The Epic Goes On: Brandon Sanderson – Oathbringer

By now my faithful readers know the reason why I’m always so late to read Sanderson’s latest instalment in The Stormlight Archive. It’s not because I’m not super excited and want to dive back into the world of Roshar. It’s because Graphic Audio take their time to produce a quality audiobook with full cast, music, background noises and so on – and I love listening to this story that way, sometimes reading along in the book, looking at the illustrations. But the time has come, I have caught up, and I can say Oathbringer continues the epic epicness of the two predecessors. SPOILERS for The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance below!!!

OATHBRINGER
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2017
Audiobook: 41 hours
Hardcover: 1248 pages
Series: The Stormlight Archive #3
My rating: 8/10

First sentence: Eshonai had always told her sister that she was certain something wonderful lay over the next hill.

In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.
Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.
Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand together–and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past–even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.

The Stormlight Archive, as vast and daunting as its world may seem, follows a pretty clear structure. The first book focused on Kaladin (still my favorite character, just sayin’), the second was all about Shallan and her past, and this one is Dalinar’s. We know already from the first two books who Dalinar is and we also know his reputation as the Blackthorn, a powerful war lord who has won every battle his king sent him out to fight. But there are holes in Dalinar’s memory. Oathbringer fills in those holes and lets us see not only why Dalinar is the man he is today but who he used to be and what made him become “our” Dalinar. That alone was worth 1200 pages if you ask me.

But there also happens to be a few new threats on the horizon (one of them literally). The Everstorm is here, the Voidbringers are back, Roshar is in turmoil, the Knights Radiant are coming back… there is a lot to do if these characters want to bring some sort of peace to the world. And as you may guess from the massive amount of pages in this book, a lot happens. Dalinar is desperately trying to unite the kingdoms by inviting all the kings and queens to talk, a task that proves more difficult than expected, but vital if humanity is to survive long-term.

Kaladin visits his old home and learns some interesting things about the parshmen, things that already have an impact in this book but will probably become even more important later on. Shallan continues training her abilities by slipping into her various personas. This led to some truly exciting and hard-to-read character development on her part. I didn’t expect to care so much about her because, again, this is clearly Dalinar’s book, but Shallan’s story was just as intriguing. Especially the ending of her storyline felt mostly satisfying. Mostly because – as much as I dislike forced love triangles – I was rather a fan of this particular triangle. Shallan engaged to Adolin, but clearly interested in Kaladin, who in turn is drawn to her. I’m not saying the triangle is officially completely resolved by the end of the book but I’m pretty sure things are set now.

A Stormlight Archive book wouldn’t be complete without epic battles, and boy do they get epic! I thought the battle on the Shattered Plains from the first book couldn’t be topped, both in scope and in emotional impact. But hey, Sanderson did it. There are several fights in this book and what I liked was that they aren’t won by numbers or superpowers, but rather by key decisions made by certain characters. Describing a battle must be incredibly difficult, describing reading about a battle would simply be boring, so I’ll just leave you with my assurance that the epic battles are truly epic.

Another thing I adored and hope to get more of in future books is Shadesmar. We first enter this other realm with Jasnah Kholin in Words of Radiance and ever since then, it has been my own personal nightmare fuel. But of course, with a Sanderson book, even nightmare places adhere to certain rules and as such aren’t that scary. You just have to know how to navigate them. Shadesmar comes into play again in Oathbringer and while it doesn’t take up much of the novel, I was so excited to learn more about this place. I have more questions now than I did before but I’ve come to trust Brandon Sanderson to answer them when the time is ready.

As for world-building, need I really tell you again how great it is? I am still fascinated that every book opens the world up a bit more, makes me question new things that happen and want to understand the bigger picture. I believe this could be quite frustrating for many readers and if I didn’t know Sanderson’s works, I might be frustrated too. One question gets answered (sort of) and a hundred new ones appear. One mystical creature becomes a little clearer – spren, for example – and he introduces new ones that make absolutely no sense. Yet.

I did think this book wasn’t as good structurally as its two predecessors. That may be because by now, too many characters are protagonists and Sanderson tried to give each of them enough time and space. In certain scenes, the jumps between characters were decidedly too fast and too frequent for my taste and I get why it was done that way – to convey how stressful and fast the situation is moving forward – but I don’t like being ripped out of a POV every single page (or every minute in the audiobook). I also thought certain plot strings, like Shallan’s involvement with the Ghostbloods, were mentioned only to keep them alive long enough to become important again. Which may only happen in book seven, for all I know.

I realize now that I’ve written quite a bit about this book without really saying much, but that’s the thing. I don’t want to spoil anything, not the quieter character moments that make the series so special, no details about the battles, because I want you all to experience the book the way I did. With no pre-formed ideas about the plot, simply with the knowledge that it’s a journey worth taking and that none of these 1200 pages is wasted.

MY RATING: 8/10 – Excellent!

Brandon Sanderson – Words of Radiance

There’s a reason Sanderson’s books are sold as Epic Fantasy because when he wants to go epic, he goes EPIC. This is the second book in the Stormlight Archive so if you haven’t read the first, steer far away from anything below this introduction. There will, by necessity, be spoilers galore for the first book and even then it’s going to be hard talking about this series spoiler-free.

WORDS OF RADIANCE
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2014
Hardcover: 1087 pages
Graphic Audio: ~ 37 hours
Series: The Stormlight Archive #2
My rating: 8,5/10

First sentence: Jasnah Kholin pretended to enjoy the party, giving no indication that she intended to have one of the guests killed.

Expected by his enemies to die the miserable death of a military slave, Kaladin survived to be given command of the royal bodyguards, a controversial first for a low-status “darkeyes.” Now he must protect the king and Dalinar from every common peril as well as the distinctly uncommon threat of the Assassin, all while secretly struggling to master remarkable new powers that are somehow linked to his honorspren, Syl.
The Assassin, Szeth, is active again, murdering rulers all over the world of Roshar, using his baffling powers to thwart every bodyguard and elude all pursuers. Among his prime targets is Highprince Dalinar, widely considered the power behind the Alethi throne. His leading role in the war would seem reason enough, but the Assassin’s master has much deeper motives.
Brilliant but troubled Shallan strives along a parallel path. Despite being broken in ways she refuses to acknowledge, she bears a terrible burden: to somehow prevent the return of the legendary Voidbringers and the civilization-ending Desolation that will follow. The secrets she needs can be found at the Shattered Plains, but just arriving there proves more difficult than she could have imagined.
Meanwhile, at the heart of the Shattered Plains, the Parshendi are making an epochal decision. Hard pressed by years of Alethi attacks, their numbers ever shrinking, they are convinced by their war leader, Eshonai, to risk everything on a desperate gamble with the very supernatural forces they once fled. The possible consequences for Parshendi and humans alike, indeed, for Roshar itself, are as dangerous as they are incalculable.

