An exceptional first installment of one of my favourite series, I decided to go back and re-read the series as part of my dive into the Cosmere. I was not disappointed!
For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the "Sliver of Infinity," reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler's most hellish prison. Kelsier "snapped" and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.
Kelsier recruited the underworld's elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.
But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel's plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she's a half-Skaa orphan, but she's lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.
This saga dares to ask a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails?
So I checked Goodreads and I’m a little shocked to discover it’s been over seven years since I first read The Final Empire. As a result, while I remembered the rough beats in the storyline, I’d long forgotten the details and so in many ways this felt like a fresh read. I’m happy to say my view of the book has absolutely not changed since then, and in fact having read more of the Cosmere–and perhaps having changed a bit myself in the intervening years–I think I’ve come to appreciate it even more.
Now, I’m going to say up front: this review is gonna be jam packed with spoilers for books across the Cosmere. You have been warned!Continue reading...
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.
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.
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.
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...