Shadows of Self

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I finished Brandon Sanderson’s Shadows of Self a few days ago. It’s the seventh novel published in 2015 that I’ve read and actually the second by Brandon Sanderson. Shadows of Self is a Mistborn novel set in the “Wax and Wayne” time period, which has very “turn of the century” flare to it.

I really liked The Alloy of Law, the first novel in this time period, so I was pretty excited about Shadows of Self and, while I thought it was pretty good (4 out of 5 stars), it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. In this novel, Sanderson pulled in the mythology from the first trilogy and worked it into the very fibers of the plot. In some ways, I liked that, but, in other ways, I didn’t.

Alloy of Law was so unique and unexpected. You could pick up little hints from the original series and get a vague idea of how and why the world progressed as it did, but it was fresh and new and had a life of its own. But then in Shadows of Self, Sanderson basically just went and explained all of the mysteries and connected everything very firmly to the characters and events from the original series, which made it feel much more like an extension of the original series than its own unique world.

Despite that, the plot was excellent. It was fast paced and exciting with plenty of suspense and mystery to keep you interested. And the ending was so good. So good.

I was also very glad to be reunited with Wax, Wayne, and Marasi. I really like all of the characters from this series. They are each very different, but work very well together.

Hugo Analysis

I think there’s a pretty decent chance that this will make my Hugo nomination list. If I had to make it right now, I think it would, but it’s already kind of a tough call. Out of the seven novels that I’ve read so far that were published this year, none of them really stand out as being way better than the rest so it’s pretty hard for me to figure out which two I would cut, but it may get easier as I read more.

What’s Next?

Right now, I’m listening to Red Rising by Pierce Brown, which is really good so far. I’ll almost definitely listen to Golden Sun after that, which will give me another 2015 novel. And then I think I might dig into John Scalzi’s Old Man’s war universe, because I read the first one a long time ago and really liked it, bought the second a year and haven’t listened to it yet, and I’m hearing good things about the latest installment, The End of All Things.

As for actual reading, I’ll be traveling soon so I’m going to stick with what’s on my Kindle. I have at least a half dozen novels lined up on there, but none of them are from 2015 so I guess I’ll have to take another hiatus for a bit.

Review: The Rithmatist

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The RithmatistThe Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The more I read by Brandon Sanderson, the more I respect him as an author. In fact, at this moment in time, I think he is probably the best fantasy author in the business. His work is consistently of high quality, his characters are realistic, his world building is outstanding, and his magic systems are unique, imaginative, and very well considered. On top of that, Sanderson is fast writer, meaning that he publishes multiple novels a year.

With all that said, I really enjoyed The Rithmatist. It is technically a young adult novel, but I hardly noticed. The only real differences between it and Sanderson’s adult fiction is that it’s shorter in length, the protagonist is 15 years old, and there’s no romance. None of that bothered me in the slightest.

It’s hard for me to pick my favorite thing about the novel, because I really liked it as a whole. However, the magic system was absolutely fantastic. In The Rithmatist, magical energies can be used for attack or defense by drawing shapes with chalk. I thought that was a really cool idea, but I also really liked how Sanderson took it another step and developed a dueling system complete with rules and strategies.

Beyond that, I thought that Joel was a really good protagonist. Sure, he fits the typical “unlikely hero” motif almost exactly, but it’s a classic trope that never gets old if done well. Joel is full of youthful exuberance and is easy to relate to. I liked how it was his intelligence that was his true asset and not magic.

The world that Sanderson created was really interesting as well. The story is set in a alternate United States somewhere around the beginning of the 20th century. I don’t recall if an exact year was given. It seemed like the story was going to fall into the Steampunk genre, but instead the world relies on magnets and magic for technological innovation. I really liked that, because, to be honest, Steampunk just isn’t my favorite.

Overall, the story was not overly complicated, but had enough mystery and suspense to move the plot along at a brisk pace and keep things interesting. I liked this so much, I would recommend it to anyone even vaguely interested in speculative fiction.

Review: Warbreaker

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WarbreakerWarbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I decided to pick up Warbreaker, because I had read several of Brandon Sanderson’s other works including the Mistborn trilogy, Legion, and The Emperor’s Soul, and I really enjoyed them all. In each of those works, I was incredibly impressed with Sanderson’s world building and magic systems.

I found the same was true in Warbreaker. The magic system was probably the novel’s greatest virtue. It was complex, strange, and fascinating. Basically, every person is born with a breath, but can accumulate more to do interesting magic, such as animating a rope, clothing, or a corpse to do one’s bidding. There’s a lot more to it that than and learning about the intricacies of the system was perhaps my favorite part of the book. It’s clear that Sanderson has quite a talent for developing unique magic systems.

