil force from without threatening the society. The society is threatened by their own kind, by a flawed way of thinking, by a over-controlling authority that seeks to enslave and harness instead of involve and embrace. I’m trying not to get into specifics, so go read this book yourself!

But yes, it is an exciting read. An absorbing read. And when I finished it, I went back to the start to read the prologue all over again, because it is that kind of book. It puzzles a little at the beginning, when you’re just entering this world she has created, and one which you don’t fully understand yet. But as you read on and things begin to take shape in your mind, you realize how powerful a writer Jemisin is. The way she creates this world, so odd, so interesting, so different, yet one you can easily see. The way she writes in these characters that you believe in. And by the end of the book, whether it is a character you like or whether it is one you completely abhor, these are characters that stick in your mind, hold on to you. This is a book that gives me a sort of book hangover, it makes me unable to jump straight into another book as I usually do.

What can I say, I loved this book, as I have loved all of the other books by NK Jemisin.

If you’re new to Jemisin, you’re in for a treat! She has one other excellent trilogy, another equally excellent duology. And well, we will just have to wait for the rest of the Broken Earth trilogy to come out.

The Inheritance Trilogy
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
The Broken Kingdoms
The Kingdom of Gods

The Dreamblood Duology
The Killing Moon
The Shadowed Sun

The Broken Earth Trilogy
The Fifth Season


I read this book for RIP X (see the rest of my book list here)

The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin


I don’t have follow-through.

When it comes to books and series, there are far too many that I’ve started and stopped, searching instead for that other read, stretching out for something different.

But when it comes to NK Jemisin, it seems that I have read all of her books!

(And now I have to wait for the next one to come out…. what? next year?!)

I first heard of her books from Eva at A Striped Armchair, when she blogged about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the first book in the Inheritance trilogy.

And when I finished those three books (sigh! Perhaps a reread is in order!!), I turned to Jemisin’s Dreamblood series, of which there has been The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun. (Jemisin talks about  The Killing Moon on John Scalzi’s blog, if you’re interested in finding out more about her inspiration behind this book – two words ‘ninja priests’ – if that doesn’t make you want to read her books, I don’t know what will!). Here’s the first chapter of The Killing Moon on Jemisin’s website if you’d like to read a bit more.

It had unfortunately been a bit of a time lag between my reading of The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun. Goodreads tells me I read The Killing Moon in December 2012. And oops, The Shadowed Sun was first published in January 2012, making my read quite a delayed one.

Why the delay? I wish I had a legitimate reason like saving it for RIP or Diversiverse. But it probably can be chalked up to my lack of follow-through.

But oh what a read it was.

From that striking cover to its nightmarish premise, I drank it all in.

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

Gujaareh, the city of dreams, suffers under the imperial rule of the Kisuati Protectorate. A city where the only law was peace now knows violence and oppression. A mysterious and deadly plague now haunts the citizens of Gujaareh, dooming the infected to die screaming in their sleep. Someone must show them the way.

It’s an unusually short synopsis this one. I suppose there must be a longer one somewhere but this one is adequate. Because what made the book was not just the storyline, this nightmare that is creeping around the city, but those wonderful characters that Jemisin has created, and how she has nurtured them and brought them through life and all its motions, its joys and suffering, its pleasures, its fears.

The two main characters are Hanani, the first female Sharer (she’s a kind of healer) and Wanahomen, the son of the fallen Prince, who is rounding up his allies and establishing his power. And what characters they are! You aren’t expected to like Wana at first, he’s hardened, unfriendly, and long-prejudiced against the Sharers and the Hetawa. Hanani comes across at first as unsure of herself, as a Sharer-Apprentice, as the first female Sharer-Apprentice, the first female member of the Hetawa.

Jemisin has created such genuine characters. While I did not start out liking Wana – and it took a very long time for me to grudgingly accept him – he seemed so very real a person. A large part of his character development is due to his interactions with Hanami but this is far from a romantic or traditional kind of situation. Hanami was my favourite character, her dedication to her work and to her life as Sharer, her willingness to adapt to her new life with the Banbarra, her ability to connect with others. And through her, learning about the gender roles in the different societies, the power structures in the tribe, and life in this new place she finds herself in.

And this world that Jemisin has created! Based on Egyptian mythology, a world where women are deemed goddesses but are hardly given any freedom to do as they wish, where men are veiled and only unveil themselves at home and with those close to them. And where the Sharers access dreamscapes and heal their patients. Of course, it was first introduced in The Killing Moon, but the introduction of the Banbarra and their tribal society brings such greater depth and sense of place to her constructed universe.

If you’ve never read anything by NK Jemisin before, go! Run out to your library or your bookstore or just buy an e-copy of one of her books. And read! And be amazed. And please come back and tell me all about it!


N. K. Jemisin is an author of speculative fiction short stories and novels who lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been nominated for the Hugo (three times), the Nebula (four times), and the World Fantasy Award (twice); shortlisted for the Crawford, the Gemmell Morningstar, and the Tiptree; and she has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel as well as the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award (three times).
I read this book for Diversiverse and RIP IX