With all the accolades heaped onto these books and plenty of comprehensive reviews out there, I will keep my review of The Fifth Season relatively short.
A superbly-crafted narrative that has both the familiar and the fantastical, The Fifth Season blends fantasy and science fiction most extraordinarily. The magic system, if one can term it as such, is intrinsically linked to the seismically unstable earth that has devastating Seasons striking the world every few centuries or so. It is called orogeny, which is the ability to wield and utilise the energies and power of the very earth itself.
The entire story in The Fifth Season so far is foundational in introducing the reader to this vast continent called the Stillness (such an ironic name) and its lore, magic, culture, races and social structure. The representation of cultures and the people are probably one of the most diverse that I've ever come across as well. For all the diversity present in this book, however, the message of discrimination and prejudice did hit pretty hard. Pretty much like a punch in the gut - it hurt and made me feel quite sick.
By the end of this book, the full potential of an orogene's power is yet to be known, but from what was shown so far, it can literally be earth-shattering. There is also a lot of terminologies which might not make sense initially, but as the story unfolds, context will gradually help one gain some semblance of understanding. Or there is always the glossary in the Appendix at the back of the book for reference.
The story was delivered in a unique manner combining three types of narration or perspectives. There is the usual third-person perspective for two characters, Damaya and Syenite, but not before one gets thrown off kilter by the rarely seen second person POV for Essun, which came right after the Prologue that was written as the first-person narrator. I was initially a bit worried about how I will take to the second person perspective before I started this. Well, it turned out that it felt familiar to me because of all the Fighting Fantasy role-playing gamebooks that I used to devour most voraciously during my teens. With that, it took me no time at all to get absorbed into the wonderfully different narrative of this remarkable book.
There is nothing that I have read before which I can consider, by any stretch of the imagination, as similar to this novel. It contained a non-linear plot, of both present and past timelines, which was thoroughly engaging when coupled with the unique, immersive worldbuilding and excellent character development. The manner in which the stories of Damaya, Syenite and Essun come together can only be described as brilliant.
The Fifth Season is without a doubt an extraordinary start to The Broken Earth trilogy, which I hope will shine even more brightly as I continue my journey henceforth.