THE FIFTH SEASON by N. K. Jemisin

No, this is not a sports book.  It is an epic fantasy, a trilogy, at least so far.  It won the Hugo Award in 2016, which is the top award for sci fi and fantasy.

Not all fantasy genre books are about dragons and magicians and wizards.  The Fifth Season takes place on a planet with a single supercontinent called the Stillness. Every few centuries, its inhabitants endure what they call a “Fifth Season” of catastrophic climate change.  The supercontinent is called the Stillness in contrast to the earth itself, which is in constant motion with plate tectonic movement, volcanoes constantly building, small tremlors always in play throughout the planet.  And the main focus of the story are the  Orogenes: people with the ability to control energy, particularly that of the earth (directly) and temperature (indirectly). They can cause and prevent earthquakes, and when angered can unintentionally kill living things in their “torus”, or area of influence, by stealing the heat from their bodies to use as energy to manipulate the ground. When this occurs, a visible circle of frost appears around them and living things can be flash-frozen solid.

They are widely hated and feared, and many are murdered by small-town mobs when their powers are discovered in childhood. If they are not killed by their family or comm,(village or community),  they are given to a Guardian, to be trained at a location called the Fulcrum inside the city of Yumenes. Fulcrum-trained orogenes are marked by their black uniforms, and are tolerated slightly better than untrained orogenes, in that they are not murdered quite as often. They wear rings on their fingers to denote rank, ten-ring being the highest. The slur “rogga” is used against orogenes, who likewise call non-orogenes “the stills”.

Fulcrum-trained orogenes are sent on missions to various locations to subdue earthquakes, volcanoes, get rid of coral blockages of harbors, etc, and thus are respected if not liked.

This book is all about stone, and geology, and energy lines and sources.  It has some strange creatures, such as the stone eaters, beings who are made of stone and are like living statues who can move through walls and rocks.

The principal character is an orogene who over the course of the book has three identities as her life changes and shifts.  The book opens with the end of the world, but is it really?  It is a book about oppression and power.  I was going to say more, but I think I will just leave it at that.  Extraordinary world building, characters with hearts made of stone and hearts that can actually move stone.  Some really nifty creative ideas, which when you get right down to it, is the only reason to read fantasy — to see what amazing ideas someone can come up with.

Two more to go in this series,  The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky.    I think I will give the next one a try and see how it goes.  My experience with trilogies is that usually the first is great, the second pretty good and the third ho-hum.

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