Epic fantasy book of a decent length? Sign me up. Recommended if you like the Wheel of Time, Brandon Sanderson, and fantasy of that sort.
Pros: InteresEpic fantasy book of a decent length? Sign me up. Recommended if you like the Wheel of Time, Brandon Sanderson, and fantasy of that sort.
Pros: Interesting story, excellent writing; Rothfuss's prose sings. Kvothe, the main character, is well-fleshed-out and quite believable (although at times you'll want to throttle him). The book's magic systems nicely complement the plot without overpowering it; the ones that play the largest parts are logically explained, so when magic does play a role, it "makes sense" (although one notable instance is not fully explained, for dramatic purposes).
Cons: One of the main obstacles Kvothe faces for much of the book is lack of money; this lack begins to wear thin after long enough, but only if you're thinking about it. A bit of a side trip later in the book is pretty abrupt, to the point of almost being a non sequitur. The book is structured as a story within a story (Kvothe narrating the inner story -- his life -- to another character in the outer story); the outer story is a bit more spare of details than I'd prefer, making it harder to relate the inner story to the outer. None of these are large concerns, and I much enjoyed the book regardless....more
All the earth's legends and myths trace back to a time when mages wielded enormous power, acting as the gods of humanity (the vast majority of whom arAll the earth's legends and myths trace back to a time when mages wielded enormous power, acting as the gods of humanity (the vast majority of whom are drowthers capable of no magic, or perhaps negligible magic at best). These powers could be increased enormously by travel between the two worlds of Earth and Westil using Great Gates created by gatemages. But ever since Loki closed all the Great Gates, it has become impossible to travel between worlds. Since then magic on Earth has dimmed, and internecine warfare amongst the mage families make any gatemage a dead man once discovered. For if a Great Gate were ever constructed, it would make that family enormously more powerful than the other families, which no other family will tolerate. But no matter: although the families don't know it, construction of any Great Gate now results in the instant loss of a gatemage's power.
Danny North is an undiscovered gatemage. This book begins to tell his story: of pretense on discovering his own powers, of survival when discovered, and of learning what he can do. And, perhaps, of trying to do what cannot be done.
Pros: The naturist magical system of the book is familiar in some ways, new in others, cleverly building upon the well-known magical tropes. The mechanics of gatemaking, from Danny's point of view, are fascinating. (Although I found myself often wishing I could just make him try all the gatemagic variations I could imagine, rather having to wait for him to attempt them himself.) The contrast between the prose in Danny's story and a sibling story intertwined with it is striking, and it does an excellent job keeping the two conceptually separate.
Cons: Card in the afterword notes that he wanted this story to have some "earthiness" to it, and it certainly has that. Malign and unprovoked misuse of magic and uncaring and crass vulgarities pervade the first half of the book, and they continue to intrude in much of the second half. Directed as it often is at innocents, it can be somewhat painful to read at times; it's certainly not edifying. This does taper off substantially after a certain point. But getting to that point is a slog if you prefer reading at least marginally sympathetic characters. Some of the developments feel almost predictable at times, in that I could almost guess where the story was going to go well in advance of it actually going there, or I would have guessed if I'd read more slowly. (And given how I read, I suspect this means these things will be even more obvious to most readers.)
This said, this book was an intriguing read, at least ignoring the earthier parts. I'll be interested to see where the story goes -- the current plan seems to be to make it a trilogy, so we'll have more to show here soon.
(A last note: The Lost Gate derives from Sandmagic, a short story appearing in Maps in a Mirror, which I had read but forgotten. It's interesting to read that story in light of the background information this book adds to it, and vice versa. Which do I prefer? Probably the short story, for its darkness serves a better point than The Lost Gate's does.)...more
Frederick Whithers is attempting to forge his way into an inheritance of £90000. The first problem is he's in jail. The second problem is the inheritaFrederick Whithers is attempting to forge his way into an inheritance of £90000. The first problem is he's in jail. The second problem is the inheritance must occur in a way that seems perfectly legal, even while it's not. The third problem is he's being chased by vampires who believe him to be the Great One, a vampire of unspeakable power, and he can do nothing to convince them he's not. Along the way he meets a host of literary giants -- John Keats, Mary Shelley, and more, each with foibles and quirks you didn't read about in your history books. Rollickingly good time, humor and puns galore. Could have used a smidgen more proofreading, though. :-)...more
Sanderson branches out into shorter fantasy because, well, he can afford to do it, apparently. (Kudos to him for that, even if, as he acknowledges, itSanderson branches out into shorter fantasy because, well, he can afford to do it, apparently. (Kudos to him for that, even if, as he acknowledges, it may well be partly due to luck of the draw.) Different flavor from his usual stuff -- even from the stuff he's done that was itself a different flavor (The Alloy of Law) -- but still definitely him. I've never played the games that this book apparently bridges, so I can't comment on faithfulness to their plots. But as a story, this one's nice enough to read even without the background of the game.