First of all: I have no idea how to review this book. There is so much going on, the universe expands, the characters grow into their powers, new storylines are introduced, and it’s all just SO MUCH. Which, I guess, is why this beast of a book is over 1000 pages long. But I’ll do my best in what will probably be an extremely vague review. Most importatly, I loved reading it and these 1000 pages felt like a mere 200.

If The Way of Kings was Kaladin’s book, this is clearly Shallan’s. The story continues seamlessly from where the first book left off, continues and (finally!) intertwines Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar’s tales, and answers some burning questions, while throwing up a whole bunch of new ones. Oh, and did I mention the epic battles, powerful magic, lovely bickering, and world-building? Well, you’ll get all of that too for the price of one book.

Having fallen in love with Graphic Audio a few years ago, I almost don’t want to consume Sanderson through any other medium anymore. I did buy a hardback of Words of Radiance (and  my copy of Oathbringer is pre-ordered of course), but the whopping 37 hours of Graphic Audio, what with all the voices I’ve gotten used to, the theme music and the sound spren make, I absolutely prefer having read this gigantic book to me. I can only continue to recommend these audiobooks!

But on to the actual story. It opens with a big smack in the face with a Jasnah flashback that (literally) opens whole new worlds for us readers to think about and consider. In the present, Shallan is trying to make it to the Shattered Plains, Kaladin is coming to terms with his powers and his new position under Dalinar, and Dalinar is still seeking to save the world somehow. From whatever it is that threatens it. From these starting points, so many things happen, I couldn’t possible sum them up but, to me, the magic system and the world building became much more clear in this book than in The Way of Kings. What at first appeared to be random or existed by evolution turns out to have more complex backgrounds and it was so much fun discovering how new information made events from the first book appear in a different light. We learn a lot about spren, about what is probably the Big Bad for our heroes to fight, about history and culture in Roshar… oh man, there is seriously so much to discover. I especially liked the interludes which usually have nothing to do with the main story but are put in as an added world-building bonus, if you like.

Without giving too much away, there are a few things I want to talk about. For me, even in the first book, when they hadn’t met yet, it was clear that Shallan and Kaladin would make a kick-ass couple. Having them finally meet and turn out to be MY FAVORITE  THING IN THE WORLD OF FICTION – a bickering couple that slowly builds respect for each other – was the best part of this book for me. Also, the fact that they both have powers that they are hiding from others makes for some hilarious scenes. In case it’s not obvious, I’m shipping these two hard! But it’s not only Shallan and Kaladin who grow as people and who show different facets of their characters. Adolin, whom I liked in the first book, but thought of as slightly childish, feels like a more rounded character, more grown-up, more focused on what’s important, and I have grown even fonder of Renarin, who is kind of the underdog of the Kholin family but who shows that he is just as important and strong (in his own way) as his brother.

Politically speaking, a lot of stuff happens in this book. Action-wise, a lot of stuff happens in this book. I couldn’t possibly go into detail about all of it, but let me say that Sanderson knows how to write battles! Whether it’s two Shardbearers going at each other, or entire armies clashing on the Shattered Plains, do not expect to remember to eat or go to the bathroom while you’re reading this book. Much like in the Mistborn series, the magic also feels very naturally a part of the fighting. When Sanderson writes about lashings or someone sucking in Stormlight, there is no need for long explanations on what that means, it’s just like someone saying “He picked up his sword”. The magic is an organic part of this fictional world and it just works. I still have a billion questions, especially considering the Cosmere, but man, that was an awesome book!

As I said, this was Shallan’s book, and just like we got Kaladin flashbacks in The Way of Kings, we get Shallan flashbacks in this one, fleshing out her past, her reasons for hunting down Jasnah Kholin, and more information about Shallan’s family. Some of these were not surprising, but there were a few revelations that I found quite chilling. And knowing what Shallan has gone through makes her character all the more impressive. The way Kaladin deals with grief (and he’s had his share of that!) is very different from how Shallan deals with hers, but I liked both of them better for it.

Now, after a bit of a book hangover, I am just super excited to see who the next book will focus on (I think it’s Dalinar) and how the new – huge – discoveries of this one will shape the world of Roshar. I could honestly just drown myself in this world and never come up for air. If you have a bit of time on your hands and want to truly immerse yourself in an epic fantasy world, trust the legions of Sanderson fans and give this series a try. The page count may seem daunting at first, but I’ll bet you’ll wish for even more pages as soon as you start reading. I certainly am.

MY RATING: 8,5/10 – EPIC!

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Brandon Sanderson – The Bands of Mourning

I can’t believe it. I am actually all caught up on a Brandon Sanderson series. Granted, it’s only one of his many book series and I still have a prequel-novella to read but novel-wise, I am up to date. And now I have to wait first for the next book to come out and then for Graphic Audio to adapt it. Ah, the beautiful agony that is waiting for books…

bands-of-mourningTHE BANDS OF MOURNING
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2016
Hardcover: 447 pages
Series: Mistborn #6
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: “Telsin!” Waxillium hissed as he crept out of the training hut.

With The Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.
Now, with The Bands of Mourning, Sanderson continues the story. The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metalminds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.

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Vin’s story is long over but her victory over the Lord Ruler has left its marks on the world. It also left physical relics, such as the fabled metalminds which the Lord Ruler used to make himself practically immortal. Wax and Wayne get tangled up in another adventure that has them search for these Bands. Marasi, Me-Laan, and even Steris, get to be part of the crew and they pick up some new friends – and enemies – along the way.

As in Shadows of Self, it felt like a number of sub-plots were being juggled, but juggled rather hectically and without as much planning as in the first Mistborn trilogy. Where plot strings beautifully wove together to create a bigger whole at the end, here it feels like every book introduces new side plots, new political factions and character side stories, only to unceremoniously drop some (Wayne’s attempts at redemption, or his obesseion with their weapons supplier, for example). Others feel like they should have been foreshadowed way earlier but were instead thrown in quickly and info-dumpy to prepare for the scenes to come.

