I originally learned about this series from the short story in one of the "Legends" anthologies. I really enjoyed the idea of a fantastical virtual re...moreI originally learned about this series from the short story in one of the "Legends" anthologies. I really enjoyed the idea of a fantastical virtual reality existence that somehow becomes more than simply "virtual". I also was intrigued by the hints of a massive battle, and I enjoyed Williams' writing style.
All that said, it was surprisingly difficult for me to hunt down this series. I had actually checked the anthology out of the library, so I didn't have a personal copy and I hadn't made a note of the author or what universe the short story came from. When I went back to the library (several times) for the anthology, it was checked out and, eventually, marked as "lost." It turns out that "fantasy virtual reality" is not a great search term when it comes to looking for a fantasy book.
Anyway, it doesn't matter. I finally found it a few days after Christmas, and I've been devouring the series since. I've just started the 3rd book. I highly recommend this entire series to any reader of epic fantasy or sci-fi. (less)
I've done it again. I've started another amazing, incredible, awesome, well-written series that's in progress. It wasn't enough to get caught up in So...moreI've done it again. I've started another amazing, incredible, awesome, well-written series that's in progress. It wasn't enough to get caught up in Song of Ice and Fire. I wasn't content with having to wait between releases of the Green Rider series, or to fall in love with Kingkiller Chronicles. I couldn't have just left it alone when I fell in love with The Dagger and Coin series. Nope. Reading four different series-in-progress just wasn't enough torture for me; I just had to go find another awesome series. This is the punishment and sweet torture of a reader.
Anyway, melodramatics done, and yes. This book is amazing, goddamnit. It's brilliant. Beautiful characterizations, incredible descriptions, compelling plot, the whole nine yards. It starts a little slow, but then it's epic fantasy and epic fantasy will often do that. I've noticed in recent years that I trend toward authors who examine religion, belief, and non-belief. I like to read the stories that hold the prisms of faith up to the light and examine the way the colors refract and effect the world around us. Sanderson is excellent at this -- in his other works, he's had god-kings and immortals; he's had great and wonderful heroes who are flawed and terrible, and repressive, cruel villains who tried and failed to do "right." He does a great job of, through the lens of fantasy, examining the motivations, desires, cruelties, hopes, and dreams of humankind.
He has the whole range of faith, too -- from pervasive religious orders, to true believers, to those who simply go through the motions, to those who find religion later in life, to those who switch religion, to those who lose religion, to those who never had religion. Somehow he manages to present these different characters -- to present how religion and belief (or lack of religion and belief) entwine with their personalities and lives to assist in their overall character development and story arch. And if that's not enough, he examines the role of mythology, legend, and religious belief in society, and how fact and history can become so entwined with mythology and legend that they are almost impossible to differentiate -- but he does all this in a very natural way that guides the reader through the story, and you may never even notice or realize that this is one of those fantasy stories that tells a larger truth.
More than that, he's possibly the most innovative fantasy writer I've ever read. His people, their cultures, their races, their traditions -- I mean, we've all read the fantasy stories with a blue-skinned or sharp-eared race; a people who possess magic or secrets or what-have-you -- but Sanderson continually blows my mind with some of the oddly specific and brilliant details to differentiate his races and peoples. They're just so creative. In fact, the biggest problem I have with treading Sanderson's writing is that it's so imaginative and clever, I find myself thrown out of it by sheer admiration at his skill. The same thing happens to me with the Kingkiller Chronicles.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was offered for free through the B&N Nook store, and I wasn't real sure if I'd like it -- she appeared...moreI was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was offered for free through the B&N Nook store, and I wasn't real sure if I'd like it -- she appeared to be a new indie author, the book was distributed through smashwords, and (in short) it had all the hallmarks of the type of book that is usually poorly written and poorly edited.
Instead, it's . . . pretty cool. I mean, it's possible my rave review is in part a reaction to my (much, much) lowered expectations, but I really liked this book. I liked the plot, the characters, the description, the pacing. It's a typical fantasy plot, nothing innovative here, but the world building is just excellent. I love how she focuses on the friendship dynamics instead of the romantic entanglements. I love how she actually addresses things that happen when you're camping or trekking through the woods. I just love the book, and I'm still kinda surprised by that. I was expecting it to suck and it didn't.(less)
I'm not normally one for mysteries or ghost stories, but this was offered through the B&N Nook Daily Deals for something like $1.99, and most revi...moreI'm not normally one for mysteries or ghost stories, but this was offered through the B&N Nook Daily Deals for something like $1.99, and most reviews gave it 5 stars. So I figured I'd try it out.
Well, I loved it. Stevens writes with this really intense, evocative style. I had one teeny complaint -- detailed below -- but otherwise was thoroughly captivated by her writing. It was well paced and interesting. Her protagonist, Amelia, is very relatable and practical. I was pretty sure I knew who the killer was before the big reveal, but the motivation was a surprise. I'm also interested more about how ghosts interact and affect the world -- Stevens dropped some very intriguing hints, but didn't go into too much depth (partly because of Amelia's limitations in knowledge, I assume). Overall, I quite enjoyed it except for one teeny tiny caveat.
