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#CBR6 Review #9 – Words of Radiance

Words of RadianceTarget: Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2)

Profile: Epic Fantasy

After Action Report:

After a seemingly interminable four years of waiting for Brandon Sanderson to wash his hands of the Wheel of Time, it is finally time to return to the series that got me hooked on Sanderson in the first place, The Stormlight Archive.  The Way of Kings was a great novel that suffered most from being little more than a prologue to the rest of the series.  But now the real story can begin.

Words of Radiance returns us to the world of Roshar, picking up almost exactly where The Way of Kings left off.  The four main protagonists have been carried over, though Shallan has a much larger role in this book, and Szeth has fewer chapters.  The events of Way of Kings have brought all the major players to the Shattered Plains where the Alethi campaign against the Parshendi is drawing to a close.  At the same time, signs and portents of a great calamity begin to appear around Dalinar and Kaladin.  Time is running out, the Alethi are on the brink of a civil war and the Assassin in White has returned to kill the last great leader in the east.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #20 – The Rithmatist

The RithmatistTarget: Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist

Profile: Young Adult, Fantasy, Steampunk

After Action Report:

Oh thank god.  A Sanderson book.  I was beginning to get the vapors.  Except these reviews are STILL running about two months behind my reading schedule, so it’s more like I’m starting to get the vapors again…

So Brandon Sanderson took a break from his endless list of epic fantasy projects in order to dabble in the ‘Young Adult’ fantasy market.  The result is, in many ways, a well-written subversion of the Harry Potter books.  Of course there’s more to The Rithmatist than that, but it does seem that Sanderson was aiming to distance himself as much as possible from the story of a kid chosen by fate to save the world from evil.  Unfortunately, it’s still the story (and the characters) he ended up writing.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #8 – The Emperor’s Soul

The Emperor's SoulTarget: Brandon Sanderson’s The Emperor’s Soul

Profile: Epic Fantasy, Short Story

Summary: From the back cover,

“When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life.  An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife.  If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos.

Shai is given an impossible task: to create – to Forge – a new soul for the emperor in fewer than one hundred days.  But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors.  She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood.  Shai’s only possible ally is the emperor’s most loyal councilor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent.

Time is running out for Shai.  Forging, while deducing the motivations of her captors, she needs a perfect plan to escape.”

After Action Report:

Okay, I lied.  There was one more Sanderson book.  Sorry.  The Emperor’s Soul is a short novella set in the same world as Elantris but removed from the events of that book by significant distance and an unspecified amount of time.  It is a very different sort of work than Sanderson’s typical epic fantasy fare.  As dictated by its size, it is a very focused story with only one protagonist and one storyline.  But there is some surprising depth contained in this small package.  At its heart, The Emperor’s Soul is about understanding people, and in a roundabout way, about the process of writing characters; creating people.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #7 – Elantris

ElantrisTarget: Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris

Profile: Epic Fantasy

Summary: From the back cover,

“Elantris was the city of the gods.  What power could have cursed it?

Raoden, prince of Arelon, was loved by all, including the princess he’d never met.  Where has he gone?

Hrathen, high priest of Fjordell, will convert the people of Arelon or kill them.  How will he decide?

Sarene, princess of Teod, was a widow before she was ever married.  Why can stand against her?”

After Action Report:

Aside from having a pithy back cover; Elantris has a lot going for it.  While it is far from the perfect fantasy novel, it does feature Sanderson’s typical strong world building, and a cast of characters that is interesting, if not actually realistic.  At the same time, Sanderson’s refusal to rely exclusively on the fallback tropes of his genre keeps the book feeling fresh.  Elantris isn’t as polished as some of Sanderson’s other stories, with the core mystery feeling a little underutilized, and the story dragging on just a touch too long.  But at the same time, these little flaws give the story a more honest feeling than, for example, the highly polished The Hero of Ages.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #6 – Warbreaker

WarbreakerTarget: Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker

Profile: Epic Fantasy

Summary: From the back cover, “T’Telir, the capital of Hallandren, is a colorful city by the sea where gaily dressed crowds bustle though sunny streets and worship heroes who have been reborn as gods.  Ruled by the silent, mysterious God King, the pantheon is nourished by offerings of Breath, the life force that keeps them alive and youthful.

Exiled in Idris, the former royal family reluctantly betrothed a princess to the God King.  Arriving in T’Telir, she finds both the city and the marriage are not at all what she expected.  Her only ally is Lightsong, a god who is skeptical of his own divinity, who fears that war with Idris is inevitable.

