The next time you're going to get on a plane, pick up one of these books. Whichever you haven't read, if you have yet to finish the series, or your fa...moreThe next time you're going to get on a plane, pick up one of these books. Whichever you haven't read, if you have yet to finish the series, or your favorite if you have. Reading about action atop the back of a flying genetically engineered whale takes on a whole new level of awe and enjoyment when you yourself can glance sideways and down at the puffy backs of clouds.
Which is basically to say that on a 2.5 hour plane ride yesterday, I somehow plowed through 250 pages of this book without noticing the time at all. It was disorientating in the best sort of way. I think 'engrossed' is the right word for how the plot affected me. (view spoiler)[There is no word for the way my own lips sort of throbbed when the characters kissed. (props to Westerfeld for this romance. Ummm wow. Can we just. Can we just have whole books. About Deryn and Alek. Being adorable. And a little bit emotionally insecure. Actually that's part of the adorable.) (hide spoiler)]
I think I sort of lose my reviewing ability when I hit book 3 in a trilogy. There are a couple of reasons: one, it's the culmination of an experience. I've heard people say they have trouble reviewing the first book of a series because it should be judged by how it fits in to everything else; I am the opposite. I can't review the last, because my feelings about it are tangled up in my feelings for the first and second and are generally far too complicated to put into words. If you asked me about this book, or about The Hero Of Ages, in person you would get a lot of flailing and some squeaks and a whole heap of inarticulateness. That might be considered a mostly accurate portrayal of my emotions. Oh, the second reason: dancing around spoilers. Talk about a pain.
So. A review that is as specific as I can make it while still letting it be necessarily vague. This series is insanely readable: suck-away-your-time readable, but also damn-where-did-the-pages-go-I-want-more readable. It is also insanely good. Just, you know, good in an essential way, because it is good on several levels. The history is really cool, as are the deviations from it. (Japan with its more integrated Darwinist and Clanker technologies and those horrifying kappa. Russia's bears - dear god those things are terrifying when they're starved; creepiest illustration to date - and then America with a civil war about technology and not just ideology.) Also the characters! Okay, so Alek's nonstop blather about his DESTINY and FATE and whatnot bother me. I'm not a huge fan of the concept of destiny in general. But he's still a great guy, and a great character. And every now and again, Deryn calls him on it, or at least thinks something very eyerollish about it, so all is well. Deryn is just head-to-toe pure wonderful. I love her strength and her determination and her iron will and her self-control and her spine and her courage and her secrets and her intelligence and basically everything. (view spoiler)[Their romance stole my heart completely. To adopt an overused Tumblr phrase: CUTIES. I loved the way Alek thought of her as his best friend, even when it was obvious to everyone and him that he loved her. And that he basically said 'screw destiny' and killed a man for her sake, nothing else. Okay, I'm not huge on the whole choosing-love-over-best-thing-for-world thing, but this wasn't exactly that, since Goliath would have done as much harm as good if not more. Bottom line is it worked and I just wanted them to kiss and fly forever. (hide spoiler)]
Oh, and TESLA. How did I enjoy Tesla in this book? Let me count the ways. He was fucking crazy, that's for sure. But the way that his machine echoed the atomic bomb? Or am I reading too much into it as an aftereffect of my freshman seminar on the Manhattan Project? I don't think so, not really. Maybe Westerfeld didn't do it consciously, but Tesla's machine definitely resonated in the same way - the thing that could both level cities and provide power; a weapon designed to bring peace. As I was reading, I imagined the Bomb in the hands of one desperate, hurt, brilliant man and got chills.
Umm. I am not very articulate tonight. Thinking and writing in fragments. Here is the point: read this series. There are authors who treat YA as a low-quality cesspit for their corniest blather; Westerfeld is not one of them. This is the good stuff, the cream of the crop. Set it up in a place of honor next to the Chaos Walking and Thief Errant series, in the lineup of the best YA being published right now.
(oh, and Mr. Westerfeld, if you read this: should you ever be inclined to write a series about the Adventures of Deryn and Alek Kicking Ass FOR SCIENCE! And Also Lots Of Snogging And Being Adorable, I'll read it. I'll even pre-order it in hard cover and my college student budget be damned. My priorites are in the right order, dammit.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The one you hope, deep in your little reader heart, you'll finally find.
The one with the plot that is both wide-ranging and intensely personal; with the characters who are all nuanced and flawed; with the complicated political intrigues to keep you guessing; with the shocking twists that are, true to form, both surprising and inevitable.
You've slogged through the morass of uninspiring Twilight clones. You've suffered through dystopians trying to be the next Hunger Games. You've struggled to stay awake through overly lengthy fantasy novels written by people who have no idea what made Tolkein so successful, but think they can imitate him anyway.
And here - here is a book that deserves every one of its nearly 600 pages. Here is a book with no superfluous sub-plots. Here is a book with no cardboard characters. Here is a series where people grow, change, and generally act like human beings. Here is the perfect mixing of philosophy, action, creativity, and heart.
Ladies and gentlemen, I don't think I'll ever be able to fully express how in awe I am of this book.
The story starts grimly. Yes, the Lord Ruler is dead, but that doesn't mean everything is fixed: his empire was a large one, and our heroes are only able to affect small parts of it at a time. Add to that the fact that they've lost their brilliant, charismatic leader and good friend, and it seems the situation is dire. Yet... they've learned something from Kelsier: they laugh in the face of danger. Take, for example, this exchange:
Elend looked over at him. "The Assembly is a mess, a half-dozen warlords with superior armies are breathing down my neck, barely a month passes without someone sending assassins to kill me, and the woman I love is slowly driving me insane." Vin snorted at this last part. "Oh, is that all?" Ham said. "See? It's not so bad after all. I mean, we could be facing and immortal god and his all-powerful priests instead."
They are still the witty, intelligent, compelling heroes we've always rooted for.
Or are they?
One of the several reasons I think this book is actually better than The Final Empire is that while that one focused primarily on Vin's character development and personal problems, this one expands upon the psyches of the entire cast. Part of the way it does this is through shifting the focus of the third-person limited point of view, so at some point the reader gets to see the thoughts of almost every character. (This is used really brilliantly; more about it later.) The other part is by showing Vin's understanding of others growing; as she develops more sensitivity, she has more insight into their characters. We see the soft heart beneath Clubs' tough exterior, the insecure young man that Spook has become despite his bravado, Ham's pain at being separated from his family, Breeze's devotion to the crew underneath his mercenary attitude.
Most of all, we see the troubles of Vin, Elend, and Sazed.
Vin has always been a complex girl. The abuse she suffered from her brother, Reen, made it so difficult for her to learn to trust, and even learning that Reen protected her with his last breath hasn't done much for her wary attitude. She still has the potent, niggling fear of abandonment in all of her relationships and so her emotional state is very, very fragile. One of the things I love about her is that she isn't a confident heroine leaking ambition and drive from her very pores. Indeed, her insecurities and doubts are some of what make her so easy to identify with. For a male author, Sanderson does an incredible job portraying what it's like to be a young woman - better, I think, than many female authors do. There is that tenuous balance between wanting to seem self-assured and wanting to be reassured which is highlighted beautifully in Vin's struggles in this book. Her doubts about her relationship with Elend could have seemed superficial, another New Moon-esque created crisis designed to show how much they luuuuuurve each other. Instead, they sprang from very reasonable places, and best of all... they weren't isolated. Like all the characters in this book, Vin interacts with her world, and so her insecurities come not just from the fact that she doesn't know her place in it but also from the fact that others think they do. Zane thinks she's a tool and an unwitting captive. The skaa think she's something close to a goddess, their holy protector. Ironically, Elend is one of the few people who doesn't seem to have any ideas about what Vin should be or is; he accepts her for herself, and that leaves a void in the pressure around her that she shies away from. She doesn't know what he wants from her, and so she projects what she thinks he wants.
He loves me, but he's still a man, Vin thought. How many times have I hurt his pride by being Mistborn while he is simply a normal person? A lesser man would never have fallen in love with me. But, doesn't he deserve a woman that he feels he can protect? A woman who's more like... a woman? Vin pulled down in her chair again, seeking warmth within its plushness. However, it was Elend's study chair, where he read. Didn't he also deserve a woman who shared his interests, one who didn't find reading a chore? A woman with whom he could talk about his brilliant political theories?
Haven't we all done this? Especially those of us who are writers as well as readers - you narrate in your head, and that includes imagining what other people are thinking about you. It feeds back into any lingering self-consciousness you may be feeling, and in Vin's case it makes her doubt herself.
Elend is dealing with the same sort of problems and also with completely different ones. The Elend we knew in the last book was a young, bookish idealist, which was what made him so endearing. The first time he met Vin he complained about her stealing his reading light, for goodness sakes! He was completely adorkable. Readers like me, who have a thing for the nerdy boys, no doubt wanted to believe that his idealism and intelligence would serve him well in creating a utopia after the fall of the Lord Ruler, but that's not the case at all. The same things that were strengths in the first book, which set Elend apart from the rest of the corrupt nobility, are weaknesses here. He lacks social skills, self-confidence, assertiveness. He is not conniving or commanding. He believes so deeply in the innate goodness of people that it makes him blind to deceit and scheming. And while he is a very good legislator, he isn't really a leader.
Elend's evolution from the young man who doesn't really know what to do with his role in life to responsible adult willing to make the hard choices and a few necessary sacrifices is one of the best parts of this book. This is where we really get into his character. When Elend is under pressure, he really shines: with a little help, he transforms into the king he needs to be just in time to have his kingdom pulled out from underneath him by various political forces. As a direct result, he becomes in a way just as insecure as Vin, and he too projects what he thinks she feels about him. These two are so similar at their cores that watching them dance carefully around each other is both beautiful and painful. Their relationship is not the most passionate thing ever penned, but it is sweet and strong, and they're a couple to root for. This is partly because Sanderson doesn't skimp on telling the readers what they admire and love about each other (are you taking notes, YAPNR authors?) and partly because of the irony, that two such intelligent people should be so clueless about themselves. That, too, is another part of being young, I think.
Also, they're sensible about their feelings for one another. One line that made me want to cheer:
And a kiss is supposed to make it all right? she thought sullenly, sitting back on a stack of books.
Oh Vin, you are so fabulous. How many books have I read where a simple kiss can take the heroine's breath away and make her forget her troubles and all sorts of bullshit like that? Thank you, Brandon Sanderson, for writing about a couple who love each other but don't think what they have is the Be-All and End-All. (view spoiler)[Thank you also for the wedding scene, which was just short of being ridiculous but really seemed to suit Vin. Even if poor Elend was a little nonplussed. (hide spoiler)]
And that brings me to the last of what I would consider the main characters: Sazed.
