Tag: book review

The Soul of Chaos by Gregory Wunderlin

Summary: The whispers followed her. Since her first rebuke they persisted in their pursuit, distant yet clear, they offered the same deal. Power. Freedom. They swelled when she acknowledged them, the fierce static eschewing reality in its sudden onset. Exiled from his home and his noble heritage in disgrace, Rurik toils in the mines of an ancient, underground ruin as foreman to a group of breakers: prisoners, cutthroats, and dregs of society forced into indentured servitude. His responsibility to his crew weighs heavily on his conscience-for even the most minor job can prove fatal, and earning his life back can...

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Cloti’s Song by Dani Finn

                           Synopsis: There are some things that cannot be taken from you. The humans have conquered the Maer capital, and they show no signs of leaving. Cloti and her spouses cling to each other in the hollow shell of their occupied city. Each day is a bitter gift; they may not be free, but they have each other. When the city’s human Administrator offers to let Cloti restart her meditation practice in the temple, she jumps at the chance to spread a little hope in such dark days. Half the city followed her teachings before the occupation; maybe she can...

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The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin


Summary

This is the way the world ends. . .for the last time.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

Review

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season is a triumph of the fantasy grimdark subgenre and has gained renown in the broader literary world, winning the 2016 Hugo Award and shattering readers since its publication in 2015The novel is a deeply depressing fantasy set in a post-apocalyptic world trades between three points of view (POVs). This book put me through a collection of emotions as I placed myself in some of the uncomfortable situations each of the three main characters suffers through. Mrs. Jemisin writes reflective yet straight prose presenting themes of control, parenthood, sexuality, and prejudice throughout five hundred pages. Reading the starkness of the world Mrs. Jemisin created, the quiet moments of tenseness between each of the three main characters’ arcs never end, and somehow, I kept turning the page to see if things would get better and knowing that it most likely would not. 

The three main characters are Syenite, a highly motivated and intelligent pupil of the Fulcrum, Damaya, a young child who is given the protection of a Guardian because she has extraordinary powers that she must learn to control, and Essun, a middle-aged woman looking for her husband and their last surviving child. 

“You’re a gift of the earth—but Father Earth hates us, never forget, and his gifts are neither free nor safe.”

For me, one of the challenges of the book, besides the bleakness of the environment and the supporting cast, is that one of the three main POVs is told from a second person POV, which is jarring when jumping from character to character, mainly when the other POVs use a different writing perspective. I pushed through this as I have with other books, and it paid off as each character arc meet in the end.

The setting and ideas formulated through the three main POVs are placed in a stark and unforgiving dystopian apocalypse wrecked by earthquakes (or other disasters). A season is a disaster or significant world event and the corresponding time between when people attempt to rebuild, knowing they must prepare for the next season. A never-ending cycle of preparation and disaster, which, when looking forward, feels now only familiar. The people who walk the world and have no power are called “stills,” and the smaller portion of the population (less than one percent) are called “orogenes”. These people can cause earthquakes, kill with frost or cold, and perform other feats. They are hated and feared by most and used as tools or weapons to control specific areas through a form of lifelong military service or enslavement. The Fulcrum attempts to use “orogens” to control territories, lessen the effects of a season, and calm the rumbling ground under the different shattered fault lines of the land. The Fulcrum a government-like entity that trains orogenes harbor shadier secrets, and upon learning them, I realized how cruel the world Mrs. Jemisin has created.

“You think you matter?” All at once, he smiles. It’s ugly, cold as the vapor curling off the ice. “You think any of us matter beyond what we can do for them? Whether we obey or not.”

Mental and physical pain is felt through the three main characters in various circumstances. Mrs. Jemisin’s storytelling had me hating Schaffa through most of the book, yet for a few moments, it somehow changed my thoughts on Schaffa, a Guardian who broke a young girl’s hand at the start of the book at the end. I still hated him, but somehow, I nodded, if not in agreement but in understanding at the end. The last few pages linger like a ink stains on my fingers.

The Fifth Season provides complicated characters making choices in extreme circumstances at the end of the world, and the last portion of the book is the eye-opening, “holy shit” writing that secures this book’s acclaim and awards. This review is spoiler-free, but let me say yes, it deserves the treatment it gets from the professional press and others who pick it up and make it through the entire book.

“Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall; Death is the fifth and master of all.”

