The best way to learn the craft of writing is to study the best of the best! Join us for our first critical reading episode where we take a look at the Hugo Award winning novel the Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. We take a look at what this story does right... and what had us scratching our heads.
Warning: there are spoilers if you haven't read the book!
Do you agree on our assessment of the book's strength and weaknesses? Leave messages in the comments or join the discussion thread in the Am Writing Fantasy Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AmWritingFantasy/!
And don't forget to signup for the Fantasy Map Masterclass to be held October 28. Register at https://ultimatefantasywritersguide.com/fantasy-map-masterclass/.
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Read the full transcript below. (Please note that it's automatically generated and while the AI is super cool, it isn't perfect. There may be misspellings or incorrect words on occasion).
Narrator (1s): You're listening to The Am writing Fantasy Podcast in today's publishing landscape, you can reach fans all over the world. Query letters are a thing of the past. You don't even need an literary agent. There is nothing standing in the way of making a living from writing. Join two best selling authors who have self published more than 20 books between them now on to the show with your hosts, Autumn Birt and Jesper Schmidt.
Jesper (30s): Hello. I'm Jesper.
Autumn (31s): And I'm Autumn
Jesper (33s): This is episode 147 of the Am Writing Fantasy podcast. And we've finally arrived at our new initiative. So once a month, we are reading a high profile fantasy book, and then we record an podcast episode about it. So this is our Critical Reading of the Fifth Season by NK Jemisin. Yes, I am looking forward to getting into the nitty gritty because I admit some of the aspects of this one or what kind of gave me the idea for the Critical Reading group when we were first talking about it. I also don't know if our listeners will be surprised at our, I think we both have a very similar takeaway from this book, but the Le there's some aspects of this one that are like, oh, that is so different.
Jesper (1m 22s): It's amazing. I see why I want to Hugo for this is such a cool book and there's other aspects that well we'll get there all the way. Yes. You're already teasing it. Yeah. Yeah. Well, we got make people want to listen to like the heart of this line, which they should be excited. Yeah, I think it's, I think it's going to be an interesting conversation. And of course the, the idea is also here to see if we can try to draw out some things to learn in terms of either D these are good ideas or this kind of stuff you should probably avoid, you know, that kind of thing is what we're trying to draw out of the Critical Reading.
Jesper (2m 3s): Exactly. And we'll, we'll get to it, but it's all matter of opinion, obviously. So yes, you can disagree with us. That's okay. It's just our opinions, but yeah, we'll, we'll get to, it sounds good. Well, if we're going to get to it, how are things going for you over in Denmark? Yeah. Well, I don't think I have wage that much to share this week. I'm just attempting to finish up the first draft of book two in our new series. So a couple of chapters to go and maybe I will be done by Friday. I hope don't tell me that. That that's my, well, you should be happy about that or very happy, but I was hoping to finish the edits on book one, which always seemed to be getting pushed back ever so slightly.
Jesper (2m 50s): I'm so close. Maybe, maybe the end of next week, but you're going to beat me on the book too. I will catch up eventually.
Autumn (3m 1s): Yeah. Yeah. So I, I don't think I have that much other to share this week. It's just been, you know, what do you call it? Like a head in the sand? No, not head in the sand. That's not good, but in the trailer, how do you say
Jesper (3m 15s): Clouds? How did the clouds?
Autumn (3m 19s): That was not what I was looking for, but nevertheless, I know, I know you were at some FANTASY con or something or
Jesper (3m 25s): Yes, I went to a Vermont fantasy and sci-fi con up in Burlington and that was a lot of fun. I was there, there, it was definitely, I think, more, more than 50% Saifai but at the same time, it was so much fun. You would have, I thought of you several times because they had a R2D2 that was like truly moving. You could have mistaken it for the from the movies and the guy who could control it was so good. Like he didn't have to look down at the remote and the remote was so small. You didn't even really notice who was responsible. And this little thing would come up to your booth would be talking to you. And you're like, this is awesome.
Jesper (4m 7s): And there was like Ghostbusters, there was a gorgeous Ghostbusters car and some plasma things. But one of the coolest things is definitely the star wars. And there was a lead the 501st Legion for the stormtroopers. So representatives there. And so there's these guys walking around and for full storm trooper armor. And the coolest thing is that they had to go upstairs to the conference room and I happened to be up there and I look out and I see one in the hallway and I'm pointing out to my husband. He ran out there and got a picture just as the elevator doors were closing. It looks so star wars. I'm like, that is the best picture ever.
Jesper (4m 47s): So that one framed, it's just always, we're going to take a picture of a storm trooper. It should be in an elevator. It's just so cool.
Autumn (4m 57s): I've always loved those uniforms. To be honest, I think I always also in the movies, you know, when it seems like they just look so cool. And, and sometimes I feel like it's a shame that they had just like Canon father in the movies, just don't troopers because they look so cool.