But I was pretty forgiving of that because of the sheer creativity that is coming from this author. After having explored this world and magic system for five books (of not inconsiderable size) I loved how Sanderson still manages to find a new way (or several, really) to use this type of metal magic. There is very little I can say without spoiling but if you’ve come this far in the series you already know that there’s always another secret.

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This book also took me on quite an emotional joy-ride. Not only was there a lot going on and it was a thrill to follow the characters as they solve problems each in their own way – I will never forget Spoiled Tomato – but I have also come to love all of them for being who they are. Marasi has grown into herself and trusts as much in her instincts as in statistical data, Wayne is slightly more serious, although you still mustn’t take away his hat. Ever! And Wax, who has been through so much, is put through hell once more. The biggest surprise was Steris, in her cold mathematical manner, who showed kindness and courage and creativity in the face of danger. So yeah, I love that gang!

One more aspect took me by surprise, in a very positive way. I had only read one romance penned by Sanderson and while I liked it, many people found it silly. Here, however, we find romance in an unlikely place and I was quite surprised at how much I rooted for this particular couple to work things out. It also shows a deft hand at writing character – Sanderson may have shown us certain aspects of these characters in the previous books, but that doesn’t mean we truly know them. In The Bands of Mourning, almost all of them got to show a different side of themselves and it was great fun to discover how amazing this group truly is.

The very end, of course, dangles a new bit of information in front of our noses, only to end in a cliffhanger. The main story of The Bands of Mourning may be resolved, but Wax’s tale is not over yet, and in the big picture, we have only seen the slightest glimpse of what the Cosmere has to offer.

MY RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good!

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Here are my opinions on all the previous books in the series:

 

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Brandon Sanderson – Shadows of Self

Aaaaand Mistborn continues to be great, although there is a clear departure from the light-hearted The Alloy of Law to this new story arc. While Alloy was just a bit of fun and can technically be read without any prior knowledge of the other Mistborn books, Shadows of Self is set deeply in the world that we first came to know through Vin’s eyes. The tone also shifts and is more serious again as Sanderson delivers one of his most heartbreaking twists yet.

shadows of selfSHADOWS OF SELF
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2015
Ebook: 384 pages
Series: Mistborn #5
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: Waxillium Ladrian, lawman for hire, swung off his horse and turned to face the saloon.

With The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.
The trilogy’s heroes are now figures of myth and legend, even objects of religious veneration. They are succeeded by wonderful new characters, chief among them Waxillium Ladrian, known as Wax, hereditary Lord of House Ladrian but also, until recently, a lawman in the ungoverned frontier region known as the Roughs. There he worked with his eccentric but effective buddy, Wayne. They are “twinborn,” meaning they are able to use both Allomantic and Feruchemical magic.
Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts.
This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.
Shadows of Self will give fans of The Alloy of Law everything they’ve been hoping for and, this being a Brandon Sanderson book, more, much more.

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Wax and Wayne are irrisistible (especially Wayne). And they’ve got another case on their hands, but this time, they don’t work nearly as alone as they did last time. Marasi has become a constable and helps them wherever she can, although her personal relationship with Wax seems strained, compared to their easy banter from the first book. Which is only natural, considering that Wax is coming more and more to terms with marrying Steris, Marasi’s cousin.

One surprise of this new series was that characters turn out not to be as one-dimensional as they seem at first. Steris in particular turned out to be more than what she likes to show in public. But in Shadows of Self, Wayne also gets to show a side of him that doesn’t fit with his cocky, fun, light-hearted side. It made him an even better character to know that – like anyone else – he has darkness in his past and he can’t just shake it off.

But the most tortured soul in Shadows of Self is definitely Wax. His past confronts him in several ways, but especially the loss of his wife in the Roughs haunts him with every move he makes. It was also Wax who was hit hardest by the ending. I cried big tears for him, that’s all I’m saying. And I am very curious to see how these new developments impact his character development in the rest of the series.

Plot-wise, this was a bit of a mess. Sanderson tries to juggle many, many plot-strings at once. There is the one started in The Alloy of Law with Wax’s uncle conspiring for his own ends, there are the terrorist attacks that Wax, Wayne, and Marasi are trying to figure out, the kandra make a new appearance and wrap up a whole of lot of history since last we saw them. There are labor strikes and unrests, there are politics and police procedures, several religions trying to gain the upper hand… you see what I mean when I say it was a bit too much for one book, especially one comparatively short for Sanderson. I commend him for making the best of every scene, getting out the most of each line, having his text do world-building as well as advancing the plot at the same time. But as a reader, it still felt a bit overwhelming, not knowing which aspect to concentrate on.

I think that piece of legwork was simply needed to give the next book in the series room to breathe. A lot of things have been established here that can be used later without re-explaining them. I appreciated that – despite the abundance of themes – there was still time for character growth and development. The introduction of MeLaan promises a lot of fun for future books, and meeting old (very old!) friends again gave me some readerly joy, even if it was bittersweet.

Although things are resolved at the end of Shadows of Self, this was one of the most devastating endings Sanderson has ever written (at least of the ones I’ve read). It’s a perfect balance between telling a story with a satisfying ending but leaving enough questions open for the next book. He’s always been good at that but this time, it’s the emotional plot strings that are left frayed and I worry for Wax as a person more than for the larger world and its fate. Well… I guess there’s no way around it – I’ll just have to pick up the next book and find out what else lies in store.

MY RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good

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If you haven’t read the the Mistborn Series at all, here are my thoughts on the other books.

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Brandon Sanderson – The Way of Kings

This is a seriously big book! I mean really, really big. It’s a good 1000 pages long, it features one of the best character arcs I could have wanted and begins a huge, epic tale of war, finding truth, rediscovering history and, you guessed it because it’s Sanderson, intricate magic systems. While I started reading the hardback book, which also has beautiful illustrations by the way, I did end up buying the Graphic Audio audiobooks again. More on that after my thoughts about the story itself (but spoiler: it was totally worth it again).

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THE WAY OF KINGS
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2010
Hardcover: 1007 pages
Graphic Audio: 37 hours
Series: The Stormlight Archive #1
My rating: 8,5/10

First sentence: Kalak rounded a rocky stone ridge and stumbled to a stop before the body of a dying thunderclast.