Mrs. Jemisin doesn’t play with words; each sentence and word are set down deliberately, providing further growth for the characters and overarching story. She laces the three POVs charters separated at the start of the book, slowly twisting them until their fateful and dramatic ending and maybe everything that comes after. The narrative that drives the books is shown through the pacing. Long silences where life occurs, people prepare, and bursts of violence and destruction. Where I thought the writing shined was the agony of life between the disasters, learning how everyone barely coped with surviving and existing, which was felt on each page.

I read a paperback version of The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin Book 1 of the Broken Earth Trilogy printed in 2020. The book is around 130,000 words with a cover created by Lauren Panepinto, which shows a decaying wall with a faded sculpted metal and stone flourish. Its morose simplicity represents the tone found inside the pages. This book is not easy to recommend to everyone, but it was worth my time, and if you’re courageous enough, I hope it’s worth yours.

The Hand of God by Yuval Kordov

Summary: The world ended—twice. Only Esther, the Eternal One, saw it all happen. As head of the powerful Revenant Sisterhood, she shepherds humanity from Cathedral, the Last City. Except Cathedral isn't the last city, and her sisterhood's power is far from holy. It’s the year 2500, give or take. The passage of time has become as blurry as the gray wastes that cover most of North America. No moon or stars light the night, and demonic hordes smash against the last outposts of civilization. Two reborn nations vie for humanity’s future. In the west, Cathedral unleashes its God-engines—ancient walking war...

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Daughter of the Beast by E.C. Greaves

Summary: When her sleepy village is raided by the Vulkari, the fearsome warrior women of the Ancient Wilds, only Zyntael Fairwinter is taken. Claimed as a daughter by their infamous matriarch, Zyntael is trained to hunt, to fight, and to kill—all for a purpose, which remains ever out of her grasp. In the company of their unruly young, she might find sisterhood. In their unique customs and beliefs, she might find beauty. And in the violence of their raids, she might even find glory. But it is the reason for her capture that Zyntael truly seeks. It is a truth...

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Fragmented Fates by Nancy Foster

Summary: • The hero. • The seer. • The child. • The condemned. After surviving two bloody purges that nearly exterminated both the Grey Clan and Orsenmuray City, the elf and harlequin survivors struggle to bring the tent city of Almjarhad to life. Surrounded by the ocean and desert, these inhospitable lands are slowly being developed with the aid of their magic. As the culprit of their misfortune, the condemned elf Lord Jamarnid is forced to rely on his son Jarahad to rule the city due to ending up disabled before his frantic escape. Bitter about his situation because he...

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Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio

Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio The Sun Eater: Book One Summary Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy. It was not his war. The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders. But Hadrian was not a hero. He was...

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Wings so Soft by Dani Finn

Summary: Can love bloom in war’s darkest hour? Mara and her owl work surveillance to keep Kuppham safe, but the news on the Stream is grim. The humans are coming, and she and her owl will soon be in the line of fire. Her once-vibrant city is a ghost town, with little to distract her as she waits for the skin-covered hordes to overrun the Maer capital. Until one day, this timid little artificer wanders into the aerie, asking to watch her owl land over and over. Uffrin makes owls powered by clockwork and magic to guard the great automatons...

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Guest Review: Tears of the Maelstrom by Timothy Wolff

By Bill Adams Summary: With Vaynex on the brink of civil war, Tempest Claw struggles for peace among his people, many of whom seek vengeance for their lost deity. As the recession grows deeper, one thing remains clear: Tempest will either find common ground with his brethren, or a tomb buried within the sand. Serenna Morgan struggles in her new role as Guardian leader. With insufficient time to mend the emotional scars from the last Harbinger, she must prepare a scattered team to defend the realm from old enemies reemerging in the South, along with a new divine nemesis scheming...

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Platinum Tinted Darkness by Timothy Wolff

Summary The Kingdom of Boulom has been lost. The realms have already seen what happens when the Gods and their Harbingers are unchecked. Destruction. Chaos. Death. The Gods can’t be trusted. No one knows that better than David Williams, the Leader of the Guardians tasked to protect the Realm from the Gods and their powerful Harbingers ever since the fall of Boulom. Six Guardians take their pledge to leave the disputes of the kingdoms behind and live only to stop the Harbingers and protect the Realms from the Gods. Serenna Morgan, a famed Crystal Mage and Guardian struggles with the...

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