N. K. Jemisin’s award winning series, The Broken Earth, became the first ever series where every book in the series won a Hugo award in 2018 with the release of The Stone Sky. I don’t know what else can indicate the incredible caliber of these books, but I will do my best to share my enthusiasm for the series through this review.
The Broken Earth is a fantasy trilogy set in a world that regularly suffers through events on the world ending scale. These events are called Fifth Seasons, where the environment becomes incredibly harsh and survival is almost impossible on your own. As if that doesn’t sound interesting enough, there are also people in The Broken Earth who have incredible sensitivity to seismic activity and can control the motion of the earth. The magic used in this series was so interesting, especially since you are largely left to figure it out as the story progresses and the world building is not spoon fed to you.
★★★★★ ★★★★☆ ★★★★☆
That is something important to note with this series. If you are not all that enthralled by large exposition dumps in your speculative fiction, if you find hard magic systems too restrictive or you just want to dive into a fantasy series where the mechanics of the world are a mystery waiting to be solved then this series is the series for you. When this series is recommended I always see people advising to stick with it as it can be difficult in the beginning, but I want to spin that narrative on its head a little. This series heavily rewards the reader who takes up the challenge of going in with little knowledge. It is so worth any confusion you may feel.
Another aspect discussed a lot with regards to this series is the choice to tell the story through second person narrative. It is often mentioned that this choice is very clever and really elevates the delivery of the plot. Our second person narrator is Essun, who is embarks on a journey at the beginning of the book to search for something she has lost. Our other two points of view are told in third person: Syenite, a young woman being trained in her art to control the seismic movements of the earth and Damaya, who is just coming into her powers. We jump between these points of view throughout the first book. While in some series I find you have favourite characters to read from I found that I was dying to get back to all of our main characters and really enjoyed each one.
The second book is my favourite book out of the trilogy. I had really found my footing in the world and could take my time to just enjoy the characters. Not to imply that the books don’t have a lot of plot; on the contrary for only 300 pages each book packed in a ton of plot to keep me engaged throughout. I don’t want to give any further information about the plot because a lot of the enjoyment of this first book is discovering how these story lines unfold.
I highly recommend listening to this series on audio book if you are the type of reader who enjoys listening to their books. Second person point of view was a difficult adjustment to make as a reader who primarily reads third person, so the audio book removed all of the resistance to this narrative. I also thought the narration was a highly emotive performance which made me engage with the story so much more. All of the characters in this book go through intense emotional journeys so the audio performance really enhanced how closely my own emotions were tied to the story.
For the series overall, I would give the trilogy 4.5/5 stars and consider it to be one of my favourites.