It's pretty clear short stories (...shorter stories?) aren't Sanderson's thing, at least not yet. The pace is mostly relaxed, but the revelations and actions tend to happen jarringly quickly when they do happen. It's a weird contrast that makes for reading irregularity. But it's fun enough regardless. And who knows? Maybe some more practice is all that Sanderson needs to bring us delightful short-story goodness. If so, I'm happy to let him play a little. :-)...more
TWMF continues the story of Kvothe begun in The Name of the Wind. Kvothe continues his education at the University, travels abroad on sabbatical (learTWMF continues the story of Kvothe begun in The Name of the Wind. Kvothe continues his education at the University, travels abroad on sabbatical (learning much more in the process), and returns to University a much-improved person (save in one respect). His sense of ethics remains as questionable as ever; but where it was iffily "justifiable" in some sense in the previous book, it becomes more malign in this book (and I am ignoring one outlier when I say this), and less of the sort of thing you'd let slide in a conflicted character. Put simply, Kvothe grows darker. This is neither intrinsically bad nor good as far as creating a compelling story goes, but it may make it harder to enjoy reading it.
Pros: The writing's still enchanting. Kvothe's money woes subside (I noted this in my review of The Name of the Wind as beginning to drag in that book) and no longer take up so much space wearying the reader. The culture of Ademre is fascinating. The bits of "fairy tale" doled out throughout the book are always beautiful, each also seeming relevant to the plot. Fae truly does feel different from the rest of the world, as it should.
Cons: In hindsight, some of the plots take up way more pages than it would seem they should, particularly if one considers what those plots actually entail. The writing's good enough that you might not notice it so much at the time. But still, this book lacks the concision and necessity of events of its predecessor. (Hopefully my evaluation of the book on these grounds will change when I can get around to rereading it -- I only borrowed the library copy, waiting for the mass-market paperback before I buy it. I'm currently rereading The Name of the Wind, and events and their ordering in that book retain that necessity on reread -- in fact they seem even more necessary.) In some ways we also don't learn a whole lot in furtherance of Kvothe's main goal of learning about the Amyr and the Chandrian -- a few bits, but very little knowledge of substance. There's a lot of sex that seems gratuitous (especially when it's introduced in Ademre, where the necessity for its introduction seems tactically incomprehensible to me). There's one passage in (Kvothe's) defense of the worldview behind this that it's pretty easy to take strong offense at (and the author has more where that came from, sadly).
Anyway: not as unreserved a recommendation as the previous book, but still good. It's worth reading to continue Kvothe's story from the first book, for sure....more
Sanderson returns to the world of Mistborn Trilogy Boxed Set with a much shorter entry -- this one following some couple hundred years after The HeroSanderson returns to the world of Mistborn Trilogy Boxed Set with a much shorter entry -- this one following some couple hundred years after The Hero of Ages. The old characters remain real to the world but have begun to fade into myth and legend, in a world containing a wild-west-style frontier and a steampunkish urban center. Against this backdrop, a frontier lawman returns to the city, and to the estate he fled years ago, when his father died. He returns to do his duty for the family line and estate, chafing within his social constraints. But he's quickly pulled into investigation of lawbreaking just as he'd done in the frontier, and things get complicated. And there's lots of fun to be had considering the interactions of guns and bullets with allomancy and feruchemy (and how optimal strategy changes in relation to those possible uses, as a second-order effect).
This isn't a book like the original trilogy, which did much worldbuilding, character building, and plot development. This is a bit of a thriller, whodunit, cops-and-robbers sort of book, not written in the same serious sense as the initial trilogy. It's more a quick, jaunty exercise in fun. In that vein, while thus far in reviews I've tended to list a few pros and cons of each book, I'm not going to offer them here. This book's trying to be fun; it's not trying to always get it "right" in some literary sense.
