THE BROKEN EARTH TRILOGY BOOKS IN ORDER:
Book One in The Broken Earth Trilogy
This is the way the world ends…for the last time. A season of endings has begun. 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.
Book Two in The Broken Earth Trilogy
Book Three in The Broken Earth Trilogy
GET STARTED WITH THE FIFTH SEASON SYNOPSIS
By Liberty Hardy
I have complex feelings about trilogies. They are tricky things. With many, many series, the first book is amazing and has everyone clamoring for the second. But the second book often ends up just being filler—it just serves the purpose of moving the story toward its conclusion in the third book. But often the third book fails to stick the landing, disappointing readers who invested in the first two books.
But, holy cats, that is not the case with N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy! The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky are all astounding, each of them a complete marvel. And like LeVar Burton said on Reading Rainbow, “you don’t have to take my word for it.” Each book in the trilogy won the Hugo Award for Fiction, making Jemisin the first African American writer to win in that category, the first writer to win three years in a row, and also the first writer to win for all three books in a trilogy. That’s a lot of firsts! And the third book, The Stone Sky, also won the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novel. I told you, they’re incredible!
Jemisin was by no means an unknown author when the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy came out. She had several fantastic short stories out in the world. And her first novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, was published to wide acclaim in 2010, garnering tons of nominations and winning a few awards, including the 2011 Locus Award for Best First Novel. It is the first novel in the Inheritance trilogy, which is itself wonderful, but I think the Broken Earth trilogy is even more amazing. I find the Broken Earth trilogy to be brilliant but still very accessible, which is great for people who are looking for a jumping-off point into Jemisin’s oeuvre, or may be new to science fiction and need something compelling and not daunting for their first read.
Now that I have your complete attention, let me tell you about The Fifth Season, the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy! As I mentioned, all three books are great, but wouldn’t it be cool for me to tell you much about the second and third ones since that would effectively spoil the first. So here we go!
Stillness is a supercontinent made up of many races and species. Every few centuries, the inhabitants of Stillness experience what they call a Fifth Season: an episode of catastrophic climate change. In Stillness live a people call the Orogenes, who possess the power to control energy. They can prevent earthquakes and manipulate temperatures. For this reason, the orogenes are misunderstood, feared, and often murdered. For this reason, they must hide their powers from the rest of the land.
In the prologue of The Fifth Season, an exceptionally powerful orogene, angry at the treatment of his people, fractures the continent of Stillness, which is sure to bring about the worst Fifth Season in history. The novel proceeds to follow three female Orogenes across the Stillness from different time periods.
The main orogene story follows Essun, a middle-aged orogene woman who must hide her background to keep from being killed like the orogene before her. When her husband discovers their son has orogene-like abilities, he murders him and leaves with their daughter. As ominous signs of climate turmoil roll down from the north, Essun flees her town and sets off on a journey south to find her daughter, where she befriends a young stone eater and a lone traveler, and together they find a hidden underground community.
And that’s just the tip of the (melting) iceberg! Jemisin’s world-building is top notch. Stillness is a wildly imaginative, fully fleshed-out land. And even though it is science fiction, there are so many parallels to Earth. Jemisin cleverly uses this trilogy to point out our own world’s problems with racial and religious intolerance, and the calamitous environmental issues our own planet is facing. But part of the magic of this trilogy is that it never feels preachy or obvious. Like all the best science fiction, she teaches empathy through imagination. (Also, as I am writing this, it feels surreal to realize that we too are sitting on a planet at this very minute. Science!)
I envy people who are picking up The Fifth Season for the first time. Not only because you don’t have to wait for the second and third books to come out to find out what happens next, but because it is such a thrilling experience to immerse yourself in this epic story full of adventure and so much heart. It is easy to see why Jemisin received so many honors for the Broken Earth trilogy. It is an instant classic, sure to be loved by generations to come. I hope you will consider picking it up and adding your name to the long list of people who loved it.
Liberty Hardy is a Book Riot contributor, co-host of All the Books, a Book of the Month judge, and above all else, a ravenous reader. She resides in Maine with her cats, Steinbeck and Millay. You can see pictures of her cats and book hauls on Twitter @MissLiberty and Instagram @franzencomesalive.
About N. K. Jemisin
N. K. Jemisin is a Brooklyn author who won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel for The Fifth Season, the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel for The Obelisk Gate, and the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novel for The Stone Sky. She previously won the Locus Award for her first novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and her short fiction and novels have been nominated multiple times for Hugo, World Fantasy, Nebula, and RT Reviewers’ Choice awards, and shortlisted for the Crawford and the James Tiptree, Jr. awards. She is a science fiction and fantasy reviewer for the New York Times, and you can find her online at nkjemisin.com.