Review: The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archives, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

9188338

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date read: March 17 to April 15, 2014
Read count: 1

Only 3 stars?! BLASPHEMY.

Here’s why: This is a 1,000 page prologue. The action, the real action, doesn’t start until near the end.

I understand the need for a huge set-up to kick off a huge series, but there’s a point when too much set-up is just overkill. And that point is somewhere past page 500.

If not for the audio CDs*, there’s no way I’d get through this whole book. No one was more surprised than I about my reaction to this book because I’ve read a lot of Sanderson and liked most of his work.

As this is Sanderson’s most epic of epics (to date), I was expecting epic-ness of epic proportions which the first chapter did deliver, but then the second and subsequent chapters did not. I kept waiting for things to pick up where the first chapter left off, thinking this couldn’t be it, could it? This is what everyone’s been going on and on about? I was also expecting to see what everyone was gushing about–I still don’t it see. The story is more interesting than most average epic fantasy that promises bigger things to come, and that’s all I can say for the time being.

The writing is classic Sanderson, but with a heavy-handed tone that I didn’t care for. This isn’t so much a critique of the story, but more a reflection of how tired I’ve become of over-blown epic fantasies and Sanderson’s style of fantasy in particular. The former is a matter of personal taste; the latter is creeping up on me and threatening to stay. Sanderson’s style is becoming heavy and drawn-out, so so much that it made reading this book feel more like work. Generally speaking, I don’t like when I can see the author’s hand manipulating the story; it takes the fun out of reading.

However, if you’re an aspiring fantasy writer who’s in the process of honing your own style, I would recommend taking a look if you haven’t already. Even if you don’t enjoy it, there are a few pointers you might find useful.

The whole book is easy to dissect and deconstruct, and here’s why: the writing, as much as it drags, is precise in description and plotting. Sanderson uses vivid imagery and tactile examples to draw out each scene. I find the action sequences and internal monologues easiest to take apart and examine. Sanderson must’ve worked painstakingly hard to write each scene because you can literally feel the time and effort he put into them. He must’ve worked equally hard to achieve that slow build-up leading toward the climax. I would have appreciated the effort and attention to detail more if they didn’t result in a heavy-handedness that dragged the story down.

Because of a semi-cliffhanger, I’m tempted to pick up the second book just to see where the chips fall, but that won’t be for a long while.

* which I won GR’s first-read giveaway (I know, I was just as shocked as you are), and I’d like to thank MacMillan Audio and Samantha Beerman.

Advertisements

Review: Warbreaker (Warbreaker #1) by Brandon Sanderson

8120570

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date read: May 20 to August 08, 2013
Read count: 1

A good story, but told in a long winded way. Too long winded for me.

If you’re looking for something light and vibrant that has some religious-political heft and a few lectures on morality, this book is probably you’re what looking for. I hesitate to recommend because, although it started off very well, the story was gradually weighed down by too much political intrigue and too many good vs. evil inner struggles.

Sanderson has established yet another world (or is it the same world but a different time period?) on which he can build another series. The mythology is a unique blending of magic and biochemistry—very interesting in the context of a fantasy world—and tying magical systems to human biology has always been Sanderson’s strength. While the magic system seems fascinating at first glance, BioChromatic Breaths is not as detailed or structured as Sanderson’s other magic systems. (The term “BioChromatic Breaths” is too awkward and scientific a term for a fantasy setting.)

There’s a lot of history behind the mythology (or is it mythology behind the history?) left unexplored in this book, and one of the main political sub-plots is left open-ended. Which is just as well, I suppose, since there are plans for a sequel.

Unlike the characterization in Sanderson’s other books, I don’t find the main characters in this one as well-thought out or engaging as the mythology. The characters seem as though they exist only to move events forward, and they’re very single-minded in the pursuit of their goals, which is why it’s believable that some of them are susceptible to manipulation. On top of that, they seem to be written with a forced hand, like they’re meant to be funny and sympathetic and you’re meant to laugh… as though somebody is trying really hard to make you laugh and feel for them…

What annoys me the most in any story are deus ex machinas that come in the form of mad-dash explanations near the end of the book. Whenever I come across something like this, it doesn’t feel like reading, it feels like the book is spilling its guts because events and revelations happen in rapid succession as the story is hurtled toward the climax.

When the priests and Bluefingers kept telling Siri that “nothing is as it seems,” it’s clear that nothing is as it seems. A lot of things are happening off-scene. Obviously. There’s foreshadowing and then there’s literally slapping the reader across the face with the same hints a couple of times.

That’s not to say this book is mostly political posturing and my being annoyed with it. There are a few funny moments of word play and well-placed puns. A couple of the Nightblood, Siri, and Lightsong passages had me laughing for a good minute. I still sense your hand at work, Mr. Sanderson, but those scenes made me laugh nonetheless.