Speak again the ancient oaths,
Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before Destination.

and return to men the Shards they once bore.
The Knights Radiant must stand again.
Roshar is a world of stone swept by tempests that shape ecology and civilization. Animals and plants retract; cities are built in shelter. In centuries since ten orders of Knights fell, their Shardblade swords and Shardplate armor still transform men into near-invincible warriors. Wars are fought for them, and won by them.
In one such war on ruined Shattered Plains, slave Kaladin struggles to save his men and fathom leaders who deem them expendable, in senseless wars where ten armies fight separately against one foe.
Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Fascinated by ancient text The Way of Kings, troubled by visions of ancient times, he doubts his sanity.
Across the ocean, Shallan trains under eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece Jasnah. Though Shallan genuinely loves learning, she plans a daring theft. Her research hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

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This is a very difficult book to review because there is so much going on, although the time covered in-world isn’t even that great. Since we’re following three protagonists, I’ll break this up into three parts, starting with my favorite. Because I can.

Kaladin Stormblessed stole my readerly heart immediately. He is a slave who was once a soldier and he’s basically given up on life. We meet him as he is transported and then sold to a Highlord waging war on the Shattered Planes. The Shattered Plains by themselves made me go Woah! because it is such a cool world-building idea. The illustrations in the novel show a place that looks like wet earth left to dry in the scorching sun broke into lots of little pieces, almost a mosaic of ground with chasms between the single plateaus. It’s not just a piece of world-building for easthetics’ sake, but the premise for Kaladin’s entire existence in this book.

Twenty years ago, the king was murdered. An assassination ordered by the Parshendi, a race of human-like people who had just made peace shortly before apparently changing their minds and killing the king. So now there’s a sort of revenge-war going on that has warped into something quite different. With the use of bridges, the High Lords cover the Shattered Plains to meet the Parshendi and fight them. But on some of the plateaus, there are gemhearts – a sought-after type of riches and glory and whatnot. It’s way too much to explain here (which is why Sanderson wrote 1000 pages, duh). The important thing is that Kaladin becomes a bridgeman, a person who – along with other slaves – carries a bridge at a run, puts it down for the army to cross, crosses himself, then picks it up again and repeats until the assult is done. And then do the whole thing on the way back again. It’s absolutely gruelling but also has some of the best descriptions in the book. The utter hopelessness that takes hold of Kaladin permeated his early chapters and gave the novel some serious atmosphere.

Through the course of the book, Kaladin changes, grows, learns things about himself and faces his past. That’s all I’m willing to say, spoiler-free, but his character development was simply stunning and I looked forward to his chapters the most. He also becomes friends with a spren, a sort of Sanderson-esque Tinker Bell. She’s awesome!

Next there is Dalinar, a High Lord on the Shattered Plains, showing the war from another perspective. He’s got his own problems, apart from running assaults and fighting a war he no longer believes in. During Highstorms (oh boy, another bit of world-building too intricate to describe. It’s just a really big storm, you guys) he is haunted by visions. It’s the Stormlight Archive version of VR where Dalinar sees stuff and can interact with the people he is shown. Sometimes he “wakes up” in somebody else’s body. I won’t say I understood all of it – which was definitely on purpose on the author’s part – but it was damn thrilling to read. I liked Dalinar a lot, not just because he is basically a lonely Stark in a Lannister world, but also because his story line creates such a nice balance to Kaladin’s. Where we follow the lowliest of slaves, doing the hardest and most dangerous job during the war, Dalinar shows what it’s like on top of the food chain, being the man who commands slaves to run into their death. Except, Dalinar being a Stark, he doesn’t waste bridge crews the way his rival Sadeas does.

Dalinar’s story served pretty much to make sense of the societal norms. We learn things like reading and writing being a woman’s job. Men need glorified secretaries if they want stuff written down or written stuff read to them. I found this incredibly silly, but then again, so is the idea that people are “sorted” into castes based on their eye color. Lighteyes are aristocracy, darkeyes are on the bottom. I suppose it’s not much sillier than dividing people by their skin color, but picking eye color made it all the more obvious how arbitrary and stupid it really is – picking people’s station by physical differences. Dalinar’s story is the one that delivers the most exciting battle scenes and offers a seriously AMAZEBALLS epic ending. All balanced with a nice dose of world-building. Well done indeed.

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My least favorite story, I’m sad to say, is Shallan’s. The only female protagonist got the worst deal, if you ask me. She is far from the Shattered Plains, and she has a plan of her own. Shallan arrives in Kharbranth, a city hewn into stone, to become the apprentice of the notorious Jasnah Kholin (who’s related to the current king, who is thus related to the guys fighting on the Shattered Plains). Jasnah is a scholar, so much time in Shallan’s storyline is spent with books, in dusty rooms, establishing more of the world, this time from a woman’s perspective. Another silly bit of world-building is that women (at least aristocracy) have a “safe pouch” in which they keep one of their hands hidden. Showing that hand is equivalent to me letting a boob hang out in public, so one hand is always sewn inside whichever garment Shallan wears. I hope there’ll be some cool explanation for that because it seems incredibly stupid and hindering in daily life. Seriously, I need to use both hands all the time.

Shallan’s story takes a LONG time to pick up pace, but when it does, it is both weird and creepy, and wonderfully exciting. She is the one who discovers this book’s big plot twist at the end, and it wasn’t even a cheap one. I really liked how it changed my world view (for the world in the novel, that is) completely and puts things into a different light. Shallan’s story isn’t bad, but it felt to me like much less care was put into it compared to Kaladin. I fully believe Kaladin was Brandon Sanderson’s favorite bit to write and that shows.

Lastly, there is another character who shows up much less frequently, but who is another constant. Szeth the assassin probably has the worst job you can imagine. He’s an assassin who has to kill whomever he is commanded by his current master. The only person he can’t kill is himself. And he yearns to die! We know very little about Szeth, except that he’s got some seriously cool tricks up his sleeve but, boy, do I want to know more about him.

All things considered – also the ones I didn’t even mention here, like Shardblades and spren, stormlight-infused gems and Parshendi armour – this is one hell of a book. It has epic battles, great character development, the right amoung of flashbacks, plus interludes following completely different characters in different places. As a series starter, the book did a lot of groundwork for the world-building, and there is no shortage of that, but it kept a nice balance between plot and exposition. We are thrown just enough hints to get us intrigued but Sanderson skilfully leaves many questions open for later.   It is a long book, yes, and it’s only the first part of ten (!) but I honestly can’t wait to read on and find out more about this world, follow these characters and see how everything is connected.