Basically, every time Amelia visibly reacted to something -- or was disturbed by her intense reaction to something -- Stevens would remind us that this was unusual for Amelia. She would re-detail how Amelia has learned to school her emotions and reactions at a young age and why, and stress (over and over) that her overt reactions were extremely out of character. Personally, I felt like she hammered home a little too much how Amelia is schooled at hiding her expressions and any deviation (ie, showing expression) was unusual for her. By like the 5th time, I was thinking, "Okay, we got it. You keep telling us that although she's visibly reacting and has been throughout the book, this is actually really unusual for her."
Then again, I understand why. I'm reading the second book now, and (at least in these first few chapters) Amelia actually does seem better at schooling her emotions in a less personally shocking setting. So I guess Stevens just wanted to keep reminding us because Amelia was pretty on edge in the first book -- but then, we'd been introduced to her at an unusual time in her life.
So, to sum up -- characterization, plotting, pace, and style are all great. Stevens has a lovely voice and is very talented. While I don't generally like mysteries, I like this protagonist and the writing style well enough that I bought the second book in the series at full price. I recommend this series to fans of Dean Koontz, or people who like paranormal stories (like the Evernight series).(less)
Sarah Rees Brennan has been my favorite writer since I was first introduced to her work. Still, I was a little nervous about reading this -- I loved T...moreSarah Rees Brennan has been my favorite writer since I was first introduced to her work. Still, I was a little nervous about reading this -- I loved The Demon's Lexicon so much, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get "into" a new series for missing the cast of DL. Plus, in the past I've loved one series by an author, but been put off or underwhelmed by another. I was afraid this would be the case with Unspoken, and I didn't want it to me.
My worries were for naught. Sarah Rees Brennan remains a master of her craft. Her characters and plotlines are unique and beautifully crafted. I love the dialogue between her characters, the friendship and easy banter. I love Brennan's descriptions, the way she uses a few vivid sentences to create a fully formed image in your head of a location or situation.
I'm also, I must admit, fascinated by the mind that comes up with these plotlines. I don't know what inspired Rees Brennan to write this book and these characters, but I suspect it has something to do with how song lyrics and storybooks present the image of love. I'm amazed by someone who could take such an abstract concept and make it so literal, yet so believable. She really is a stunning writer, and you have to just admire the sort of creativity that inspires such unique plots. (less)
I didn't know quite what to expect when I opened this. A friend sent me the ARC and asked that I read it, review it, and let him know my thoughts. I w...moreI didn't know quite what to expect when I opened this. A friend sent me the ARC and asked that I read it, review it, and let him know my thoughts. I was mostly excited because it's the first ARC I've ever gotten. It was described to me as an "anti-Valentines day anthology," but that didn't tell me much. I wasn't sure whether I was about to read a series of stories about how much Valentines Day sucks or what.
Anyway, it has nothing to do with Valentines Day, other than apparently being released in February and being about love. Of course, it's about love in the same vein that Bangs and Whimpers: Stories About the End of the World is about the apocalyptic scenarios. In other words, it's unexpected, marvelous, and brilliant.
The stories all feature a love that cannot, for whatever reason, be. Some of them feature characters or couples from classic mythology, some of them look to parallel universes, magic, or sci-fi futuristic differences to explain the divide between the doomed lovers. But every story is thought-provoking, beautiful, and realistic in a larger-truth sort of way.
The writing style varied from author to author. All of the authors were extremely talented, able to highlight the unique settings and characters in the brief word counts allotted to anthologies. There were definitely some authors I enjoyed more than others, and I will say that I was somewhat disappointed in the style of the short featuring the Norns/ Fates -- it was such a great concept, but the writing style itself was somewhat off-putting.
That's the only complaint I have, though -- out of 10 stories, I disliked only the writing style of 1, although I thought the concept and characterization was brilliant. Overall, this is a treasure of an anthology, featuring extremely talented authors who portray love and relationships with a sort of graceful dark humor and a subversively melancholic beauty. I found the collection disturbing, entertaining, impressive, and ultimately thought-provoking, and I highly recommend it.(less)
Sanderson kept up the excellent pacing and characterization present in his first two Mistborn books. He continues to overturn story arc tropes and exa...moreSanderson kept up the excellent pacing and characterization present in his first two Mistborn books. He continues to overturn story arc tropes and examine intense theological questions. I found this book really enjoyable overall, though it did leave me with an undefinable sour taste in my mouth.
I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's because I've never liked it when I feel like a religious lesson is being tucked into my fiction, like a pill in applesauce. Sanderson isn't heavy-handed about it, though. It's mainstream fiction, not Jack Weyland. He's not pulling a Left Behind here, with heavy-handed moral lessons shoe-horned awkwardly into a plot vehicle. Sanderson has more of a Harry Potter or Narnia vibe going on, where the religious undertones are secondary to the plot.
The theological and religious debates are organic, a logical outgrowth of the plot and characters. And the conclusion is natural and makes sense in the world he presents. That being said -- I'm kind of conflicted on how atheism was presented.