Jesper (5m 11s): They look so cool. It's a very cool armor. And I was actually, I mean, I've been part of the SCA, the society for creative anachronism. I used to do that back in my twenties. And so I really enjoy that, but I didn't know there was a 501st Legion of storm troopers. I'm like, dude, you can go and dress up and be a storm trooper. That is cool.
Autumn (5m 38s): Yeah. Well, I would rather be the Sith Lord, to be honest,
Jesper (5m 42s): Probably I would want to go in as a Jedi master, but I do come from a FANTASY background. I think any Fantasy author should automatically get to be a Jedi or Sith master just it's in our resume.
Autumn (5m 56s): See you, you pick the good guys and I automatically pick the bad guys. I don't know what the tails,
Jesper (6m 3s): Well, we have to bounce each other's out. It's the force there's balance.
Autumn (6m 8s): Oh, okay. Okay. Fair enough.
Narrator (6m 12s): A week on the internet with The Am Writing Fantasy Podcast.
Autumn (6m 18s): One last reminder here on the 28th of October, we are having our very first ever virtual Masterclass.
Jesper (6m 28s): I can't wait. It's a Maps. I love fantasy maps.
Autumn (6m 33s): Fantasy Maps. Yes. And if you can't make it in person, there will be a recording made available for you as well. So I don't know, I'm looking so much forward to just geeking out for an hour about fantasy maps. This is going to be so awesome.
Jesper (6m 48s): It'll be almost better to on, so yeah, it'll be fantastic.
Autumn (6m 54s): Yeah. We'll have a lot of fun and I will share some thoughts on map-making that you might not have considered before. So whether you want to learn something or if you just want to, well, kick out with us, we hope that you will join the Masterclass. It is a very inexpensive and it is conducted online. So you don't need to leave your house or anything like that to attend.
Jesper (7m 18s): And the fact it's actually a really good deal. It's not only is it expensive, but it's a two for one, you get a second invitation to a second Masterclass as you have to be scheduled. So it's a two for one deal. It's a really good deal. Yeah.
Autumn (7m 34s): Yeah. So there's a link in the show notes and you can find the registration page from there and yeah, we really hope to see you otherwise it'll just be you and me Autumm and I think talking, we can talk to ourselves about map-making, but it might be slightly boring.
Jesper (7m 52s): Never boring.
Autumn (7m 54s): That's true. That's true.
Narrator (7m 59s): And onto today's topic.
Autumn (8m 3s): Okay. So while we're doing, while we're doing Critical Reading here today, we, I think we better start out by saying that the purpose here is to learn from the books that we read, not to bast them or claim that anything is wrong with these books. Well, with this book in this case, and we should also say that the fifth season is a very popular book. It was awarded by the Hugo award for best novel in 2016. And this means that there's a lot of people loving this novel. So everything we say is personal opinions, and we fully understand that some people will disagree with that.
Autumn (8m 42s): And that's okay.
Jesper (8m 44s): Yes, exactly. And actually, I didn't realize this, but it's also has won the Sputnik award. It was nominated for Nebula award and it's a world FANTASY award best novel. This, this is a highly acclaimed story. So I think it'll be really interesting to look at it, but it's definitely that's. We want to learn why this is so popular and it's okay to, you know, find things that you don't like about it, but that's why it's a learning experience to find maybe the core features that you love and then, you know, learn from those and maybe learn what you want to stay away from. If you, especially, if people are leaving reviews or comments that you agree with and you can say, well, then I, there are readers who don't want that as well.
Jesper (9m 29s): That's great.
Autumn (9m 30s): And we gave plenty of warning as well, leading up to this episode that we were going to do this Critical Reading. So we are not going to be careful about spoiling anything here. So if you haven't read the book and you want to, I suggested you turn off the podcast now and then come back to listen to the rest. Once you have done the reading part. So yeah, I might say, oh, I think I will definitely say some sports.
Jesper (9m 57s): Yes, I will. Definitely too. And I had written down the exact same thing on my notes for today that spoilers will fall low this. So if you are still reading and haven't finished or plan on reading it, we're going to ruin the book for you. So stop now and go read the, finish the book and then come back and listen and see if you agree.
Autumn (10m 17s): Yeah, I think that's a good idea. So I try to divide sort of my notes into some headlines. So I have a headline called plodding, one called magic and one cold world-building and then I have a bunch of stuff underneath each headed air. So I don't know if we just want to start out with a plotting on and then go from there or do you have a different preferences?
Jesper (10m 41s): That sounds fine though. I wanted to start with maybe a quick explanation of what the fifth season is. I don't want to do a whole blurb and Sabine Opsis, you know, we're hoping you read the book, so, you know, what's about, but just to set the stage, the fifth season is, you know, we have our summer spring, winter fall. Well, the fifth season kind of lends its name to a world ending event, like a cataclysm, a major earthquake, something that is going to destroy civilization. So it doesn't come every year, but when it comes, it's known as the fifth season. So it's actually a very ominous title once you realize that
Autumn (11m 15s): It is definitely so, yes. Okay. So we'll assume people have read it or otherwise go and check the book description on Amazon and UK. You can see what it's about. So should I just get started on the plotting stuff and then we can see where it takes us.
