Warning: Potential Steelheart spoilers below!
If I’m being honest this review is likely not going to do this book justice. I was going into Words of Radiance, the second book of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, fresh off a reread of Way of Kings and experience both novels nearly back to back definitely enhanced my reading. Much like with other long-running fantasy series re-reads of all previous volumes will likely become cumbersome at some point but at least with book two the option for a back-to-back read works quite well. When it comes to Words of Radiance most Brandon Sanderson fans know what they are in for and the return to Roshar is like coming home again. Where Way of King eases readers into the world, offering an introduction and exploration of Roshar and how it works Words of Radiance delves deeper into the greater mysteries of Roshar and explores areas of the world glimpsed in the first book. Some spoilers from the first book are bound to occur so if you’ve yet to read Way of Kings consider yourself warned.
I don’t understand Brandon Sanderson. Seriously. Most fantasy authors are lucky if they come up with one new fascinating and intricate fantasy setting. Most fantasy authors are lucky to come up with a single complex magic system (or unlucky depending on your view). Except Brandon Sanderson isn’t most fantasy authors. It seems likely that he has somehow tapped into some mystical wellfont of fantasy ideas. Of course that doesn’t even mention the fact that he seems to produce material at a seemingly inhuman rate. Since Elantris‘ release in 2005 (and up to and including The Rithmatist) Sanderson has released somewhere around 16 novels (and at least 2 novellas), 3 of which completed Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (he has at least one more novel due this year, Steelheart in September). A Feast For Crows was published in 2005 so in that same time period George R. R. Martin has released one book: A Dance with Dragons. I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison but it’s still impressive to say the least.
The Towers of Midnight
Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Reading The Towers of Midnight, the 13th and penultimate volume of The Wheel of Time, one thing becomes glaringly obvious: the final three volumes could never, ever, have been one book. In fact we are probably lucky that we are getting only three. In the previous volume, The Gathering Storm, Brandon Sanderson managed to more-or-less maintain a theme across the two big narratives that spanned the novel; a feat possible due to the very fact that there were really only two main POVs. In The Towers of Midnight the narrative is spread a little a thinner. While Perrin and Mat form the bulk of our perspective there are many other characters who play integral roles in wrapping up, or beginning to wrap up, numerous plot threads. While the deliberate move towards wrapping up plot threads that have seemingly been dangling for ages is certainly appreciated the overall effect works against this entry; robbing it of the strength seen in The Gathering Storm.
Minor spoilers below! Consider yourself warned!
The Way of Kings
The avalanche of reviews has already begun and given that bigger and more prolific bloggers (Wertzone, Neth Space, Book Smugglers, Strange Horizons, and Sffworld; to name a few) have already thrown their voices into the torrent I can’t help but feel like a tiny insignificant pebble amidst the landslide. Compacting matters further are my love for epic fantasy and the fact that I was already a Brandon Sanderson fan before getting The Way of Kings. Can I really sit down and write and honest review of The Way of Kings when, book in hand, I already knew the novel was made specifically for me? In truth, I suspect that many reviewers as soon as they laid eyes on the book whether in final format or ARC knew whether or not they were going to enjoy it. I’ll do my best to keep my excitement in check but honestly if you like epic fantasy, if you’ve followed Martin and Jordan, then there’s a 99.99% (that .01% are Goodkind fans and will likely balk at the lack of naked wizards or evil chickens, ‘natch) of your loving The Way of Kings.
That is a good thing since with The Wheel of Time coming to a close within the next two years Tor is betting on The Way of Kings, the first of the planned 10 book Stormlight Archive, as the Next Big Thing in epic fantasy. Epic it certainly is weighing in a just over 1000 pages, with lavish illustrations, a glossary/appendix, and color maps printed on the endpaper Tor has certainly made it worth its money. Of course, all of that would be meaningless if Sanderson, who has released a new book just about every year since 2005 (from 2007-2009 he released an Alcatraz novel in addition to his big fantasy releases), hadn’t honed his craft to a razor sharp keenness over the years, but hone he has and The Way of Kings offers very little to complain about. Revealing an expansive world filled with expressive characters, The Way of Kings is a book full of magic and mystery and excitement that despite its weight (literally) is difficult to put down.
The first three chapters of Brandon Sanderson’s upcoming Way of Kings are up over at Tor.com for registered users (registration is free). I’ve posted the introduction after the jump but the other free chapters are over at Tor.com. Also check out the sweet cover art; Michael Whelan is one epic dude!
I cracked open Dec. 09 issue of AudioFile and immediately noticed a quarter-page ad from GraphicAudio for a full-cast reading of Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker complete with “cinematic music” and “digital effects”. GraphicAudio has been around since 2004 and produce full-cast versions of a variety of material a lot of it from the comic book and speculative fiction areas. I haven’t actually heard one yet, but they do offer what looks to be a 60 Minute sampler of Warbreaker so if you do give it a listen let me know what you think.
The Gathering Storm
Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
There have been a number of well-written reviews for The Gathering Storm. So rather then belaboring many of the points covered elsewhere or echoing the slightly off-putting voice Sanderson employed for a one Matrim Cauthon (though the elderly aunt conversation did have me literally laugh out loud but there was something vaguely Erikson in that exchange) or even summarizing the plot up until this point I will recommend that you check one of the many fine reviews already out there. Instead I’d like to take the time to look at, and praise, the theme that runs through the entirety of novel: identity.
WARNRING: There are likely spoilers below! If you haven’t read the book yet reading beyond this point might ruin some things for you.
Tor, 2009 (also available under Creative Commons for free here)
Warbreaker is a new epic fantasy by Brandon Sanderon, author of the highly entertaining Mistborn series and the man chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Like Sanderson’s pearler novel, Elantris, Warbreaker seems to be designed more or less as a stand alone novel (though potential for future books is there). This is a bit impressive given the modern fantasy market’s penchant for long series. Like the Mistborn series Warbreaker features a complex and fascinating magic system that is wholely original in its conception and extraordinarily crafted in its execution. Sweetening the deal is the fact that alongside the novel magic system Warbreaker has strong characters mired in plots full of action, intrigue, and mystery all enhanced by some of the best dialogue Sanderson has ever written. As mentioned Warbreaker is a self-contained tale but with somewhat open ending that, thanks to Sanderson’s strong writing, leaves you wanting more (though, at least, not needing it). Read on for more impressions….
Continue reading “Review: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson”
The Hero of Ages
The Hero of Ages concludes Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. While moving at a more sedate pace than either The Final Empire or The Well of Ascension, the concluding volume showcases Sanderson’s worldbuilding and reveals a flair for tight, thrilling action scenes. Unfortunatley characterization takes a back-seat to both those elements. Regardless fans of the first two books will likely enjoy the ride. Read on for my full review…