Tag Archives: Mistborn

Book Review: Warbreaker

“Warbreaker” by Brandon Sanderson is another well-crafted piece of fantasy literature. It tells the story of two kingdoms: Idris and Hallandren. Although in the beginning of the story, the two kingdoms are not at war with each other, tensions are still high and close to the breaking point from the get-go. The bulk of the story takes place in the capitol of Hallandren, a city by the name of T’Telir. There are four main characters in the book: Siri, Vivenna, Vasher, and Lightsong.

 

Siri and Vivenna are both princesses of the kingdom of Idris; one is sent to be the bride of the Hallandren God King, the other sneaks away to cause mischief in T’Telir. Lightsong is a “god” living amongst the other divinities that rule T’Telir from their grand court. Vasher is, well, Vasher. He’s something of a rogue agent with his own plans and abilities. He carries the deadly sword Nightblood, which is another character in its own right, as the sword is sentient. The story is an intriguing mix of politics, mercenary mischief, and treachery. Again, Brandon Sanderson has devised a clever magic system which he incorporates throughout the story. The system is based on Breath and color. Yep, color. The Breath comes from people: us mere mortals are born with but one Breath. Breath can be bought and sold, as one wishes. The Breath is used primarily to animate things—non-living material can move and act according to the wishes of the individual using the Breath. Color is used to power the Breath, draining away to grey when it is expended. It’s an intriguing, and creative system that Brandon Sanderson gets a lot of mileage out of in this book. He uses it in a number of ways that would not be apparent at first.

 

Overall, the book was decent. It took me a while to really get into it, but I wouldn’t say it was boring by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe the beginning was slow, but that could have just as well been a result of adapting to the unusual magic system. It picks up nicely at the end. There are a number of clever twists and turns (although I did pick out one of them in advance—ha ha J). I did have a problem with the ending though. There were basically two story-threads going. One resolved nicely with a big climactic sword fight. The other… not so much. It built up nicely, but then almost skipped over the part I really wanted to read about, describing it only in passing. Anyway, the story formed a complete logical whole; I didn’t notice any loose ends worth mentioning at the end of the book; everything was wrapped up nicely.

 

Overall, I’ll give this book three and a half stars, or even four on a good day.

 

This review was originally posted on Goodreads on 9-4-12.

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.

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.

Book Review: Mistborn: The Well of Ascension

Mistborn: The Well of Ascension” is book II in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. I was first exposed to Brandon Sanderson via Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series. He’s been doing such a good job with that, I figured I’d check out his other work. So far, I’ve been impressed.

 

“Mistborn: The Well of Ascension” continues the story of Vin, the hapless street rat, turned deadly Mistborn, turned consort to the King. The King, Elend Venture, is trying to set up a system of government that grants freedom to the skaa after a thousand years of oppression under the Lord Ruler. Unfortunately, a number of nobles don’t want any such thing and are laying siege to Luthadel, the capital of his fledgling kingdom. Vin is dedicated to seeing Elend’s efforts come to fruition, protecting him and spying for him.

 

Overall, the plot was intriguing; it pulled me in in a way rare for most modern fantasy novels. Again, the magic system is so different I hesitate to call it magic. If there is a flaw in the book, I think it is that it ends with too much of a twist. There are hints of what is going to happen in the end, but they are virtually impossible to figure out beforehand. As a matter of fact, a couple of them I “noticed,” but I just thought Brandon Sanderson messed up, so I ignored them. But he didn’t mess up. What I thought were mistakes, were eventually explained in a cohesive way. The main characters I liked, but again, some of the minor characters did not really distinguish themselves: I still can’t keep straight Dockson and Ham. But they are minor characters, so that is a minor flaw.

 

Ultimately, it was well worth the read. I’ll give Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn: The Well of Ascension” four and a half out of five stars. Not quite five, but close enough.

 

This review was originally posted on Shelfari.com on 3-15-12.

Fantasy Literature Book Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire

My Blog Tour is taking a week and a half hiatus. It will start up again on Monday, May 21st. In the interim, since this blog was originally supposed to include fantasy book and movie reviews, but got sidetracked by vampire essays, I’m going to post several of the reviews that I’ve got in the pipeline. Most of the reviews have already been posted on Shelfari.com, but I’m reposting them here.

 

Mistborn: The Final Empire

I was introduced to Brandon Sanderson’s work via Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. And I was very impressed with how he took up the mantle since Robert Jordan passed away. Mistborn: The Final Empire is one of his (Sanderson’s) earlier works. The writing is a little rougher, but still exceptional. And I found the story to be original and clever, adding a few twists to the standard hero-goes-to-save-the-world-from-certain-doom plotline. I, too, had an idea to write a book where the Dark Lord was in control; unfortunately, Brandon Sanderson beat me to it. And he did an excellent job. The magic system, although I hesitate to call it “magic” because it was unusual and creative and seems to stand by itself, was intriguing and well thought out. The “nasties” of the world were intriguing and cool. I particularly liked the Inquisitors.

 

Of course, the book wasn’t perfect. The two main characters, Vin and Kelsier, were well developed and interesting. But, I thought the thieving crew to which they belonged (Breeze, Ham, Dockson, etc…) didn’t distinguish themselves very well with me. Perhaps, they could have been developed more (but that would have been even more pages for a 600 page book), or they could have been reduced in number. Whatever it was, Dockson, Ham, and the others kind of blended together for me. Breeze was fine. He was described distinctly and his attitude shone through throughout the book. But the others… I couldn’t really tell apart; they were kind of amorphous “thieving crew members.” But that was the only significant flaw I found in the book. And that only involved the minor characters (although they were important minor characters).

 

There were a couple of twists in the book that surprised me even though, looking back, they flowed naturally from everything that came before. Overall, the book was well worth the read. I’ll give it four and a half stars (not quite a five, but close enough) out of five. Brandon Sanderson is rapidly becoming my new favorite author.

 

This review was originally posted on Shelfari.com on 2-4-12.