About the Graphic Audio edition:

Graphic Audio is usually unabridged recordings with a full cast, great sound effects and background music. This time, I noticed that some bits were abridged, although nothing important. It’s clear that “Kaladin said” and “Shallan thought” were left out, because we hear their actual voices saying or thinking stuff (thoughts have a sort of echo to distinguish from regular speech), but sometimes when I read along in the book, I noticed that a sentence or two of description was dropped. Again, nothing vital, and I can’t fault Graphic Audio the cuts in such a long story. I did follow along in the book quite a bit, if only for the illustrations and chapter headings. I also recognised some actor voices from the Mistborn series, and I must commend them on the excellent job they did – although all I have to go on is their voice, they truly sounded like completely different people.
Now I’m facing the difficult decision of whether to wait for the next book to come out as a Graphic Audio or to start reading my hardback copy. We’ll see how long I can wait…

MY RATING: 8,5/10 – Seriously excellent!

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Brandon Sanderson – The Alloy of Law

I have made no secret of my love for Graphic Audio and the way they do audiobooks. With a full cast of actors, fantastic narrators, sound effects and music, it’s my favorite way of listening to a story. It took me a while to get over Vin’s story in the Mistborn universe but now I am ready to read the next chapter set in that big sprawling world of allomancers.

alloy of lawTHE ALLOY OF LAW
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2011
Ebook: 332 pages
Audiobook: ~ 8 hours
Series: Misborn #4, Alloy Era #1
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: Wax crept along the ragged fence in a crouch, his boots scraping the dry ground.

Centuries after the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is on the verge of modernity – railroads, electric street lights, and skyscrapers. Waxillium Ladrian can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After 20 years in the dusty Roughs, in the city of Elendel, the new head of a noble house may need to keep his guns.

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It was hard for me to accept a story set 300 years after Vin’s tale and my mind buckled a bit when Waxilium Ladrian used his allomancy in combination with guns. But I quickly fell into this new version of the Mistborn universe and I really enjoy the different vibe of this story. Other than the epic scope and Dramatic And Important Tale of the first Mistborn trilogy, this is a much lighter, more fun read that makes the pages fly even faster.

Wax is a twinborn, somebody who can use both allomancy and feruchemy, and he has just returned from the Roughs to the city of Elendel to take over his dead uncle’s estate and keep the family name going. This premise already set off an explosion in my head because of course everything hails back to Vin and Elend’s story and there are tons and tons of references to the first Mistborn trilogy. Some are in plain sight, such as city names, others are woven into the world building. A religion may be based on real events (but twisted, of course, as history handed down the story and invariably changed it in the retelling), or swear words based on actual people. Sanderson is a smart man so he doesn’t give a lot away but just enough to get me to bite and break my brain trying to fit everything into its place. I really enjoy that sort of thing.

alloy of law GABut of course, a new era of allomancers means new characters and this was what worried me. Unnecessarily, as it turns out. Wax and Wayne, the cheeky but adorable friend, took my heart by storm. Marasi turned out to be great although she blushed a bit too much for my taste. Although she doesn’t appear for long in this book, I also really liked the gun specialist Ranette. Another female character, Steris, was a completely over the top heartless, practical, stoic woman whom we’re not supposed to like but who showed some real emotion towards the end. I was actually impressed and hope that she gets to develop more in future books.

The plot is fast-paced and fun. Wax, Wayne, and Marasi are investigating the Vanishers, a group of criminals who rob train cars, but so quickly nobody understands how they do it. They also kidnap women and nobody knows why. Being a former lawkeeper, Wax can’t help but stick his nose into the case and he and Wayne banter their way to the truth. Dialogue, especially funny dialogue, is something that Sanderson didn’t have down all that well, at least to my taste. But Wayne – who is definitely the heart of all that’s fun in this book – bantered his way merrily through the entire book. He cleverly cons people using his allomantic powers and it’s just pure fun to watch.

Speaking of allomantic powers – allomancy leveled up! I was surprised at how many things stuck in my brain from the first Mistborn trilogy, like which metal gave you which power and so on. Now there’s a complete new set of rules to learn, but unlike Kelsier’s lessons to Vin, there are no chapters dedicated to explaining allomancy and feruchemy, or how they can be combined. It’s all kind of clear from context, at least the abilities of the protagonists and the villain. I especially love that there is now a power that can manipulate time. This opens so many doors to cool places I can’t wait to continue reading this series.

The writing was Sanderson lite. At less than 400 pages, this is a short book, but it is right just the way it is. The lower page count doesn’t give Sanderson enough time to dive into his new world endlessly but gives us just a big enough taste to keep us wanting more. The plot happens quickly but doesn’t feel rushed, the characters get enough time for development to make them sympathetic but there’s room for more. And there was even enough time for a few surprises about which I can say nothing because spoilers in Sanderson books are really, really huge things.

All things considered, this was a Hollywood movie in book form with guns and action, witty banter, great new superpowers and a well-known setting in new clothing. I am hooked!

MY RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good!

About the Graphic Audio version:

Graphic Audio did a perfect job of keeping the Mistborn universe alive. They use the Mistborn theme to set the tone, the narrator is the same one who told us Vin’s story, but the character actors are (mostly) new. Of course, certain actors from the first trilogy play new characters here, but they changed their voices and accents in such a way that I didn’t find it distracting at all. When allomancy is used, the same tingling sound effect is used that I heard so many times when Vin was learning how to push and pull metals. It’s the perfect combination of old and new.

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Second opinions:

 

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Brandon Sanderson – Steelheart

So, after reading The Fifth Season, a major book hangover took hold of me. I tried reading ten different books that I had all been looking forward to, but nothing seemed right. Instead, I decided to pick something completely different from Jemisin’s magnificent post-apocalpytic novel.  And because I knew it would be exciting and could be read quickly, I went for Brandon Sanderson’s superhero series. This was exactly what I needed to get me back on my reading feet, so to speak.

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STEELHEART
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Gollancz, 2013
Ebook: 384 pages
Series: The Reckoners #1
My rating: 6/10

First sentence: I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.
Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.
And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

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This book has all the ingredients for a Hollywood blockbuster. Unfortunately, it also has about the same amount of depth. So one day, out of the blue, superheroes appear all over the world (although of course mostly the USA, because the rest of the world is not interesting, right?) but instead of being vigilantes helping keep the peace, they turn to evil and make the world a really shitty place.

I had a whole, level-headed review prepared but I deleted it all because I need to rant a bit. I liked the book for its entertainment value, don’t get me wrong. But I get the feeling that either Sanderson’s heart is not in this series as much as in his Mistborn universe or the Stormlight Archive, or he took this whole “writing for a teenage audience” thing a step too far. Because comparatively, this book reads very dumbed down. Sanderson can do better!

