The Fifth Season (novel)

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The Fifth Season
The Fifth Season (novel).jpg
Softcover edition
Author N. K. Jemisin
Language English
Series The Broken Earth trilogy
Genre Science fantasy
Publisher Orbit
Publication date
August 4, 2015
Media type Print, e-book
Pages 512
Awards Hugo Award for Best Novel (2016)
ISBN 978-0-356-50819-1
Followed by The Obelisk Gate

The Fifth Season is a 2015 science fantasy novel by N. K. Jemisin.[1][2] It was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2016. It is the first volume in the Broken Earth series, and is followed by The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky.


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.[3]


The society of the Stillness is broken up into many "comms", "use-castes", races and species.

  • 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, 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".
  • Guardians: Warriors, hunters, and assassins tasked with controlling orogenes through pain and training or, alternatively, execution. They are the order that watches the Fulcrum.
  • Geomests: Academics who study "geomestry", which seems to be a discipline unique to the Stillness, combining the study of geology with chemistry and other physical sciences.
  • Commless: People without the protection of a settlement or "comm", either by choice or because of being kicked out of a comm.
  • Stone eaters: Moving sculpture-like beings.
  • Sanzed Equatorial Affiliation: The ruling Empire. The nation is informally known as Old Sanze.
  • Equatorials: People who live in the more stable and wealthy equatorial-region cities such as Yumenes and Dibars.
  • Midlatters: People of either the north (Nomidlats) or south (Somidlats) areas adjacent to the equator zone. Considered backwater. Most Midlatters are multiracial.


  • Strongbacks: A laborer caste. Excess Strongbacks are thrown out of comms during Seasons.
  • Resistants: A caste of people thought to be resistant to sickness or famine. They care for the sick, clear latrines, and perform other health and hygiene-related tasks.
  • Breeders: The caste assigned to keep a comm's numbers stable. They produce children themselves or authorize comm members with desirable traits to have children. Unauthorized children produced during a Season are not granted a share of the comm's stores and may therefore starve.
  • Innovators: An inventor/intellectual caste. Engineers, doctors, and other problem-solvers.
  • Leadership: A caste of people trained to run the comm or other important organizations. Can be pushed into leadership against their will, if the comm has sufficient need.


Names in the Stillness are denoted by given name followed by use-caste (profession) followed by comm (community, town, or city). For instance Schaffa Guardian Warrant is a Guardian named Schaffa from the comm Warrant. Orogenes go by a single, geological-themed name, with no use-caste or comm.

  • Damaya: a child who is given to a Guardian after she is discovered to be an orogene. She is from a comm called Palela in the Nomidlats.
  • Schaffa Guardian Warrant: a man responsible for Damaya's training. His skin is "almost white, he's so paper-pale; he must smoke and curl up in strong sunlight". He has "long flat hair" in "a deep heavy black". He has "silvery-gray" or "icewhite" eyes.
  • Syenite: also known as Syen, an ambitious, four-ring level orogene of the Fulcrum, who is instructed to go on a mission with a higher level orogene named Alabaster.
  • Alabaster: a ten-ring (highest) level orogene, capable of quelling super-volcanoes and of power and control beyond the capabilities of other orogenes. He has "skin so black it's almost blue", his hair is "dense, tight-curled stuff, the kind of hair that needs to be shaped if it's to look stylish", and he is "whipcord thin".[1]
  • Essun: an orogene mother of two, who leaves her small town of Tirimo to pursue her husband and daughter. Unlike the others, Essun's chapters are written in second-person point of view, present-tense. She is described initially as "flabby", with dreadlocked curly hair and skin that is "unpleasantly ocher-brown by some standards and unpleasantly olive-pale by others".[1]
  • Jija: Essun's husband, who kills their son Uche and kidnaps their daughter Nassun.
  • Hoa: a mysterious boy who finds Essun in the woods and accompanies her on her journey. His coloring is completely white, including his icewhite eyes.
  • Feldspar: Syenite's instructor at the Fulcrum, who orders her to go on a mission with Alabaster to clear a coral blockage in the Allia harbor.
  • Tonkee: a university-trained but commless geomest (scientist) who now lives in a cave.
  • Binof Leadership Yumenes: the daughter of a powerful family who enlists the help of Damaya.
  • Innon: a leader of an island community of pirates. He is described as an outgoing "six-and-a-half-foot-tall man with a huge mane of braids and clothes from three different nations — all of it garish."

Minor characters:

  • Lerna: a young doctor in Tirimo who takes care of Essun briefly after her son's death.
  • Rask Innovator Tirimo: the town's elected headsman.
  • Muh Dear: Damaya's grandmother.
  • Mother: Damaya's mother, a Strongback.
  • Father: Damaya's father, a Resistant.
  • Asael Leadership Allia: one of six deputy governors of Allia.
  • Heresmith Leadership Allia: the lieutenant governor of Allia.


The New York Times' review stated "The Fifth Season invites us to imagine a dismantling of the earth in both the literal and the metaphorical sense, and suggests the possibility of a richer and more fundamental escape. The end of the world becomes a triumph when the world is monstrous, even if what lies beyond is difficult to conceive for those who are trapped inside it."[4] NPR wrote that "Jemisin brilliantly illustrates the belief that, yes, imaginative world-building is a vital element of fantasy—but also that every character is a world unto herself."[5]

This is the first of three books in the Broken Earth series.[6] The second novel in the trilogy, The Obelisk Gate, was published on August 16, 2016 and won a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2017.[7] The third book, The Stone Sky, was published in August 2017.

In August 2017 it was announced that The Fifth Season is being adapted for television by TNT.[8][9]


The Fifth Season was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Novel at the 74th World Science Fiction Convention on August 20, 2016.[10] It also won the Sputnik Award,[11] and was nominated for the Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.


  1. ^ a b c Jemisin, N. K. (2015). The Fifth Season. Little, Brown Book Group. ISBN 978-0-356-50488-9. 
  2. ^ Berlatsky, Noah (2015-07-27). "NK Jemisin: The fantasy writer upending the 'racist and sexist status quo'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  3. ^ Newitz, Annalee (2015-12-29). "'The Fifth Season' by N.K. Jemisin". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  4. ^ Novik, Naomi (2015-08-06). "'The Fifth Season,' by N.K. Jemisin". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  5. ^ Heller, Jason (4 August 2015). "'Fifth Season' Embraces The Scale And Complexity Of Fantasy". NPR. Retrieved 18 August 2017. 
  6. ^ Wilson, Kristian. "18 Fantasy Series To Start After 'Glass Sword'". Bustle. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  7. ^ "2017 Hugo Awards". Retrieved 11 August 2017. 
  8. ^ Andreeva, Nellie; Petski, Denise (16 August 2017). "N.K. Jemisin's 'The Fifth Season' Book To Be Developed As TV Series At TNT". Deadline. Retrieved 18 August 2017. 
  9. ^ Eddy, Cheryl (16 August 2017). "N.K. Jemisin's Hugo-Winning The Fifth Season Is Being Adapted for TV". io9. Gizmodo. Retrieved 18 August 2017. 
  10. ^ "2016 Hugo Awards". World Science Fiction Society. Retrieved 2016-08-20. 
  11. ^ "2016 Sputnik Awards". Retrieved 2017-10-20. 

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