Oh, Sazed. Poor, poor Sazed. You know, I honestly think he got put through the grinder worse than anyone else in this book. Like Elend, he is an idealist, though his idealism is centered more around the idea that people thirst for knowledge and less around political situations. And that idealism is brutally shattered as the book goes on. It starts out bad enough, as we join Sazed traveling skaa communities, trying to teach them about lost religions but confronted at every turn by scenes like this:
"When is the Lord Ruler coming back?" asked a woman. "I do not believe that he will," Sazed said. "Why did he abandon us?" "It is a time of change," Sazed said. "Perhaps it is also time to learn of other truths, other ways." The group of people shuffled quietly. Sazed sighed quietly; these people associated faith with the Steel Ministry and its obligators. Religion wasn't something that skaa worried about - save, perhaps, to avoid it when possible. The Keepers spent a thousand years gathering and memorizing the dying religions of the world, Sazed thought. Who would have thought that now - with the Lord Ruler gone - people wouldn't care enough to want what they'd lost?
It is through Sazed's eyes that we see how the rest of the former Final Empire is faring, and it's not going so well. Because he is older and wiser than Vin and Elend, he perceives more, and there is a sense of desperation to his narrative that only grows over the course of the book. The final battle absolutely destroys him, but it is the epilogue that stands out most to me, because I cannot imagine seeing that scene - when belief completely collapses and horror and despair set in - through anyone's eyes but the man who wants to be a priest of all religions. It shakes the very foundations of the world, but it shakes the reader because of its effect on Sazed. I'm almost scared to see what happens to him as a result of that revelation.
Remember the quotes from the logbook that headed every chapter of The Final Empire? There are quotes here, too, and they are definitely a highlight of the book. The journey of the Hero of Ages to the Well of Ascension is shrouded in mystery, and they cast a little more light on who he was and what happened in those last days. They also mirror some of the events of the climax in a way that heightens the tension to almost unbelievable levels. The resonance between the events of a thousand years previously and the events of the book is a powerful tool in the hands of a skilled writer, and Sanderson is definitely that. (view spoiler)[There is an incredible moment when I realized that the Lord Ruler was actually far more well-intentioned than he seemed, and I was almost sorry that he died because his character has more depth in retrospect than I had ever imagined. I love that Sanderson managed to humanize him not once but twice - the first time through Alendi's logbook, which seemed like it was his until the very end, and the second time in the moment that it becomes clear that he made his most important choice for the greater good. Sure, it didn't turn out so well, but he was a flawed human being after all, and by the end of this book he's almost cast in a better light than Vin. His flaws might have resulted in a thousand years of oppression for the skaa, but her flaws led her to release a force of evil on the world. (hide spoiler)]
The shifting narration really served the scope of the story well. I particularly liked the sections from Breeze's point of view. Since he's a Soother, he has a good understanding of people and emotions, and the subtle way he manipulates situations to go the way he wants is very interesting. Also compelling is the loyalty he feels to the crew, which I hadn't really expected from him but which makes a lot of sense in hindsight. His viewpoint is the one Sanderson calls on when he needs to show emotions of someone other than the POV character, and it works beautifully. With other authors and other series, this might seem like stepping out of the form of third-person limited narration; here it's perfectly logical.
A few other things I liked:
Tindwyl, the Terriswoman Keeper who instructed Elend in how to behave like a king. She reminded me of a cross between McGonagall and Lord Wyldon (of Harry Potter and The Protector Of The Small, respectively) and I really enjoyed having her around. While her relationship with Elend was interesting, it was her relationship with Sazed that I was really invested in; it was a great insight into Sazed and into the society of the Keepers. (view spoiler)[I knew from the moment they admitted they loved each other that one of them - or both - was going to die. Damn authors. The good ones have that habit, I think, of making sure you adore the characters RIGHT BEFORE THEY KILL THEM OFF. Hiromu Arakawa, I AM LOOKING AT YOU. (hide spoiler)]
Allrianne, who I at first disliked for her attitude and her Valley Girl way of speaking. (No, really. She literally says "Like, I saw my father's camp." FACEPALM.) No spoilers, but there's more to her than what we see on the surface, and I'm interested to see what she gets up to in the next book. Poor Breeze. He has no idea what he's gotten into.
The interplay of numerous sub-plots was very graceful, even though some of them have yet to come to fruition. Also, though this book sort of has a cliffhanger, it also has a denouement. I'm not really sure how that worked, but it did.
OreSeur, the kandra. Once Vin started being nice to him, their interactions were just... pure gold. No spoilers, but there was a Certain Scene that hit like a punch in the gut as a result.
I'm iffy on Zane; he seemed a little forced at times, but in the end his role in the plot was decent. What really interests me was something revealed only near the end, which hopefully will be expanded upon in The Hero Of Ages. (view spoiler)[He mentioned a spike sticking out of his back, like the one placed in Steel Inquisitors. Was that the source of his false insanity? If so, does that explain Marsh's actions? And is it tied to the force from the Well? (hide spoiler)] Suffice it to say that this tidbit sent me off into a bout of theorizing. Whovians, there's about as much material here for pondering as there's been in Series 6 to date. The world of the Mistborn series is pretty damn complicated.
To finish up, a couple good quotes:
Personally, Vin didn't find the library's location nearly as amusing as its contents. Or, rather, lack thereof. Though the room was lined with shelves, nearly all of them showed signs of having been pillaged by Elend. The rows of books lay pocked by forlorn empty spots, their companions taken away one by one, as if Elend were a predator, slowly whittling down a herd. (Pg. 301)
"Sazed, I've raised some fifteen daughters," Tindwyl said, entering the room. "No teenage girl is stable. Some are just better at hiding it than others." (Pg. 426)
Sanderson still has one writing habit that annoys me: he puts a comma after every 'but', even when it doesn't seem to suit the sentence. And of course there are places where the same word is used too quickly in succession. I'm not too bothered by that, though, because come on - the book is almost 600 pages long. It's not going to be linguistically flawless. That's fine. As long as it's still an engrossing read (check), one that makes me think a lot (check), full of surprises (check) and identifiable characters (check), I'm happy.
This book, and this series: highly recommended. If you haven't read them yet, you owe it to yourself. Don't worry about the size; once you get into them, they go by fast - sometimes faster than you'd want them to.
And finally... I don't think live-action techniques can do justice to it just yet, but Mistborn would make an absolutely mind-blowing anime. (Maybe it could go live-action in future. CG is getting pretty good, after all. But I think anime could get away with a lot more voice-over internal narration, which would be crucial.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Immediately after reading: (view spoiler)[I legitimately want to lick this book right now. I don't even know why except maybe that the best word I can...moreImmediately after reading: (view spoiler)[I legitimately want to lick this book right now. I don't even know why except maybe that the best word I can think of for it is 'delicious' and I have been licking my lips since I finished it? Clearly more tea is in order and also I'm insane. Nonetheless. It's good. It probably does not taste nearly as good as it reads and I am not going to find out because I'm going to sleep. Real review to come but damn, pre-order if you have money for it (it comes out on Tuesday!) and pre-place-hold on it at the library if you don't.
ETA: this is mislabeled as a dystopia. It's post-apocalyptic, dystopic only in a strict dictionary definition of the word rather than the one commonly applied to literature. (hide spoiler)] (No actual spoilers, but it's kind of off-topic and I like to keep things tidy.)
Jeez, I'm really slow at reviewing this year and I don't know why. At least I'm writing this one before a month has passed, right? That's good?
So I guess I don't remember as much as I ought to. That makes it hard to review. But I have a starting point: the one thing that seems to determine whether people like this book.
That is: do you read it as a dystopia or as a post-apocalyptic science fantasy?
If you read it as a dystopia, it's a complete failure of the genre. Oh, it meets the literal definition of 'dystopic', in that it's a horrible world, but the genre tradition is an extrapolation of current circumstances to a horrible future. It has to be something that feels like it could happen - that's where the punch comes from. Aria's world is not one that could come from our own simply out of human failings. But then again, it's not supposed to be a dystopia.
What I read it as, and what I think it's supposed to be interpreted as, is a post-apocalyptic science fantasy along the lines of Obernewtyn. Something destroyed the world as we know it, but whatever it was happened long ago and no one really knows (or at least no one who knows is telling) what it was. It reshaped the earth and people with it in an almost magical way, because so many things that are complicated and scientific look like magic. So in Obernewtyn, we get people with telepathic powers, among others; here, we get people with heightened senses.
I really, really enjoyed that aspect, by the way. What a cool sort of 'power', to have enhanced sight or hearing or smell/taste! The one question I was left with was why no one had enhanced touch sensitivity - it might not have been as useful, but I would expect it to be present. Otherwise, I felt that Rossi really thought this whole thing through. Auds having extraordinary balance, for example, was a great little touch and a logical extrapolation of what such an ability would affect.
Now, the Aether itself is a little tricker - but hey, big shiny electric thing in the sky that kills stuff; I'm actually cool with knowing no more than that. It made for a truly spectacular background, and I can't wait to see it explored further, especially via that creepy child whose name I've forgotten.
I also quite enjoyed the romance in this book. It was pretty obvious that it was in the works from the very beginning, but nonetheless the progression of dislike to cautious friendship to respect to love was slow and plausible. I like Aria and Perry as individuals, but I also like the way they function as a couple, which is rare.
The ending also deserves a mention, in that it is a marvelously tidy example of how to leave plot threads hanging for a sequel but still wrap the first book up satisfactorily. I'm not frustrated or annoyed in the least, but I still really want Through the Ever Night as soon as possible.
Which is all to say: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Sorry for the shitty review; it has been almost a month, after all.
Edit: Whoops. It has been over a month. I could have sworn there was a one before that five...["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Fair warning: I am a massive Sanderson fangirl. This is a fair approximation of my behavior whenever I read one of his books:
I babble at people who ha...moreFair warning: I am a massive Sanderson fangirl. This is a fair approximation of my behavior whenever I read one of his books:
I babble at people who have no idea what I'm talking about, I trip over my own feet and nearly down the stairs, I fling my arms around as if they are not attached to my body and can actually be thrown; I am loud and exuberant and wholly consumed by excitement and while I'm sure the extremely out-of-character nature of this behavior terrifies some people around me no end, I can't help but think of it as really quite an ideal state. Thankfully I read most of this book alone (between the hours of 11pm and 1am the night before my noon flight back to college, in a frenetic attempt to finish the library copy I'd checked out which eventually ended in exhausted admission of defeat) or with another fangirl (who I introduced to the Mistborn trilogy this past semester and who is now most of the way finished with Hero of Ages). We spent hours sitting across from each other listening to movie soundtracks and occasionally speaking to quote funny bits of dialogue or to bemoan the choices made by favorite characters. It is an excellent way to pass the time on a Friday night and anyone who says otherwise can FIGHT ME.
