The moment you step through the boundary and enter The Pond, you feel a tremor in the earth. Alert, you run towards the pond, worried that your little pond friends may be hurt or afraid of the earthquake. But as you approach, you can feel the crackle of magic in the air and things don’t seem frantic, just its usual calm. Less worried and now curious, you call out for your pond friends.
“Over here, friend!” you hear a voice call out.
You follow the voice and see a little mess by the Pond; its usual terrain is uneven and you see tiny oval-shaped prints on the dirt. By the water, you see Xiaolong standing with her arms held up for balance. She raises her little foot, and the moment her foot meets the ground – ruuuuuumbleeeeee! The ground beneath you shakes and you have to steady yourself. Xiaolong giggles in delight.
“Hi friend!” she says, scurrying over to you (and thankfully not causing mini-earthquakes with every step). “I just read the most amazing book and when I told Varian about it, they taught me this earth-magic spell. Look what I can do!” She readies her stance again, arms wide, determined face, lifts her foot, and stomps! The earth shakes, and the earth rises around her tiny foot. Again, she giggles, happy to feel the magic within the earth.
You tell her that it’s a great spell (and also a little terrifying), but what you are really curious about is this book that inspired her.
“Oh, of course!” she says. She picks up her staff, and with a wave of her staff and a grumble from the earth, the pond’s terrain rights and evens itself out. “I think this may be one of the most unique and inspiring books I’ve read, friend! It’s called, The Fifth Season…“
This is the way the world ends. Again.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
The Fifth Season is the sort of book where its reputation precedes itself. This was indeed the case for me; I had heard nothing but unanimous and high praises for this book (indeed, each book of the trilogy has won the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a ROW), for its worldbuilding, writing, storytelling, and its compelling story. After joining the ranks of fans of this trilogy and experiencing withdrawal after finishing this book so intense that I laid in bed and ruminated about the story – what can I say? Everyone was right. The Fifth Season is brilliant.