So, one day, supervillains popped up all over the world. But is it all over the world? The setting of David’s story is Newcago (a name so stupid it made me cringe every time it came up) and, from reading this book, it seems like the rest of the world doesn’t really exist. There are mentions of other places in the USA and, I believe, Paris comes up once. But there is no clue as to how the rest of the world coped with this event. We learn that Steelheart, the strongest of the Epics in the area, rules over Newcago. The pecking order among Epics is pretty clear. Those with the stronger powers (or better hidden weaknesses) are on top, while lesser Epics either work for them or die trying to take over.

But, again, what about other places? I didn’t really expect to find long explanations of how other countries handled the Epic problem but there isn’t even the slightest hint as to the effects Calamity had on the rest of the world. I very much doubt that the entire globe would react the same way (because duh). There must be places with a higher or lower Epic density, there must be safe havens without Epics, there must be cities and countries that work completely differently. Alas, we don’t know because America is all we get.

Fine, world-building rant out of the way, let me move on to the characters. They are your standard Ocean’s Eleven, heist story, Mission Impossible crew. One boss with a sinister past, one hacker, one gun specialist, one hot girl (who, OF COURSE, is the protagonist’s love interest), and so on. David joins the Reckoners almost by accident and manages to sway their plans so easily, it makes them look like fools. Now it’s all about David’s revenge on Steelheart for killing his father. To achieve this, they have to get rid of some other Epics first. And this part, the actual plot, was pretty gripping. There are edge-of-your-seat action scenes, moments of bonding between the characters, and secrets. Lots of secrets.

Some of these secrets are blatantly obvious which makes me think even more that Sanderson dumbed down his story on purpose. I know that he can set up awesome twists that are difficult or even impossible to guess. In Steelheart, the clues are all over the place so the surprise at the end isn’t all that surprising. The same goes for Steelheart’s weakness, the one thing the Reckoners need to find out in order to kill him. After so much build-up, after David’s careful, meticulous research, I expected something… well, epic. But Steelheart’s weakness, useful as it may be for him, was pretty meh.

There are some really cool ideas in this otherwise trope-laden  story. An entire city turned into steel, cool gadgets, and a Pokemon-like index of Epic’s weaknesses and strengths. The ideas are all there. What’s lacking is depth, in every aspect. The characters are cardboard and, with the exception of the reveals at the end, none of them really seem to have a backstory, none of them had lives before joining the Reckoners. Or at least the author didn’t find it important to show those lives to us. Even David’s past is wrapped up in a sentence or two. I don’t believe that a teenage boy, no matter how set on revenge he might be, does nothing else in his entire life than devote his time to killing one particular Epic.

So, overall, the only thing this book has going for it is plot and fast-paced writing. Which is exactly what I needed after the dense, deep, and truly epic The Fifth Season. So for me, Steelheart was the right book at the right time. But that doesn’t change the fact that there is very little meat to it. It’s fun, it’s a quick read, it has great action and cool ideas. If this book is on your TBR, save it for a time when you want something light and not too serious.

MY RATING: 6/10 – Good

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Second opinions:

Brandon Sanderson – Elantris

After my massive book hangover caused by the Mistborn Trilogy, I thought a nice little standalone title would be just the thing. I’m using the word “little” in its widest sense here. Elantris wasn’t bad by any means but it didn’t compare to Sanderson’s later books. Despite the huge commitment, I’ll probably stick to the long epic series in the future.

elantrisELANTRIS
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2005
Paperback: 638
Audiobook: 27,5 hours
Standalone
My rating:
6,5/10

First sentence: Elantris was beautiful once.

ELANTRIS WAS A PLACE OF GLORY
The capital of Arelon, the home to people transformed into magic-using demigods by the Shaod.
But then the magic failed, Elantris started to rot, and its inhabitants turned into powerless wrecks.
And in the new capital, Kae, close enough to Elantris for everyone to be reminded of what they have lost, a princess arrives. Sarene is to be married to unite Teod and Arelon against the religious imperialists of Fjordell. But she is told that Raoden, her husband to be, is dead.
Determined to carry on the fight for Teod and Arelon’s freedom, Sarene clashes with the high priest Hrathen. If Hrathen can persuade the populace to convert, Fjordell will reign supreme.
But there are secrets in Elantris, the dead and the ruined may yet have a role to play in this new world. Magic lives.

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After the Mistborn trilogy, any Sanderson book was going to have a hard time keeping up. If it hadn’t been for Graphic Audio, his first (published) novel would have been my last choice for the next Sanderson read. But you know how I feel about the full cast, unabridged amazingness of Graphic Audio. A standalone novel – as opposed to three books with three audio files each – presented a welcome opportunity (at least for my bank account). I apologize in advance for any misspelling of names (ugh, the names!) because I only heard them spoken out loud and didn’t read along in the paperback.

Elantris used to be a city of gods until one day it wasn’t anymore. Anybody afflicted by the Shaod is now exiled to Elantris, to live there in eternal pain, or die of madness. Raoden, prince of Arelon, is perhaps a bit too much of a hero, right from the start. In Elantris, he immediately questions the status quo and starts a revolution. To be fair, the status quo is chaos, murder, theft, and pain – so Raoden represents what any sane person would do in his place. With the help of Galladon, who unfortunately grows into a stereotypical sidekick, Raoden turns Elantris upside down and helps its people find some peace and happiness within its grimy walls.

On the outside, we follow Princess Sarene, Raoden’s betrothed who finds herself minus one husband (believing him dead when he’s really in Elantris) and has to navigate the politics of the court. Likable as she was, her character was very overdrawn – the intelligent girl pretending to be dumb in order to manipulate people into trusting her? The beautiful girl who also happens to be a master swordfighter? Yeah, Sarene is cool but at times I found her skills and accomplishments a bit too perfect, too forcefully surprising. She is WonderWoman, she can do anything! A flaw here or there would have been nice.

art by Alain Brion

art by Alain Brion

As far as plot goes, this book took a long while to get going and never really found its focal point. We see Raoden convincing the Elantrians to work together and make a better life, we see Sarene manipulate her way around court to make the king see reason and save the land. There is also a religious war going on in the background, an element that I found completely unnecessary. But I guess if it’s Epic Fantasy, it needs some kind of war and religion seems as good a reason as any. Once Raoden sets his mind to figure out Elantris’ secret (why did Gods suddenly turn into sickly immortals, doomed to eternal suffering and all that), other plot strings are dropped. Sarene takes her sweet time to get into any contact with Elantris and only then do things really get interesting.

