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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 #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 #45-54 – The Great Book of Amber

Amber

Target: Roger Zelazny’s The Great Book of Amber (Amber Chronicles #1-10)

Profile: Epic Fantasy, Modern Fantasy

Summary: Taken from the back cover, “Roger Zelazny’s chronicles of Amber have earned their place as all-time classics of imaginative literature.  Now, here are all ten novels, together in one omnibus volume.  Witness the titanic battle for supremacy waged on Earth, in the Courts of Chaos, and on a magical world of mystery, adventure and romance. ”

After Action Report:

Where have you been hiding you ask?  No posts for two weeks?  Nothing to report?  Well here’s your answer.  I was reading all 7000+ pages of Homestuck.  Well, that was one week.  The other week was spent devouring the 1200+ page omnibus of the Chronicles of Amber.  It was actually the webcomic that prompted reading Amber top to bottom again.  The two projects have a lot in common: an expansive multiverse, complex time travel shenanigans, protagonists tied to classic fortunetelling tropes.  And they’re both more than a little confusing in the end.

The Chronicles of Amber span ten books in five book sets.  The first five books deal with Corwin, exiled prince of Amber, and the second five tell the story of Merlin, Corwin’s son and scion of the combined houses of Amber and Chaos.  I am going to segment the review a bit because the two stories are very different from one another.  Corwin’s books feel like a classical fantasy, with some interesting modern elements added for shenanigans sake.  Merlin’s is much more a coming of age story combined with some deep metaphysical conflicts.

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#CBR4 Maneuver #40 – Memories of Ice

Target: Steven Erikson’s Memories of Ice (Malazan Book of the Fallen #3)

Profile: Epic Fantasy

Summary: Taken from the Malazan Wikia, “The ravaged continent of Genabackis has given birth to a terrifying new empire: the Pannion Domin. Like a fanatical tide of corrupted blood, it seethes across the land, devouring all who fail to heed the Word of its elusive prophet, the Pannion Seer. In its path stands an uneasy alliance: Dujek Onearm’s Host and the Bridgeburners – each now outlawed by the Empress – alongside their enemies of old including the grim forces of Warlord Caladan Brood, Anomander Rake, Son of Darkness, and his Tiste Andii, and the Rhivi people of the Plains. But more ancient clans too are gathering. As if in answer to some primal summons, the massed ranks of the undead T’lan Imass have risen. For it would seem something altogether darker and more malign threatens the very substance of this world. The Warrens are poisoned and rumours abound of the Crippled God, now unchained and intent on a terrible revenge…”

After Action Report:

I really shouldn’t have started the Malazan Book of the Fallen.  Every book sets me another two weeks behind my reading quota and now I’m in a situation where I have to read 10 books in 6 weeks.  It’s not just that the books are long, though they are.  It’s the nearly insane level of detail that Erikson puts into every single protagonist.  Where Neil Stephenson fills with exposition, Erikson stuffs to the brim with personal narrative.  I do really enjoy the level of detail that he puts into all of these fascinating characters, but it takes me forever to work through the chapters and gods help me if I try to read before bed.

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#CBR4 Maneuver #32 – Deadhouse Gates

Target: Steven Erikson’s Deadhouse Gates (Malazan Book of the Fallen #2)

Profile: Epic Fantasy

Summary: Taken from the Malazan Wikia, “In the vast dominion of Seven Cities, in the Holy Desert Raraku, the seer Sha’ik gathers an army around her in preparation for the long-prophesied uprising named the Whirlwind. Unprecedented in its size and savagery, it will embroil in one of the bloodiest conflicts it has ever known: a maelstrom of fanaticism and bloodlust that will shape destinies and give birth to legends…

In the Otataral mines, Felisin, youngest daughter of the disgraced House of Paran, dreams of revenge against the sister who sentenced her to a life of slavery. Escape leads her to Raraku, where her soul will be reborn and her future made clear. The now-outlawed Bridgeburners, Fiddler and the assassin Kalam, have vowed to return the once god-possessed Apsalar to her homeland, and to confront and kill the Empress Laseen, but events will overtake them too. Meanwhile, Coltaine, the charismatic commander of the Malaz 7th Army, will lead his battered, war-weary troops in a last, valiant running battle to save the lives of thirty thousand refugees and, in so doing, secure an illustrious place in the Empire’s checkered history. And into this blighted land come two ancient wanderers, Mappo and his half-Jaghut companion Icarium, bearers of a devastating secret that threatens to break free of its chains…”

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#CBR4 Maneuver #31 – Gardens of the Moon

Target: Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen #1)

Profile: Epic Fantasy

Summary: From goodreads.com, “The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.
For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.
However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand . . .
Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order–an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice.”

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#CBR4 Maneuver #25 – Salute the Dark

Target: Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Salute the Dark (Shadows of the Apt #4)

Profile: Alternative Fantasy, Steampunk, Epic Fantasy

Summary: From the back cover, “The vampiric sorcerer Uctebri has at last got his hands on the Shadow Box and can finally begin his dark ritual – a ritual that the Wasp-kinden Emperor believes will grant him immortality – but Uctebri has his own plans for both the Emperor and for the Empire.

The massed Wasp armies are on the march, and the spymaster Stenwold must see which of his allies will stand now that the war has finally arrived.  This time the Empire will not stop until a black and gold flag waves over Stenwold’s own home city of Collegium.

Tisamon the Weaponsmaster is faced with a terrible [future]: a path that could lead him to abandon his friends and his daughter, to face degradation and loss, and probably bring him before the Wasp Emperor with a blade in his hand – but is he being driven by Mantis-kinden honor, or manipulated by something more sinister?”

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