Review: The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson


Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Date read: May 01 to 05, 2013
Read count: 1

Brandon Sanderson continues to amaze with his characterization . I find that he’s much better at it than many of his peers, and he does it so seamlessly that you don’t notice the pieces of the puzzle coming together until they start falling into place. I still find myself surprised that he can tell a story of such depth in so few pages.

This is a story of a forger who has been hired–coerced–to “fix” an injured emperor and, to an extent, put the empire back on its path. Even though the forger isn’t convinced she can pull it off, she tries anyway –working beats a death sentence. Over time she becomes attached to the job and the man the emperor had been in the past and finds herself questioning her integrity and reason for staying to finish the work.

In many ways, I see this story as an love letter ode to the man that Rashek (from Mistborn The Final Empire) could have been if he had chosen to rule the empire with the people’s well-being in mind, instead of choosing complacency. It’s a second chance for him, this emperor (and maybe Rashek too), to do things the right way, the way he would have done if he was still a strapping young idealist with the world in his hands. The forger gives this back to him.

The magic that’s at work here is simpler than in Sanderson’s other books. Although why it works is explained, how it works isn’t explained as thoroughly, but enough for you to follow the story.

The ending is somewhat open, leaving room for a trilogy perhaps.

Original review can be found here.


Review: The Warded Man (Demon Cycle, #1) by Peter V. Brett


Rating: ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Date read: May 01 to 05, 2013
Read count: 1

* * * spoilers below * * *

First books in a series are difficult to rate, especially when they’re part of an ongoing series. This book is no exception.

As much as I enjoyed the ride/read, the last third of the book faltered somewhat and the narration took on a “tell” rather than “show” style. This was unsettling not only because the pacing slowed, but also because it happened at a critical point, when the three main narratives converged to set up events that would lead to the last battle. Narration that tell rather than show are usually disappointing, in my experience. I can only hope Brett improves in later books.

The world of the Demon Cycle is not unlike other worlds that you’d find in new fantasy series—feudal/medieval cities and countrysides, sword and sorcery, gender discrimination, etc. The only significant difference is a land of sand dunes and desert called Krasia that’s reminiscent of the Middle East, not only in setting but also in cultures and religion. Unlike the other peoples of the Demon Cycle world, the Krasians actually fight Corelings.

Corelings are demons that spring from the earth and torment humans at night, destroying everything in their paths, and then disappear at dawn. Humans draw, paint, or carve wards on walls and posts to keep the demons out. These wards, however, don’t always hold and are often breached, and so warding is a career and checking wards a daily job. How these people have time to do anything else, let alone carry on with their lives, is a wonder. How these people don’t devote their whole life to warding is a wonder too.

The villagers’ fear of the night is palpable, and their willingness to fear the supernatural and unwillingness to search for better ways to kill the demons are understandable. I thought the scenes of the Coreling attacks were especially well written, albeit with a tad too much blood and gore but that’s to be expected since violence has become a staple in new fantasy.

We follow three main characters from youth to adulthood. Arlen is a country boy with big dreams, the biggest one is putting an end to Corelings. Leesha is beautiful girl from a small village who has a gift for healing (and the burden of attracting unwanted attention). Her physical attributes were mentioned so often with negative connotations that I had an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach for her. I still don’t see the purpose of the rape by the road. It does nothing for the arc of the story and nothing for the character. Also female virginity is repeatedly referred to as “flower”… urgh. Rojer is barely a toddler when tragedy strikes and forces him away from home, which puts him on a hard path as a traveling performer (but not without purpose).

These three characters come together to make a stand against the Corelings. And take back the night (just couldn’t help myself).

Things I hope will show up in the next book:

  • Geometry and Ward Theory. Both Cobb and Regan said that strong wards and effective warding depend on one’s knowledge of geometry. Arlen spent most of his time studying various wards and their functions, and yet there’s nothing to explain why math is important to warding. Furthermore, Ward Theory was not brought up again after Arlen acquired basic warding skills. It’s mentioned that he has a great memory and can trace wards exactly, but that doesn’t explain why math skills are necessary to warding. I suppose this bothers me because I have a thing for real science in imaginary worlds; it usually implies that a writer has done his/her research and has found a unique way to build a believable magic system. (Believable magic–what an oxymoron.)
  • Coreling anatomy. This is exciting. When Leesha showed Arlen her lab beneath the hut where Coreling corpses lay in varying states of disembowelment, I was on the edge of my seat. Probably the only time I paid so much attention while reading this book. This better be further explained in the next book or it’s a no deal for me.

