Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2)

WoRWords of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The world of Roshar thought it had survived its great cataclysm four millennia ago, but days are slowly counting down for when the next Desolation begins. Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy series’ second installment, Words of Radiance, brings numerous characters together in the middle of the Shattered Plains as Roshar faces the beginning of the apocalypse as well the rebirth of it’s great heroic warriors that fought to save life.

Although the four main characters are once again front and center, but unlike the previous The Way of Kings it is Shallan Davar who dominates the majority of the book’s narrative either through her own point-of-view, flashbacks, or through the eyes of other major characters. Shallan and Jasnah are headed to the Shattered Plains by ship when it is attacked, Jasnah murdered, and Shallan dissolves the ship to save the crew and herself using her recently discovered Radiant abilities. Shallan continues to learn her new abilities as she travels through the Frostlands towards the Shattered Plain meeting several interesting people including Kaladin and the ringleader of Jasnah’s killers then takes her place as the agent of the group that killed her to learn what they know of the things Jasnah has been studying. Once at the warcamps, Shallan juggles multiple balls that eventually leads her out into the Plains at a critical moment to save the Atheli army.

Kaladin, Dalinar, and Adolin take up the vast majority of the rest of the book, essentially interacting a lot with one another or with Shallan once she gets to the camps. Kaladin’s is the major secondary arc of the book as he transforms the bridge crews into a guard force to protect Dalinar and his family while also continuing to deal with his issues with lighteyes and the responsibilities of his Radiant powers. Using his new position as Highprince of War, Dalinar along with Adolin attempt to combat the political intrigue of Sadeas and attempt to end the war either through peace or crushing the Parshendi in battle. Interlaced throughout the book are interludes that were dominated by the Parshendi general Eshonai and the Assasin in White, Szeth, whose own arcs help give an epic feel to the overall story while adding to the book’s main narrative flow.

While the length of The Way of Kings and the repetitive descriptions during scenes were my main complaint, Sanderson’s Words of Radiance were and wasn’t the same. The length of the second book is something to give pause (1300+ pages), the repetitive descriptions during the same scenes were cut out and narrative replaced it. Honestly, with more narrative then descriptions the length of the book becomes less noticeable especially once you’re a quarter of the way through the book but it’s always in the back of your mind.

Overall Words of Radiance is a very good book, building upon and improving over its predecessor and setting up anticipating for the read to see where Brandon Sanderson is going to take this series next.

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The Way of Kings

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The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1)

WoKThe Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Way of Kings is Brandon Sanderson’s opening volume in a new epic fantasy series, bringing his unique world building and ability to construct magical systems to the land of Roshar.  Through the viewpoints of four primary characters, Sanderson opens his epic with a wide view of his new world however seemed to let the story more than what was necessary.

The majority of the book revolves around Kaladin Stormblessed; though first seen through the eyes of a young soldier, his point-of-view begins with him as a former soldier and now a slave on his way towards the battlefield he had always wanted to go to while a soldier.  Kaladin’s struggle as a slave bridgeman that looks to save himself and then his fellow bridge team members takes up most of the book, but interwoven are flashback chapters relating events in Kaladin’s life that led to his eventual slavery.  Sanderson slowly develops Kaladin’s leadership of his bridge team as well as his slowly growing “magical” powers that come together at the end of the book to bring one phase of his character development to completion.

Two other major characters at the same battlefield are highprince Dalinar along with his eldest son, uncle and cousin to the King in charge of the army.  The two lords deal more with politics than battles until later in the book and when they do turn to the war; their life-and-death situation brings them into contact with Kaladin and setting the stage for the next book.  Away from the other three characters is Shallan, who ventures to be the ward of Dalinar’s scholarly niece Jasnah and steal the magical soulcaster that she possesses to save Shallan’s family from ruin after the death of Shallan’s father.  All three characters are in for surprises in their own story arcs.

While Sanderson opens his epic series in grand fashion, the main problem with The Way of Kings is frankly the length of the book.  While information and telling action is generally good, there can be too much of a good thing and this opening volume unfortunately suffers from that.  Repetitive descriptions during the same action sequence could have better edited without losing the intensity of what was happening, numerous internal thoughts did no need to be repeated over and over in a character’s chapters several times each.  It was the little things that were easily correctable that harmed this book that makes it really stand out.