Anyhow, the book. Riiiiight. The only honest evaluation of my response to it is really one long squee - from the maps to the Ars Arcanum I was just freaking out the whole time. It's hard to review (ye gods, aren't they all?) because a lot of my FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELINGS are tied up in callbacks to the original trilogy. (view spoiler)[(The Ascendant Warrior and the Last Emperor - I I I kind of almost cried when their tombs were mentioned, agh how can they be dead I AM STILL NOT OVER THE END OF HERO OF AGES GODDAMMIT. And the Lord Mistborn - I see what you did there - and Wax is descended from Breeze - and Harmony aaaaaaaaaaah best deity ever I love him so much I can't even-) (hide spoiler)] I can't pry off that lens even if I wanted to - and I don't because this just felt like a love letter to the characters I adore - and tell you what this book's empirical merits are, not really. I will try. I will probably fail, but I will try.
So first of all, there's Wax. Waxillium Ladrian, I suppose, but I like Wax better. My thoughts on Wax:
Okay, yeah, but not really, I guess. I totally understand how Marasi was so taken with him, though - he's capable, witty, honest, loyal, noble, courageous, skilled, and I will bet you anything he cuts a fiiiiiine figure in a mistcoat. He also has some lovely internal conflict, courtesy of the tragic loss he suffers in the prologue, and I liked seeing the battle between fear and sense of duty raging in his head. Now, I'll be honest: there is a possibility that Wax is something of a Gary-Stu. Other characters describe him reverentially in a way that made me roll my eyes; most notably, as like "a one-of-a-kind painting, a masterpiece". But I really cannot be arsed to care about his possible Stuishness. The sheer fun of reading about a character like him, combined with the incredibly badass fight scenes (which I want to see on a screen so. badly.) really quite overwhelm any objections I could otherwise be inclined to raise.
And then there's Wayne, Wax's best friend and deputy in the Roughs.
He's no Wax, stealing my heart (Wayne would say 'trading for it', I suppose) but he's a pretty wonderful character in and of himself - his childish enthusiasm, his brilliant insight into people, his humor (albeit occasionally unintentional, as in the case of the 'broad education' pun which I think was my favorite), and most of all for his past and what he's done about it. Not to spoil anything, but he is a poor sweet darling and I just want to give him lots of hugs and tell him he's doing the right thing.
Finally, last but certainly not least, is Marasi.
I read something lately where someone was talking about the fact that the feminist movement asked Hollywood for 'strong female characters' and Hollywood gave them 'STRONG female characters' with lots of swords and general ass-kicking, when actually what they wanted was 'strong characters, female' depicted in the many varieties of imperfect strength that men are shown in. Well, here's one - a woman who is a dab hand with a rifle but would rather enjoy the comforts of a city and pursue justice through legal work than go out and be a hero; a young woman, with the kind of vulnerable sad crush that young women get on someone they admire, who nonetheless gets shit done before she worries about romance. She's awesome and I really, really, really enjoyed her.
On a broader note, the worldbuilding. There is, I am sad to say, insufficient Vin worship for my tastes. If you ask me, that woman should be the grand high goddess of Scadrial - yes, the entire planet, even the people on the other side of the world who haven't heard of her - forever and ever. Buuut they didn't ask me, so I have to be content with a town, a month, and a really epic gun named after her. (The gun is called 'Vindication' and is super awesome.) Instead of omnipresent Vin worship, there are three main religions - Survivorism, Pathism, and Splinterism. If you've read the first three books, identifying their major figures should be a piece of cake; if not, just enjoy them as backdrop. Unlike a lot of Sanderson's books, religion does not actually play a huge role here; it's more casually nodded to than anything else. Scadrial's advancements in 300 years are really fun, though there are some things I find disappointing. Due to dilution of the gene pool, there are no more Mistborn, which is tragic; there are, however, Twinborn instead - people with both allomantic and feruchemical powers. And there are a lot of new metals with cool new uses. (Temporal metals. TEMPORAL METALS.) Technology has also changed and while this book is not quiiiiite as steampunk as its cover makes it look, it is still loads of fun to see all of this marvelous magic interacting with growing skyscrapers and trains.
Aaaand that's really all I feel about saying about that. Wild blatherings and possible theorizing below in the spoilers; tread with care.
(view spoiler)[Before he dies, Miles says "One day, the men of gold and red, bearers of the final metal, will come to you. And you will be ruled by them." I am really inclined to plant a flag in this and declare it OBVIOUS COSMERE STUFF but maybe I'm wrong? Maybe it has to do with the people on the other side of the planet, whose existence Sanderson has previously confirmed - though I think he also said that they didn't have any of the Metallic Arts so maybe not. The mention of red kind of makes me wonder if they're the Voidbrngers from The Way of Kings, but their color scheme was red and black, wasn't it? And what is this 'final metal' business? Could it be another God Metal, like atium and larasium, made presumably by another Shard? Could it, in fact, be the substance that the shards are shards OF?
I kind of want the bad guys to get away with their breeding program so that maybe there will be Mistborn in the next trilogy. I am well aware of how horrible I am for wanting this. It does not change the fact that I will be very sad to read another Mistborn book without any actual Mistborn.
Marsh describes Wax as "doing my brother's work" near the end - which makes me wonder how much Kel can communicate with Sazed and thus Marsh. I think there are dimensions or planes involved or something like that and they confuse me. I like the idea of Kelsier and Sazed being co-gods, though. That would be neat.
The mention of Hemalurgy being the art of greatest interest to the Cosmere has me really really worried.
ALLOYS OF THE GOD METALS. Sixteen new alloys per metal. Oh my goodness. I want to see it, I really really do.
Some of the Ferring abilities - storing determination or storing Investiture itself - simply incredible. I cannot wait to see this all explored more.
In conclusion: SANDERSON WRITE MORE BOOKS MORE FASTER. please.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I never expected much from Nora Roberts. After I was coerced convinced to try one by a friend, I picked up the unremarkable Time and Again and was, sh...moreI never expected much from Nora Roberts. After I was coerced convinced to try one by a friend, I picked up the unremarkable Time and Again and was, shall we say, less than impressed. Cordina's Crown Jewel (Cordina, #4) was an improvement; Morrigan's Cross was a misery. After four books, I had only a slightly better understanding of why people liked them so much. I never expected to give one of her novels five stars.
Well, Angels Fall deserved every one of them. Everything I disliked about the other books was better in this one. The asshole heroes of Time and Again can't hold a candle to smart, reclusive, caring Brody. Neither can the heroines match talented, strong, clever Reece. And the chemistry between them - well. Not long ago, the fellows at Writing Excuses did an episode on romance with a guest author, and she told them that a good couple needed to complete each other. Reece and Brody absolutely do. But the best part? They're not cheesy. Their relationship, their dialogue, everything feels completely natural.
I'll get back to Reece and Brody in a moment, because I want to talk about the plot. Damn, that was a fun mystery! I admit, I guessed wrong - even though I should have known better. I guessed wrong and the real killer was, to quote Writing Excuses again, "surprising but inevitable". The climax was tense and awesome, and the buildup was genuinely scary. I thought Reece was going crazy. I really did. And that freaked me out a bit, but mostly just added wonderful to the tension.
And speaking of wonderful... the writing in this book just sparkled. I actually laughed, four or five times even! Lines like this: "Well, I'd have more zing with George Clooney and Harrison Ford in a threesome, but neither of us are going to get that wish." How could anyone not laugh at that?
I was worried, as a Westerner, that the characters in this book wouldn't sound like they belonged in Wyoming. Well, they absolutely do. My favorite was Joanie, the sharp-tongued entrepreneur who becomes Reece's boss, but all the rest of the characters were spot-on too. The little details, even - at one point Roberts mentions a beer called Buttface Amber, and she didn't make that up. You can really get it out here. It was a nice little touch.
Okay, back to Reece and Brody. God, Brody. He couldn't have been any hotter unless he was a wizard. (No one knocks Numair off the Throne of Hotness; sorry.) I mean, damn. First off, he's an author, which probably appeals to most female readers right away. Second, while he at first seems cantankerous and possibly rude, he's a softie at heart - as he aptly demonstrated with his patience and his faith in Reece. Third, and perhaps most important, he doesn't think with his libido. When Reece asks him to stop, he stops; and unlike other Roberts heroes, he doesn't think of her sexually from the moment they meet. In fact, mostly when he thinks of Reece he thinks of her strength and her passion for her work. Watching him fall in love with her is just beautiful.
As for Reece herself, well... I was worried she'd be a doormat, especially since she comes with some heavy emotional baggage. My worries were wholly unfounded. Reece is a pistol! She is, as Brody works to convince her, astonishingly strong. She is also very responsible and mature. Case in point: "What do you want, Reece?" "To push rewind, I guess. But since I can't, to deal with the consequences." This girl is awesome. She really needed Brody, but not in an annoying sappy way - she needed someone who would believe in her, not pity her, treat her like an ordinary person and not something fragile. She also needed someone to respect her for her strength, and Brody was both. Through letting herself get close to him, she freed herself of a fear of losing someone she loved - and though I won't spoil, that fear was replaced by kickass determination.
Two final things: If you like Coldplay, put on a big playlist of their music to listen to while reading this. It's pretty much perfect, I think, and Yellow is totally Reece and Brody's song.
I wondered before I started this why it had recipes in the back, and now I know: it will make you hungry. Have a snack or a drink to hand. (I went through a bottle of water, half a bag of Goldfish, a chocolate bar, and dinner.)
- it was a great audiobook, and those who have trouble with the switches from first to third person narration might benefit from listening to the audio, since there are two different narrators. - Seattle FTW. - I would have given it four stars, but the ending was very sweet and poignant and I couldn't do anything but bump it up. - This would probably make a great movie, except for the flashbacks.(less)
Now, I'll admit that I took my sweet time. About six months, off and on, actually. For a lot of that, I wasn't sure what I was getting into. There were flashes of the sort of brilliance and depth I've come to expect from Sanderson, but it was nowhere near as fast-paced and engrossing as Mistborn: The Final Empire, and it took even longer for me to get interested than it did for Warbreaker. Part of that comes from how little time I dedicated to it. On a good day, I might get through a single chapter, and I could easily go a week or more without reading any at all, simply because I had other books at hand. And part of it comes from the fact that this book is, quite simply, ridiculously dense. There's a payoff, yes, but that didn't come for me until past the halfway point, and until it hits you're struggling under the weight of names, places, religions, histories, and even ecology.
After that point, whatever it may be for you, things start to... well, not to make sense, necessarily, but to be confusing in a perfectly acceptable fashion. You know enough about the world and the characters to start going with the flow and trusting that eventually, all will be revealed. Even if 'eventually' isn't in this book.
