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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel | Thoughts

   Published : 2021   ||    Format : print   ||    Location : Colombia ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   What was it about the country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were four different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.. Thoughts : Infinite Country follows two characters - young Talia, who at the beginning of this book, escapes a girl’s reform school in North Colombia so that she can make her previously booked flight to the US. Before she can do that, she needs to travel many miles to reach her father and get her ticket to the rest of her family. As we follow Talia’s treacherous journey south, we learn about how she ended up in the reform school in the first place and why half her family resides in the US. Infinite Country tells the story of her family through the other protagonist, El

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin | Thoughts

Published: 2015   ||   Format: ebook   ||   Location: A different Earth

One line summary: When the world is ending, what is more important - survival or revenge? If you are Essun, your answer may be revenge, but in her search for it, she has to figure out how to survive as well.

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Home is what you take with you, not what you leave behind.


I must have had this book on my Kindle ever since it was released. There was a lot of hype then and although I always enjoy epic fantasy series, I don’t read them often enough due to having to wait for the next book (in the case of ongoing series) or not being sure if the series is for me (even though I know I don't need to read the rest of the series, it still feels like a commitment). This quarter, one of my online book clubs is reading N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth Trilogy. I decided it was finally time to read the books. 

First of all, trigger warnings - there is a lot about child abuse, endangerment, and murder in here. Had I known beforehand, I doubt I would have read the book. Ultimately I am glad I read it but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel disturbed by the tragedies.

The Fifth Season tells the story through the eyes of three protagonists - a girl named Damaya, a young woman named Syenite, and a middle-aged mother of two, Essun. The book starts with Essun’s story (in second person). Essun’s daughter is missing and her son has been murdered by her husband. I guess I could have stopped reading at that meeting (see re: trigger note above). Actually I did when I started the book two months ago, and it took me several weeks before I could steel myself to read the rest. It turns out Essun is what this world calls an orogene - they can draw power from a warm entity (the earth or other humans if they are looking to kill) and they can use that power to cause or stop earthquakes, volcanoes, or other geographical calamities. Clearly this is a lot of power which can be used for good but has also been used for bad and hence, orogenes are shunned in most societies. They also are expected to always be accompanied by a guardian (someone who knows how to control orogenes and prevent them from using their power).

When we meet Damaya, her mother had just discovered that she was an orogene and had summoned a guardian to take her away. That meeting between Damaya and her guardian reveals a lot about the balance of power between their kinds. Syenite is a four-ringed orogene (depending on their education and skills, they can get up to ten rings) who has just been paired with another orogene, Alabaster, to err... copulate and make babies. This did feel extremely weird to read about but it was written with so much clinical rationalization that it was quick to accept. They depart almost immediately on a mission which changes the path of their lives drastically.

There is so much more that happens here. As an epic fantasy, this book delivers. There is magic, there is a cost to the magic, there are good and bad people, there is tragedy. There is also enough diversity to feel epic. For instance, other than orogenes, guardians, and regular humans, there are even more powerful beings called stone-eaters, one of whom is Essun's companion as she leaves town searching for her husband. 

It is initially clear from reading the three stories that the three protagonists belong in different eras. Essun's is undergoing a Season - which is a period when the earth is undergoing a life-altering event (similar to ice age or plagues) - and everyone is focused on one thing - survival. Some seem to know that this Season could last several millenia and for a Season that long, humanity could go extinct long before the Season ends. And although Essun is searching for her husband (to kill him), she is also trying to survive the disaster that the earth is going through. To say more would be to spoil the story lines but I will say that when more is revealed about the three protagonists, I was wowed.

I haven't started the second book yet so I don't know how the story progresses. But I have it available from the library and hope to start it after my current read.

What is your favorite epic series (fantasy or otherwise)?