How do you summarize Elantris? It's got mystery, magic, romance, action, political intrigue... and it all works while avoiding falling into classic fantasy tropes and cliches. #books
Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.
Arelon's new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping -- based on their correspondence -- to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god. But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.
It’s been about a week and a half since I finished reading Elantris, which means once again this review is coming late, well after my initial impressions have faded. So, don’t expect too much.
Despite being his first work, this feels like classic Sanderson to me. We have reversals of classic fantasy tropes. We have powerful female characters leading the fight for justice, something which I’m discovering is a bit of a fixture in Sanderson’s work. We have, of course, a fairly coherent magic system whose rules are the key to the big reveal at the end of the novel. And, of course, we have a bit of a Sanderson avalanche at the end.
I will say, the slow reveal of the magic in this world was a bit frustrating, if only because it proves so critical in the final acts of the book. But, that issue aside, this book was well paced and exciting.Continue reading...
A standalone novel by Brandon Sanderson, Warbreaker is fascinating for it's reversal of many tropes, but really shines due to the commentary provided along the way. #books
Warbreaker is the story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses, the God King one of them has to marry, the lesser god who doesn't like his job, and the immortal who's still trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago. Their world is one in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren's capital city and where a power known as BioChromatic magic is based on an essence known as breath that can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people.
By using breath and drawing upon the color in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be accomplished. It will take considerable quantities of each to resolve all the challenges facing Vivenna and Siri, princesses of Idris; Susebron the God King; Lightsong, reluctant god of bravery, and mysterious Vasher, the Warbreaker.
So the entire month of September was a bit of a weird one for me, and so I completely forgot that I hadn’t posted a review for Warbreaker. As a result, this post is both going to be a) a bit of a retrospective after the memories of the book have faded a bit, and b) probably a bit short. But since no one is reading any of this, anyway, well, what do you care??Continue reading...
Book three of The Stormlight Archives, Oathbringer centers around the journey of Dalinar, whose journey feels the most complex and relatable yet. #books
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 books of The Stormlight Archive are certainly not short. In fact, because I’ve been reading them on my Kindle, I only just now realized that The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance are both over a thousand pages. But it was certainly evident that Oathbringer was longer than both, and at over one thousand, two hundred pages, I was definitely right.
But I have to admit, despite their sheer volume, every book in this series has felt well paced, moving along briskly between multiple plotlines, each of which carries a momentum that’s kept me interested. And in that regard, Oathbringer is no different. It’s length was only evident in that just so very much seems to happen in this book.
Having read the third volume in this series, I now see that each book focuses on a specific character journey. In the first book we see Kaladin go from lowly slave to bridgeman to leader to eventually becoming Radiant. In the second book we see Shallan follow her own path to bonding her spren and becoming a hero in her own right. In each case we are presented with a flawed character and a narrative in the present that shows their struggling to find their way to becoming something greater, along with flashbacks to their past meant to help us understand the traumas that have lead them to be who they are.
I’ll be blunt: in both cases, I found the stories… unconvincing. That, combined with the fact that I find both characters a little flat and uninteresting, meant that the character-driven aspects of these books left me feeling a little cold. Fortunately, the world of Roshar and the broader story arc kept me going.
Oathbringer, on the other hand, is something else entirely.Continue reading...
Book two of a two part pentology, Words of Radiance follows directly from The Way of Kings, in plot, structure, and pacing, but provides a satisfying climax for the first major act of this epic series. #books
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.
This review is coming many days after I finished this book, and having already started Oathbringer, I have to admit the plot is already blurring in my mind. But, I’ll do my best!
And, of course, it’s already been nearly a week since I started this review, so the book is blurring even more in my mind… oh well.Continue reading...