You see, at a certain point, you realize that Brandon Sanderson has never really demonstrated his writing ability before. He reminds me of a scene from The Princess Bride - the swordfight between Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black on the cliff. You've seen it, right? You remember the moment when Inigo switches hands in the middle of the fight and - even though he's been fencing beautifully up until that point - he seems to get even better?
(I wanted a GIF, but couldn't find one.)
That's what Brandon Sanderson has just done. He's been holding out on us all this time and here, finally, in this massive masterpiece, is a glimpse of what he's really capable of. Warbreaker is a great piece of work. The Mistborn trilogy managed to balance serious themes and reconstructing tropes of fantasy. I've no doubt that Elantris is, as well, a fantastic novel. Well, The Way Of Kings is going to redefine epic fantasy, and that is that.
I'm guessing this book is going to be compared to one more than all others: The Eye of the World, the first entry in the Wheel of Time series. Now, I've read the first three WOT books, and I'm not a huge fan. They weren't horrible, and maybe the rest of the series changes things, but I found them dreadfully predictable. Anyone who didn't know that Rand Al'Thor was the Dragon Reborn by a few chapters into the first book wasn't paying attention. And the worldbuilding - don't get me started. Suffice it to say that Jordan ripped some things off and didn't even pretend to hide it.
You cannot imagine how relieved I was to find neither of those problems here. Oh, sure, it was slow for a while, but it was never predictable - well, except for one bit at the end, where there was only a single solution that kept one character alive and allowed personal growth in another, but it was so damned awesome that I really didn't mind. In fact, it was one of my favorite scenes.
And as for worldbuilding... well. This is what will make it or break it for a lot of readers. If you don't like worldbuilding, there's no way around it: don't even try. You've gotta love it to love this book. But if fantasy that is literally built from the ground up appeals to you, buy this book right now. The worldbuilding is the backbone of this novel and oh, what a strong thing it is. Even the ecology is stunning! The basic concept is pretty simple: on a fairly regular basis, the world of Roshar is scoured by incredibly powerful 'highstorms'. Being outside in one is a death sentence. That life even exists in this place is amazing, but it has clearly adapted. Plants retract into the rock or bend over to avoid the full brunt of the gale. Animals have thick, crustacean-like carapaces. It's a savage place in many ways, and yet so clearly filled with beauty and wonder - one has only to look at the gorgeous sketches sprinkled through this book to see that. Now, I'm a biology nerd, so I'm biased, but I loved this concept beyond all expression.
The mythology! Holy shit, the mythology! I can't even - gah. The fact that the first of three prologues (yes, there are three; suck it up because they're all awesome) is set 4,500 years before the rest of the book should hint at how incredible the mythos of Roshar is. I hesitate to use the words 'epic' or 'sprawling', because they're kind of cliche, so instead: it's fragmented. One of my developing pet peeves in fantasy is the idea of the bajillion year-old prophecy that has somehow been retained without a word being changed, despite language shifts and translation errors and disasters and this and that and the other thing. That is not the case here. Shit Went Down in the past but no one really knows what happened. Did the Knights Radiant betray humanity? Well... maybe. But they don't even know what the Radiants were in the first place, so that's kind of begging the question. And oh, by the way, the first prologue seems to indicate - possibly, maybe, there's an off chance - that instead of the Radiants being the betrayers, it might have been the Heralds. Who are still revered by the religions of Roshar. Hmmm. I do believe I've spotted a Sanderson theme here - the fragility of religion. We'll see how it develops.
But anyhow, I was raving about the mythology. Right. I can't say too much, though, because a lot of it is revealed very very slowly and carefully and frankly, I'm not sure how much I even understand yet. So maybe I should move on...
Okay, how about characters. No doubt you've heard that this book has loooooooads. Believe that. It's true. Don't worry about it, though. There are four that you really need to know: the three protagonists (Shallan, Kaladin, and Dalinar) and Szeth-son-son-Vallano, who doesn't get nearly as much page time but is at least as important as any of the other three.
Here's the rundown:
Shallan is a young woman with more than a few secrets who, for less than honorable reasons, desperately needs to get apprenticed to Jasnah Kholin, a famous heretic and scholar. She's got a deep love of learning and a keen wit, which makes her an enjoyable protagonist just because she's fun to read about. Her internal conflict and her naivete make her more interesting and give her depth, and her relationship with Jasnah is fascinating and complex.
Kaladin is a slave in a war-camp, son of a surgeon, who's hit rock bottom. He is also my favorite, and the one I can tell you least about because every bit of his character development plays into the larger plot. What I can say is that I was afraid he was going to be Kelsier the Second, and he was not - the critical difference being that when Kelsier was faced with a setback, he got angry; when Kaladin is faced with one, he breaks down. Not only does this make more sense, given Kaladin's age, it makes him a little more sympathetic since he's less inclined towards "KILL THEM ALL" speeches.
Dalinar is the king's uncle, and he's seen better days. Once a famous warrior, he's now suspected by many to be losing his edge, if not outright insane. Strange visions haunt him, as does the guilt of failing to protect his brother, the current king's father, who was assassinated several years ago. He's caught in several wars, both political and violent, and doesn't seem to want to fight any of them. Dalinar did the most to shed light on the history and mythos of Roshar, though even that wasn't much, and sometimes his sections were boring... but not too often.
Szeth is the man who killed Dalinar's brother, though not for any reason of his own. He's essentially a human tool, even a weapon in the hands of someone who knows his capabilities, and the brief scenes with him in them seem inconsequential until near the end, when it all builds into something that will no doubt fuel the next several volumes. All I'll say about Szeth is that I feel really, really sorry for him.
There are, of course, a bevy of supporting characters. Shallan's brothers; Jasnah; the priest who tries to convert Jasnah through Shallan; Kaladin's fellow slaves and the family he left behind long ago; Dalinar's two sons, Adolin and Renarin; his brother's widowed wife, Navani; the young king, Elkohar; the king's other adviser, Sadeas. And more. Many of the negative reviews mention the one-shot characters who appear in the 'Interlude' sections as useless fluff, but I respectfully disagree. Part of their virtue is for worldbuilding, but no doubt we'll be seeing more of the characters and areas they introduce later in the series, and as far as I'm concerned that makes them worth it.
GUESS WHAT? IT'S TIME FOR THE JASNAH KHOLIN APPRECIATION SECTION!
I am an atheist. So, it would seem, are a lot of fictional characters, if only because their author hasn't bothered to create believable religions in their world at all. You get your standard Christianity rip-offs, the evil flesh-eating cult or two, and maybe some basic Greek-style polytheism or the occasional animist. Main characters, it seems, very rarely have a defined relationship with religion, which I often read as atheism by default. And that's fine. I'd rather slot a character into my personal default than go through something ham-handed like the discussion of faith in Eldest. If the writer doesn't want to include religion in their worldbuilding, that's okay. It's hard to do right and can ruin everything if done wrong.
Brandon Sanderson does it right. We know this already - from Mistborn, if you've read nothing else of his. Think of Sazed, always able to list off another faith and explain their beliefs in a perfectly plausible, tolerant manner. Think of the way a religion cropped up around a brutal tyrant. It's part of the world and it works.
But just because he can do religion right doesn't mean he can do atheism right. It's hard for people who hold one belief strongly to create detailed, well-rounded, authentic characters with directly contrasting beliefs. Fantasy gives a level of removal from that problem, but it's still there: how can you write someone if you can't see from their point of view?
I don't know. I honestly don't. Sanderson does, though. Jasnah is a very believable atheist, and she can argue her points eloquently and intelligently, as befits someone as renowned for intelligence as she is. I was so, so worried she was going to be a strawman, set up just to be knocked down by TEH TRUTH ABOUT GAWD but she wasn't, she wasn't, she wasn't! and I cheered, a little bit, in my head, because she was so awesome. I love the way she thinks. I love her intelligence, her devotion to research, her snappishness, her ideas about justice. I love the idea of this strong, beautiful, powerful, confident, courageous, wise, good-hearted woman. Oh, she's flawed, but despite that - or maybe because of it - she is a celebration of what it means to be female.
Particularly worth noting is this conversation, after Jasnah and Shallan go looking for trouble, find it, and Jasnah obliterates it:
"That was horrible," Shallan finally said, hand still held to her breast. "It was one of the most awful things I've ever experienced. You killed four men." "Four men who were planning to beat, rob, kill, and possibly rape us." "You tempted them into coming for us!" "Did I force them to commit any crimes?" "You showed off your gemstones." "Can a woman not walk with her possessions down the street of a city?" "At night?" Shallan asked. "Through a rough area? Displaying wealth? You all but asked for what happened!" "Does that make it right?"
Victim blaming: addressed, debated, PUT IN ITS PLACE, and then later framed in the context of one of the themes of the book: justice.
She is the kind of character that makes me think, I wanna be like her when I grow up.
END JASNAH KHOLIN APPRECIATION SECTION.
Now... the plot. Well, it's not fully hatched yet. It kind of pupated for the first 400+ pages, which is fine, really, because big plots need big expositions. When it gets going, it's properly high-stakes and awesome.
The shifting focus can get frustrating, just because at the end of a chapter about one character, all you want is to know what comes next - but then you read the next chapter, which is about someone else, and you finish it wanting to know what happens to them and almost having forgotten about the other one until you get into their chapter and get absorbed again and, well, it keeps repeating. I'll admit, I flipped ahead sometimes to skim the first few paragraphs dealing with whichever character I was most worried about and find out a bit of what happened. This was particularly prevalent in Part Three, which alternated only between Kaladin and Shallan right as really important, exciting things were happening to them both. And being without Shallan's narration for all of Part Four was difficult, even though what happened to the others was still intensely interesting.
I can't say too much about the climax because, of course, that would give away tons and tons of important information. I will say that it was what cemented Kaladin as my favorite - in particular, that he had a serious badass moment when he was all:
and everyone, even really high-ranking people, just did it because he is really that awesome.
Oh, and about twenty pages from the ending, we get a little more Shallan, which is when Sanderson decides is a good time to drop a tremendous reveal on us. My experience of it went something like this.
Never fear, though, because it's not a nasty cliffhanger. Indeed, the various plot threads are wrapped up pretty satisfactorily, with plenty of room and impetus for a sequel. It's a complete book, not the first half/third/tenth of one. Thank goodness.
There are going to be nine sequels to this, right? And if I guesstimated correctly, we'll be waiting at least two years for the next one. Hopefully it won't be much longer. But anyhow, nine sequels.
And to those of you who didn't like this book and maybe think I'm crazy to be showering it with praise, that's your problem.
