I can definitely see why this book won the Hugo Award. I had never read anything by N. K. Jamison before, but she is clearly a major talent. The craft and thought embedded in the pages are inspiring.
We are thrust into a catastrophic event in the first pages that is likely to launch the next Fifth Season. Fifth Seasons are Father Earth’s revenge for what humanity has done to the planet in this post-apocalyptic world. These disastrous “seasons,” lasting for months, years, or centuries, go by names like “Choking Season”, “Shattering Season”, “Acid Season”, and “Madness Season.” The theme of this dark, intense, and utterly compelling novel is survival and control. The players: Orogenes have evolved to be able to control the massive powers of the Earth; Guardians have evolved to be able to control the Orogenes; Stills do neither. And then there are the mysterious Stone Eaters who are just odd and not very human, who clearly have their own, hard to decipher, agenda.
The action filled and psychologically oriented plot begins with three distinct story lines that slowly evolve into one, explaining how we got to the current state described in the prologue. It is a fantastically well developed world, with coherent themes, nomenclature, and social customs. It’s clearly a post-apocalyptic Earth and its fascinating to see how the author extrapolated from our present to this environment clearly millennia in our future. While this book doesn’t quite end with a cliff hanger, there is plenty left to reveal in the next two books (luckily, the third and final book will be available in less than a month).