Jesper (11m 35s): Maybe we should start almost with the way we would write books and we should start with the world building.
Autumn (11m 41s): Okay, fair enough. We can do that. Okay. So I can start out with my first point here. It's, it's a bit of a long one, but let me try to get through it. So first of all, this is from a wealth building perspective. It's incredibly complex with all, like, there was all this seismic activity that is impacting on society and we have slaves, we have outcasts. And to some extent, this book is also about people dealing with being controlled and abused and having a total totalitarian regime.
Autumn (12m 21s): And while I, well, I do enjoy the exploration of these sort of horrible things that people are willing to do to each other, as soon as they don't see the other person as a human being anymore, but I'm still wanting it to be more personal. You know, I have to sort of mention, I don't know if it's directly world-building building, but it's in here in my notes. But in this context, I have to mention that the second person present tense that the NKG Emerson uses it's, it's probably the reason why the book won the Hugo war, to be honest, because it's different and it is very well done.
Autumn (13m 4s): I mean, don't get me wrong. She pulled it off very, very skillfully. However, none of that changes how it really puts me off. I just cannot get into the story and the characters. I don't know how you feel about that. Autumn.
Jesper (13m 20s): I agree. I had a very hard time relating to the characters, especially the main character, which we can get to later. But again, we're not giving anything away, but I wasn't sure if we were not supposed to realize that the older woman, the middle age, you know, the, the motherish woman and the child were the same person. But I mean, as soon as we switched between the two, I knew instantly that the little girl was the same as the older woman who had just lost her son who was the same as the mother. I don't know if it's because we write in a fantasy and it's like, well, duh, or, you know, the idea of the goddess, who's the, the may, the mother of the crone. I mean, it's, it was just so obvious.
Jesper (14m 1s): And so I knew the whole time that this is going to be the same person and I still never related to her. But to go on your comment of the second person, I agree. That's what makes this story literary Fantasy is that it switches between a third poison person, point of view, to a second person present tense. And it's amazing that it's done. And it, I didn't notice it as fast as some people who have left comments on what they thought of the story as they read along for today's podcast. So I, it literally, I think I was about a quarter of the way through the book. And I was like, oh, this is a total, this isn't, this is using you. And this is using present tense.
Jesper (14m 41s): And this is not what was in this previous chapter. But I will say as a literary story, I think it was done very purposefully because the chapters where the second person is used are the ones where the character has just lost her son. And she goes into shock and doesn't recover for days. And she doesn't really recover for the entire course of the novel because that point of view is always in second person. She is disassociated from herself and her emotions and it works so well. The use of you makes it feel like you're separate from this character, especially compared to the chapters where it's third person.
Jesper (15m 25s): And so I think in that way, it works great, but I never bonded with her because this is the adult version. This is the present version of who she is. And all the other ones are memories, which their past tense makes sense, brilliant Writing, but for character, you know, wanting to hear more about this character, I told you I can share it later, but I have a quote who basically her, I grabbed the review and her title to the review are my feelings for this book are complicated leading towards negative. And I'm like, oh, that's I could have written this one. And she too mentions that she couldn't bond with the main character.
Autumn (16m 8s): No. And I agree with what you said, because I, I also think that the chose to point of view on purpose to exactly do what you sat there like to, to give you the sense that the character is this issue, this issue associated, I can't even say that now on to tie it, but, but that's definitely the purpose of it. And it works for sure, but at the same time, you know, if you're looking at it from a emotion, emotion perspective, like you want to get in the body of the character, you want to see and feel with them as they go through the story and getting Merced inside the setting and in their lives and all that good stuff.
Autumn (16m 49s): Like that's what I enjoy when reading to just disappear into this sort of fantasy world and go with the characters. And that's what you get with the deep point of view. We talked about that in a previous episode as well, but that is what kept, keeps me fully engaged. And it just doesn't happen here because as a reader, I'm also distanced from it because of the second person. And I feel like that's a real shame. And I think Stephen from patron, he also said something that I really felt like was true because he said like, quote, the point of views were a stumbling block for me at first.
Autumn (17m 30s): But I read on thanks to you guys with a critical eye so that I could see what made this book tick. And then it hit me the pros, the writing style. It was so lyrical and almost poetic in places. And I think that that hits it home for me because I fully agree. That's also how I see it. It is not, it is more lyrical and poetic than it is storytelling in many places. And for those who love that, then that's great. But I, I, I just can't get into the character and the story you, I just feel almost like I don't care. Yeah.
