Tag Archives: Mistborn series

Book Review: The Way of Kings

I’m going to kill Brandon Sanderson. I purchased “The Way of Kings” a ways back, and started reading it. My initial reaction was kind of ho-hum; it was okay but not spectacular. But it’s 1200 pages long. And once I started, I had to read the whole thing. And I just started liking it more and more the longer I read it. Why am I going to kill him, you ask? Because it’s only book 1 in, what I guess, is a coming series ten books long. Another “Wheel of Time” type series. And the first book was 1200 pages! I’m supposed to read 12,000 pages of story! Good God, no! Although, silly me, I probably will because I like the story. Even though I may be dead by the time its finished.

Well, on to the review.

The story involves a number of subplots. It’s a little too complex to condense into a review; there’s just too much going on. There’s an assassin going around killing everybody. There’s a scholar/thief desperately trying to help her family. There’s a slave, who’s at the nadir of existence and struggling to find meaning, hope, and strength. There’s a high prince who’s trying to save his kingdom. Those are the major players; all their stories interweave in an intriguing fashion. But like I said, I won’t even try to elucidate on the story itself any further.

So, on to the strengths. Sanderson incorporates some philosophical ruminations in his work, and I like that. I was a philosophy major in college, and I enjoy the intricacies of philosophical discussion. Sanderson’s work isn’t quite the same thing as wading through Aristotle’s “Nichomachean Ethics” or Plato’s “Gorgias,” but it is still enjoyable. I also find myself agreeing with much of Sanderson’s world view (or what I think is coming across through his books). Particularly concerning the nature of nobility. Yes, the bulk of nobles are greedy, soul-sucking dirtbags concerned only with power and wealth, but there is the occasional truly noble individual aspiring towards higher ideals. Like Elend Venture in the Mistborn series, and Dalinar Kholin in this series (the name of the series is “The Stormlight Archive” by the way). It’s just so easy to disparage everyone who has wealth and power because, well, they have wealth and power. It’s nice to see that there is the occasional jewel sparkling in the slime. I just happen to like that. Also, Sanderson has once again invented a cool “magic” system, and again, I’m not sure I want to call it magic. It’s clever and cool and makes the world unique.

Weaknesses. I’ve previously mentioned this on my blog, but I think Sanderson is almost too creative for his own good. He’s created an alien world that is so different from the Earth in so many different respects, the reader has difficulty keeping track. I read the whole book, and I still don’t know how many moons his world has. He mentioned several in passing, but not often enough for me to really figure them out. He’s got a different calendar, with different names for the days of the week—I think his week may be of different length, too. The weather patterns on the world are different as well (although, that’s kind of cool). He’s got different kinds of plants, animals, and material for clothing.  Although all that is logical—it would be silly for another world to divide it’s year up into 52 weeks of seven days named Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc…–it can leave the reader bewildered. I mean, the logical end of such thinking forces one to give your alien world a completely new language, because they certainly shouldn’t be speaking English. But at that point, who wants to read something that’s unintelligible. The key is to strike a balance. Sanderson’s got 1200 pages to work with, so by the end, I was kind of used to the “rockbuds” and “cremlings,” but other basic things still escaped me (days of the week and moons among them). So, over all, I would weigh that against the book. Additionally, the enormous size of the book, is a point against it. I enjoyed the book, but I will probably never read it again. And the fact that he plans for nine more, I find almost disheartening. Finally, the plot… I don’t want to give away too much, but someone significant dies at the end of the book. He’s used that before, and I assume he’s tying it into his other books and series, but… really? It’s starting to get repetitive at this point.

Of course, despite my complaints, I intend to keep reading the series.

Overall, I’ll give the book four, maybe even four and a half stars. Good read. But long.

This review originally appeared on Shelfari.com on 7/29/2012.

Book Review: The Alloy of Law

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The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson is the fourth book in the Mistborn series. Actually, it’s more of the first book in the second series set in the Mistborn world. It takes place several hundred years after the events of the original Mistborn trilogy and it tells the story of Waxillium Ladrian, a “retired” lawkeeper of the “Roughs”—basically the wild west of the new Mistborn world. Waxillium, or Wax, has left the Roughs and returned home to his family’s holdings in Elendel, a large city in the Mistborn World that serves as the center of action for the bulk of the story.

Wax is accompanied by his sardonic friend Wayne and a young woman named Marasi who is a lawyer-in-training. For those familiar with the works, Wax is a twinborn, that is, he is both an allomancer and a feruchemist, possessing a single power from each heritage. His companion Wayne is also twinborn; and Lady Marasi is an allomancer.

Overall, I enjoyed the book—though I did approach it with a certain degree of caution: I normally don’t go for westerns, but I like Brandon Sanderson and he didn’t let me down; this proved to be a skillfully crafted mesh of both western and fantasy. The writing was excellent, as usual. The characters were well-developed and the story intriguing. There were, however, a certain number of flaws. First, the character Wayne, as wise-cracking, sardonic sidekick was a bit overdone. It seemed every conversation he was involved in degenerated into “witty banter’ and an endless stream of jokes. It was funny, for the first few chapters, but after a while I got a little tired of it. There was also a small matter of inconsistency. The first time Sanderson described Marasi’s allomantic power he said it could only affect her; later in the book it changed to be able to affect multiple people. And, this did have important storyline ramifications.