*     *     *     *     *

I’m beginning to see that, although Sanderson escapes falling headlong into character tropes that plague other fantasy writers, he doesn’t avoid them completely, although he tries very hard to sidestep many of them. As a result, I think he has spawned a group of character tropes of his own. If his characters or character traits seem familiar, it’s because you’ve seen them before in other Sanderson books. And it’s a sign that you’ve read one too many Sandersons in a short amount of time. Which is another way of saying I’m all Sanderson’d out for the rest of the year. I think I over-exerted myself by taking on this book so soon after finishing Steelheart.

Must’ve pulled a muscle or something.

*     *     *     *     *

There is a sequel and it’s called Nightblood. No release date yet.

Review: Steelheart (Reckoners, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

17182126

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date read: August 02 to 05, 2013
Read count: 1

I liked it. And that’s saying something because this is clearly YA.

Young inexperienced protagonist, David Charleston, joins a crew of rebels, the Reckoners, to fight and defeat super villains, the Epics. The story is told from David’s POV, and while that’s sometimes interesting–David is smart and calculating–it’s somewhat annoying some times because David is a hormonal teenager who’s in over his head. His struggles, while making the story and narrative more nuanced, were a struggle for me to read. I appreciate the complications and setbacks he faces in the face of danger, but his inner monologues, most of which are Megan-centered, were not that interesting and they tended to drag things down a narrow Megan-themed tunnel.

The secondary characters, however, were more interesting. Prof, Abraham, Tia, Cody, and even Megan were more complex, fleshed out characters. Each seemed to possess their own sense of self and had goals to work toward. While David does have his own goals–defeat Steelheart–he’s still finding himself, while still trying to understand the crumbling world around him and his place in it. This makes me think maybe this book would have been better if it had more POVs. But perhaps switching between each of the Reckoner’s POV would have been too chaotic, not to mention it would have turned the book into an 800+ page doorstop.

Like other Sanderson books, this one has a tight plot and lots of action toward the end. It’s a nonstop whirlwind of a ride once the Reckoners put their plans into motion and move against Steelheart. This is the kind of breathless writing that keeps you glued to the book, and I had to set all (real life) things aside just to get to the finish line.

I don’t read that much YA genre fiction, so I have no idea if this book is considered good or just average by those standards, but I did like it and I look forward to the next books in the series.

“Newcago” still makes me cringe though. Why not call it New Chicago??

*  *  *  *  *

18966322

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date Read: April 3, 2015
Read Count: 1

I actually like this short story more than the first book. Maybe I’m warming up to David as a main POV character.

Following the defeat of Steelheart and Nightweilder, the city of Newcago–that word still makes me cringe–is now a sunny post-apocalyptic refuge for the powerless. But the people are still weary, as though expecting a new Epic to defeat the Reckoners and plunge the city back into darkness. And one does step up to the challenge–Mitosis. He’s the first to pose a threat, but he’s certainly not the last.

Review: Elantris (Elantris, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

68427

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date read: May 08 to 16, 2013
Read count: 1

As a stand-alone, this story has one too many open endings. Probably Sanderson’s way of securing a way to turn it into a series, if readers’ response turned out to be favorable, that is. I see what you did there… and continue to do in later books.

*

* *

* * *

* * * *  spoilers * * * *

Continue reading

Review: The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

13578175

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

11783190

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.

*

* *

* * *

* * * *  some spoilers * * * *

Continue reading

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

2767793

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.)

*

* *

* * *

* * * *  some spoilers * * * *

Continue reading

Review: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

68428

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date read: July 28, 2012 to April 02, 2013
Read count: 2

There were many things Sanderson did right with this book (and this series):

  • characterization
  • world-building
  • magic system

The one that stands out the most for me was the main female character, Vin. She is written in such a believable, sympathetic, and solid way that I haven’t seen in other fantasy series in recent years. Seriously, only a handful of new fantasy writers can actually write a believable girl/woman. Anyway, Vin’s journey from scared street urchin to a force to be reckoned with is done gradually, but believably. And that is what’s lacking in new fantasy–believability.

The world of Mistborn is, of course, full of mist. The plants are brown and the sun is red and everything is covered in ashes. There are no mountains, only ash mounts that spew ashes constantly. Noblemen live the easy life and skaa, like Vin, are forever doomed to be slaves. This is where Kelsier and crew come in, to kill the evil tyrant and change the world for the better.

The magic system in this world is called Allomancy and the people who are gifted with it are Allomancers. They burn metals to enhance their mind, body, and skills (there’s an index at the end of the book to help keep track). People who can burn only one metal are called Allomancers or Mistings; those who can burn all metals are Mistborn, like Vin and Kelsier. Mistborns are special and valued for their gifts, and all of them are assassins.

This book has been touted as the one that flipped the genre on its head (or something like that), and while it was an engaging read, I thought the praises were over done. This book on its own was different and promises a lot of action to come. The series on its own, however, does leave a huge impression–and a few holes in the soul–and blows many fantasy tropes apart. I can’t give examples without giving away important plot points.

Original review to be found here.