This year N.K. Jemisin became the first person ever to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a row for her Broken Earth novels, and I cannot think of a more deserving series. This trilogy, which begins with 2015’s The Fifth Season, is a powerhouse of speculative fiction with amazing world-building and a storyline that is both intricately-plotted and immense in scope.
In The Fifth Season, readers are introduced to Essun, a woman on a mission to track down her ex-husband who has murdered their son and run off with their young daughter. Her plight is complicated by a “fifth season,” a major climate catastrophe that causes increased hardship and violence as cities crumble and ash fills the sky. Essun is an orogene, someone who can shape and control the earth, but has spent much of her life pretending to be normal, in hiding from those who would enslave or kill her because of her race. Now she will need to call upon her powers to protect herself on her difficult journey. Along the way, she comes into contact with a cast of characters who will help and hinder her along the way.
As Essun’s story progresses through the three books, readers come to know her painful back story as well as her present where she truly comes into her power, not just as an orogene, but as a mother and a person willing to fight for the future of the planet.
Jemisin is an amazingly powerful storyteller, adept at detailed world-building and a plot that weaves effortlessly through past, present, and future. Her characters are fully-realized, complex, and dealing with issues of identity, racism, oppression, and coming to terms with the fact that one person’s actions can truly destroy or save the world.
This is a great series for fans of Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. Le Guin, or anyone looking for an immersive tale with unforgettable characters.