There's a part of me that thinks if you don't like this book, maybe epic fantasy just isn't the right genre for you, because this is epic fantasy at its best. But, you know, whatever floats your boat, I guess. You can call it bloated and boring all you like. I will be over here eagerly awaiting the next one and crossing my fingers that Sanderson goes on tour soon.(less)
Just as I was getting sick of YA paranormal, I picked up this book. I think all that needs saying is: My faith in this subgenre is restored. If more pe...moreJust as I was getting sick of YA paranormal, I picked up this book. I think all that needs saying is: My faith in this subgenre is restored. If more people write books like Jana Oliver, I will be a happy camper. If she keeps this series going with the same creativity, engagingness, and thankful LACK of paranormal love interest or love triangles, I'll be her biggest fan, I swear. In the meantime: Thank you, Ms. Oliver. You do your genre more credit than it deserves.(less)
I was going to write a lengthy character-by-character analysis of the entire series, and then I decided there was a better way to put it.
There are sto...moreI was going to write a lengthy character-by-character analysis of the entire series, and then I decided there was a better way to put it.
There are stories that change lives. They present us with such vibrant characters, such compelling plots, such memorable concepts that they stay with us forever. They engage us, make us feel as if we live in the world they present. They inspire us- and above all else, they make us ask ourselves questions. Fullmetal Alchemist is one such story. The questions it poses are fundamental ones: What is the nature of humanity? Of God? What is unforgivable, and for what sins can one be redeemed? What makes a good leader, and a true hero? Why do we need each and every one of our own flaws? There is no doubt in my mind that this series is a touchstone I will return to again and again in future, especially when it comes to writing- not to borrow concepts but to remind myself of what a truly well-crafted story looks like. There are a few aspects that bear mentioning here as things Arakawa did exceptionally well: Subtle romance that supported and played into but did not take over the plot, the consequences of hubris, the 'ethics' of war, the idea that just because someone atones for a crime doesn't mean they'll get off free, and the sacrifice that comes with every triumph. The ending of the series, while tidy and a well-done denoument, wasn't perfect for everyone, and didn't assure the reader that they would always get what they wanted. That's fine. It left me, personally, with the feeling that I have seen a brief snapshot of the world, a short section of a long timeline, and that it will continue forwards outside of the story I know. Or rather, if I rephrase- this is not a world that centers around this story. It is a story that takes place in this world, and changes it and is changed in turn.(less)
Edit: It's been a while since I've touched this series; I read as many volumes as I could get my hands on in print and then watched the anime. At this...moreEdit: It's been a while since I've touched this series; I read as many volumes as I could get my hands on in print and then watched the anime. At this point, I can pretty much say that if you can get past its occasional really, really bizarre bits (or the outright cringe-worthy, like "Lieutenant, I need your breasts!") and down into the heart of the story, it's excellent. Frankly, even the bizarre bits rang true; life, after all, is all too often bizarre, right? And even though they were fictionalized, the conflicts created by the end of a war- and the aftermath of domestic problems caused by said war- were depicted with heart; and setting aside the ridiculously spacious sewers, seemed plausible. I wish there was more of this series available. I wish the anime was longer. AND DAMMIT. I WISH ALICE AND OLAND WOULD KISS. EVERYONE KNOWS THEY'RE MADE FOR EACH OTHER.
Yesterday, I went on a comic binge. Well, actually it was yesterday and the wee hours of this morning; it was that kind of comic binge. And the fact that it didn't start until after 10 PM didn't really help. Anyhow... among the volume of comics I checked out from the library yesterday and devoured last night was this.
I can't remember how it happened, but I ran across a description of this that compared it to FMA some time before I found it at the library. Now, FMA got me through hours and hours of AP Chemistry homework, and I adored every page, so I was a little bit skeptical about picking up something that was similar. And from the description online, it sounded a lot similar.
The actual book wasn't. Well, at least that much. I mean, I see where you can draw connections- vaguely European (and in this case definitely remeniscent of Germany) setting, post-war time period, a group of odd soldiers and at least one character with a mysterious background and powerful abilities. Heck, the uniforms even look alike. But beyond that, there's not much, and the feel is completely different.
I suppose you could call Pumpkin Scissors an examination of the aftermath of war. It's not a quest story like FMA, or rather not as concrete; the Pumpkin Scissors unit is forging its way towards reconstruction, not a specific item. In this way Lieutenent Marvin is in many ways the reader's eyes: we see her idealistic vision of the unit and then are met with explanations of the reality- their usual job, how they're percieved.
The characters, obviously, haven't been introduced much, but they've show enough of themselves to interest me. Naturally, this is particularly true for Lieutenant Alice Marvin, the justice-minded aristocrat, and the (literally) towering mystery that is Corporal Randel Oland. I will definitely be reading more.(less)
Quick rundown- Light, fluffy left-to-right manga about a writer/college student, her former neighbor, and the story she's writing and dreaming. Likes: -...moreQuick rundown- Light, fluffy left-to-right manga about a writer/college student, her former neighbor, and the story she's writing and dreaming. Likes: - EVERYTHING. It was adorable. Utterly adorable. - Particularly Josh's 'NICOLE!' face. So cute. I loved his little-kid enthusiasm. - Artz be pretty. Random comparison: This duet is to manga/graphic novels as Owl City is to music: Light, fun, and sometimes a guilty pleasure.
Dislike: - Only two volumes? Very sad, this.
Longer version- After reading FMA 1-14 in the school library, I've kind of adopted the chair next to the manga shelf as my designated work space. So on Thursday, I spent my off period there. When I decided to take a break from history outlines, I decided to look for something to read- I've stopped taking books to school this year- and naturally I turned to the shelf right next to me. I found The Dreaming there, which was pretty good, and of course, FMA. I picked up Sorcerers and Secretaries because I'd seen it before at the public library and it looked interesting- not something I could justify checking out at the time, but interesting nonetheless. As graphic novels do, it took me about half an hour- but it was a really fun half hour! It's a really cute story, I must say. Nicole is someone I can identify with- struggling to balance work, school, and writing, totally clueless when it comes to real-life romance, and very shy. As a result, it was pretty easy for me to fall into her world. It helps that I liked her story-world just as much as her real world. I think what I appreciated most about this was that, while Ganter clearly has the imagination to make a manga out of Ellon's story, she wove it nicely into Nicole's life instead, which I think gives both tales more depth. This is a fairy tale kind of story, and it reminded me why everyone loves fairy tales: we like being able to believe in that perfectly wonderful happy ending. While my cynical side usually rules my brain, these two graphic novels managed to chase it away for a while, which I appreciated. I'm already planning to buy this. School library only has Volume 1, and I want to be able to re-read them both many times in future. Like any romantic comedy, they'd make a good pick-me-up after a bad day. (Side note: I was reading V. 2 at a club meeting today, and a friend sitting next to me recognized it. When I finished it, she borrowed it and started reading. Didn't matter that it was the middle of the story. That says something, methinks.)(less)
Warning: the review that follows is terribly unprofessional (you know, in the way that no one ever bitches about for some reason) and full of love and...moreWarning: the review that follows is terribly unprofessional (you know, in the way that no one ever bitches about for some reason) and full of love and lots and lots and lots of
I think I've wished for half-stars maybe three times, at the outside, in the years I've been on Goodreads. Generally, though I may waffle between stars for a little while, I can settle on a rating which I feel accurately represents my feelings about the book in a... mostly unemotional manner. (All my ratings are to some extent emotionally based; I am, after all, not a computer.)
However, when it comes to Brandon Sanderson books I'm simply so biased that this system doesn't work for me. I'm not sure half stars would help, actually. What I really need is a system that breaks the book down into qualities like 'writing style' and 'plot coherency' which I can then rate out of ten because, considering them separately, I could probably manage more objectivity. This system would then spit out a rating based on the average of the subcategories, which would likely be lower by at least a star than my shiny emotional-first-reaction five stars up there.
Since this system has yet to be created, let alone implemented, the five stars will stay. Take them with a grain of salt; the book is not perfect, but I honestly do not care.
And now, after two preambles, we bring you the main event: an actual review of the book, and not just Anila's abstract feelings about it and the rating system. We'll start with the bad, because it's the smallest section.
Like most first novels, Elantris suffers from some predictable problems. Sanderson's prose is rockier here than I'm used to - I've noticed over time that, logically enough, it becomes more polished with each new work, so of course this would be the roughest of them all. The two main characters, Raoden and Sarene, feel like prototypes of the characters he's put in his later work: they're larger-than-life and slightly messy combinations of the virtues and flaws that he's since separated out to make more realistic, tidier characters. Here we see the seeds of Kelsier's leadership and idealism, Vin's cynicism, Elend's bookishness, Jasnah's keen intelligence and sharp attitude. As is to be expected, all those qualities are powerful when used in moderation in other characters; here, they feel a little bit exaggerated and unlikely, particularly in Raoden. Speaking of Raoden - I love him, really (more on this later) but some aspects of his character felt a weeeeee bit deus ex machina. (view spoiler)[His unexplained 'affinity' for the Aons being the big one, of course. (hide spoiler)] With characters like this, it comes as no surprise that scenes of conflict are underwhelming: not only are our heroes almost absurdly full of virtues, they're also extraordinarily talented and powerful in many areas. Everyone else is sort of dim next to them, and so any confrontation doesn't last long and no one really puts up a fight. It's hard to be invested in the tension of a scene or feel emotions at success when the ending was a foregone conclusion.
...I think that's all the bad stuff. Excellent. Let's move on to the meat of this review: things I love without shame or moderation.
1. The concept. And not just the whole 'Eternity ended ten years ago' thing even though wow, what a killer tagline, am I right? No, what appealed to me most was the way Elantrians - now cursed - changed their natures to suit the situation. What they are has forced them to adopt or lose their minds to neverending pain, and it's really fascinating.
"On the outside, people tend to be convinced of their own immortality. We are more realistic. One rarely wins a battle without at least a few wounds, and here even a couple of slight cuts can be more devastating, and more agonizing, than a swift decapitation."
This is most interesting, I think, for its contrast to conventional fantasy. Usually in a fantasy novel there will be someone who can heal with a touch or a spell or a potion; failing that there are herbalists, doctors, sometimes even surgeons. The Elantrians, however, have none of the above nor the resources they would require to be effective - and on top of that, even if they did, their wounds would still never heal. The way this changes their interactions varies depending on the situation, but in general creates a world where only the half-mad actually fight other people. One injury too many means a fate worse than death; it could turn a previously sane man or woman into a listless broken wreck who can do nothing more than chant a mantra of their greatest regrets over and over and over again. This is really astounding, in a worldbuilding sense, and forces what might otherwise have been a violence-centric story to become one of diplomacy and negotiation. It's also all the more painful when people are injured, as does happen from time to time, because the reader knows what they are suffering and that they have lost the last shred of their humanity, but will be forced to live on without it.