The novel clearly has pacing problems, with the ending being full of events and action sequences, the beginning an undecided build-up and introduction of characters who aren’t all that important. It is clear that Sanderson has honed his craft since he wrote Elantris and because of that, I actually find nitpicking this novel quite fascinating. The overly perfect protagonists, the random scenes that don’t have any impact on later events, the characters who quickly peek in, then either drop away, or are revealed to be somebody else – which, by the way, didn’t really have the impact it should have. Neither revelations about Sarene’s family touched me in any way, nor the secrets Galladon reveals to Raoden. They felt cheap, forced in for shock value, but left me utterly indifferent. It feels like Sanderson was still trying out his plot-twisty ways to find his footing. Well, he must have found it some time after writing Elantris.

The relationships between characters were my favorite part to follow, in part because the world-building didn’t do it for me, and the naming conventions were atrocious. The world is your generic fantasy map with different peoples living in different countries. Some cultural differences are shown but none of them revolutionary or original. Religion obviously plays a part but other than using different gods’ names for cursing, the main characters weren’t very religious. The names really take the cake, though. I looked up how to spell some of them and never in a million years would I have thought the someone pronounced “tell-rhy-eye” would be spelled “Telrii”. Sure, it makes linguistic sense in a way, but it goes so much against my instincts that I would never have managed to read an entire book with names like this. Having them read to me was fine but reading myself would have tripped me out of the narrative every time.

The ending came in two distinct parts for me. On the one hand, the secret about Elantris is out of the bag, on the other hand, Sarene and Raoden reach the conclusion of their character arcs. While the revelation about Elantris didn’t elicit more than a shrug and an “okay”, I actually loved how Sarene and Raoden developed and grew closer together. They didn’t grow as separate characters so much (being perfect from the get go) but they did get to know each other and form a believable bond. I would have liked more information on their floating companion magic-roboty-creatures but maybe the author saved this bit for a sequel?

Altogether, this wasn’t a bad book. I am certain that I would have liked it less if I hadn’t listened to the audio version and even that didn’t grab me as much as Mistborn. However, I’m now on a quest to read All The Sandersons and this is one more book to strike off my list. On to more books in the Mistborn universe!

MY RATING: 6,5/10 –  Okay

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Second opinions:

Brandon Sanderson – The Hero of Ages

Holy shit, I get it now. I understand why legions of fans put their trust into Brandon Sanderson’s capable hands for (literally) thousands of pages. They know it will pay off. I keep hearing the Mistborn series is a good starting point, although not Sanderson’s best stuff. I can’t judge that yet but I do know that I loved where this series went. Book one was fun while it lasted but didn’t stick with me. Book two blew me away, and book three just continued the awesome ride. SPOILERS FOR THE FINAL EMPIRE AND THE WELL OF ASCENSION AHEAD!!

hero of agesTHE HERO OF AGES
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2008
Paperback: 724 pages
Audiobook: 27,5 hours
Series: Mistborn #3
My rating: 8/10

First sentence: Marsh struggled to kill himself.

Tricked into releasing the evil spirit Ruin while attempting to close the Well of Ascension, new emperor Elend Venture and his wife, the assassin Vin, are now hard-pressed to save the world. This adventure brings the Mistborn epic fantasy trilogy to a dramatic and surprising climax as Sanderson’s saga offers complex characters and a compelling plot, asking hard questions about loyalty, faith and responsibility.

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Yet again, Brandon Sandersons changes his game. In this last part of the (first) Mistborn Trilogy, we return to a well established world with not just one magic system, but three. Allomancy may have been the first book’s Big Thing, but we’ve always known about Feruchemy although it didn’t get to shine until The Well of Ascension. Here comes Hemalurgy, the third and most disturbing aspect of this world’s metal magic.

One should think that – after the huge, world-shaking revelations of books one and two – there aren’t too many secrets left to explore. But trust Sanderson to keep some aces up his sleeve at all times. In general, the stakes for the final epic battle are clear, but there seems to be no solution. The world is ending quite literally. What makes this book differ from the other two is the constant sense of dread and helplessness. It pervades each chapter, influences the characters and shows just how different they are in how they approach the apocalypse. Some stand up and fight and plan to do so until the very last moment, others lose hope. All of them are relatable.

Apart from the atmosphere, there were a few key aspects that I really enjoyed in this last part. Obviously, my overall opinion was decided by the ending, but more on that later. Returning to Marsh was one of my personal high points in this novel. I had always rather liked him, although he’s never been center stage. Watching his struggle did a number of interesting things. It was a chance for Sanderson to show off his skill with characterization as well as showing just how powerful the antagonist really is. If there weren’t enough fear and depression in this book already, the Marsh chapters would have taken them to eleven.

Another aspect I enjoyed (to my own surprise) was watching how religions are formed. Ever since Kelsier’s sacrifice in The Final Empire, things have been building up and by now we’ve got a fully formed religion. I love how we were in on it, behind the scenes, right from the start. We know Kelsier isn’t a god, we know he didn’t survive his death. But we also see how people gain hope and strength from their belief. Despite being an atheist myself, I can’t deny the power of belief and I loved how Sanderson (religous himself, as far as I know) shows this power without judging. Different characters have varying opinions about The Survivor and the zealots, so we get to see various points of view on the subject.

Hero of Ages

art by Sam Weber

Sazed, a man who has made it his life’s work to learn about and collect all religions, remains my favorite character of them all. But I must admit I have grown ever more fond of Elend and Vin, especially as a couple. I don’t like them so much because of their romance (they aren’t exactly the cheesy kind) but because of how well the work together. Be it politics, fighting, strategy, or constantly saving each other – they make a phenomenal team.

I’ll insert a small note on the Graphic Audio edition here. In the two previous books, the little tidbits at the beginning of each chapter were read by Vin, as if she was reading the documents out loud to the listener. In this book, Spook narrates the chapter intros. I thought this particularly clever, although I can’t go into details about the reasons. It was diversion and confusion done to perfection, making me question my own assumptions about who the Hero of Ages is. Sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one. But then again, sometimes it’s not…

Now, the ending. I have heard very different opinions about how it all played out but by that time, I was so emotionally invested that it’s difficult to find much fault with it. Sometimes, I need fiction to break my heart. Sometimes, there can’t be a perfectly happy ending. I have never been able to guess the big reveal so far, but in The Hero of Ages, things come together so beautifully, seeds that had been planted in the very first book suddenly make sense, puzzle pieces fall into place. I am proud to announce that I managed to guess one tiny bit a few chapters before they were made official. But – and this is a sign of quality – this book isn’t really all that much about the ending. It’s about the journey there, about the characters and their growth, about failing again and again but still standing up to fight at the end. I get glossy eyes just thinking about it.

