There's the reality that's true. There's the reality we believe. There's the reality we hope is true. The one we suspect is true. There’s the realityThere's the reality that's true. There's the reality we believe. There's the reality we hope is true. The one we suspect is true. There’s the reality of faerie, which is all of these at once.
Science is metaphor. To describe the quivering vibrations of the universe in intricate models of dancing quarks, attractions and repulsions, decay and fusion, is poetry.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane takes literature and circles it back around until it almost meets science. It achieves something at its end which touches on truth.
After Tymon’s Flight, I was really looking forward to its sequel, Samiha’s Song. If nothing else, I wanted a continuation of Tymon’s adventure while After Tymon’s Flight, I was really looking forward to its sequel, Samiha’s Song. If nothing else, I wanted a continuation of Tymon’s adventure while learning more about the world that Mary Victoria created. And I expected that she’d throw some good philosophy in there as well to provide a little depth.
What I did not expect is what I got with Samiha’s Song. This book is deep, dense, and rich with meaning. In most ways, it completely eclipses Tymon’s Flight, which is unusual for the second book of a trilogy. It is the kind of book which demands a reread to understand the nuances, and which at the same time promises to never be fully understood.
Samiha starts out conflicted by her role in a prophecy, one which demands her sacrifice – this is a clear retelling of the Christ myth. By the end of the book, she has found acceptance. In many ways, the prophecy is a self-fulfilling one; Samiha could seemingly chose to ignore it and live out a very different life than the one predestined for her. Mary Victoria handles this aspect of the prophecy well, specifically calling out its self-fulfilling nature. To not do so would have distracted the reader from the real themes that she was trying to explore. Samiha knows that fulfillment of destiny relies on her choices. In making her choice, however, she has to decide what it means to be who she is, what it is she wants for her people, the options her people have. In many ways, the choice is already made for her. Her accedence to the prophecy both is a choice and isn’t. Mary Victoria portrays Samiha so keenly that we understand that who she is as a person would not allow her to chose in any other way. It then brings us back around to the question, is the prophecy really self-fulfilling? This aspect of the theme is central to the story, and is deftly written.
With Samiha’s choice made, Tymon is left to find his own acceptance or to find a way to save her while not disturbing the path clearly shown by the Sap, the power which flows through the World Tree. He learns enough of his new-found power to know that to go against the Sap could have devastating effects for him. His anguish is real, as he wants what is best for the people but can’t allow himself to believe that Samiha’s fatalism is necessary. And how do you free someone who does not want to be freed?
One of Mary Victoria’s strengths is proving to be her ability to keep her readers guessing until the end. I had absolutely no idea what Tymon would do or even if he should do anything. My own feelings were often as confused as those of our two protagonists. What exactly was I rooting for? And I mean this in a good way as the ambiguities of the complex themes Mary was writing about did not lend themselves to clarity. I’m not sure there is any clarity in this story, and to provide some where none existed would have been to sell the ideas in the book short. The author avoids that trap admirably.
The book is alternately a deep philosophy, one which had me staring off into space instead of reading while I contemplated the ideas presented, and a page turning thriller, one that had me read the final 128 pages in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down. The author is beginning to distinguish herself from the masses of Fantasy writers as one of the few who can so skillfully do both, and at the same time no less.
Readers looking for more escapist fantasy won’t be disappointed either. Samiha’s Song is as rich in pure fun as it is in philosophy. Tymon visits towns full of pirates and slavers, dying tribes, colorful vagabond acting troops; he escapes near death in otherworldly planes, sees visions in trances; he flies in a steam powered craft, balloons, hovering platforms, and flees on foot through winter rains. The supporting characters around Samiha and Tymon are each as rich in their own way. You will root for traitors and curse the freedom fighters.
Bring on the conclusion, Oracle’s Fire. I’m ready.
This book is so much fun. It starts with the rush of action and exhilaration with which most fantasy stories end. We've all read enough of them to knoThis book is so much fun. It starts with the rush of action and exhilaration with which most fantasy stories end. We've all read enough of them to know the formula - slow pace methodically building up to the fantastic finish, the finish the author wrote the book to get to, the beginning and middle just being that annoying necessity. Mr. (Dr.?) Charlton kicks that standard template in the ass and provides a 400 page rush. I enjoyed every second of it.
The story picks up 10 years after Spellwright left off, and the focus is not on that books protag, Nicodemous Weal, but instead on a doctor, Francesca. Some readers may not consider a true series in that sense, but I didn't miss Nicodemous; Fran is too much fun. And Charlton does a great job of balancing multiple POVs. There is a huge leap in his writing's maturity from Spellwright to Spellbound, and this balance is not the least example.