I have... feelings about Raoden. The truth is, I sorta adore all the male characters Brandon Sanderson creates. Raoden, however, is the only one I want to pluck out of the book and mash faces with. (view spoiler)[(If Kelsier were real, he and I would be at loggerheads over the whole 'wiping out a group of people because of circumstances beyond their control' thing, and as for Elend, well, would you dare to steal Vin's man? No, thought not. Kaladin is too good for me, and also belongs right in that book where he already is, thank you very much, so I can have more wonderful exploits and badassery to read about.) (hide spoiler)] which is not really a spoiler but actually a tangent. Raoden started worming his way into my heart on page 51. How?
"Books!" Raoden said with excitement.
Open note to all authors: any character who reacts exuberantly to the presence of books will start out in my good graces. If it's your love interest, well... bonus points are an understatement. Enthusiasm for books and enthusiasm for whales are two hugely appealing things to me. Anyhow, that's really just the beginning. Raoden is the kind of character who, like Kaladin, would be the center of a lot of montage scenes if this book were made into a movie. He's one of those leader types who goes in and gathers people who all love him and help him work towards a goal and they're successful and it's beautiful and deep down inside you know it can't last because the montage is just leading up to the big emotional moment when everything goes south, but you really really really want them to just do everything right and live long happy lives in the paradise they've created for themselves. I love montage scenes, and I love the people who orchestrate them, and really this is kind of pathetic but one of the easiest ways for a character to become sympathetic and engaging is for them to participate in one. Trufax. There's also the fact that not only is Raoden enthusiastic about books, he recognizes their value as a resource and uses them to solve problems. Words cannot express how many characters in how many books could have fixed their shit right up if they would just go the fuck to the library, or the nearest comparable resource. (I include older, more knowledgeable characters in 'resources', by the way. Seriously, guys, sometimes adults really do know something important. Talk to them. It bears noting that this is only a little bit of a tangent and not actually off-topic, because Raoden makes a point of learning from other characters. WUT.) Raoden manages to figure out a great deal about Elantris and what caused its problems by careful research and logical deduction. (view spoiler)[I do agree with the assertion that he comes by this deduction rather too easily, the same way that he gets a nebulous 'affinity' for Aons rather too easily. Buuuut... whatever. And anyhow, the primary tidbit of information that enables him to solve the riddle - that the basic Aon represents the major geographic features of the land - comes from someone else, so that gives him a little more leeway in my eyes. (hide spoiler)] Umm. There will be more (spoilery) fangirling over Raoden later. Yes, in a whole other subsection. This is what I mean by feelings.
...a lanky, brusque woman who was almost past her prime.
Sarene is not my favorite of Sanderson's female characters. That would be Jasnah Kholin, always and forever. She is also not the most well-rounded or well-developed character in this book, and she has a lot of habits and characteristics that annoyed me. A lot of them annoyed me, though, because I see them in myself. Personal digression in spoilers; has nothing to do with plot: (view spoiler)[I'm eighteen and I've never once been asked out, let alone kissed. To my knowledge, no one has ever had a crush on me. I don't know why, and I'm not sure I would want to, because in general I really like who I am, but sometimes (especially when I'm talking with friends my age who have steady boyfriends or, even worse, change boys frequently) I'm struck by a feeling of missingness. Something is absent. I form perfectly wonderful emotional connections with other people, and I have friends that I love like siblings or better, but the physical aspect is just - not there. It's not something I worry about all the time, not by a long shot. I'm not a particularly physical person; I don't wish I had a significant other so I could jump their bones. But it would be nice to have someone I felt that comfortable with in that way - someone who I could walk with holding hands, or whose shoulder I could rest my head on, or whose cheek I could kiss in just a casual, natural, affirmative way. I miss that, as much as anyone can miss something they've never had, and so I understand how Sarene feels so very, very well. The longing that she feels for that kind of emotional connection may be annoying to some readers, but to me it feels intensely real. (hide spoiler)] Ummm. It's a little hard to re-ground myself after that. Sorry. Anyhow, Sarene. Yes. Sarene is a pistol. I admired her spunk (for lack of a better word) from the get-go: she finds herself in a country not her own, legally married and obligated to mourn for a dead man she never met, frustrated by a king who thinks women are for decoration and court ladies who act as if he's right. And of course, as soon as she decides that the kingdom of Arelon is in trouble, she does everything in her power to help it, even though she owes it no obligation. Interestingly enough, she doesn't really do it out of pure selflessness.
She had spent nearly three decades loving a country without ever feeling it loved her back. Teod had respected her, but she was tired of respect. She wanted something different from Arelon.
Sarene is, I think, the second most flawed character in this book. She wants to do good, yes, but that's because she wants the affirmation she thinks she'll get from others. And the real kicker is: she doesn't know how to do the right thing. It's a sharp (and sometimes unfortunate) contrast with Raoden, who seems to come upon the exact right decision by constant good fortune to the point that it gets kinda annoying. Sarene, on the other hand, doesn't always have a complete picture of the situation and so she does what she perceives to be best at the time - which isn't always what's best in the bigger picture. This, of course, leads to some not-so-positive results, which is how it should be: flawed characters make mistakes and suffer for it and then they get better. I like that Sarene does this. I don't like that her mistakes are more frequent and more directly commented upon than Raoden's. (view spoiler)[His biggest one, in shoving her out of the city through the front gates after Hrathen's potion wears off, really really bothers me because he never even stopped to think about it, especially since it came right after she explained Hrathen's campaign to get Arelon to convert. Actually, I kind of blame Raoden for the whole Eventeo-converts-to-Shu-Dorath thing, because if he'd taken a moment to consider everything that had happened, he probably would have kept Sarene hidden and devised a better strategy. This would be better if it were addressed as a mistake, but... it wasn't. So it niggles at me. (hide spoiler)] The final word on Sarene, though, is still 'awesome'. She's smart, well-meaning, emotionally believable, and willing to kick ass when it's necessary.
4. Hrathen. He just fascinated me. Actually, as I think about it, I feel that a lot of the reasons that I liked Hrathen were the reasons Inspector Javert is my favorite character in Les Miserables, because they are both noble people doing bad things for all the right reasons, and with little malice in their hearts. I also loved, loved, loved Hrathen's religious conflict, and the way he struggled to balance what he felt his duty as a gyorn was with what he felt was right. He's got a lot of baggage from doing something purely from duty, and I felt that it affected his actions in Arelon to a real and nuanced degree.
It didn't matter that he had acted in the name of the Church, or that he had saved thousands upon thousands of souls. The destruction Hrathen had caused in Duladel ground against his soul like a millstone. People who had trusted him were dead, and an entire society had been cast into chaos.
Though at his introduction I'd expected Hrathen to become the villain of the novel, I was quickly sure that this was not the case. Far be it from the eminently skilled Mr. Sanderson careful Anila your fangirl is showing to create a wholly unsympathetic villain, but even so the degree of attention he paid to Hrathen's conflicts elevated him fairly clearly to, if not protagonist level, at least secondary character on the 'good' side. I don't feel that's too much of a spoiler, since it becomes evident relatively early. (view spoiler)[My one reservation is what happens with Hrathen at the very end. I liked his actions, and that he turned away from the strict doctrines of Shu-Doreth to do what he felt was right, but I felt that decision was somewhat marred - nay, tainted - by the brief narrative comment explaining that he had been in love with Sarene. Umm... what? First of all, there was very little basis for real love between them. Mutual respect, yes; romantic love, no. (In Homestuck parlance, I'd say that they could have been morails or even kismeses at certain points but never matesprits.) It also felt a little unrealistic given Sarene's previous romantic experience - if she'd gone her whole life finding no man who believed himself in love with her, the idea that two would show up in such short succession is a bit preposterous. (hide spoiler)]
5. Religion. It's always a theme in Sanderson's books, and one that he includes on purpose, which I think is really quite fascinating. Because I've been aware of it as a theme since before I read Warbreaker, so I pay special attention to it. As always, it shines. There's not much to say about the way he handles it, actually, that I haven't raved about in other reviews - particularly for The Well of Ascension - but I do want to mention that even though the religions here feel somewhat more derivative than I'm accustomed to from Sanderson - the schism between Shu-Dorath and Shu-Korath is painfully close to Islam and Christianity - I still found it to be handled tastefully. Now, I'm not religious myself so someone who is might be annoyed at things that I didn't notice, but I feel it bears noting that I, as an atheist, found the religions to be a believably central part of the world without feeling that I was being preached at, which is often a delicate balance and one that few authors even attempt to address as directly, if they do so at all. There are a few quotes regarding religion that I really, really loved:
"Keseg taught of unity. But what did he mean? Unity of mind, as my people assume? Unity of love, as your priests claim? Or is it the unity of obedience, as the Derethi believe? In the end, I am left to ponder how mankind managed to complicate such a simple concept."
This one stood out to me because it's something I can really sympathize with. Even as an atheist, there's a lot of things about religions that I like - usually those that have to do with it as a social/moralizing force. It feels like Shuden is speaking for me when he comments sadly on the overcomplication of simple, positive ideas.
"Everything happens according to Domi's will, child," Omin answered. "However, I do not think that 'curse' is the right word. At times, Domi sees fit to send disasters upon the world; other times he gives the most innocent of children a deadly disease. These are no more curses than what happened to Elantris - they are simply the workings of the world. All things must progress, and progression is not always a steady incline. Sometimes we must fall, sometimes we will rise - some must be hurt while others have fortune, for that is the only way we can learn to rely on one another. As one is blessed, it is his privilege to help those whose lives are not as easy. Unity comes from strife, child."
Have you ever noticed how no one, ever, wants to answer one key question? I refer, of course, to the common query of the atheist: if a benevolent god exists, why is there so much evil in the world? To which most people will respond with vagaries about 'free will' and 'mysterious ways' and actually not answer the question in a satisfactory manner. Now, I have my issues with this explanation, but not only is it perfectly in-character, at least Sanderson made the effort. That really counts for something. I may not be rushing out to convert after such blinding and faultless logic, but I'm glad to know there are people out there who have put enough thought into their faith to be able to answer such an essential question.
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After reading it for the second time: This is the only 'classic' that I will willingly re-read. That says a lot, I think. I'll put up with the style, t...moreAfter reading it for the second time: This is the only 'classic' that I will willingly re-read. That says a lot, I think. I'll put up with the style, the details about little things that to be honest, I often can't care less about. In fact, I actually enjoy those aspects- because unlike Austen, it's not overdone. It's just enough to give the reader a sense of place, but not overwhelming and boring, which I love. And the story is just so wonderful.(less)
I've said it before and I'll say it again: This book is like chocolate. But this time, I'll elaborate.
You know that first p...moreReview as of second reading:
I've said it before and I'll say it again: This book is like chocolate. But this time, I'll elaborate.
