Category Archives: Novella Review

Infinity Blade: Redemption (Brandon Sanderson)

Infinity Blade: Redemption is the second Infinity Blade novella written by Brandon Sanderson. From what I can tell, the novellas are being written in tandem with the computer apps, of which there are three: Infinity Blade I, Infinity Blade II, and Infinity Blade III. I have Infinity Blade I for my Apple Ipad. I’ve played it a few times, but have never completed it. It’s an interesting approach: having interspersed novellas to cover background story material between the release of each version of the app. It does have one drawback, though: I, as a reader, do not get a full story or even succession of stories out it. The first Infinity Blade novella covers material in between apps I and II. This second novella covers material between apps II and III. That was kind of annoying going in, because I had become somewhat invested in the characters and to start reading without having played app II was somewhat disorienting. Still, it was a fun novella. Unfortunately, the series will be completed by app III. So, the cliffhanger ending that I got at the end of this novella will have to suffice for me as I have no intention of playing the app.

 

Anyway, this novella continues the story of Siris and Isa in their quest to defeat the evil God-King and free the people of his land. That was the original quest, anyway, but by this stage in the game things have changed a bit: Siris finds himself imprisoned with the God King. They are locked in a perpetual struggle in a chamber neither one can escape; they take turns (not by agreement though) killing each other, until finally, Isa manages to set them free. Now, Siris finds his quest transformed. It was the famous Worker of Secrets whom Siris sought out as a potential ally against the God-King who imprisoned the two Deathless, leaving them to their hellish struggle against one another. Now, two years later, Siris must seek him out again, but not as ally, instead as foe. This novella details that quest, a quest that may find him making alliance with that Deathless he was once sworn to destroy: the God-King himself.

 

Strengths: It was written by Brandon Sanderson, so it’s got to be good! Well, it is. The characters were well fleshed out and believable. The pacing was great. The twists were good. And there was more backstory dropped in to explain how the world in question (apparently Earth) came to be the way it was. There were also hints dropped to tie the series to the ancient Egyptian gods. All in all it was a blast. Weaknesses: well, you are missing a good chunk of story if you are not playing the Infinity Blade apps (like me). It’s kind of annoying actually. And it certainly detracted from my enjoyment. If I had known that going in, I probably would never have even read the first novella. I would have skipped it: I’m not much into computer games, anymore.

 

Anyway, I’ll give Brandon Sanderson’s Infinity Blade: Redemption four and a half stars out of five if you are playing the games; otherwise, that is too much of a handicap and it warrants only three and a half stars out of five.

Novella Review: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a rather long novella (112 pages) written by H.P. Lovecraft. It tells the story of a certain mental patient by the name of Charles Dexter Ward. It begins with his early formative years where he displays an interest in all things antiquated. It then moves on into his early twenties when trouble starts. However, in order to tell the story properly, early in the work Lovecraft takes us back another 170 years or so, to the life and times of Joseph Curwen. Joseph Curwen is a practitioner of witchcraft—and I don’t mean an innocuous Wiccan. Oh, no, Joseph Curwen delves dark and deep, and has no qualms about killing anyone who gets in his way. It begins with the summoning of the shades of long dead people, but other horrors are hinted at, too.

 

The story starts with Joseph Curwen on his farm in Pawtucket, R.I. (I think it’s Rhode Island) where he is ensconced in his magical rites. His exceptional long life and other dark dealings breed sinister rumours about him. Eventually, the populace rises against him, raids his homestead, and in a final battle manage to kill him. But his activities are not through. Fast forward, 170 years to the time of Charles Dexter Ward. This young budding historian is the descendant of Joseph Curwen’s. And, when he discovers a painting of the old sorcerer, almost an exact double of the man. Ward, entranced by his own love of history and the things of a bygone era, continues to dig, and dig deep. Soon, he is traipsing off to Europe in his search, only to come back a changed man. Now, his family begin to truly worry for him. His searches have affected his mind. He has become obsessed. And, when two mysterious strangers join him in his efforts, the family’s worries multiply. The strangers are odd folk; some might even say sinister. What hold does the long-dead Joseph Curwen have over these men? And what is their ultimate design? I’ll leave that for the intrepid reader to find out for himself.

 

Strengths: this novella is horror, it is not fantasy. As I have read countless fantasy stories, horror stories never manage to “shock” me. I have to be in the right mood for a horror story to really sink in and absorb the ambience. That said, I enjoyed this novella immensely. It told a pretty gripping tale, and it told it well. All the loose ends were tied off, and yet a whole range of facets were left to the reader’s imagination to fill in. Lovecraft does that a lot. Weaknesses: I think some of Lovecraft’s writing may be overburdened with long, multi-syllabic words and descriptions. That’s usually a mistake of young writers, and I’m not sure when this particular piece was written in Lovecraft’s career. In any event, it can make his writing cumbersome at times; although, then again, that may just be because he was writing one hundred years ago (or nearly so) and the language may have changed slightly since now and then.

 

Anyway, I’ll give The Case of Charles Dexter Ward four stars or maybe even four and a half stars out of five.