Book Review: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
Fantasy, Post-apocalyptic/#1 of 3, The Broken Earth Trilogy
“This is what you must remember: the ending of one story is just the beginning of another. This has happened before, after all. People die. Old orders pass. New societies are born. When we say ‘the world has ended,’ it’s usually a lie, because the planet is just fine.
But this is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
For the last time.”
One of the benefits of not having a rating system is that when I feel like it, I can arbitrarily make one up. With that in mind I would like to give The Fifth Season FIVE MILLION STARS. I loved this book.
The basic premise: the ironically named Stillness is a world in constant motion, wracked by earthquakes, volcanic activity, and tsunamis. Some people – called the orogenes – are born with an innate ability to manipulate the earth, calming or exacerbating the seismic that is part of daily life. They are the most feared and yet most valuable members of society, and are isolated and tightly controlled from childhood or birth – whenever they are first discovered.
The Fifth Season is remarkable in every way; it is brilliantly and beautifully written. I love the combination of fantasy/science fiction/post-apocalyptic influences in the story, and the unpredictability the unusual hybrid of genres creates. The sweeping drama of the world is a fantastic backdrop to the true drama, which is intensely personal in nature. It’s one of those rare and especially rewarding books where a new bit of information, dropped well into the book, suddenly makes all the pieces of the story fall into place and connect in a way that they didn’t before. (I am guessing that a lot of people, like me, exclaimed “Aha!” out loud at one point while reading the book. Though hopefully they didn’t do it on a bus full of people and startle the stranger sitting next to them, like I did.)
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Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Fantasy / Tor / Standalone Novel
“‘In our inmost and secret heart, which you ask us to bare to you, we wish to banish them as we were banished, to a cold and lonely house, in the charge of a man who hated us. And we wish them trapped there as we were trapped.’
‘You consider that unjust, Serenity?’
‘We consider it cruel,’ Maia said. ‘And we do not think that cruelty is ever just.’ ”
The Emperor had four sons, and would have been happy to see any of them follow him on the throne – any, that is, apart from his youngest, neglected and maligned half-goblin son, Maia, who has been kept away from him since birth. A tragic twist of fate, however, leaves Maia inheriting the throne, alone and utterly uninformed about the intricacies of both palace life and the empire’s political situation. Maia struggles against alienation and his own awkwardness and obliviousness to try and make the best of the unexpected (and dangerous) situation.
The Goblin Emperor was a fun and refreshing change of pace for me in terms of epic fantasy. It’s a rarity: a feel-good book about courtly intrigue and political machinations. You put it down feeling, in spite of the manipulation, classism, racism, assassination attempts and general villainy, convinced that ultimately people are good-hearted and generous. It’s strange to think that could feel subversive, but in the current landscape of epic fantasy, it seems like a long time since I read a book as optimistic as this. Continue reading Book Review: The Goblin Emperor (Katherine Addison)
Review: The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
Epic Fantasy – Worldbreaker Saga #1
“Logic?” Dasai said. “People do not take actions based on logic. We make choices based on emotion. Every one of us. Then we use what we call logic to justify our choices. People don’t do things that make sense.”
I tried to start this review with a plot and character introduction, as I usually do… and then found that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t succinctly summarize the premise of The Mirror Empire. Suffice to say, The Mirror Empire is the most complex and imaginative take on epic fantasy I have read in a long, long time. It follows a wide cast of characters with disparate story arcs and from a variety of backgrounds. It has alternate realities, blood magic, brutal wars and genocide, assassins, sentient, carnivorous plant life, people who ride bears… and that’s only scratching the surface.
I found that the strengths and weaknesses of this book mirrored each other (ha… ha… ha). The Mirror Empire doesn’t rely on the tropes that usually help us intuit what is going on in an epic fantasy, and because of that it takes longer to make sense of the setting, characters, and system of magic. There are political groups, ethnic backgrounds, governing and military systems, religious beliefs, family structures, all with their own new and inventive twists. The result is a profusion of fresh and fascinating ideas, all grand in scope – but also a narrative that embraces breadth at the cost of an indepth look into any particular elements of the world building.
Continue reading Book Review: The Mirror Empire (Kameron Hurley)