The world was also pretty interesting, though not terribly complex. I liked how history played a role in the story. I actually would have liked Sanderson to tie in the history a little more. It ends up being fairly important, but Sanderson never truly gives a good history lesson. Instead, he chose to deliver it in bits and pieces so, even at the end of the novel, it wasn’t completely clear how everything fit together.

I also thought it was interesting how gods played an integral role in society and were even part of the government. The only thing I didn’t like was that it was a little difficult to figure out how the magic of the gods worked. Sanderson never really laid it all out and sometimes I would wonder how a god was able to do something or why they couldn’t.

And that leads me into my biggest issue with the novel. I did not care for the storytelling. I’ve enjoyed Sanderson’s writing in all of my previous experiences, but I felt like he simply was not at his best in Warbreaker. The story was not terribly complex and yet it felt like many details were left out until the very end and then just explained in a rush.

The other complaint that I had was regarding the characters. They just seemed kind of flat to me, kind of two dimensional. The motives of characters like Denth and Vasher were not well explored and many of the others lacked the substance necessary for me to really connect with them. I actually think this novel should have followed Vasher. He was by far the most interesting character in my mind and he just didn’t get enough attention. His story was just screaming to be told.

I also listened to this on audiobook and, frankly, I did not particularly care for the narrator. I don’t know that I would say that he was bad, but I didn’t think his style was a great fit for the novel. My only real complaint was the voice he used for Lightsong. I’m not sure how Lightsong was meant to sound, but I have it feeling that “surfer dude” was not it. I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed the novel more if I had actually read Warbreaker myself, but I can say for sure that the narration did not heighten my experience, as it has with other novels.

Overall, I thought Warbreaker was pretty good. It’s not Sanderson’s finest, but it still has some upsides. If Sanderson writes a sequel, there’s a chance I would read it.

Review: The Emperor’s Soul

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The Emperor's SoulThe Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been so impressed with Brandon Sanderson as an author recently. Not only does he write amazing, sprawling epic fantasy novels, but he also somehow finds time to write some very creative novellas like The Emperor’s Soul and Legion.

Although The Emperor’s Soul won’t go down as my favorite of Sanderson’s works, I did really like the concept behind it. The novel is set in a fantasy world that felt very much like imperialist China, where Forgers are able to convert regular items into glorious works of art. A Forger could take pottery that you created in art class and make it look like something that belongs in a museum.

The process is obviously magical, but Sanderson lays out the rules so clearly that it almost feels like science. A Forger must create “soul stamps” to bend an item to their wishes. Essentially, they invent a plausible history for an item and forge that history into the stamp. Once the stamp is applied, item takes on that history and reflects it.

The magic system was definitely one of the best parts of the novel, but the plot and characters were also interesting. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that enjoys inventive fantasy or interesting magic systems. I really liked it.

Book Review: Legion

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LegionLegion by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Legion is simply yet another example of Brandon Sanderson’s immense talent. The guy is clearly one of the best fantasy writers today and Legion just shows how far that talent extends. I have no idea how Sanderson can publish so many works so quickly.

Legion is a short novella set in the modern day about a guy who sees and interacts with a host of imaginary individuals. These individuals each possess unique skills or knowledge, which they ultimately pass onto Steve, the protagonist.

I was immediately drawn in by this concept. I mean, Steve is basically a genius, but his genius requires him to interact with hallucinations. What an awesome concept. I was totally sucked in right from the start.

The story itself is pretty neat, involving a camera that can take pictures of the past, but the best parts are the interactions between Steve and his hallucinations.

The only real complaint that I have is that it was too short! I really hope that Sanderson intends to revisit this world, because I am eager to read more. I found Legion to be a very creative and entertaining story and I would recommend it highly to any fantasy reader.

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Review: The Well of Ascension

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The Well of Ascension The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Well of Ascension was a fantastic follow up to Brandon Sanderson’s first book in the series, Mistborn: The Final Empire. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel…maybe not as much as the first, but still enough to give it 5 stars.

Sanderson’s talent as a writer is multifaceted and he showcases his capabilities in this series. In this series he shows that he can write a strong female protagonist, craft a unique and creative magic system, and build a complex and dystopian society.

As I already mentioned, one of the best parts of this series is the magic system. It’s pretty simple in concept, but there always seems to be new aspects that can be unlocked, lending a little intrigue and unpredictability to the story. It truly seems like the perfect compliment to the story that Sanderson is weaving.

