The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3)

0765356147.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The world is dying and everyone is looking for The Hero of Ages to save it and them in the conclusion of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy.  As Vin and Elend attempt to save as many people as possible, they also are racing to find answers left behind by Rashek, the Lord Ruler, to battle the god Ruin and preserve their world as best they can, the rest of the survivors of Kelsier’s crew do their best to help throughout the Final Empire.

A year after Vin released Ruin from The Well of Ascension, Elend and she race around the Empire in search of cache’s left by the Lord Ruler in the event of his failure to keep Ruin imprisoned.  While besieging Fadrex City, Vin gets captured by it’s obligator-king only to find herself also confronting Ruin himself and learning her place in his ‘plans’.  Meanwhile Spook, Breeze, and Sazed attempt to gain control of another cache in Urteau ruled by a Church of the Survivor zealot as both Spook and Sazed deal with major psychological conflicts that has a profound impact on the world itself.  And interweaving is the struggle of Kelsier’s brother turned Inquistor Marsh, the chief pawn of the god Ruin who alternatively desires the destruction of the world and himself.

The Hero of Ages successes in getting all the interwoven story arcs, of both the book itself and the trilogy as a whole, to a successful conclusion at the end of the book unlike it’s predecessor The Well of Ascension which struggled with it’s internal story arcs at the end.  The complexity and brilliance of the system-of-magic created by Sanderson is in full display as well as the fantastic battle scenes using it.  Sanderson also successes in writing a classic misdirection of prophetic fulfillment that doesn’t taking away from the whole of the trilogy, but fits perfectly together at the end when looking back over everything in hindsight.  If there is one flaw, it is the unfortunate rehashing of events numerous times usually in internal monologue.  While a certain character’s internal monologue of rehashing events or things, it was unnecessary to be done by others on a repeated basis.

While some of the internal monologues are drag in the middle of the book, it can not take too much away from a fantastically written conclusion to the Mistborn trilogy.  The Hero of Ages brings culmination to a series of events to the Mistborn world not just over a five year period, but of a thousand and of an infinity of length.  This book and the series as a whole is highly recommended.


Confirming Justice (Justice #2)

1932902597.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Confirming Justice by Diane Munson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Confirming Justice by wife-husband authors Diane & David Munson, who use their professional law enforcement and legal experience, create realistic crime fiction.  Just like in the their first book a significant Christian imprint appears throughout the book in numerous character’s story arcs.

Unlike the author’s first book, there is no central plot in Confirming Justice instead they intermingle two strong story arcs that from time-to-time merged briefly before once again separating before coming together to achieve a climax.  The two main characters in the book were both secondary characters introduced in the previous book, Judge Dwight Pendergast and FBI agent Griff Topping.  Pendergast’s arc shows a fair minded jurist not allowing his thoughts for a particular defendant influence the handling of a trial, then dealing with health and family concerns before and during the announcement that he is a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Topping’s arc begins with him attempting to find a fellow agent who is testifying in jury presided by Judge Pendergast then being asking by the judge afterwards to work on a private matter to find his long-lost older brother and while doing so stumbles upon a major drug case that partners him with former colleague.

Both main story arcs are well written and are the main reason why I gave this book the rating it has, but unfortunately other elements are also why I gave this book the rating I did.  The secondary characters in Confirming Justice fall into either one of two categories, well-rounded and flat, and are evenly divided between both which hurts the narrative.  The nefarious behind-the-scenes political intrigue subplot is unfortunately more a hindrance to the book’s quality than a benefit.  And like Facing Justice this book has Christian faith, or lack of it in most cases, prominent throughout numerous character’s lives, while this is not a negative in and of itself, the heavy-handed nature of it even made a Christian like myself think it was too much.

After finishing Confirming Justice, I thought it was a nice second effort by the authors especially in terms of the main story arcs however it faulted in other areas which has made me decided not to continue the series.

Legends: Stories by the Masters of Modern Fantasy

0765300354.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Legends by Robert Silverberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The eleven stories with in this first Legends anthology are by some of the best writers of fantasy and science fiction, both in prose and sales.  Edited by Robert Silverberg, who also contributed as well, the stories range within their established fictional worlds from stand alone either connect with the main series or in-between main series books or prequels with mixed results.

