The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season

by

N. K. Jemisin

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Fifth Season can help.

Guardian Term Analysis

Guardians are members of a mysterious order said to be founded by Shemshena, the Emperor Anafumeth’s bodyguard who was able to defeat the powerful orogene Misalem. Guardians are assigned to watch over orogenes, but also to control them and kill them if they deem it necessary. Children of orogenes who cannot use orogeny themselves are made into Guardians via an operation on their sessapinae, which allows them to negate other orogenes’ power and even turn it against the orogenes’ own bodies. Few answers about the Guardians are revealed in The Fifth Season, but they are all presented as exceptionally skilled, dangerous, and also usually smiling.

Guardian Quotes in The Fifth Season

The The Fifth Season quotes below are all either spoken by Guardian or refer to Guardian. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Orbit edition of The Fifth Season published in 2015.
Chapter 6 Quotes

Never say no to me,” he says. The words are hot against her skin. He has bent to murmur them into her ear. “Orogenes have no right to say no. I am your Guardian. I will break every bone in your hand, every bone in your body, if I deem it necessary to make the world safe from you.”

Related Characters: Schaffa Guardian Warrant (speaker), Essun/Damaya/Syenite
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

“I have to do what you say or you’ll hurt me.”

“And?”

She closes her eyes tighter. In dreams, that makes the bad creatures go away.

“And,” she adds, “you’ll hurt me even when I do obey. If you think you should.”

“Yes.” She can actually hear his smile. He nudges a stray braid away from her cheek, letting the backs of his fingers brush her skin. “What I do is not random, Damaya. It’s about control. Give me no reason to doubt yours, and I will never hurt you again. Do you understand?”

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Schaffa Guardian Warrant (speaker)
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

She scrambles backward again, tries to get to her feet again, tries again to reach for power, and fails in all three efforts. Even if she could succeed, though—he’s a Guardian. It’s her duty to obey. It’s her duty to die, if he wills it.

This is not right.

“You need not understand,” he says, with perfect kindness. “You need do only one thing.” And then he lunges, aiming the poniard at her chest.

Related Characters: Edki Guardian Warrant (speaker), Essun/Damaya/Syenite
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

He does understand. She bites her lip and feels fresh tears threaten. It isn’t right that she loves him, but many things in the world are not right. So she fights off the tears, and makes her decision. Crying is weakness. Crying was a thing Damaya did. Syenite will be stronger.

“I’ll do it,” Syenite says, softly. “I’ll pass the test for you, Schaffa. I promise.”

“My good girl,” Schaffa says, and smiles, holding her close.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Schaffa Guardian Warrant (speaker)
Page Number: 331
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Fifth Season LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Fifth Season PDF