I’m gonna wait until the series is completed before reading the second book.

Original review can be found here.

Review: This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz


Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Date read: April 27 to 30, 2013
Read count: 1

This collection of interconnecting short stories is like an extension of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Well, not only “like,” it is an extension of Oscar Wao (minus Oscar). It’s a continuation of Diaz’s easy prose that almost seems effortless and a story telling style that’s self-aware and chatty and uniquely… Diaz.

The characters and settings are a thing to behold. They stand out in the sense that they’re alive, and you don’t often see people and places come alive in new fiction these days.

At about 200 pages with a lot of spacing in between the lines, this book is a quick read. It took me awhile to get through, though, because I didn’t want the stories to end.

Original review can be found here.


Some thoughts RE: Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1)

Cannot continue. Maybe when/if I get hold of the audiobook set I might be tempted to pick up where I left off. Tim Curry as narrator is enough to entice.

My not finishing this book has little to do with the content, which leans heavily on necromancy/death magic, and more to do with having read one too many coming of age stories in the fantasy genre. Not to mention this is YA, which makes my eyes wander and fingers flip to the end of the book automatically. The series is not advertised as YA–clever? or just insulting?–but it definitely reads like YA, and once you figure that out, you can lose interest at an alarming rate. And by “you,” I mean me.

The writing is fine. It moves the plot along and does a good job explaining how necromancy is a misunderstood magic without having to info-dump. The one element that would have made this story more interesting is if Sabriel is believable as a teenage girl. The way the character is written makes it seem like she could have been a teenage boy and it wouldn’t have affected the story much. Then again, I haven’t even finished the story, so it’s too soon to say.

Updated review can be found here.


Review: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1) by Stephen King


Rating: ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Date read: April 25 to 27, 2013
Read count: 1

Needs more knock-knock jokes. Considering this books ends with three doors and the next one starts with these three doors, knock-knock jokes are the way to go. The only risk to taking this route is that it might actually liven up the slow (read: DOA) pacing. And, man, does the pacing know how to drag the reader along as though a rotting carcass.

One star for the descriptive setting and another star for the last 50 pages. No stars for characters or any “development” that should have happened at key points during events leading up to the three doors.

This book was too harsh and barren. There weren’t enough moments of rollicking fun. I kid, of course. Not all fun needs to be rollicking, especially not in a Wild West type series, but any sense of fun would do. This book, however, did not have enough fun moments to break up the dragged-along feeling I got as a reader… not until the last few chapters, but by then, I’d already been dragged across the dessert and left rotting somewhere along the way.

Original review can be found here.


Review: The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4) by Brandon Sanderson


Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date read: April 16 to 26, 2013
Read count: 1

The 4-star rating is for the book’s Mistborn connections, rather than the book as a stand alone. There are plenty of references to past characters and the marks they left on this new Victorian society, and there’s an unexpected appearance of an “old friend” ol’ Iron Eyes… So Sazed brought you back, did he). The book as a standalone gets a strong 3.5-stars because it’s only the tip of the iceberg, and there’s still so much Sanderson could tap into, like for instance the central mystery is left open-ended. The missing women are still missing. And then there’s the introduction of electricity. It would be interesting to see how Allomancers function in a wired world. Wouldn’t they get shocked more often when burning metals? Along that line, we never hear about Allomancers getting hit by lightning, even when they burn metals outdoors in stormy weather. Vin never mentioned lightning, only rain… Anyway, tangent.

Wax is a sheriff/bounty hunter living rough out in the Roughs, a lawless dessert in the style of the Old West. A bounty hunting expedition goes terribly wrong that leaves him with post-traumatic stress and forces him to hang up his guns, possibly for good but not likely, and return to the city Elendel, named after the Lord Mistborn of course. Wax goes back to the city a few months later and, because of his uncle’s death, takes his place as head of a renown house on the edge of bankruptcy. And so he must marry a young lady from a lesser known house of great wealth. This young lady is not Marasi from the back cover description, but her cousin. Thus a triangle begins? We don’t actually get to that point, and at this point, we don’t care…?