The best stories whether, stand alone or prequel, had the same things in common.  First the reader did not need to know anything about the fictional setting from any previous location as the authors used the stories to introduce the audience to their written creations.  Second, the story usually followed just one character, at most two if change of perspective was easily denoted, allowing the narrative to be tight given average 65 pages each story took.  Those that were on the bottom end of the scale were the exact opposite as they relied too much on the reader already knowing the story’s universe and too many characters or point-of-view changes to keep track of (or both!).

Unfortunately two of the weakest stories are at the very beginning and the end of the anthology, however of the nine stories in the middle of the anthology seven were at the least very good and make this fantastic purchase for anyone who gets it.

Individual Story Ratings
The Little Sisters of Eluria by Stephen King (3.5/5)
The Sea and Little Fishes by Terry Pratchett (4.5/5)
Debt of Bones by Terry Goodkind (3.5/5)
Grinning Man by Orson Scott Card (4/5)
The Seventh Shrine by Robert Silverberg (3.5/5)
Dragonfly by Ursula K. Le Guin (4/5)
The Burning Man by Tad Williams (5/5)
The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin (5/5)
Runner of Pern by Anne McCaffrey (4.5/5)
Wood Boy by Raymond E. Feist (5/5)
New Spring by Robert Jordan (2.5/5)

New Spring (WoT Prequel)

0765300354.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_New Spring by Robert Jordan
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I finished reading the expanded novella version of New Spring three years ago today, but the intervening years haven’t taken away my recollection of the novella and after finishing the short story I can say that even with it’s faults the novella was better.

The action follows fan favorites Lan and Moiraine surrounding tragic events in the Kandori royal palace which leads to them becoming Bonded and searching for the Dragon Reborn. However each opens up in what seems to be halfway through their narrative and that automatically hurts the overall effort. There were numerous secondary and tertiary characters that were a detriment of the whole piece because space had to be made to make them relevant which took away from the main plot thread. I was finding myself filling in the “holes” with memories from the novella.

Unlike Debt of Bones and The Burning Man, which were prequels as well this prequel relied heavily on the established series and as a result was probably the “worst” story of the anthology.

The Wheel of Time

Wood Boy (The Riftwar Saga)

0765300354.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Wood Boy by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The spring after the outbreak of the Riftwar, the Tsurani arrive at Lord Paul of White Hill’s estate and occupy it along with the nearby town of Walinor. Dirk, the titular Wood Boy, is the youngest servant on the estate and describes the next year and how it was to live under the occupation of the Tsurani and how he ends up walking into the camp of Duke Borric of Crydee’s pulling a sled with two dead bodies on it.

The story is very tightly written, the majority is from Dirk’s point-of-view with Duke Borric’s POV at the beginning and end of the story. Feist doesn’t try to give an overview of his entire world, but instead focuses on one small locale and how it deals with an inter-dimensional invasion especially in relation to an almost teenager who was trying to find his place in his old society and doesn’t know what to do except live day-to-day. It all adds up to a great short story.

The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel (ASOIAF- Dunk & Egg #1)

1477849106-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The graphic novel adaptation of the first of George R.R. Martin’s Dunk & Egg novellas, not only stays true to the originally written story but gives it life with fantastic renderings of all the characters, the locales, and the action.  Drawn by artist Mike S. Miller and livened by colorist Mike Crowell, The Hedge Knight gives both Game of Thrones book and show fans a great look into the history of the Seven Kingdoms by seeing the beginnings of two individuals, Ser Duncan (Dunk) the Tall and the future King Aegon (Egg) V, who impact the series even a century later.

The story begins with Dunk burying his mentor Ser Arlan Pennytree before taking his arms and horses to the Tourney at Ashford Meadow in an attempt to win a place in a lord’s house by winning a tilt and becoming a champion if only for a little while.  Unfortunately Dunk finds himself broiled in a family feud, but this family happens to be the dynasty of the dragonkings–the Targaryens.  Not only does Dunk find his temporary squire to be a Prince, but he punches and kicks Egg’s older (cruel) brother Aerion which could either leave him dead or maimed.  Dunk’s fate comes down to a unique form of trial by combat, which has ramifications not only for him but knightly families and the realm itself.

Of the work surrounding the graphic novel itself, I can only praise the work of Miller and Crowell who not only brought into visual life Dunk and Egg but so many other historically important characters in very consistent way throughout the entire book.  It is hard to find fault with the work of these two men save with pointing out a few continuity errors, which unfortunately happen in every graphic novel.  If anything after viewing their work I’m tempted to find more graphic novel either man has worked on given the good quality of work each put in this book.