I also love the characters. It’s true that some of the secondary characters from the first novel are featured less prevalently in this novel, but that doesn’t detract from their overall appeal. Sazed, Ham, Clubs, Dockson, Spook, and Breeze–they are all well-written and lovable in their own way. However, I found OreSeur to be a particularly intriguing character in this novel. He definitely made things interesting.

Another great aspect of the novel is simply the mythos, the history of the Lord Ruler, The Final Empire, the Deepness, the Hero of Ages, and the Well of Ascension. Sanderson does a fantastic job stringing along little tidbits of information that only hint at the real stories behind such mysteries. Even now, I’m still itching to find out more about this world that Sanderson has created–why it has come to be the retched place that it is.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Well of Ascension and the Mistborn series as a whole. If you’ve ever been thinking about trying our Sanderson’s work, the Mistborn trilogy is an excellent place to work. He has quickly become a favorite author of mine as he has proven to be an expert at writing a great fantasy story with all of the quintessential components, but none of the cliche.

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I Blame Robert Jordan

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So I haven’t posted in awhile and rather than make an excuse like being too busy or simply admit that I’ve been too lazy or perhaps even some combination of the two, I’ll take the high road and put the blame on another man’s shoulders, namely Robert Jordan.

If you have even dabbled in reading the fantasy genre, then you have heard of one of the great epic series, the Wheel of Time. The series was started back in 1990. At the time, I was 6 years old and my favorite pastime was watching G.I. Joe and Transformers cartoons. Today, the 13th volume of the series has been published with the 14th and final novel is on the horizon.

The series was originally conceived as a 12 novel series, but Jordan became ill and passed away while still working on the final novel. Apparently Jordan did not want to see the series left unfinished (and I’m betting the publishers didn’t either) and fantasy “newcomer” Brandon Sanderson was selected to pen the final novel from Jordan’s notes.

Brandon Sanderson is best known for his Mistborn trilogy, but also considers the Wheel of Time series as one of his major inspirations. I recently read the first installment and it really was very good. When he came to the table and began looking through Jordan’s note, he realized that there was no way he could cram all of the remaining story into one novel so he turned the final novel into a trilogy, resulting in a 14 novel series.

Well, a few years ago when I was gearing up for a long flight to Alaska, I picked up The Eye of the World for the trip. To Jordan’s credit, though there were some pretty obvious allusions to Tolkien’s work, it was pretty awesome.

Since then, I’ve been gradually making my way through the series. Around Christmas, I started up the fourth novel, The Shadow Rising. After several weeks of making little progress, I decided that in order to finish the 980 page paperback in any reasonable amount of time, that I would need to really devote myself to it. And that’s what I did. I read during lunch, I read at the gym, I read before bed. I neglected my computer and my oh-so-wonderful blog and now you see why I blame Robert Jordan.

Admittedly, it was pretty good, but it was also really long and somewhere around page 600, I was ready for something new. I struggled to stay interested at times, but I kept at it and I’m glad I did. Like I said, it was good, I just wish it was a couple hundred pages shorter.

Will I read volume 5? Hell yeah. Not only do I feel compelled to because I own it or because I have devoted so much time already, but I genuinely want to know what happens next. However, the wiki page for the series has some interesting statics for the series that might make me think again. Check this:

  • Total pages: 11,308
  • Total words: 4,062,312
  • Audio playback: 17d 11h 30m

That means if I keep reading at my current pace, which is about one a year, I won’t finish until 2021. I’ll be 37. Wow.

Now given, these numbers aren’t exactly accurate because they had to estimate the length of the upcoming 14th novel, but holy crap…over 17 straight days to listen to the series. That’s insane and I’ve committed to reading the rest of the series. Well, I suppose it’s good to have perspective.

New Books! Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy

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I’ve had Mistborn on my “to read” list for some time now (along with about 50 other novels), but my resolve to read the trilogy has increased significantly lately.

First, while wandering around the Gaslamp district during Comic-Con, my brother and I went into Borders to borrow some Wi-fi and I noticed that Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, and Brent Weeks were going to be there doing readings, signings, and the like while I was in town. I was really excited until I realized that I had never read anything by any of those authors.

Second, the SciFi and Fantasy Book Club on Goodreads chose Mistborn as their August Fantasy novel.

Third, I discovered that had the trilogy listed at $16.30 (which is a really good deal for three new paperbacks) and I jumped on them. They came today and I can’t wait to tear into them.

But there is one problem: I promised myself that I wouldn’t start a new series until I finished at least one other series that I’m currently partway through. So I guess Mistborn will have to sit and wait patiently on my bookshelf for me to finish reading Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy (at the very least).

I really want to read some of the newer Fantasy work that’s coming out, but I feel the need to work through some of the classic works first. Right now, I’m somewhere in the mid-90s. I just hope I catch up eventually.