Jesper (18m 6s): And that it is a shame. It is a shame for a book that is, I think, has such potential because the world is really interesting and it sort of relates to what you just said about the lyrical writing. To me, the, I saw it more like poetry, but minimalize, the world is a very harsh world. The book has some really harsh themes things that I don't usually like to think about when I'm reading Fantasy, it's, it's dark, dark Fantasy to me. And the magic is also hard. It's hard. It is basically earth magic. And so you have this hard world it's described very harshly. The language to me is very bare at times, fractured very punctuated.
Jesper (18m 49s): It reminds me very much of geology and earth and different types of rock and layers. So it's like this whole thing is designed to be this hard surface as Rocky surface that can, at times it pokes you in it's painful. And that is just as a writer, as someone studying Writing, I'm like, oh my gosh, I want to read this in, you know, a college class. And I would have to break it down and discuss it. But as a reader, I'm like, I didn't bond. I didn't feel it. I didn't buy book two because I didn't have that, you know, warm gooeyness of, oh my God, I love this book. It was more like, I can appreciate this on a literary sense in a scene.
Jesper (19m 30s): And I see, well, it was done kudos to you and yeah, good. Don't need to write like that. Thanks.
Autumn (19m 39s): No, I agree. And I think I read somewhere that NKG, Amazon didn't intend for the setting to represent our world. And it's like future destruction. I could be wrong about that, but I think I read that somewhere, but one of the characters do call it earth. So there is that, but I sort of quite like the reflections on real life here, you know, whatever, whether the author intended it to be so not, I don't know, but, but I think it is pretty cool to think about, you know, from a climate perspective in a real world and so on. And yeah, I mean, it, it gives sort of the real world angle on thing.
Autumn (20m 20s): And I guess that's the kind of thing that also gets awards, right? Because there's more to it than just a story.
Jesper (20m 26s): Yes. Especially the end. You know, the last thing that alabaster the one character mentioned is have you ever heard of a moon and this planet that they're on, it's a supercontinent now. So it's like Pangea, but it's called the stillness. And so it's this fast continent and it doesn't have a moon. And suddenly, you know, the last phrase like mentions a moon. So is this future earth that has been torn apart with earthquakes and all this fracturing going on. It's very interesting. And I, over on world building too, I do the previous cultures that are there. They call them the dead sieves. So you see all these ruins of previous cultures and some of them sounded so technologically advanced and there's parts of the book where there's a lot of description and then there's like a dead sieve in the distance.
Jesper (21m 15s): And I'm like, I want to know more about the ruined cities. I would have been like hard hat on. I am going to go check it out, but they're basically the culture is, oh, we don't go there. They failed. Screw them. Like, no, I love history. I want to know why they failed. Can't you learn from previous lessons and become something better and not just wipe the canvas clean and start over and fail again. So there was that element too, where maybe it is describing our current world where we're not learning from past mistakes and past things and we're repeating ourselves and this just kind of does it with civilizations.
Autumn (21m 53s): Yeah. That makes sense. To me, at least, I don't know if that is the intention, but, but it, it makes sense that it's a commentary on the real world. I feel like, but I don't know. It asks a bit more depth to it, which I actually quite like.
Jesper (22m 10s): Yes. And I was definitely teased by the floating obelisks pyramids. I forget how they're described. They have a couple of different ones, but these floating blocks of stone. And I couldn't believe that the, again, that there was very little curiosity about what they were, except for alabaster, trying to figure it out. And a young girl on the cell, in the girls viewpoint. And I get days, I can't remember her name, but her, when she's a child and she's at fulcrum learning to become, I can't even pronounce it. Origin, NIST origin is what they call their magic system.
Autumn (22m 50s): I shouldn't going to
Jesper (22m 50s): Try. And I had to look up how to say it because it is a world real world. And so I looked up and so there's this girl, and she's curious, but it's like two people in the entire book are curious about these giant floating things in the sky that are made out of stone. And again, I find it, I find the lack of curiosity, which is something that is true for the whole book and especially the main character. She's never curious. And that's sort of against who I am as a person. I thrive off of going to know what things, you know, why things are this way. And so I really think that did not help me relate to the book because there's not a single character who was like, well, why does this happen?
Jesper (23m 33s): What happened here? They don't care.
Autumn (23m 38s): Yeah. And, and the other aspect of what you're saying, I feel like is, is I don't feel like there's enough at stake for the protagonist. I mean, yes, she is searching for her daughter, but the rest of what happens, like you're talking about the obelisk and all this kind of thing, all of that is sort of dealt with because, well, it's my job. So I'm dealing with it, but it's not, I mean, I just can't help by questioning here. If we, if we're trying to learn from it, what would have happened if the author had found a way to link all of this stuff around the obelisk and all that other stuff closer to the life of the character so that it make a personal difference for the character, whether she dealt with it or not, instead of just I'm taking care of my job, I just feel like that would be a lot more interesting.
Autumn (24m 26s): Yeah.
