Book Reviews

The 5th Season Wrap-up

Let’s get into it. On this lovely morning before a four day weekend I have finally finished The 5th Season. So with iced coffee in hand (I’m basic) and something I picked up from my guy on the corner that isn’t crack, but certainly is as addicting, I am ready to dive into this wrap-up. Looking over some of my last few blogs it’s becoming apparent that I am starting to get a little too gassed up on my literary criticism. I think that is because I got in that rare zone where what I am reading, and I guess listening too, has me hooked. There is just a feeling that some books give that make it hard to focus on anything else, and let me tell you, The 5th Season is one of those.

It is certainly better for the brand for me to trash books since it is way easier to make fun of poor writing or a corny story then to come up with an entertaining way to talk about a book that I love. But I can’t in good faith trash this book. The 5th Season is excellent. When I was recommended this I was excited and to dive into something different, though of course naturally hesitant to try a new author and series. Since the A Land Fit for Heroes series has been such a mild disappointment, I really needed something to cleanse the palate.

The 5th Season is certainly a ride, it gets progressively darker throughout the novel. Like when I first started reading it I thought that my boss had given me a YA fantasy book and I was not pleased. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with some good ol’ YA, when you are you know, 12. I mean you get this story and one of the character POV’s is this girl who has discovered she has magic powers and has to go to a school to learn how to use them. Another character is a young women who has progressed throughout the school and is assigned to work with a difficult, socially reclusive master wizard person. Sounds familiar right? Well boy are you wrong.

Sure those are the baseline things, but there are more twists throughout this then a nerds nipples in 6th grade when a barely sober substitute teacher puts on a movie and goes to sleep. The main storyline is about a woman seeking revenge against her husband. Lovely right? Well her husband murdered the shit out of their son for being a rogga, which sounds like an Australian insult, but means earth wizard. And that little girl who gets to go to wizard school? She was locked in a shed by her parents for two weeks until someone picks her up. That dude then proceeds to shatter her hand as a way of letting her know who is boss. Also one of her classmates gets diddled. Before I forget about that stubborn young woman trying to make a name for herself, she actually isn’t supposed to learn from that stubborn master earth wizard, she is supposed to fuck him so they can make a kid that the Fulcrum (which is the name of the school) can keep the baby and strap it to some machine where it lived a pseudo life as a vegetable.

Not your typical storybook stuff here.

The story never gets stale, it naturally progresses and at a certain point you just go fuck it I can’t predict this just power through. There are lots of elements of magic and the limits of this magic is kept conspicuous. The bad guys have a way of negating the magic which seems to level the playing field. If you know me you know I hate the old fashioned “My magic gets progressively stronger to conveniently solve the problem” trope that plagues good fantasy. Also known, by me, as the Goku effect. So to see that magic is not the all powerful answer to everything always makes me happy.

The book ends setting up the sequel perfectly, without that final end battle that is soooooooo epic that there can’t possibly be anything after, until of course the next book starts… Give me a book like this where the author isn’t afraid of killing people off or subverting expectations. Jemisin does a fantastic job of taking those expectations and dirtying the shit out of them, leaving us something dark and twisted, like the aforementioned 6th Graders nipples. Stay cool everybody and enjoy the 4th.

Final notes: If you read this and don’t see the obvious connector between the three characters then you are as smart as me. I was talking about this with my boss when I was about halfway through, and it dawned on me what I was missing. Really embarrassing. Also I mispronounced the shit out of a word and looked like a jackass. Go me!

If you at all care what I picked up from that guy on the corner it was a doughnut.

Last note, I love that Chance the Rapper put Acid Rap on Spotify, but the fact that it is missing Juice is criminal.

Book Reviews

The Fifth Season: The Season of Success

One line plot summary: There are wizard people who can break the earth and occasionally the earth has cataclystic seismic shifts that kill a lot of people, so we follow three of these wizard women in various levels of their lives  immediately following the latest disaster.

Not my best work in crafting the title nor the one line summary but since this is a zero accountability blog the failing is not mine. Let me tell you who is definitely not failing, the author of this masterpiece N.K. Jemisin. Hugo awards and a bunch of other awards I don’t feel like copying and pasting to pretend like I know what they are. You can go about looking at awards in a couple of ways, either you have a bunch of em and they matter or you win a bunch of bullshit awards that don’t mean anything. I hate on awards, but I’d rather have awards then not have them annnnnnny day. You look at my trophy case and it is empty, well actually it is filled but with a million participation medals from races I, you know, participated in. A wall of failing if you will. I did win the college math achievement award in high school, which sounds very immpressive, until you learn that college math in high school is the class you take senior year when you are too stupid to be allowed to take real math classes like pre-calc or AP calc. Basically the brightest of the dullest award.

Jemy dollars on the other hand has the hardware, and 101 dalmatian pages in it is obvious that she deserves them all. If you couldn’t gather what this book is about from my one sentence summary, I will attempt to break it down. So some lady wakes up and her kid is dead. This is used as the launching point of introducing us into the world, well after the introduction chapter that does the same thing. I am more of a show me and I will figure it out then give me a cryptic big chapter world, but this is just so well done that I found myself engaging with it. Normally I hate that stuff and I just try to power through to get to the story, similar to that inevitable magic explaining teacher to student chapter that appears so consistently. I would love to be educated enough to know if there are more specific terms for these kinds of tropes but I’m not so there ya go. Great introductions can go a long way, this is one of those books that does this.

I wish I had something negative to say about this because it is more on brand but I can’t. Right now the book has three storylines. The first is this lady whose kid is beat to death by her husband because the kid is a little earth wizard. The lady wants a little slice of revenge pie, also the husband swiped up the other kid so she wants her daughter back. These chapters are done in the very difficult to pull off second person. One of my all time favorite books, Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, is also in the second person. That was just a random factoid to throw in there to show how smart I am. The second story line is some kid who is just finding out she is an earth wizard and her family gives her to some guy who I assume is going to bring her to the wizard school. The third story line is a 20 year old who is already at the earth wizard school. So three different earth wizards at three different times, pretty simple. I don’t really feel like putting in character names, somehow I feel like that detracts from the summary

And yet, what could easily be a rewrite of The Earthsea Cycle series is instead a fantastically crafted universe that so far is doing a great job of balancing personal stories with big magic. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.  The only fear I have is with such high levels of magic already shown, will any major issue eventually get solved by a bigger display of magic to the point where it losses plausibility. Stay tuned.