One day I was trolling the internet looking for inspiration for a blog post when I came across Jemisin’s own blog. The particular post that I had read discussed why Jemisin chose to split Essun’s story into three seemingly different stories. Basically, Essun needed to jump the “empathy gap”, as Jemisin describes, and including stories from her childhood and young adulthood made the book overall more interesting.
I feel like The Fifth Season, though confusing for the first sixty pages or so, was interesting immediately off the bat. I rarely find novels written in the second person and when I do they are usually not well done, in the sense that I feel like the book is accusing me of doing something. The feeling that I got from TFS was that I was going to be taken on a journey that definitely is not going to end well, but too rusting bad.
I related to Essun and her tenacity for survival and love for her children in this apocalyptic world. Not that I’m in any situation nearly close to hers, I think the connection is more holding on to something, even when the world seems so bleak. I also really liked that Essun was a strong female character who refuses to be apologetic to those around her. She has a quiet presence about her that says that she is going to do what she wants and she does not care what you have to say about it. Although I love Essun, she is also actually the worst. She has so much experience by the time we get to her that she should not be making the same mistakes as she had earlier in her life over and over again. She gets to points where she feels safe and lets her guard down for a minute, and gets screwed over. Example: The Fulcrum. At the Fulcrum she accepts her place there, has a semblance of feeling safe but she is constantly being watched and tested and the minute she slips up she is done for. Another example: Meov. She felt safe, went out on a pillaging mission, could not control herself and gets everyone, except Alabaster, killed. Essun can be a very frustrating character at times, but I still love her.
This is not to say that I don’t like Damaya or Syenite. Damaya had that lovely innocence about her despite the abuse she received from her parents and various members of the Fulcrum. Damaya learned quickly and was not super naive for her age set. Syenite was probably the most frustrating for me while reading TFS. She was bold and snarky, but she was also just a pawn in the system. To me, she was more naive than Damaya and more frustrating than Essun. The only part of Syenite’s story that redeemed it for me was the fact that she had Alabaster. Alabaster was a good relief from the character that was Syenite in the way that they balanced each other out throughout TFS.