Aside from being a fun adventure story, Charlton gets cerebral on us. I'm not even going to attempt to tackle an explanation of what the book is "about," but if you are a lover of language and medicine, you'll enjoy it.
When you get to surprise reveal at the end, just as an FYI, I figured it out on page 165. I'm just sayin'. (Okay, so he sorta hinted at it in an interview when discussing the cover art, so I don't think I would have figured it out on my own otherwise. But maybe...)
Overall, Spellbound is quite the accomplishment. The story, characters, and dense ideas are so layered and interwoven that it could have been a big mess, but he keeps it all straight and easy to understand. (Though at one point I was on the verge of graphing out the various political factions.)
As much as I liked Spellwright, Spellbound blows it out of the water. Can't wait for book 3....more
Fantastic book. Abercrombie gives us both sides of a conflict over a patch of land in the north. The purpose of the greater war is hazy at best, and hFantastic book. Abercrombie gives us both sides of a conflict over a patch of land in the north. The purpose of the greater war is hazy at best, and he shows us its every futility. The title refers to a ring of stones standing on a strategic hill, but it is also meant ironically, referring to the handful of characters we follow through the battle. Since it's Joe Abercrombie, we know what to expect going in. Lots of blood and gore, and none of it aspiring to anything noble. People die, and ultimately it means nothing. Yet in Abercrombie's hands, it isn't as depressing and demoralizing as it sounds. The story is, aside from a good story in itself and a fun read, a study in why these people do what they do, even knowing as they must that it all means nothing in the end. The theme is a basic one - war is futile. It's the motivations of the characters which makes this worth reading. Possibly Abercrombie's best yet....more
**spoiler alert** Brandon Sanderson has written some brilliant stuff in the past, especially Hero of Ages and Warbreaker. So my expectations were high**spoiler alert** Brandon Sanderson has written some brilliant stuff in the past, especially Hero of Ages and Warbreaker. So my expectations were high, but he still managed to exceed them. Present are all the things that made his previous books so memorable, but for the first time he delivered the emotional punch to the gut that I think makes a book a classic.
The story centers around three people in the land of Roshar - Kaladin, Dalinar, and Shallan.
Kaladin was a spear man and is now a slave. Sanderson tells Kaladin's story using some unconventional non-linear methods. First we see a final battle before Kaladin is enslaved, but we don't see what led to his becoming a slave. Then we cut back and forth between his present as a slave and his childhood leading up his becoming a soldier. Then we cut back to what happened after that final battle, before reaching the climax of his back story, the death of his brother, which coincides with the climax of his present story.
This could on the surface be considered gimmicky by Sanderson, but it was actually both effective and necessary. Kaladin's actions are all motivated his hatred of the "lighteyes," the nobles of this world. Only by understanding his past do we understand the choices he makes, so telling his back story extensively was necessary. However, it would have slowed the story down too much to have started with his childhood. And frankly it wouldn't have been very interesting.
Dalinar is a highprince, the head of what was until recently a separate kingdom. He now finds himself supporting the king, his nephew, and trying to hold the new united kingdom together. He is also a changed man, becoming thoughtful and even religious after his brother's death. Now he is doubting his sanity as he begins seeing visions whenever a highstorm strikes.
It would have been so easy for the character of Dalinar to become one dimensional. Often this is the fate of any character whose purpose is to be the "good" guy or the voice of reason. They rarely get to be flawed, or get to drive the plot through their actions. Dalinar is full of doubts and is highly conflicted. Sanderson portrays him as a man seeking the truth but not understanding what he is seeing, experiencing, reading, learning.
Perhaps the single thing that sets this book apart from all its mainstream fantasy counterparts is its use of religion. Sanderson seems to be doing something a little different in this regard than a typical fantasy which sees religion as another brick in worldbuilding. Generally, fantasy authors have as little interest in it as they do the military, or government, or economics, or any other aspect of the culture. It's just there as a set decoration and perhaps to occasionally move the plot. And quite often, it's omitted all together.
Sanderson has created Vorinism, which is central to every aspect of this story. I was struck by how complex and well thought out Vorinism was. This was something that he apparently put a lot of care into creating. It seemed to have real emotion behind it, as if Sanderson wanted us to understand how it was someone would follow this religion. For a fantasy novel, it did not require any suspension of disbelief at all.
This was, in some ways, a tight rope Sanderson had to walk. The Way of Kings is presented in a very straightforward manner. It does not possess any of the irony or self-awareness that seems to define all art produced by our generation. And this pays off in his story of Dalinar's trying to follow an ancient code of behavior while trying to find the truth of his visions. Even a hint of irony in the book would have ruined the effect. These beliefs Sanderson is showing us are very simple and for lack of a better term, old fashioned. It takes a sincerity of writing to support Dalinar's sincerity of belief.