While Wax is coping with post-traumatic stress and sorting out his house problems, there is a curious series of train robberies that’s possibly tied to an even more curious kidnapping of noble women in the city. Wax tries to stay out of the way and let the police handle it, but actually, no one in fiction has ever done that before. The police are somewhat incompetent and slowed down by protocols, whereas a lawman like Wax relies on instincts and sense of duty (and allomancy) to get the job done. Wax’s snappy smartass of a sidekick, Wayne (it’s adorable, OK), pushes him on to solve the curious case, but it isn’t until a robbery and kidnapping hit close to home that pulls Wax into action.


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* * * *  some spoilers * * * *

Continue reading


Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1) by Laini Taylor


Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date read: April 22 to 24, 2013
Read count: 1

Books with cliffhanger endings are difficult to rate, and they’re especially difficult to rate when they’re part of an ongoing series.

With that said, I enjoyed this book, but at times, it was too YA for my taste, but now I can see why people gravitate toward Taylor’s writing. It’s engaging and different from the usual flimsy YA urban fantasy fare. It’s heavy on adventure and character development and light on romance and romantic interest.

Since this book is only one part of the mystery, I will stick to listing things that worked or didn’t work for me as a reader (who has an aversion to YA).


  • World building. The story starts in Prague, and just when you’re about to get comfortable and settle in, you’re plunge into mystery and Elsewhere.
  • Sensory descriptions: the otherworldly gothic-ness of Prague, the bustling market of Marrakech, the feel of breezes or heat on skin, tingling or prickling sensations, warm soft pastries, the sensation of flying, tangible loneliness
  • Pain: both physical and mental, especially the beheading scene, this was gruesome in a page-turning way
  • Magic. Although we do get glimpses and short explanations, we still don’t know how the magic system(s) work or how Brimstone’s resurrections work yet.
  • Wishes. I find the very idea of wishing and the wisdom of hoping fascinating or rather I find most of everything Brimstone says fascinating.
  • Brimstone and the rest of the shop.
  • Surprisingly uplifting quotes such as this one: “You were true to her, even if she was not to you. Never repent of your own goodness, child. To stay true in the face of evil is a feat of great strength” (Brimstone).
  • Izil. Poignant and quoting dead philosophers one moment (“Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters?”), and remarking on their wisdom and “exceptional” mustaches the next.


  • Karou
  • Akiva
  • Angels. I’m neutral on this because, on one hand, it’s angels, but on the other hand, no biblical references or tie-ins. So the hands cancel each other out.


  • Beautiful creatures. This is not a critique of how beautiful the creatures are in this book, but rather a point I need to make about these things plaguing urban fantasy. Why do most creatures in YA need to be impossibly beautiful? (No sympathy for fugly ones?)
  • This quote: “She moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx.” …What? There are a few more like it. Fortunately there aren’t that many.
  • Origin mythology. Too rushed, needs more explanation. Why are there so many Chimera tribes? How did they come to be? What is the reason for their various animal parts? Hopefully all will be explained in later books.
  • [ETA] High human Chimeras valued/envied for their looks. I don’t understand why this would be. It would make more sense, since Chimeras hate the Seraphs, that any creature resembling the enemy physically would be caste off or disdained for their looks. It doesn’t seem congruent with what we know about Chimera’s knowledge of humans.

I’m curious enough to pick up the second book, but I heard it also ends with a cliffhanger and the third book has no release date yet, so I think I’m gonna wait.


[ETA: 07/17]

My initial rating upon finishing this book was a solid 3 stars, a strong 3 stars, but now that I’ve had some time to think on it and compare it to other YA books, I’d have to say this book is better written. So 3½ or 4 stars, depending on my mood of interpretation.

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Rating: ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Date read: April 22 to 24, 2013
Read count: 2

Very cute, almost unbearably so, almost tipped right into the realm of cutesy–I hate that realm. Fortunately Laini Taylor’s writing style, full of quirks, humor, and quotable moments, saved it from escalating further in cuteness.

