Series: The Broken Earth Trilogy #1
Narrator: Robin Miles
Edition: Audiobook, 15 Hours 27 Minutes
Genre: Sci-fi Fantasy
Purchase: Amazon / Audible / Barnes & Noble
Rating: 4/5 Stars
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 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.
Oh wow, what to say about the Fifth Season?! This is a unique little gem that tells the story of a world tearing itself apart, where some have the ability to move the earth beneath them and things are far more complicated than they initially seem. It’s intricate and bizarre and so so good!
The story is told from three perspectives: Damaya, Syenite, and Essun. All three are women who are considered Orogenes, those that can feel the earth beneath them and manipulate it as easy as they breathe. Each of these perspectives is incredibly different in tone giving us a pretty wide view on what it’s like for an Orogene in The Stillness (the world they live in). Each of these women is at different stages in life with different connections, and it just adds so much to the story to see how each one responds to oppression, abuse, and family. It’s truly difficult to pick a favorite perspective because each one adds something vital to the story and they work together to create this much wider picture slowly but surely over time.
The style of the story is where I think most people will have issues, and admittedly I did at first when I attempted this solely in print. Essun’s perspective is told in 2nd person, which is something rarely attempted in books, and you are placed into her story directly. It’s kind of bizarre at first, but I think it served to really add a level of emotion that I’m not sure would be there otherwise. We get a sense of how orogeny feels and how Essun struggles with her personal identity and loss. There is also the matter of world-building, which is done based on what our characters know themselves with the rare exceptions of the interludes which give you just a touch more than you should know. As a result we don’t get a clear picture of the planet’s history and culture surrounding Stonelore, because most of the characters we spend a lot of time with either don’t know the answers or keep them heavily guarded. This reads like a post-apocalyptic book set on our own Earth, which is never explicitly stated but I think kind of adds a level of wonder to the story. How did it get to this point? Why has the world and it’s people changed so much?
The audio version of this book is absolutely excellent! While the print copy has a very helpful glossary of terms that I think is worth a little extra money to have on hand, I think the audio version is the way to go. Robin Miles the narrator, who I listened to for the novella Binti, does such an amazing job! She has an excellent range of voices and some fantastic pacing.
For a book that has such an iffy start it quickly became one I didn’t want to put down. I’m super excited to move onto The Obelisk Gate and see just where these characters’ stories lead us, because after the intense ending it would be impossible not to continue onward.