Jesper (24m 26s): Yes. I feel like the entire plot, what you have, you said you have a whole section on the plot. I feel like the whole plot revolved around the search, the present search for her daughter, and then the, how she got to where she is now, which is the two past point of views where there was some really cool stuff. Like, you know, the one time, the first time she bonds with an obelisk and a volcano erupts. And I'm still not sure if that was her, the obelisk or alabaster somehow making this volcano up here. And I thought, oh, this is going to start connecting with her. And immediately the next part, she doesn't even really ever think about them again.
Jesper (25m 7s): And then when she moves on with the present tense where she has been a wife and a mother in this new new town, and it begins with her losing her son, she's never even wondered about, again, anything that obelisk the things that I thought like, oh, you've connected with an obelisk and it's an alien intelligence and it was talking to you. Okay. Not mentioned for the next 50 chapters. I was like, oh, I want to know more about that.
Autumn (25m 34s): Yeah. Yeah. I, I do have some issues then. And I thought as well, if I just say infidel student, know what I'm thinking about, autumn,
Jesper (25m 46s): I think they hit you worse, especially cause you're listening. And I think maybe I just kind of skimmed them and didn't realize it was skimming them. But you said that there were more and I realized,
Autumn (25m 59s): Well, at least it feels like that to me. I mean maybe, maybe it's just me, but I was listening to the audio book version Al and I, and can I just say, if you haven't, you know, listeners, if you want to check this book out, then Narrator for the audio book is freaking amazing. She does such a good job at narrating this book. So that's definitely worth it. I can highly recommend the, that this narrator she's so good at it, but, but that's, I digress what I want men was just that I noticed in several places, how well, maybe you don't notice it so much when reading and I'm speculating here, but, but because of the very lyrical language, she's so good at writing that maybe you don't really notice that much, but there are quite a lot of info dumps in my view where you just get like a whole section about something that happened like in the older days or blah, blah, blah, something it's like.
Autumn (26m 57s): Hmm. Yeah. Okay. But, but if, if it was, if I read it in a book and maybe if, if it was maybe well less written, I could put it like that, then I would just feel like, well, put all of this conversation between characters or something so that I can, I get the, as part of the action of what's happening or characters talking about it and shared that way, because it feels like sometimes there's just a whole sections about old history stuff. And it's like, okay, I guess I don't, I don't know. Yeah.
Jesper (27m 32s): One of the reviews mentioned that if they had to read another description of meeting someone on the road and what they were wearing and what their hair color was that she would go and how you knew which part of the continent they were from based on these things, that it just seemed too repetitive. And you know, I, again, I didn't really quite notice that, except I know sometimes I, I would, again, probably just skim ahead a little bit, be like, okay, that's nice. You know, I, I don't need to know all the details. So again, I don't mean to be pointing out the flaws, but I think we're just, we're pointing out the difference between what's literary Fantasy and what is normal, like dark fantasy, what we expect in the two genres. And this is literally sold as literary slash epic slash science fiction.
Jesper (28m 15s): So it's, it's a weird mishmash where I think it fits better actually with literary Fantasy than it does with dark fantasy.
Autumn (28m 26s): Yeah, I do too, because I mean, as I hinted at just a moment, a Gomez, the writing is exceptionally well done. I mean, she writes really, really beautiful. I have nothing to say against that. It's it's amazing.
Jesper (28m 39s): And the world is like you said, it's,
Autumn (28m 44s): But yeah, that's what I mean, if that's what you're there for, then it's great. Right. But if you're there for more, like what I guess I could call commercial fiction, you meaning you're there to enjoy a story and so on, then this is not it.
Jesper (29m 0s): And I think part of that part is also the not bonding and the plot feeling sort of flat that, you know, all these potential side plot plots could have happened, but they don't because one, the reader, the character is not curious, but it's also the character. What kind of character arc would you call this? I'm thinking it's either a fail or a flat arc. And because she never learned, she never grows. She's not curious at all. She doesn't change. Plot is kind of static.
Autumn (29m 34s): Yeah. Yeah. I'm going to come back to that a bit when I talk about the ending, but I'll save that for a moment, but I did have another comment from, from Steven on Patrion as a last comment, I have at least on my list when it comes to world building, because I think he might have a good point here, but I'm curious what you think Autumm. So he's asked quote, the one aspect of the world building that I didn't care for is that she made up many curse words like rust and rusting. And yet she still used several modern curse words. This is probably nitty nit-picky, but if you make up your own own course words, that fit the culture of your story.
Autumn (30m 16s): Why use modern carbon curse words too? So I think he has a point. Does New York, Adam,
Jesper (30m 22s): I think he does. I don't know if I would have no, I don't. Can't say I super noticed it. I, I noticed like when she was using rusting and stuff. Yeah. I really, I just, I liked the ones that she made up. Cause again, it fits the world. It fits the culture of, you know, very like metal is not considered safe because it, rusts rust is a bad thing. It's leads to dead sieves, but I don't think I noticed too many modern words and what they were. And so, yeah, I think as a, you know, I would think I would appreciate them more if she, if she had stuck left them in the world that she was, especially if this was not supposed to be a future earth where people are still saying F this.