You know that first piece of chocolate, the small piece you take because it's a treat and maybe you haven't had it in a while and you want to savor it? And you roll it around in your mouth a little, let it get all melty, experience the taste as fully as possible. You try to eat the rest of it- the bar, the bag of chocolate chips, those little Dove eggs- slowly, and for a while it works. If you're weird like me you drink tea with your chocolate so that your mouth is always warm enough to soften it before you chew and it spreads over your tongue and makes a layer of deliciousness that you wash down with yet more tea. But eventually the lure of the sugar and cocoa is too strong. You eat more, more, more and you eat it faster, faster, faster- tea forgotten, savoring forgotten, seeking only to consume as much of it as possible as fast as possible because somehow you got the idea while you were eating it that the chocolate will go away if you don't eat it now and so it is absolutely imperative that you do so. Even when you realize you're almost out, that the bag is almost empty or the bar mostly devoured, you can only slow down a little bit. And finally, when it's all gone, you sit and blink a bit and try to figure out where it all went. Realization hits, followed shortly by contentment, followed even more closely by a wish that there was more and a knowledge that there is not and so you must enjoy what you had.
That is pretty much exactly what Brightly Woven is like for me- has been twice now. Chocolate. I try to savor it, really, I do. I can't. After a certain scene I just have to keep reading, homework or sleep be damned, until the end. I love the characters. I love the plot. I love the world and its peculiar politics. None of that has dimmed after a year and a re-read. I am still wholly, totally, completely smitten with this book.
My only complaint is that there is not more. This isn't just a fangirl thing, by the way- many other reviewers who don't love it the way I do have commented about a lack of explanation to the worldbuilding, and this time I could see the places where more explanations belonged. The foundation and framework were there. If there is ever, ever a sequel (pretty please? Can there be?) I'd like to see it explore a little more of the peculiar magic and religion of Palmarta and its neighbors.
Full disclosure: The narrator is a 16 year-old redhead with dreams of grandeur. I first read this as a 16 year-old redhead with dreams of grandeur and a peculiar love of TDH wizards. The love interest is a tall, dark, handsome wizard. It's no wonder I get absorbed in this story so quickly, even a second time.
Aside to a particular audience: Rachel, Fate, are we making those trading cards this summer? Because I still have dibs on North. Finders keepers.
Original review and edits: (view spoiler)[Edit edit: There are great reviewers out there who don't like this book at all. While usually I find myself agreeing with them, on this I disagree. I am smitten, even a second time through. That isn't going to change.
Edit: It's now been months since I read this book, and in the interval I have suggested and given it to several other people, all of whom at least liked it if not loved it. I'm pretty sure we'd all camp out overnight for a movie of this book, and if Wayland North were real... well, let's not get into that. However, looking back over this review and reading a few of the more critical responses, I feel the need to mention a few things. - First and foremost, I stand by my original response. After all, it was my first reaction and so the most undiluted, utterly unaffected by the opinions of others. - But... this book isn't perfect. There are flaws, which others have pointed out, and it's important to acknowledge that. - This doesn't mean it's not a fun read. It is- it's a marvelous read. - You have to be in the right frame of mind for this book. For me? That happens to be my general state of being: Sleep-deprived school-centric teenage girl who intermittently ignores the guys around her and dismisses them as idiots; at heart a romantic but not able to express it in real life. Introverted, and ready and willing to live vicariously through any decent female character, from Alanna to Signy Mallory to Riza Hawkeye. This book fits me well enough that I can honestly say that I do not care about its flaws. - No offense to Ms. Bracken, for whom I have a great respect, but this isn't a philosophical book- which is another reason I can ignore its flaws. If I want to ask deep questions I'll go find Arakawa, Cherryh, Sagan, LeGuin. If I want to read a book that leaves me giddy and grinning, I pick up this or Howl's Moving Castle.
Original: I finished this book last night at 11 pm, and immediately sat down to write my reactions down so I wouldn't forget them in my ARC review. So, here they are, verbatim:
-Tops HMC- same kind of story, but better. -SEQUEL NAO! -If this doesn't make the Top Ten, I will be shocked/angry/astounded -Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful romance -Would like map, though -Can has North for own? -SQUEEEEE! -PERFECT -I think I shall buy a zillion copies of this book when it comes out- hardcover- and give them for every occaision to everyone I know.
Note: HMC is Howl's Moving Castle, which I adored and read in one sitting. The Top Ten is the Teen's Top Ten; I got this book through a library teen group which is one of the YALSA nominating groups for this year, and you bet your boots I nominated this one.
I was bouncing up and down with sheer glee when I finished this. BOUNCING. PHYSICALLY BOUNCING. This has never happened before that I can remember. Spastic flailings during the Crowning Moments of Awesome of my favorite books- sure. But bouncing is unheard of.
Alexandra Bracken has written the best book I've read all year. And I've read a lot of books, so that's no small compliment. The only problem? There's no sequel yet. I declare this to be a tragedy, and one which Ms. Bracken should swiftly rectify. (Please? Insert pleading puppy dog eyes here.)
The back cover says this was written as a birthday gift for a friend. Well, that is one INCREDIBLY LUCKY FRIEND, in my opinion.
I may not actually give this back to the library group. If no one notices...I could hang on to it until March. But then again, that would be depriving others of the PURE JOY that is reading this book. So I guess I'll give it up anyways. (hide spoiler)]
Note to self: You are no longer allowed to bring books this good on family road trips. It makes you antisocial. You ignore the great views outside the...moreNote to self: You are no longer allowed to bring books this good on family road trips. It makes you antisocial. You ignore the great views outside the car. You resent being torn away from the book to spend time with family, and when you are you babble incessantly about how awesome it is and how everyone would like it and how cool the magic is and how great the characters and on and on and on until your family is probably sick of you. And then, even after an eight-mile hike in the desert when you're covered in sweat and dirt, you let your sister have first shower so you'd have more reading time. You even considered skipping dinner to finish it! This is the kind of book that stays at home in future, where you can sit and read all day and not be bothered.
And now for the rest of you - all the above is true. For the few days I was reading it, this book did its level best to take over my life. It was addicting. I craved it like chocolate, and not being able to read was hard to deal with.
I would expect nothing less from the man chosen to finish the Wheel of Time, or from a contributor to Writing Excuses, the podcast that got me into podcasts. I went into Mistborn ready to be impressed, but that's not what happened. I wasn't impressed. I was wowed. Blown away. Astounded. Engrossed. Shocked. Thrilled. And filled with a sense of loss when it was over.
This is not a good book, my friends.
This is a great book.
This is what fantasy needs.
As far as the genre is concerned, this book - this series - this author - is the Hero of Ages.
Thank goodness for Brandon Sanderson. Thank goodness for a writer with such a depth of imagination; for the wildly creative systems of magic he creates; for his vivid and haunting settings; for his masterful plotting and artful twists which are, always, "surprising but inevitable". Thank goodness for a male writer who makes his female main character strong, but not in a masculine way. Vin is seriously amazing. So is the rest of the cast - my one objection is that there aren't any other women in significant roles, but maybe that'll change in later books.
And the writing! I know from Writing Excuses that Sanderson has never wanted to be anything but an author, and that he spent years working as a hotel clerk so he had time to write, and that he had completed numerous novels before he managed to sell one. It shows. The language is almost entirely flowing and clear, suffering only occasionally from an over-use of commas. (One after every 'but' is a bit much.) More authors should learn to write like this. More authors should practice writing the way he has.
Normally I find more to say about books I like, but this time I'm too impressed. Sanderson has amazed me beyond anything I expected. I can't wait to read The Well Of Ascension.(less)
EDIT: March 26, 2011. Rest in peace, Ms. Jones. The world has lost a wonderful author today.
Review: Can I give this book six stars? How about ten? Twenty...moreEDIT: March 26, 2011. Rest in peace, Ms. Jones. The world has lost a wonderful author today.
Review: Can I give this book six stars? How about ten? Twenty? No? Well, darn.
I finally read this book after watching the Miyazaki movie for the second time, and I love them both, no matter how different they are. (It bears mentioning that the fact that it's impossible to get the face of movie Howl out of my head is probably part of this.) Seriously, though. Day after I watched the movie for the second time, I picked up the book and just read straight through. Took me around three hours; totally worth it. I will read this one again and again and again.(less)
**spoiler alert** Loved this book. Absoloutely loved it- the entire series, actually, but this one... I knew HOW he was going to die, I knew WHEN he wa...more**spoiler alert** Loved this book. Absoloutely loved it- the entire series, actually, but this one... I knew HOW he was going to die, I knew WHEN he was going to die, I knew WHERE he was going to die- and I still almost cried. Poor Stef! Actually, I was closer to crying when Yfandes's tail was hacked off. For some reason, I really love the Companions. I did have a bit of a problem with the way he died- any RPer knows that the 'Final Strike' is incredibly cliche- though, usually, the 'Final Strike' leaves the user alive; this did not, which makes it a bit better. But still. The idea of an overwhelming death-blast when a mage is already down to puddles of reserves is just not right.(less)
I've been doing some thinking and have come to a conclusion that, I suppose, should have been obvious a long time ago: I connect to Tamora Pierce's ch...moreI've been doing some thinking and have come to a conclusion that, I suppose, should have been obvious a long time ago: I connect to Tamora Pierce's characters better than I connect to pretty much any other characters. They get under my skin, in my blood, into my heart; I see through their eyes so easily it astounds me. I've read this series more times than I can remember, but I still feel the same intensity that I recall from the first time - and the last few chapters of this book still have a horrible kick in the gut in store for me, even if I know it's coming. I almost cried, and I hardly ever cry at books.
That, I think, is Pierce's true mastery. It's not her fantastic plotting, or her pacing, or the way she uses magic and integrates it into the societies she builds. It's not the vividity of different cultures. It's not even the sharp, wry dialogue that I adore. What makes her one of my favorite authors is the way her characters are so very human, developed and flawed so that I can live through them and almost breathe with them and I don't have to think about it. When I am reading a Tamora Pierce book, Tortall is the real world and woe betide any interruptions.
This particular book can be described in two words: Fucking Epic. The Immortals Quartet grows vastly in scale here. As a veteran of the Lioness Quartet, I know that in Tortall the question is not whether or not the gods are real but how long it will take one of them to show up, and this is the book in which at least one of them becomes a driving force. In a big way. Okay, so sue me; I really like the Graveyard Hag. She's got spunk. Also, old goddesses for the win! There aren't nearly enough of them in mythology or fiction. (Off the top of my head all I can think of is Elli, the Norse goddess of old age who arm-wrestled Thor and won.) Even Pierce's deities are human, something that becomes abundantly clear in the fourth book.
But I digress. There's really not much to say about this book without spoiling the ending because all that is wonderful about it ties directly into the ending.
So I'm going to waste a little more of your time analyzing one scene, one of my favorites in the book: when Daine and Prince Kaddar go to the archery yard and Daine beats all the Carthaki nobles in archery.