On one hand, Sanderson seems to think atheism is a really tragic, depressing state of mind. And I don't say this based on Sazid's depression as he struggles with his faith. I mean, when I lost my faith, it was a traumatic time -- that was a realistic depiction. It's a strange and terrifying transition to alter your mindset from finding meaning in the supernatural when that's all you've been taught to finding meaning in the here and now.
No, I say this because Sanderson's world is a world without religion. A dying world, a world where a despotic ruler in a flawed attempt to rescue mankind plunged them into a 1,000 years of misery and turmoil. Almost all of Sanderson's main characters are casually atheist, and not in the way that atheists are in our society at this moment in time. Atheists right now, by and large, have been raised in a religious home or at a least a religious society, and they've done research and thought about it and come to the conclusion there is no god through work and self-reflection.
The atheists in Sanderson's world are that way because a tyrant has set himself up as a false god and wiped out any other religion. They don't really seem to believe in this tyrant, but they don't believe in anything else, either. There world and surroundings are a direct representation of this spiritual wasteland, and at points in the series Sanderson mentions that art, science, learning, and beauty all died with religion -- his argument appears to be that a world without religion is a world without joy.
On the other hand, they aren't without hope. They want a better world for themselves and their friends. They love, they hope, they dream. They build relationships. They create art, secretly. They strive for a better world.
And in the end, I'm not really sure what Sanderson intended with this -- as an atheist, I felt he was trying to argue that religion is a necessary part of the human spirit, that god and spirituality will always be a part of us. But I also feel that's a fallacious and simplistic conclusion, and that his atheist characters were much like atheists in the real world -- focused on the strength and beauty of humanity, the potential of mankind.
I mean, obviously it's a fantasy. And I loved how Sanderson addressed multiple religions and the birth of faith and a host of other theological situations. I really did like it, and it's really thought-provoking.
But this is definitely a very ambiguous, adult-themed way of examining religion. There are no simplistic answers or obvious allegories promoting one religious mindset. These are actual questions people struggle with regarding religion and faith, wrapped in a fantasy novel.
And although Sanderson's ending came down on the side of faith and belief, it felt . . . unconvincing. Honestly, I felt that character only found faith so that the ending could occur the way it did. Maybe I'm wrong, but it really felt forced at the very end there.
That's why only 4 stars -- great read, all the way until the very end, which was still technically well written, but seemed to have lost the joy and curiosity that had driven the rest of the books. It felt depressing; pre-determined. A fixed, immovable point in time. Sad when it should have been triumphant; poignant when it should have been joyful.
This series started out strong with the first book, then kept it up. I love the writing and characterization, and I really enjoyed the reversal of tro...moreThis series started out strong with the first book, then kept it up. I love the writing and characterization, and I really enjoyed the reversal of trope re the hero's journey. It's an interesting, gripping read. I particularly enjoyed the theological questions and debates. (less)
This book was a pleasant surprise to me. I was looking for something along the lines of Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear or David Abraham's The D...moreThis book was a pleasant surprise to me. I was looking for something along the lines of Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear or David Abraham's The Dragon's Path, and I found it!
I was about 3/4 of the way through when I realized why the author's name sounds so familiar -- a friend of mine recommended him to me years ago, while we were talking about the Wheel of Time Series. I'd read the first few books of said series, but given up on it by 1997. She recommended I pick it back up, because a really talented friend of hers had ghost-written the final two books.
I didn't listen to her, but if you're at all interested in the fantasy scene, it was kind of hard not to hear his name at some point. Anyway, I still don't know if I'll dive back into the hot mess Wheel of Time became, because I'm not sure even Sanderson's talent could save that trainwreck.
But this series? Really awesome, and I highly recommend it to any fan of epic fantasy.(less)
This is christian fiction, and it's really badly written. This is not christian fiction on the literary and allegorical level of Narnia, it's christia...moreThis is christian fiction, and it's really badly written. This is not christian fiction on the literary and allegorical level of Narnia, it's christian fiction on the literary level of Sweet Valley High, but with less character depth and worse plot placing. I read it because it was free on Nook a few weeks ago, and although I'm not a christian, I found the premise (post-rapture world) to be one that had promise.
Unfortunately, rather than write a great book focused on plot and character development with broad appeal, they chose to write a sub-par vehicle for proselytizing. One suspects they intend this book to have broad appeal, and that the horrors they recite (rather than show) will convert non-christians through the power of literature and whatnot. Except the writing is really awful, and it very clearly caters to christian beliefs (and, from what I understand, it's a very specific subset of christian belief).
And I don't mean it caters to christian beliefs in the way that a book about the rapture, a book that presupposes heaven and god and all that are real would. It caters to christian beliefs by doing the following:
1. Depicts those left behind as suffering from pride, anger, resentment, or rebellion, especially if they already have christian family/ friends.
2. Has a lot of preaching and discussion of christian beliefs and accepting Jesus. Most of these religious conversations feel forced and awkward in the settings they're in.
3. Propagates a specific evangelical viewpoint that christians are saved by grace, not by works, which is a pretty horrific idea when you think about it from a moral and ethical viewpoint.(less)