Jesper (31m 4s): So
Autumn (31m 6s): Yeah, I get the point that Steven is making to be honest, but at the same time, I must admit sometimes you can just put in the effort. I mean, I know there is a lot of debates. I've seen it in many times being debated whether or not there should be an F-word in a fantasy novel personally, I don't have any problem with it, but yeah, I don't know. I still get the argument.
Jesper (31m 30s): I I've used it because it fit, it was actually set in modern day earth. But yeah, I've been, as long as it's not aimed targeted at kids, I don't have a problem with using some of our language because you they're already speaking English. So why wouldn't they have some of the same swear words? I mean, at that point, why are you not making up all the names? Why aren't you doing this? Why aren't you making a Calvary word? Just let's keep it simple.
Autumn (31m 58s): Yeah, yeah, indeed. Yeah. So that was sort of my notes on the world building parts. And if I just go into, let's say, well, we talked about a lot of the plotting stuff already, but what I did want to mention as well, something very positive because I really like how we are following three women. It's the same person, of course, but essentially there's three women here in different ages, but I really liked that because I just don't think that there is enough fiction out there with female protagonists, to be honest.
Autumn (32m 40s): And I really liked that. Yes,
Jesper (32m 42s): I actually, it would be, it was funny being female. I didn't even think about it, but you're right. It was nice to have that and have that point of view. And also she was a very capable and determined woman. In many ways she could take care of business. She knew what she was doing. She had when she was younger, she was pushed around a little bit. But she overcame that, I guess, about the only growing she does do.
Autumn (33m 6s): Yeah, I agree. The thing is though, as you said before, it's just too easy to guess that it's the same person. I, I also guessed it almost immediately. So, but, but at least, I mean, if we disregard the fact that maybe some people didn't get it, I don't know. But if we disregard that for a second, the fact that there is a plot twist or surprise in the story, which if you didn't guess it is, it is a surprise at the end. I think that is a very good idea to take away from that as a learning experience, you know, to try to have something that will surprise and excited readers once they get to that final pots of destroying, they're like, whoa, you know, that kind of thing is great.
Autumn (33m 50s): Yes.
Jesper (33m 51s): Agreed. I mean, I will be, I would be surprised if people didn't, I guess I, it's hard to know how you're reading it. If you truly, she does make the settings, she doesn't tie them together at all, really until that kind of twist at the end where you realize it's all the same character, but she also didn't really go out of her way to make it seem too different. Like why they might, you know, hints that it was the same time. So I think it was a pretty easy guessed that they're the same ones. So it wasn't a huge twist, but it could have been, it is always good to have a twist like that.
Autumn (34m 25s): But honestly, I think if you did not have the second person, if all of them have been third person limited, I don't think I would have guessed it. Oh, it's because the second person stands out so much that I knew that it has to be linked to the other people in there. And maybe it's something to do with we're different on different in different times or something. I don't know. It was just so different that I knew that it had to link together somehow. And then I could just add the two and two together and then I guessed it right away almost right. But if you had three third person limited point of view, then I might not have guessed it to be honest.
Jesper (35m 8s): That's interesting. I still, I think I, cause I had noticed a second person at least consciously at that point. I just, again, I think it's kind of Celtic kind of the made mother and crone, as soon as it switched to a little girl, I'm like, oh, this is her as a child. I just, because she was mad, you know, she had the same power. It just seemed right to me. There was enough of the character in there as a, even a little girl that I'm like, yeah, this is the same one. So, but I think everyone would pick it up in their own path. But because the book like you were saying is it makes you think you start trying to think and solve it pretty quickly.
Autumn (35m 44s): I have to ask, how could you not notice? I mean, did the second person is like, it jumps right at you. I mean, it's like, oh, what is going on here? I mean, instantly, I mean, how can you not notice that?
Jesper (35m 56s): I don't know. I don't, I was reading it at night and if I was just tired or it was a very good. And like I said, I first noticed that the magic being an earth magic, which I had to laugh because of how many times you've picked on me for my debut novels, elemental magic. I'm like, here's a Hugo award winner. It's only earth element of so, but the harshness of the word and the language and just how everything just felt like geology. And I am a huge geology. Gleek I mean, if you like earth and granted and schist and you know, these big geological terms, oh my gosh, read this book and geek out and no one will know you're totally geeking out over just the geology.
Jesper (36m 39s): So I think I was so caught up going, oh, this is so cool. Her language is harsh. The world is harsh. I love how it all ties together. I can't imagine the number of revisions to make it sound this way. And everything ties together that I just never even noticed that it was second person.