First of all, we get this: "Women aren't up to the discipline of military life." "You must tell Lady Alanna that sometime. I'd do it from a distance."
Knowing the sexism that Alanna had to fight to win her shield, that little exchange always makes me grin. It might be easy to lose sight of the cultural revolution Tortall has undergone in a relatively short period of time, but Alanna is a distinct reminder of that. (And Kel, but she hasn't shown up yet.)
The best thing about this scene is that instead of using it to show how stupid and sexist these young men are, Pierce makes it rather more pleasant: Daine impresses them all with her archery skills, and they immediately accept her, almost as one of their own. They're not hopeless bigots, and they're not haughty and dismissive of her as an aberration. It's very clear that these are young men raised to believe certain things, but still not so old they think what they were taught is the one and only truth. It's not black and white.
So yeah. This book is awesome. And I'm going to go start Realms of the Gods now.(less)
This wasn't supposed to be the next book I finished. I was planning to get through Eulalia! first, but I woke up one morning and rolled over and grabb...moreThis wasn't supposed to be the next book I finished. I was planning to get through Eulalia! first, but I woke up one morning and rolled over and grabbed this one for no good reason except it's easier to read paperbacks than hardbacks when you're lying on your side because you don't want to get up, and also because your cat is sitting on your hip.
Anyhow. That was yesterday. I think I read five chapters or so before breakfast. And then I had to face the truth: I'm addicted to these books. I crave them when I am not reading them. When I am, I need more more more all the time. If there was a way to inject them straight into my brain every now and again I would probably do it. Reading them is the closest I'll ever get to being well and truly high.
This is not my favorite installment, but it has some of my favorite moments. Shipping moments, naturally. Seriously, every time Daine and Numair start kissing a part of me goes "OKAY STOP THE PLOT AND JUST KEEP MAKING OUT FOR THE REST OF THE BOOK KTHX". (And they exchange a lot of saliva, so this happens fairly often.) This is the book in which Tamora Pierce proves that romance is better when it's drawn out slowly over an entire quartet, because by the time you get here every tense moment between the two of them sends shivers down your spine and it's far, far, far more electric than any one-book instamance.
One of my favorite bits:
"Of all the times for him to go protective on me. Maybe he ate something that was bad for him." She closed her eyes. "Maybe he loves you," Broad Foot said. She didn't hear. She was already asleep.
(Daine is so clueless about the whole thing that it's kind of hilarious. Also, you have to feel sorry for Numair.)
'Falling' is probably my favorite chapter of the whole quartet.
Okay, but moving on. There are other things to recommend this book. For one thing, Pierce is really, really, really good at humanizing the gods. For another, there are dragons! And perhaps most importantly, this is where we get the origin story of the Stormwings. I'm not going to give you any more detail about those things, though, because that could be spoilers. What I will say is that I love how the Stormwings are made more sympathetic over the course of the book, to the point that by the end of this one you feel like you understand them and, in some cases, even like them. (Now what I really want to know is what sick person dreamed up spidrens.)
The climactic battle is not nearly as good as that of Emperor Mage, but there are enough other delicious scenes that it's all worth it.
Also, I'm fairly convinced that Gainel, the god of dreams, is a combination of Neil Gaiman and his character Morpheus.
For those familiar with the Lioness Quartet and the Beka Cooper books, there's a brief cameo by someone present in both series, if you're watching carefully. (I eagerly await the day when we find out what the heck he is and why he adopts humans the way he does. If we ever do, which I suppose we may not. Damn cat.)
Anyhow, this quartet. If you haven't read it, you should really make it a priority. They don't make YA like this any more.(less)
I literally don't remember when I read my first Tamora Pierce book. All I can tell you is that it was Alanna: The First Adventure and it was probably...moreI literally don't remember when I read my first Tamora Pierce book. All I can tell you is that it was Alanna: The First Adventure and it was probably an audiobook that my parents checked out for one of our infinite family road trips. I can't have been much older than, say, third grade at a stretch. After that first one, needless to say, I was addicted. (Yes, I read Lioness Rampant in elementary school. It was... educational. Then again, I was already into Pern by then, so...)
I also don't remember the first time I read this book. I do, however, have the vague inkling that it was the third Tortall quartet I picked up. No, actually, that's for sure, because I read the Protector of the Small books early enough that I asked for a Kel haircut the first time I went from long locks to short... and I would have been ten-ish at the time, I think? I literally brought in my copy of Squire and said "I want my hair that length".
Anyhow. Needless to say, I've read this one a lot. Actually, that's an understatement. The only book on my shelves that I bought new that looks this old is another perennial favorite, Mariel of Redwall. Many, if not quite most, of my books are in good condition. I have read the hell out of this series, poor beloved things.
This book is a classic of growing up, to me. You see, if you take out all the magical elements, it's about a girl deciding to be an adult, to make the hard choices and accept responsibility for her actions. The whole quartet is Daine's coming of age. This book is her choosing to take the first step. As such, it never gets old. When I was Daine's age, thirteen and feeling odd finally being a 'teenager', I identified with her. Now I'm seventeen, practically holding my breath as I prepare too take the next step towards adulthood. Daine and I don't have magic in common, but we have something else: we both have wonderful friends that make the transition easier. I don't think I'll ever grow out of identifying with Daine.
Okay, so that's the personal bit. Now you know why I love to read these books. Let's talk about why you should read them.
First, there's the world of Tortall. Okay, I admit: It's one of the most improbable medieval-esque worlds you'll ever encounter. It's not gritty. It's not exceedingly realistic. It's still dangerous, but mostly it seems like a really happy place to be. And I promise you, it is a liberal's paradise. (Well, under Jon and Thayet's rule, at least.) There are free schools everywhere. There's an elite female corps in the military. Women can become knights and one of them is the King's Champion. People of all races come and go freely and encounter virtually no discrimination. The king is literally tied to the land, so there's your environmentalism covered. And as we find out in one of the Protector of the Small books, while there may be some homophobia present in Tortall itself, its allies are not so conservative; in the Yamani Islands it's just 'some men prefer men, some women prefer women'. (FYI, the Yamanis totally remind me of the Kyoshi Warriors.) Forget Hogwarts; if I got to pick a fictional world to live in, I want it to be this one.
Second, there's the character of Daine herself. She dances on the line of Mary-Sueness. I admit it. She's incredibly powerful, fairly good looking, innocent; she has secrets but she also has determination and skill with a weapon. (There's one or two other things that might make her even more Sueish, but that would be spoiling.) Despite all this, she never once gets on my nerves. I have consistently felt like her trust issues were well-portrayed, that even her incredible magical gifts required a logical amount of work to really use, that she never really got out of something without effort or consequences. And she loves learning - my kind of girl. I find her innocence endearing, her enthusiasm honest and charming, and her development as a character convincing and very real.
Third, there's the supporting cast: the Queen's Riders, the Queen, Alanna, George, Onua, Buri, Sarge - every last one of them strongly characterized and genuine good people. I mean, of course Alanna is my favorite of that list, but none of the others are weak. Even the Rider trainees, who don't appear too frequently, are solidly drawn and interesting. (Miri is my favorite of them.) The more I read this book, the more I understand their characterizations, and the more I appreciate it. There is no one who makes me roll my eyes when I see their name on the page.
Fourth, there's the Immortals who give their collective name to this quartet. Some of them (Griffins, dragons, winged horses, undines) are creatures out of traditional mythology. Some of them (spidrens, stormwings) are, as far as I know, made up out of whole cloth. (Aside to BB: Man, you thought the Stormwings were creative in this book, wait till you get to the explanation of their origins in the fourth book.) Can I just say here that spidrens are FREAKING CREEPY AS ALL HELL? Again, this comes in part from reading the Protector of the Small books first, since the first of that series opens with a spidren eating kittens out of a sack like potato chips, but still. DO NOT LIKE. But really appreciate the writing that went into making me not like them. As for the Stormwings... my lips are sealed for fear of spoilers.
Fifth, there's the depiction of Daine's magic and its pitfalls and advantages. I can't say too much, once more for fear of spoilers, but she has some kickass abilities and gets really good at using them as time goes on. What I loved in this book, though, was that getting to the point where she was even functional accessing her power took a lot of work and personal growth. And it was tied intimately to her overcoming her trust issues, meaning that the several plots of the book were actually all linked.
Sixth, there's Numair. Oh yes, I bet you were wondering why he didn't make the list of secondary characters? Because he's a main, but also because he's SO WONDERFUL he gets his own entry here. Oh goodness, where do I begin? Numair is a nice guy to the point where it's almost ridiculous, except it stops short of that and is just fabulous instead. Example: at one point Daine wakes him up in the middle of the night and he's not crabby at all. He's just all "Oh, how can I help?" And when she falls asleep after fixing that problem, he wraps her up in blankets and leaves her there. When she wakes up the next morning, his first question is about how she's feeling. There is one time he gets angry in this book and it is anger that springs from fear. (view spoiler)[Because, you know, she almost killed herself on accident. (hide spoiler)] (And he's funny when he's angry. Really, really, really funny. I laugh at that scene every single time.) Thank goodness for Numair. He's a breath of fresh air. On this side, we have the sadly common love interest of today, who's creepy, homicidal, stalkerish, rude, and sexist. On the other side, we have this gem of a wizard from 1992: kind, charming, earnestly sweet, caring, and determined to help Daine learn and grow as a person. I know which one I would pick in half a heartbeat. Oh, and did I mention he's one of the seven most powerful wizards in the world? Icing on the freaking cake there. As if he needed it.
In the (unlikely) event that I ever have children, or the (more likely) event that I become a godmother, I'm raising those kids, especially the girls, on Tamora Pierce. They will grow up not with Barbie and Ken but with Alanna the Lioness and Kel and Daine and Beka and all Pierce's other strong heroines. They will, as I did, hear not that girls are supposed to cook and sew and care about fashion but that girls can do anything they want to, that they are strong and brave and wonderful. They will learn from Alanna that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. They will learn from Daine that growing up may be scary, but it is worth the trip. They will learn from Kel that no one needs to have a man, and that there is nothing more important than doing what is right. I forget what they'll learn from Beka because it's been a while since I read Terrier, but I do recall that she kicked ass in the usual spectacular Piercian fashion.
That being said, I'd probably start children with this series, unless they're spectacularly mature. This book will appeal to the horse-crazy in most young girls and introduce them to Tortall. From there, I'd let them roam free. I was going to suggest a reading order, but then I realized that would sound silly and stupid.
Final note: Tell me I'm not the only marine biology freak who almost cried when Daine heard forty blue whales. Please tell me I'm not alone. I would give up half my limbs for that kind of opportunity. It's rare enough in this world to see one or two blue whales. A pod of forty would give most marine biologists heart attacks of sheer joy. Yet another reason I would love to live in Tortall... sigh.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)