Overall The Way of Kings is a good, though lengthy, read and made me want to see where Sanderson goes next in the second volume.

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Words of Radiance

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3)

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3)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.

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The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2)

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2)The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The Well of Ascension” is where the Lord Ruler gained godlike powers to battle the Deepness and then transform the world instead of just releasing it, or that’s what Kelsier’s crew believed throughout the second Mistborn book by Brandon Sanderson.  The middle volume of the Mistborn trilogy not only has the magic of allomancy of the first but realpolitik as the Final Empire collapses into numerous kingdoms.

The book begins a year after the Collapse following the death of the Lord Ruler with more point-of-view characters from the beginning than “Final Empire” had initially, giving a sense of the bigger scope that “Ascension” is meant to have given the plot threads throughout the book.  The primary character continues to be the street urchin-turned-Mistborn Vin who not only protects the city from antagonistic allomancers bent on assassinating Elend Venture who rules Luthadel as King and who wants to marry her.  Elend along with Vin and the rest of the Kelsier crew must deal with three armies arriving and besieging the former imperial capital as well as dealing with internal political intrigue.  And only to add stuff on top of that, the ever present nightly mist is starting to crept into the day, form spirits, and kill people.

At about 760 pages, “Ascension” is a 100 pages longer than “Final Empire” and given the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and political conflicts within the book this seems a reasonable.  Unfortunately there were brief stretches in which the writing drags in the middle and last third of the book as internal conflicts are rehashed once again for Vin and Elend in regards to themselves and the other, the sheer amount of times it’s repeat gets wearing to the reader.  The book has a lot of unforeseen twists that catches the reader off guard both positively and negatively depending on the clues only picked up on after the fact, if there are any.  However unlike the “Final Empire” in which the last 100 pages turned out to be a weakness, the last 100 pages of Ascension was a strength as subplots were resolved and the story threads quickly interwove for quiet a interesting ending that makes you want to see what happens next in “Hero of Ages”.

As with all second acts, all doesn’t go well for the heroes even though they survive (for the most part) and strive to build a better world than the one they’ve had.  “The Well of Ascension” builds upon what Brandon Sanderson began in “Final Empire” not only in the present time frame of his world, but into it’s past and setting up a potentially fantastic ending to the “Mistborn” trilogy.

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Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)

The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The “Mistborn” are suppose to be of noble birth, however in Brandon Sanderson’s first book of the series of the same name it turns out this is not the case and it proves to be the undoing to the evil seemingly immortal Lord Ruler in the end.  The first book of the “Mistborn” finds both tropes and fantasy genre clichés used in familiar as well as twisted ways, resulting in a excellent read.

The plot followed two individuals, both the titular mistborn: Vin, a young thief just trying to survive, and Kelsier, the master thief who survived a living death sentence and plans to topple the Final Empire by starting an actual skaa (think serfs) rebellion.  Set in a world where the hero failed a 1000 years before and the evil dark lord has ruled ever since, Kelsier brings Vin who doesn’t know she’s a mistborn into his high-end thieving crew with a plan to destabilize and topple the Final Empire.

Giving “Mistborn” its major fantasy element is Sanderson’s inventive magic system of Allomancy, which individuals “burn” metals they have ingested that affect either internally or externally things specific to those metals.  The titular mistborn have the ability to burn all known metals while mistings are only able to burn one metal, nearly all of Kelsier’s crew use allomancy in one form or another which is how Vin trains in the uses of her mistborn powers.

For almost 550 pages, Sanderson writes a in riveting cannot put the book down style that keeps on raising the reader’s anticipating to see how he ends the story.  Unfortunately the last 100 pages prove to be the weakest part of the book as Sanderson ties up all the various story elements he’s laid down.  It isn’t the fact Sanderson ties it up, it’s how he does it.  It almost felt like several things happening on top of one another that kept on pushing down the big showdown that you knew was coming and then didn’t give enough time for a proper denouement, which got regulated to the epilogue.  However the decision to have the Lord Ruler appear only in the last tenth of the book and the bait-and-switch of his true identity was a pleasant surprise.

“Mistborn: The Final Empire” is a satisfying read even with a unfortunate weak end but not even not to make you want to find out what happens next in the aftermath in the Final Empire’s fall.

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