Meanwhile, another new arrival in T’Telir, one who bares the sentient sword Nightblood, makes cunning plans based on the unique magic of Hallandren, which uses color to focus the power of Breath – plans that could change the world.

After Action Report:

I was incredibly excited to get started on this month’s book sequence; namely, a speedy run through the remainder of Brandon Sanderson’s bibliography.  I can’t really talk about why because of spoilers.  Suffice it to say my re-read of The Way of Kings revealed something that I missed because it was the first Sanderson book I had ever read.  While I may still dislike the man for his abysmal treatment of The Hero of Ages, I have to say that the greater body of his work is quite good, and the more you read of it, the better it gets.

Warbreaker was originally a free web publication that was serialized on Sanderson’s website.  Older draft copies of some of the chapters are still available there, but I ended up reading the finished novel in paperback form.  While it shares a number of traits with Sanderson’s other epic fantasies, Warbreaker feels like a very different kind of novel.  In the same vein of the Mistborn sequence, it plays with the extremes of power, wealth and status and transposes a more modern society into a fantasy setting.  Sanderson’s strong emphases on religions and cohesive magic systems are also present, but the sum of these parts ends up being very different because, at its heart, Warbreaker is a story about averting a crisis, rather than confronting one.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #2 – The Way of Kings

The Way of KingsTarget: Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings

Profile: Epic Fantasy

Summary: From the Back Cover, “I long for the days before the Last Desolation.  Before the Heralds abandoned us and the Knights Radiant turned against us.  When there was still magic in Roshar and honor in the hearts of men.

In the end, not war but victory proved the greater test.  Did our foes see that the harder they fought, the fiercer our resistance?  Fire and hammer forge a sword; time and neglect rust it away.  So we won the world, yet lost it.

Now there are four whom we watch: the surgeon, forced to forsake healing and fight in the most brutal war of our time; the assassin, who weeps as he kills; the liar, who wears her scholar’s mantle over a thief’s heart; and the prince, whose eyes opens to the ancient past as his thirst for battle wanes.

One of them may redeem us.  One of them will destroy us.”

After Action Report:

I read The Way of Kings back in 2011 and never got around to posting a review.  I had gotten a lot of reading done on trains in the middle of June of that year and totally overshot my ability to review things.  I was going to write a review post it as a Lost Battle, but when I started I found I couldn’t answer many of the questions that I use to seed these reviews.  So I re-read the damn thing.

The Way of Kings is a pretty good book.  It’s a bit long and takes ages to get to the point. It does, however, follow in the best traditions of epic fantasy, capturing your imagination and attention.  The worldbuilding is top-notch and the protagonists are strong and well developed.  The book makes you crave more, even as it stretches out what could have been a brisk prologue story into a mammoth novel.

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#CBR4 Maneuver #41 – The Alloy of Law

Target: Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4/ex)

Profile: Fantasy, Western, Steampunk

Summary: Taken from goodreads.com, “Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.”

After Action Report:

Waxillium is a stupid name.  Okay, so you wanted to call your protagonist Wax.  Fine.  There are better ways to get there.  Ways that don’t leave the guy sounding like a posh hair-removal process.  Uh… where was I?

I’m developing problems with Brandon Sanderson.  Yes, I really enjoyed The Way of Kings and the first two Mistborn books, but The Hero of Ages left me with a really bad taste in my mouth.  The biggest problem was that Sanderson had padded out the last book with reused scenes from the first two, and spent more time re-telling the history of the world he had built than he spent moving the story forward.  Now with his fourth Mistborn book, one separated from its predecessors by three hundred years and a canonical world reboot, Sanderson is STILL using the same damn ballroom scenes!

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#CBR4 Maneuver #8 – The Hero of Ages

Target: Brandon Sanderson’s The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3)

Profile: Epic Fantasy

Summary: From the Back Cover, “Killing the Lord Ruler to end the Final Empire was obviously the right thing to do, wasn’t it?  With the return of the lethal form of the ubiquitous mists, increasingly heavy ashfalls, and ever more powerful earthquakes, Vin and Elend are no longer so sure.  Long ago, Ruin – one of the primal beings who created the world – was promised the eventual right to destroy all things.  Now that Vin has been tricked into releasing him from the Well of Ascension, Ruin apparently intends to collect.”

Some series spoilers below.

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