Tag Archive | Brandon Sanderson

Book Review: A Memory of Light

The final installment in the Wheel of Time series entitled “A Memory of Light” has been completed by Brandon Sanderson, the stand-in author now that Robert Jordan is dead. Like the other thirteen books in the series, it is a colossus coming in at 908 pages. It is a good book, although flawed in several serious ways.

It would be impossible to summarize with any degree of lucidity an epic tale spanning some 10,000 pages of text, so I won’t even try. I’ll give you a few highlights, if that: It is a typical fantasy epic depicting the clash between good and evil, light and dark, in this case, the Light, and the Dark One. The central main character is Rand Al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, a young man destined to face the Dark One in battle. With 10,000 pages, there is ample room to develop a whole slew of other characters including, but not limited to: Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Elayne, Aviendha, Min, Faile, Lan, Gawyn, Galad, Moiraine, Cadsuane, and a number of others. Most of these characters are too complex and well-developed to be called minor characters, so I’ll just call them major characters.

Book Fourteen, “A Memory of Light,” completes the story with the final climactic battle between the forces of good and evil. There is some development to the final battle in the form of four lesser battles, all being waged simultaneously. There is also Rand’s showdown with the Dark One. The book is a good book, if you like battles. I’d say about 700 or more of its pages is devoted to one or more of the various battles fought. Personally, I found the one or two smaller side adventures—like the stuff going on at the Black Tower—to be more interesting. Still, the battles were good.

There were a number of mistakes in this book, however. I suspect the publisher just wanted to get the book out there as quickly as possible and didn’t give it time for proper editing. The first one I noticed is fairly minor and hardly worthy of mention: Mat’s hat disappeared and reappeared inexplicably—I wouldn’t have even noticed it, except Mat went through quite a bit of effort to say how he loved his hat and had lost it, only to have it reappear on his head several paragraphs later. A minor detail, but I noticed it. The next issue is somewhat more serious. The foxhead medallions, if I recall correctly, only protected the wearer from someone channeling saidar, not saidin. Back in book whatever, Mat was killed by Rahvin’s lightning while wearing the foxhead medallion. I remember the author specifically saying that the medallion didn’t protect against saidin. There was also another issue involving the number of Trollocs the army was facing in the Last Battle. At one point, the author said the numbers were reduced so that both sides were equal, then they were being swarmed again. Again, a small issue, but there seemed to be a number of small issues which crept into the book.

Still, overall, it was a good book and it ended well. The series is complete and I don’t have to wait for any more to come out ever again. However, the unfortunate reality is that the series is fourteen books and probably over 10,000 pages long. I really enjoyed the series, but I will never read it again. It is too much of a colossus to imagine wading through that much text ever again. Perhaps in my youth, I might have considered it; but I have my own writing to work on.

Overall, I’ll give the book four stars out of five.

This review originally appeared on Goodreads on 2/17/13.

Book Review: Elantris

“Elantris” is the very first book Brandon Sanderson ever had published. It has blurbs from no less than Orson Scott Card and David Farland. I went into this book expecting great and wonderful things, a tome oozing with brilliance. Having read it now, I’ll say it was good; I don’t know if it was as good as I expected, but it was definitely worth reading.

 

It is set primarily in the land of Arelon on the continent (or is it world?) of Opelon. In the heart of Arelon is the looming city of Elantris, once home to a god-like race of beings called, not surprisingly, Elantrians. They once lived openly in the city and interacted with the humans of the nearby smaller city of Kae. They wielded great power through the use of AonDor, a magical form of writing that allowed the Elantrians to inscribe potent symbols in the air or on objects and channel tremendous energy for healing, transportation, and what-have-you. Then, the Reod came and the Elantrians were cast into ruin. They became as walking dead men, bereft of power and unable to die, living a life of truly endless suffering. Against this backdrop is set the political struggles of the nation of Arelon; it is but one of two nations that have not fallen under the oppressive rule of the theocratic nation of Fjordell. Embroiled in these struggles are three individuals. First, there is the much-beloved Prince Raoden, now cursed to live in exile among the Elantrians. Second, is Sarene, his wife through political arrangement who never even gets to meet her husband. Lastly, is Hrathen a devoted servant of the Fjorden Empire, gyorn and high priest.

 

The book tells the tale of these three individuals and how they interact. Raoden begins all-but-damned, and must crawl his way up from the pit of the now-cursed Elantris to try to salvage what meager existence he can in the city. While he’s busy doing that, Sarene and Hrathen are squaring off in the political arena of Kae, each trying to outwit the other and determine the fate of the nation. It’s an intriguing read, with a lot of good points. Again, like in other of Brandon Sanderson’s books, the magic system is half the fun. I’m familiar with the use of runes and sigils from other works, so it wasn’t unique in that sense; but it was well-developed and handled superbly. I enjoyed reading how Raoden pieced bits and pieces of the system together. My only complaint is that it really didn’t come into play until about the latter third of the book. Prior to that, it was impotent and sterile. Then, when it did come into play, it wasn’t quite as overwhelming as I hoped it would be. Sanderson built it up so much, I was expecting explosions and utter chaos. There was some of that, but I wanted more. I guess I’m too much of an action junkie.

 

Another problem with the book is that the villains weren’t well-defined. They didn’t really show their stripes until the very end of the book; everyone else was developed fine, but the evil warriors at the end just appeared too abruptly for my tastes. Lastly, I think the climax went on too long. It reached a crescendo and peaked, then Sanderson tried to continue at that level for maybe thirty pages longer than he should have. I mean, he had to, to wrap up all the loose ends, but it detracted from that last final punch the book should have delivered. Still, it was a well-developed world and I liked all the major characters.

 

Overall, I’ll give the book four stars out of five. Definitely worth reading.

 

This review was originally posted on Shelfari.com on 9/24/12.

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.

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.

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