If you’re a fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire world and haven’t gotten this book yet I recommend you get it; if you’re a television fan of Game of Thrones I highly recommend you get this book to see how the ancestors of some of your favorite and least favorite characters interacted while also seeing the Targaryens on the throne.

A Song of Ice and Fire

Runner of Pern (Pern #15.5)

0765300354.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Runner of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Although the Dragonriders are the most famous segment of Pern society, my first introduction of Anne McCaffrey’s writing. The narrative follows Tenna, an apprentice runner, who is making her way through her first “Cross”. However, her first journey to Fort Hold becomes eventful when a runnerbeast trespasses over the grass-like Traces that were developed by and for runners only. The bruised and wounded runner arrives at her destination and finds herself given quality care, something she had been use to giving to runners when serving with her mother before her apprenticeship.

The story itself helps give an overall cultural sense of Pern while not dealing with the famous dragonriders, except as additional details that don’t effect the story. Tenna is fully fleshed out for such a young person, though on Pern you have to grow up fast, but still has foibles like all young people including making mistakes and thinking they have it all figured out. Overall a very good story and makes me interested in looking more into Pern in the future.

The Hedge Knight (ASOIAF- Dunk & Egg #1)

0765300354.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The first in a series of novellas set almost a century before the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Martin introduces the readers to two individuals, the titular hedge knight Ser Duncan “Dunk” the Tall and his squire Prince Aegon “Egg” Targaryan. The story begins with Dunk burying his mentor Ser Arlen Pennytree before taking his arms and horses to the Tourney at Ashford Meadow in an attempt to win a place in a lord’s house by winning a tilt and becoming a champion if only for a little while.

Unfortunately Dunk finds himself broiled in a family feud, but this family happens to be the dynasty of the dragonkings–the Targaryans. Not only does Dunk find his temporary squire to be a Prince, but he punches and kicks Egg’s older (cruel) brother Aerion which could either leave him dead or maimed. Dunk’s fate comes down to a unique form of trial by combat, which has ramifications not only for him but knightly families and the realm itself.

Martin writes a tight story in which the reader doesn’t need to have read any books of the A Song of Ice and Fire series to enjoy, while also giving tidbits of family histories to fans of his main series. Written at around the same time of A Clash of Kings and published a month before, The Hedge Knight starts giving a background to the series and introducing two seemingly unimportant individuals who’ll cast long important shadows on events many years later.

The Burning Man (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn #0.5)

0765300354.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Burning Man by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The castle of Hayholt in the middle of Osten Ard is once again the location of a Tad Williams story. Set a few hundred years before the time of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy this story adds to the overall history of the Hayholt by describing the time of ‘King’ Sulis the Apostate, the 4th mortal to reign over the former Sithi capital of Asu’a, as told by his step-daughter Breda.

Breda recalls how Sulis was considered an Apostate by the Church in Nabban and how he pursued an intellectual question to the detriment to his own health, all the while Breda remembers her first love which at first seems trivial but later has important ramifications at the end of the story. The titular ‘Burning Man’ makes readers of the trilogy think of someone else, but is in fact a slight of hand by the author to MST fans while also intriguing to first time Osten Ard readers. The tight, interconnected plot threads and the nice swerve as to who the Burning Man is makes this prequel great both for MST readers and those that have never stepped foot in Osten Ard.

Dragonfly (Earthsea Cycle)

0765300354.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Dragonfly by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The world of Earthsea is full of wizards, sorcerers, sorceresses, and witches but magic seems to be unbalanced due to the actions of the archmage and the new king. However the main character and focus of the plot is the titular Dragonfly, true name Irian, with major secondary characters being two wizards that interact with her. Dragonfly/Irian goes to the Isle of Roke to the school of the wizards to learn what she needs to learn, even though she’s a woman (a major taboo). She arrives at both an uncertain time for the wizards and causes both division and introspection among the Council of Nine.

Although Robert Silverberg’s overview of the series is the basis’ of the stories introduction, the major fault of the story is that the individual reader needs to have read the series or at least the last Earthsea book published before this short story to know some the backgrounds of the wizards Dragonfly/Irian interact with. However, despite that Le Guin’s writing helps compensate for that one difficulty for a very good read.