Lastly, we have Shallan. She is a young woman with a past and ulterior motives. She's also a brilliant scholar and artist. Of course she finds conflict with these two aspects of herself. Sanderson only hints at some of the past events which I'm sure will be revealed in future volumes. Her storyline is the shortest of the three but not the least compelling. Shallan finds herself a teacher, Jasnah (sister to the king and niece to Dalinar) who is one of the greatest scholars of the age. Here we can see Sanderson's love of academia (he is himself a professor at BYU). The advice Jasnah gives Shallan is, to my small mind at least, quite sage. I enjoyed their discussions of research and scholarship, which were in their own way as compelling as the battle scenes.
I found all the characters believable. Sanderson has come a very long way from Elantris, where he often told us a character's traits and left it at that. With The Way of Kings, his characterization has finally matured. These are all well rounded, flawed, complex people whose actions define them. It's not a coincidence that I structure my review around the three main protagonists. I would be interested in reading about them whatever they were doing.
The culmination of Kaladin's and Dalinar's storylines is heart-wrenching. And gut-wrenching. I loved every second of it. Sanderson's balance of characterization and plot is masterful. Everything they go through which has made them who they are builds to their actions in the climactic scene. It is something which needs to be read and appreciated by all fans of the genre.
In a perfect world, Sanderson would stop working on the inferior Wheel of Time series and focus on finishing The Stormlight Archive. He is standing on the shoulders of those who have come before, like Robert Jordan, but he is seeing farther. This is the series which, in counterpoint to the gritty, realistic movement (Martin, Abercrombie and the like), will define fantasy for our generation....more
**spoiler alert** Brilliant. One of the best fantasy books I've ever read. Brett has it in him to become one of the genre's true masters. The book had**spoiler alert** Brilliant. One of the best fantasy books I've ever read. Brett has it in him to become one of the genre's true masters. The book had structure, meaning, deep characters who acted through thoughtful motivations. The complexities of desires and goals kept the story from being predictable. The story itself moves naturally, with no gimmicks are cheap plot devices to keep it moving (i.e. no prophecy or magic that resolve all problems - I'm looking in your direction, Night Angel Trilogy.)
It begins with Jardir, a minor character from The Warded Man. Jardir was not a sympathetic figure in that book, and the opening scenes of The Desert Spear don't improve his image. This sets a challenge for Brett since Jardir is the protag for the first 186 pages. I immediately hated him and wanted to get back to the characters I knew and loved from the previous book. But it is to Brett's credit that he was able to craft Jardir into a compelling figure. It would have been easy to leave him a one dimensional villain, but with his goals being so close to that of The Warded Man himself, we have to question whether he is a villain at all, or just a man with a different means to the same end.
And Brett does a masterful job of portraying the Krasian culture. It becomes both alien and familiar. He borrows heavily from Arabic and Islamic cultures, but much of it is his own, woven in seamlessly. The trickiest part, I think, was when he had to show the members of the Krasian society bending their traditions to allow for Jardir's rise, yet while at the same time not destroying that thin creation of a fictional culture he had painted in our minds. It would have been a mistake to make the leaders of Krasia as well as Jardir's followers step in line too easily, and Brett handled it perfectly. I never lost my belief in them as real people coming to terms with changes they never expected to see in their own time.
When we meet up with Leesha and Rojer again, they are much as we left them at the end of The Warded Man, only they have become much stronger in their skills. Leesha is a delight for anyone who looks for strong female characters in fantasy novels (which is unfortunately rare enough that I feel the need to call it out when I see it). Leesha is struggling with some of the events of the last novel as well as her own desires and needs. What Brett does so well is use those conflicts in her as a driving point in the later story. It isn't merely some set decoration painted on Leesha to make her seem more rounded; her internal struggles become relevant to the choices she makes, which are in turn relevant to the war Jardir brings.
Lastly we have the Warded Man himself. Again Brett does well to not let his most important creation become flat. The archetype is there barely below the surface - a lone man given up his humanity to fight for a world which either loathes him as corespawn or worships him as their Deliverer. Brett doesn't overplay this aspect which would have been easy to do. Instead Arlen is torn, wanting both the night and the day. We are reintroduced to those relationships which keep him human, and all of which are well portrayed. None seemed forced or fake, instead giving the story genuine warmth. At least one reunion scene left me close to tears as Arlen had to confront what his lost humanity really cost him.
The novel ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I would have preferred the story to be a bit more self contained, but as it was it was still very satisfying. Brett does find story arcs both in plot and in character development to tie up at the end.
Highly recommend. Go read The Warded Man first if you haven't yet, then pick this one up. I can't imagine any fan of epic fantasy being disappointed.