Autumn (36m 57s): Jesus Christ. You must have been tired. It's like, as soon as I got to, to that in the audio book, it was like, I had to pause it, like what, what is going on here? It was just so incredibly different than weird all of a sudden. And I, and that, that, and that from that point on, I just couldn't get into it. So it did. But I agree with, with regards to the magic system, just to match it, I, I, I would hate to do all that research. She must have been, she must have done in order to pull this off and all this seismic stuff and figuring out how it all moves and all my God. So it must have been a lot of research behind that magic system, but it is very well done and I have to applaud her for it.
Jesper (37m 43s): Absolutely. Unless she happened to be, or have the family of geologists. And so she was kind of eking out on it as well. So I could see that, but yeah, you would definitely have to have an interest in deep earth sciences to come up with this magic system and make it, so she talks about flop fault lines and you know, some things can only happen here and only happened there. And probably you're not into geology and not into really cool magic. There's probably going to be times you're like, oh my gosh, please stop describing rocks to me. But I loved it.
Autumn (38m 18s): No, I, I too. I did too. I think it, because also I feel like it's a different magic system to what I, at least maybe there's already some magic system based on seismic activity and so on, but I I've just not seen it before. Maybe it exists, but I'm not aware, but at least it was a different enough that I thought it was, it was very cool.
Jesper (38m 38s): Yeah, definitely very cool. And I would say, cause I do want to point out and it's, I think one of the things that though where I fell out of the book and what lost me is that is with the main character, the present tense, the second person a son is I think what lost me is again, her arc her arc. I assume it's a flat arc to slightly fail, but she never learns from her mistakes, which again, that would be a grow arc. But I just, there was one point what should have been the climax where I'm sure you remember it, she's on the pirate ship. Do you know, she's had this safe Haven, she's in a really good place, but she's bored.
Jesper (39m 22s): And so she goes on a pirate ship and she is literally the one she uses her magic and pokes the spear up to the boat. And she realizes when she does it, that I shouldn't have made it visible because now they know there's this robe earth magic orogeny. And so we're going to basically have to kill everyone. She's the one who realizes it. And literally the next chapter, she goes and stops an entire volcano. No, one's going to notice a volcano suddenly just going away. I wanted to bang my head. And then she goes to alabaster the, probably the most intelligent character in the whole book. The one who's really a forward-thinking he's curious.
Jesper (40m 2s): And he, she tells him, you know, he knows that she did this and he gets mildly like upset when she says, oh, I saw somewhere on the shore. And he's like, oh, we should, you know, we'll have to be careful. She quelled an entire volcano. He should have been jumping up and shaking her saying, you just gave away where we are. That was 20 miles from here. And so this leads to the death of her first son. The book starts with the death of her second son. I'm like that. That is when I think I decided I wasn't reading book two was when I read through that climax and I'm like, this is supposed to be the clincher for the book. And I don't care. I'm mad at the character.
Autumn (40m 46s): Yeah. I cannot disagree with that. I have some points about that ending as well, but I just want to finish off one thing that Stephen said about the magic as well. First. So Stephen from patron said, quote, the magic system was very unique. Erogeny definitely adheres to Sanderson's loss of magic, where in origin he has limits orogeny has a cost. And the reader is given a clear understanding of how Erogeny is in this world so that he or she has a willing suspension of disbelief. In other words, it's believable, magic fits well into the story and it isn't used always to solve the problem or conflict in the story.
Autumn (41m 32s): In fact, for all intents and magic is both the problem and the solution in the fifth season. I think that's sums it up very nicely.
Jesper (41m 41s): I think that does as well. And even to add to that, that the magic system has the, the 10 rings the tiers. So you even have, you know, what level people are at and what they can kind of do at those levels. It's well done. I liked that. Yeah. You started off as a novice and what you have to do to advanced and how your, your attachment to the magic grows.
Autumn (42m 4s): Yeah. Okay. So let me get to the ending here. You touched upon some of it already. So I want to say a few other things in, in addition to what you already mentioned, because I feel like the ending just leaves way too many things completely open-ended, you know, I don't necessarily have anything against cliffhangers. I know a lot of people do, but it doesn't bother me personally that much, but please, you know, when you write a story, at least give the reader a certain degree of closure, you know, just something to at least give a sense of what is going on here.
Autumn (42m 46s): If you can take the stone eaters as an example, you know, by the end of this book, I have no idea what the Stoney ETA's want or how it all sort of links together. I have no idea. We also don't know what happened to Eastern's husband and child. I understand that this is the first book in the series, but it just left me slightly frustrated. And if I'm honest, like, you know, very honest, I have to say that I, I did not read like this book at all.
Jesper (43m 23s): I agree with the ending, especially it felt, it felt more like the first third of a novel than the first book in a series. It didn't have that book ending. And I thought it was, we never, in the entire story, we hear that the son has a daughter. I don't even, I'm sure we hear her name, but we never see her now even in a memory. And so it's hard to feel that mother's like she gets distracted. She goes up all over the map. You're reading about two other points of view of her that I never felt a huge bond. She's kind of just like the walking dead and, and just, this is her mission. It's her last living child.