Guardian Term Timeline in The Fifth Season

The timeline below shows where the term Guardian appears in The Fifth Season. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Damaya, in winters past
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Damaya realizes that the strange man is a “Guardian,” and he affirms that he is now her Guardian. Mother leaves to get a blanket... (full context)
Chapter 4: Syenite, cut and polished
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
...at all, and Feldspar explains that five-ringers and above do not need a partner or Guardian to accompany them outside of the Fulcrum—at that point they are considered “stable enough in... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...as young “grits” who haven’t yet passed their first-ring test. She also sees a few Guardians, dressed in burgundy as usual. Syen briefly goes to her own room before heading to... (full context)
Chapter 6: Damaya, grinding to a halt
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
This story thrills Damaya, but Schaffa isn’t done. He explains that Shemshena was the first Guardian. The Fulcrum is the order of orogenes, he says, but the Guardians are those that... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Schaffa describes how the Guardians train just as Shemshena did, learning to neutralize the threat of any orogene that might... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...know that she doesn’t like seeing herself as the villain Misalem, someone needing a Shemshena Guardian to control her. Damaya admits that this is true, and she says that she wants... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...must never say no to him. She has no right to say no to her Guardian, he whispers, and he has the right to break every bone in her body if... (full context)
Chapter 8: Syenite on the highroad
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...at a node station, and she is surprised to learn that node maintainers don’t have Guardians but do have live-in doctors. She assumes that everyone must be dead from the “torus”... (full context)
...that they still carry the curse of “Father Earth”—instead, they would be made into a Guardian. After saying this, Alabaster suddenly looks up and tells Syenite that she has to forget... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
...capable of doing it. When his laughter finally dies away, Syen asks him where his Guardian is. Alabaster says that she’s not dead, but he did something to her to make... (full context)
Chapter 14: Syenite breaks her toys
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...politics of the Fulcrum don’t make sense to her, though, and she’s uneasy that no Guardians have contacted them yet. Early on, Alabaster had warned her not to tell anyone that... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
This revelation horrifies Syenite. Alabaster then tells her that it’s really the Guardians that they have to worry about, not the Fulcrum. Syenite wonders, as she has before,... (full context)
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Alabaster greets the Guardian, who jumps down from the railing and introduces himself as Edki Guardian Warrant. Edki knows... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
...her orogeny, but suddenly realizes that she cannot. She has heard rumors about this, that Guardians can mute an orogenes’ power, and that some are specially trained only to hunt down... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
...nearby. Suddenly she becomes incredibly angry, feeling that it’s not her duty to obey the Guardians at all, because what they do is fundamentally immoral. Then her attention turns to the... (full context)
Chapter 16: Syen in the hidden land
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Still frustrated and confused about everything, Syenite asks Alabaster to explain what happened with the Guardian back at Allia. Alabaster admits that he doesn’t have all the answers, but he can... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...and into uncharted waters. If anyone else knew what he could do, Alabaster says, the Guardians would have killed him long before. Syenite questions him further, and Alabaster admits that he... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Alabaster goes on, explaining that Guardians are all children of roggas but not roggas themselves, and there is an operation performed... (full context)
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Syenite asks why Alabaster warned her not to let the Guardian’s skin touch her, and he falls silent for a while. Finally, he goes on: at... (full context)
Chapter 17: Damaya, in finality
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...their own internal business—as they can’t use any of Yumenes’s resources—and a wing for the Guardians as well. Damaya avoids this part and avoids Guardians whenever she sees them, as she... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
...entrance to the secret inner room, Damaya grows uncomfortable because they’re now close to the Guardians’ wing. Binof says that, as an orogene, Damaya should be able to figure out where... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...was inevitable. As she wonders at this, the source of the voice appears: it’s a Guardian. (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
The Guardian is a short-haired woman who seems older than Schaffa and is smiling in the same... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
The Guardian smiles again at both girls and tells them to come with her, out of the... (full context)
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Damaya sits down and immediately apologizes to the Guardian, who sits down as well. Smiling again, the Guardian starts asking her questions that she... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
It’s as if someone else is speaking through the Guardian’s body, and as the woman continues, she starts to press her thumb into the bones... (full context)
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...continues, tearing something small out of the back of Timay’s skull. Timay slumps forward, another Guardian enters, and Schaffa gives the bloody object to the man, who leaves. At Schaffa’s terse... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...her. He smiles sadly at her and says that she saw something she should not have—Guardians undergo a procedure where something is implanted, he says, and sometimes it must be removed.... (full context)
Chapter 19: Syenite on the lookout
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...that it would be suicidal to return to the Fulcrum without knowing exactly why the Guardians are trying to kill them. Syen also realizes that everyone probably already thinks that they’re... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...Fulcrum, even if it means staying on Meov. He assures Syenite that neither of their Guardians can find them unless they manage to get near enough, and that back on the... (full context)
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...this, Syenite feels especially angered by Alabaster’s apparent joy. He again assures her that their Guardians can’t track them, because of whatever he did to his and because when Syen’s orogeny... (full context)
Interlude 2
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...At the same time, the narrator says, while “you” and “she” rested, other factions—including the Guardians, the Seasons, the stone eaters, and Father Earth himself—have gathered for war. (full context)
Chapter 20: Syenite, stretched and snapped back
Power and Control Theme Icon
...ordered to do so—and the figure she saw was wearing the burgundy uniform of a Guardian. (full context)
Chapter 22: Syenite, fractured
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...heard the story, but Alabaster tells her that there’s also more to it than the Guardians will admit. (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...kisses Syenite on the forehead. Syenite then tells him that she thought she saw a Guardian at Allia. Alabaster is silent for a while, and then he declares that he will... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...that some of the people on the deck are wearing the burgundy uniform of the Guardians. (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...now resolves to use whatever new power she has to defend her home from the Guardians. (full context)
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
...but she finds that her orogeny cannot get too close, as there must be a Guardian on this ship as well. That’s why Alabaster has had to hurl rocks from a... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
...A massive column of rock breaks off from the cliff and lands directly on the Guardians’ ship, breaking it apart. Syen sees a burgundy uniform in the water and curses the... (full context)
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
...As she crouches beside him, he asks her to promise that she won’t let the Guardians take Corundum. Syenite is confused, as Alabaster seems battered but relatively unhurt. Only then does... (full context)
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...encounters there. Still struggling, Alabaster again begs Syenite to promise that she won’t let the Guardians take Corundum, as they both know that he will be mutilated and made into a... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Suddenly Syenite feels the presence of Guardians nearby, startling her from her sorrow. She looks back over the harbor and sees that... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
...that the rest of the Meovites can evacuate. As soon as the wall breaks, a Guardian ship enters, firing its cannons at the Clalsu. The first shot misses, but another blast... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
The Guardians’ troops—clearly professional soldiers—start boarding the Clalsu and murdering everyone aboard. Surrounded by screaming and death,... (full context)