This is the story of how Zuzanna and Mik got together, which happened off scene in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I listened to the audio and am glad I did because I don’t think I would’ve liked reading it–too much cuteness makes me teeth ache. The voice actors for Zuzanna and Mik both did a great job, though, of bringing the characters to life and turning their tentative courtship into a believable fairy-tale-like proceeding.

I don’t believe in prayer, but I do believe in magic, and I want to believe in miracles.

I don’t think it full achieved magical, but it came close to recapturing the mystifying atmosphere of the first book.


Review: Deadhouse Gates (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #2) by Steven Erikson


Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date read: April 14 to 21, 2013
Read count: 1

* * * spoilers below * * *

Originally 3 stars, but then Coltaine’s death happened and the fourth star is for him. RIP the last of the wickan crow clan.

If you’re looking for a way to get into this series and the first book Gardens of the Moon is just too much of a chaotic uphill climb, skip it and start with this one instead. Come back later if you really want to know how events were set in motion. I wish someone had given me this piece of advice when I first got into this series. It would’ve made all the difference and saved a lot of time.

The thing with Erikson’s writing is that it’s all show and very little tell. It’s plot driven and these events have been put in motion prior to the start of the series. You don’t find out what these events are until you unravel the mysteries, one doorstop of a novel at a time. Like Gardens, this second installment has a couple dozen main characters and a hundred secondary characters, all of whom you should remember but most likely you won’t. Unlike Gardens, there are more character development and explanations (not info-dumps). Also, there’s less chaos, which makes for a smoother read and easy-to-follow intersecting story lines.

This book starts off in the dessert, half a world away from events in Gardens. Without giving too much away, there’s a coup, an uprising, a mass exodus, close-call escapes, pissed off gods, higher powers at work, and, of course, tragedy and deaths. But don’t worry. Tragedy is part of the game and death isn’t always the end…

Original review can be found here.


Review: The Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns


Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date read: April 13 to 20, 2013
Read count: 1

Weird stuff happening in a small town, but everything comes together in the end in a believable conclusion (of sorts). That alone makes it worth the read.

Also, this book has hints of Stephen King… actually, it’s more like a bouillon cube of Stephen King. It has Stephen King flavorings, but stewed in a more fortified crock pot (if that makes any sense).

The familiar: sleepy small town, gossipy towns folk, gifted (read: not annoying) children, supernatural happenings, unusual deaths, mental illnesses, and animals with violent streak. What’s different from the usual Stephen King fare is you get a bird’s eye view of the the town and its inhabitants and you get to visit every character’s life (main player’s) and see events unfolding from his/her POV. Another thing that’s different is the horror element. Often it’s more humorous than scary. The central mystery has a real, not supernatural, culprit, and the conclusion is plausible and tidy, which you don’t often see in Stephen King stories.

I can’t shake the feeling that if this story was set in the 60s or 70s, it would have made more of an impact on the towns people and there’d be more of an ominous feel to the central mystery and deaths. Modern setting, technology, and crime-solving methods take away from the otherworldly feel of this sleepy town and its strange happenings.

Original review can be found here.


Review: The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3) by Brandon Sanderson


Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Date read: April 08 to 15, 2013
Read count: 1

The last couple of chapters escalated quickly. It’s just one revelation after another. Most of the things that were brought up in previous books get resolved in a satisfying way. A few things remain a mystery, as they should.

Although everything works out in the end and the world is reborn, the journey toward the end is a painful one, even more so than the previous two books. During several moments all hope seemed lost, and for a brief moment, it seemed perhaps things would’ve turned out better if Rashek had lived. Those were dark times indeed. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you start thinking of Rashek as a good person who only wanted to hold the world together. (I still don’t buy it though. If he was such a decent guy, he wouldn’t have ignored the racial, class, gender, etc. disparities fracturing society during his rule. If he was such a decent ruler, he would have strived harder for unity and equality, instead of dividing the people and holding them under with his ridiculous laws. He had a thousand years to work shit out, and he chose complacency. He deserved what he got. But that’s neither here nor there.)


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* * * *  some spoilers * * * *

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