Jesper (44m 3s): She will find her daughter, but there's no bubbling passion with that at all. And so I just kinda thought it was really weird that we had this huge pivotal character. That is the reason the woman is, you know, walking forever and what happens to her. And we don't ever see her even in a memory. And that's just seems very strange to me.
Autumn (44m 29s): Yeah. So maybe it would be fair to say that on the plus side you have amazing world-building lyrical writing and you also have well sort of commentary maybe, or at least there is even if it wasn't intended by the author herself, but there is something you could use as least as commentary to our real world and the, you know, real situation with climate changes and so on. So, so that's sort of on the plus side and I guess those things and well, not on the plus side, but the second per the use of second person in order to emphasize how the couch of fields dos are sort of the things I, I think is what gives you the awards because it is different and it is commentary on more than just being a story.
Autumn (45m 27s): And so that's why you is, she has one do your watch. I feel like, yes, but on the negative side to me, you have a very, the plotting doesn't, it doesn't add up, you know, it doesn't connect. Well, there was several times, like you've mentioned things that happen where it's like, it doesn't really like make logical sense. Why the character doesn't question this or look into this. Or there are several places like that. I'm also very much missing the personal stakes that we talked about as well. And if you're reading it for a good immersive fantasy story, then yeah, that's goes on the minus side as well, because it does just does not succeed on this at all.
Autumn (46m 12s): Yes,
Jesper (46m 12s): I agree is the, the tropes, the things that we would expect from commercial fiction or that make it immersive and maybe build up the passions just aren't there, but for the literary aspects for how well it is put together and how well it all fits together in a literary sense, the writing the magic, the world-building, the use of second person versus third person it's amazingly well put together and it deserves the award. But if you're working on it from more of a commercial and epic or dark fantasy, it is just not as adhesive. It doesn't have what people are looking for, which is often characters. And your just characters are what make you turn the page.
Jesper (46m 55s): And that wasn't what drove this story. And so I think that's a really important takeaway is it's the character. I won't even say it's a building, but I did read some of the reviewers said that the characteristics were just shallow. They didn't have that depth. It always stayed kind of on the surface. And the few times you thought you saw more, sometimes it just the contradicted each other. It wasn't very solid. Yeah,
Autumn (47m 19s): Yeah, yeah, no, I, I can agree with those reviewers because that's exactly the, that's exactly the point here. Right? I think everything here depends on how look at it, right? Because I, as a reader, what I appreciate when reading is the good story, the good characters, that's the sort of stuff that I enjoy. But of course, I also have to respect that many other people, they enjoy the other aspects that I had on the plus side just a second ago, Ryan, I'm not going to mention them once again here, but, but those things that I mentioned before on the plus side, some other people, they love that stuff.
Autumn (47m 57s): So yeah, I think a lot of it, well, it is like that for any book ever written. Some people love it. Some people hate it. That's the way it is, but I can only speak for myself. And I just, this is not the type of book I enjoy reading at all. And I will definitely, it's a bit of a shame because honestly, when, once I started reading it, I had, because of all the awards, I actually had quite high expectations that this was going to be awesome. And then I felt pretty disappointed to be honest.
Jesper (48m 28s): Yeah. And I would also say that I was surprised that this one did not come with any trigger warnings in the blurb, maybe because it's an award winner. But I mean, I have, my books are so much more mild, but I mean, this is literally sexual molestation, Istation, exploitation, the death of children. There are some really horrible dark themes in this one that I was shocked as true. And there was no trigger warning. And I was like, wow, I am shocked. I have a slightly rough sex scene. And I had someone, a reader put a trigger warning on my book and I was like, don't touch this one. This one's going to really hurt.
Autumn (49m 7s): Right. Yeah. Okay. We'll I have some final remarks, but I don't do what do we have more now on your note list? Autumn?
Jesper (49m 16s): I think that covers pretty much everything. I think I said there was, if you go into there, there's a review by NBS Lee. It comes up as the, the highest ranked critical review. Cause 295 people have found it helpful. And I think it sums up really well. The, the aspects that are so interesting about this book, I mean, she gave it a, she or he gave it a two out of five stars. Just, it's such an interesting complex, highly written book, but it's also not what you expect if you're reading commercialized fantasy or science fiction.
Autumn (49m 53s): No, totally agree. Okay. So what I wanted to do to finish off here is I want to take the chance to thank Steven for his input on Patrion. It is just so much more fun when we have people reading along with us here. And of course, if you, dear listener also want to provide input for future Critical Reading episodes and us sort of taking your comments into the actual podcast episode like we did for Steven here, then just make sure to join on Patrion. And there is a link in the show notes for that next Monday. I will have an interview with the extremely popular and successful YouTuber, Jenna Morrissey.
Autumn (50m 35s): And we'll talk about using YouTube as an author.
Narrator (50m 39s): If you like, wh…