Still, it was an interesting read, particular since the characters of the first trilogy were fresh on my mind—I read the other trilogy just a few months back—it made it intriguing to see how they shaped the development of the later world.

I’ll give it four stars. An excellent read, but, as I said, a few serious flaws.

This post originally appeared on Goodreads on 6-20-12.

Fantasy Literature: Creativity Run Amuck: When The Details of Your World Bewilder

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I am currently reading Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings.” It’s an interesting book; so far, I don’t think I like it quite as well as I like his Mistborn series, but it’s still interesting. There is one thing, I’ve noticed, though that I would describe as a weakness. I won’t review the whole book here (partly because I’m not finished yet), but I do wish to address this particular defect. Basically, I think Brandon Sanderson is suffering from too much creativity. Seriously. I really do.

He’s invented a whole new world, which is not unusual for a fantasy author. But the problem is he’s populated it with so many things specific to that world, the reader cannot keep track. I’m sure when he plotted the details out beforehand, it made perfect sense… and I’m sure it’s all internally consistent. But I can’t keep track of it all. And I’m a reasonably intelligent person. It’s not just as simple a thing as throwing a few extra moons orbiting his world. No, it’s deeper than that. To be honest, I don’t know how many moons he has. I know there are at least two, but more probably three or four. He refers to them by name, which is not uncommon, but not frequently enough for the reader to really get a feel for them. But that’s just moons. Everybody has multiple moons on their worlds now. He goes further, though. Our standard earth week is replaced by a different one—again, in itself, this is a small detail. There is an abundance of plants and animals unique to his world. Again, no problem there. He even went so far as to develop specific plant materials for clothing that are unique to his world.

Looking at it from a world designer’s viewpoint, it all makes sense. It’s just that it’s a bit overwhelming. I can’t keep all the details straight, and to a certain extent, that is detracting from my enjoyment of the book. I remember when I read “The Lord of the Rings,” and there was a reference to “October 3rd” in the first book. Of course, it makes absolutely no sense that a completely alien world would use the same month and date as we would now (of course, Middle Earth was supposed to be an Earth of an earlier epoch—but I digress), but at least that made it easier to follow. Fantasy tales taking place on alternate worlds shouldn’t share some of the things we take for granted on this world. But how far should you take that point? Should we write like this:

It was the erp of Echma, in the sel erp-thann-quiat. “Asglick morlack” Vitr said. “Gunth gwit creyl.”

 

What does that mean? I dare you to figure it out. It’s all perfectly logical. “Erp” is a numerical value, because you know an alternate world wouldn’t use the same names for numbers as we do. “Echma” is the name of the month, or month equivalent. “Sel” means year, though I can assure you, it does not consist of 365 days, each lasting 24 hours. “Erp-thann-quiat” is the numerical value of the year in question. “Asglick morlack. Gunth gwit creyl” could just as easily be “Good morning. It’s been a while.” as anything else. The important point is that they are not speaking English. Like I said, it all makes sense, but it doesn’t make for entertaining reading.

Good fantasy writers will know how to strike a balance between realistic variety in the description of their worlds, and keeping the work as a whole readable. Another example of  creativity gone too far happened in Tad Williams’ Shadowmarch series. In that series, he made the mistake of giving multiple names to each of his deities. The justification was, of course, that different cultures would use different names for the same deity—kind of like how the Greeks and Romans named their respective pantheons in our world. This makes perfect sense from a logical point of view, but it makes reading the book a little more difficult. There were four books in the series, and I think I only had one or two of the deities figured out by the time I finished, and that’s not a good sign.

Of course, Brandon Sanderson and Tad Williams are both excellent writers; but even the best of us make mistakes. But I think this mistake is serious enough to be worth pointing out.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today.

Fantasy Book Review: Mistborn: The Hero of Ages

Mistborn: The Hero of Ages” is the third and final book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. Sanderson is now, officially, my favorite writer (besides myself, of course). I got so hooked on this book, I was reading it instead of doing the chores and other things I should have been doing. I almost—not quite—let my blog go while reading this. But I didn’t. Anyway, from the get-go this book was exceptional. Well plotted, with an intriguing set of characters. It was interesting to watch how Elend Venture, in particular, changed over the last two books morphing from a too-polite scholar-king into a firm and resolute leader, a real warrior-king.

 

The book tells the continuing story of Vin and Elend in their struggles to save the Final Empire from the ravishings of the dark god Ruin. It seems an impossible task, from the get go. I thought their struggles with the Lord Ruler from book I was bad enough; for much of the book, I really didn’t see how they could do it; it seemed hopeless. There were probably about five or six unusual twists in the story. I figured out maybe two of them in advance, the others were really quite good. The book connected back to both books I and II in clever, intriguing ways.

 

If there was a flaw in the book, it was the personality of Ruin. Sanderson had only one book to work him in, really, so that may have contributed to it, but I didn’t get much of a sense of him beyond that he was a really bad being. Of course, how much can one really develop the personality of a near-omnipotent being? Oh yeah, I also have problems with turning humans into gods or near-gods. But that’s just me.

 

Ultimately, I think the book was well worth the read, so I’ll give Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn: The Hero of Ages” four and a half out of five stars.

 

This review originally appeared on Shelfari.com at 3-19-12.