I don’t think I’m quite ready for The Stormlight Archive yet (although I’ve read half of the first book) but I completely trust Sanderson when it comes to the Mistborn universe. With two new titles announced just a little while ago, I believe I’m ready to dive into The Alloy of Law pretty soon.

MY RATING: 8/10 – Excellent

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Brandon Sanderson – The Well of Ascension

It’s been quiet around here lately (again). First, I was fighting a huge book hangover induced by a certain man named Brandon Sanderson. Then the Hugo shortlist was announced. I’ll just leave that standing here. But I haven’t stopped reading and I’m back with a few reviews.

I said I wouldn’t wait long to continue the Mistborn series right after I read the first book. That was a lie. A very long ago lie. But a few weeks ago, I got in the mood for some Sanderson and didn’t remember enough of part one, so a re-read was in order. Because I’m lazy and love audiobooks, I went and bought the Graphic Audio version of The Final Empire. Whoa – let me tell you, these Graphic Audio adaptations are something else! My poor paperback trilogy is sitting there sadly because I then bought parts two and three in the series on audiobook as well… (SPOILERS FOR BOOK ONE AHEAD, obviously!)

well of ascensionTHE WELL OF ASCENSION
by Brandon Sanderson

Published by: Tor, 2007
Paperback: 796 pages
Audiobook: 22 hours
Series: Mistborn #2
My rating: 8,5/10

First sentence: I write these words in steel, for anything not set in metal cannot be trusted.

They did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a healthy new society in the ashes of an empire.
They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.
It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.

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My re-read of Misborn: The Final Empire isn’t really worth a new review (as the plot hasn’t changed) but I absolutely need to mention the Graphic Audio adaptation. I have always been a fan of audiobooks – in fact, I grew up with fairy tales on cassette tape – but a full cast and narration and music and sound effects AND it’s all unabridged? That’s like a childhood dream come true. And it works. The actors are fantastic, the voices distinct, the action scenes thrillingly told with fitting music in the background. It’s ridiculous how quickly I got through the long first audiobook. And the second and third didn’t take much longer, although they are each over 20 hours long…

Now I should mention, these Graphic Audio thingies don’t exactly come cheap. But 42$ is also not that much more expensive than some regular audiobooks. If it were for me, I’d never listen to books any other way again. Consider also that my review is heavily colored by my love for the medium. I’m certain the slower parts of the book are much more difficult to get thorugh without the lovely music and sound effects.

well of ascension graphic audio

Vin and Elend are back – or rather, they never left. The Lord Ruler has been killed, the Final Empire overthrown. So where do they go from here? Elend does what his book learning has taught him to do and tries to navigate politics and keep his people alive and out of a war. With his father’s army outside of the city, that’s not an easy task. Vin, on the other hand, has taken on the role of bodyguard but she can’t shake the Lord Ruler’s last words. She suspects that the terrors are not over yet, that they simply may come from a different, unexpected source.

There’s always another secret. This still holds up and I caught myself, yet again, trying to put the puzzle pieces together and figure out the truth. But Sanderson is a careful author, one who foreshadows but never so obviously that the revelation feels cheap. There are still some unsolved mysteries from the first book but, being ambitious as well as crafty, Sanderson adds a few new secrets into the mix to keep readers like me on their toes.

What I loved most is how Sanderson developed as a writer. I know I am way behind on his career but I did feel that Mistborn: The Final Empire was too constructed, too obvious in what it wanted to do in every chapter. In The Well of Ascension, it became less obvious and I had the chance to just go with it. I absolutely fell in love with Sazed, I found myself actually caring about OreSeur and I was as undecided as Vin when it came to certain aspects of her future, romantic and otherwise. While the first book was highly plot and idea-driven, this one got me right in the guts. Not only is there a beautiful story arc involving the siege of Luthadel, there are numerous side plots – all of which will be important in the future, I’m sure.

art by Sam Weber

Vin’s relationship with Elend went past the first butterflies-in-stomach stage and into something more serious and steady, more adult. We must not forget that these two are still very, very young. So it is only natural that when Vin meets another Mistborn, she questions her place in the world. But I cared as much, if not more, about her developing relationship with OreSeur. They bicker and dislike each other but are stuck together by necessity. How this initial disgust turns into a tender friendship is just beautiful and I must credit the actors once more on a job brilliantly done.

Sazed came as a surprise. He has quickly turned into my favorite character of them all. He is not the only one going on an emotional journey – Spook, Breeze, and the others do too – but he was the one I most feared for, the one whose pain hurt me the most. You guys know I am a character-reader so no matter how breath-taking the reveal at the end may be, if the characters aren’t good I won’t love the book. But here it all came together so damn well. Vin is far from the person she was when Kelsier picked her up, Elend had to lose some of his idealism, Sazed is a changed man, even Breeze had to learn hard truths about himself.

But there’s always another secret. At first, the little intro texts to every chapter left me disappointed. I thought Sanderson was going to use the same trick he did in the first book. Feeding us tidbits of a text that will later turn up in the story and help the characters solve everything. But apparently, Sanderson agrees with me in that this would be… well, lame. The text in question turns up early in the plot and is known to the characters – so worry not. This is not a repeat of The Final Empire. And yet again, my suspicions and guesses were completely wrong. Just how I like it!

In retrospect, it is easy to see all the little seeds the author has planted but when I read it first, I had absolutely no clue what was going on. And the hints were THERE ALL ALONG and I thought I was being so careful. Not only did I fail to guess this book’s big revelation, I also got completely strung along on a side-plot which lead to a lot of gasping on my part when the truth came to light. Having now finished the trilogy, I can even appreciate the bits mentioned here and there that may not be vital to the plot of The Well of Ascension but that are important to the overall story.

I can now also say that this middle volume was my favorite in the trilogy. It balancec characters, plot, relationships, action, myth and allomancy beautifully, without ever losing pace. The stakes have only grown higher, the characters are much dearer to me than they were before, and allomancy still has a few tricks up its sleeve. I wholeheartedly recommend this book, although I must caution you to have The Hero of Ages handy – after this ending, you won’t be able to wait for the grand finale.

MY RATING: 8,5/10  – Excellent

divider1The Mistborn Series