It may be worth reading if you liked the original Mistborn books. It's different enough that it's not quite possible to recommend it unreservedly to readers of them. But it's probably a fair bet. And because it's not aiming for the same lofty heights as most of Sanderson's fare, it's a quicker, easier read, too....more
It's the seventh year of Harry Potter's schooling at Hogwarts -- or rather it would have been, but for Voldemort's influence on the world. As a resultIt's the seventh year of Harry Potter's schooling at Hogwarts -- or rather it would have been, but for Voldemort's influence on the world. As a result, Harry's on the run from the authorities, attempting to carry out Dumbledore's instructions to destroy the sources of Voldemort's power. Should he succeed, Voldemort's power might be broken. Should he fail...
Pros: It's a Harry Potter book. It's the last Harry Potter book. That means, if you've read any of these stories previously, it's a must-read. Various parts present thoughtful ruminations at times on the meaning and significance of death. Plot-wise, there's little excess: the key points of each scene are necessary for subsequent scenes to fit together well. (Not purely out of desire to milk the franchise did the movie get split in two, although I'm sure that played a not insubstantial part in the decision. :-) ) Off the top of my head, I can think of only one other book that I've read that's done it better, that being The Name of the Wind. (Another good book -- more highly recommended than this one, even.)
Cons: I found the was-Dumbledore-really-bad questions to be implausibly raised. (And don't get me started on Rowling's Dumbledore-is-gay retconning...) There was essentially no foreshadowing of them in previous books, so when I read it I thought them little more than malicious mudslinging by characters with incentive to do it. Not that I have difficulty believing what was related to be possible, but it did not mesh well with the Dumbledore character I knew before this book. Surely it can't be that easy to evade capture by wizarding authorities that a few teenagers barely of age can avoid capture so well for so long. As for capture...how is it possible that the characters could have unintentionally avoided the Taboo for so long, either by not triggering it or by not having even heard of the existence of it? (Why in the world would Ron not have mentioned it on learning of it, for example?) Speaking of Ron, I find the gift he receives to not quite make sense as a gift, in context -- the purported guess at why he receives it in the book is pretty tenuous. The final (extended) showdown, from Hogsmeade onward, is overly campy in how it brings everyone together just so for a battle where every last character gets their moment of glory. And that showdown itself feels a bit too alternatingly joyful and sorrowful -- it just doesn't feel like it's being conducted seriously enough, with unstated acknowledgment of the danger involved. Harry's solution to the problem posed in the last chapter makes almost no sense; the solution posed in the movie makes far more logical sense, and it's more thoughtfully satisfying too. The epilogue has been condemned by many for being a pretty shallow ending to the series, and it is exactly that.
But all that said, it's the end of the Harry Potter story. Despite its flaws, which are not inconsiderable, it's still an enjoyable read. I'd rate it about 3.5 stars or so, and closer to 4 than 3 so rounding up to 4....more
Sanderson kicks off his magnum opus decalogy (yes, you read that right -- ten books) in the world of Roshar. Roshar is a world battered by periodic stSanderson kicks off his magnum opus decalogy (yes, you read that right -- ten books) in the world of Roshar. Roshar is a world battered by periodic storms -- gigantic winds travel across it from east to west, starting at hurricane force in the east and falling to mere zephyrs in the west. These winds heavily affect life: eastern life is mostly rock-based as it must be able to withstand these winds when they appear. (We don't see much of life in the west, except to know that it has soil, and some well-traveled characters who visit from the east find the ideas of soil and grass completely unnatural.) Stormwinds also supply stormlight, giving certain gems (which serve as the world's money) an inner glow for a time. If you think this might have something to do with the world's magic systems (what! a magic system in a Sanderson book? I am shocked, shocked to find such a thing!), have a gold star.
The Way of Kings follows the stories of several characters: Kaladin, a soldier-turned-slave conscripted for use in the fight by Alethkar against the Parshendi, in revenge for their having killed Alethkar's king; Shallan, an aspiring scholar seeking to study under the atheist heretic Jasnah; Dalinar Kholin, a highprince of Alethkar and a leader in the fight against the Parshendi; and Szeth-son-son-Vallano, the assassin who killed Alethkar's king. The book particularly focuses on Kaladin's backstory, interspersing it with the stories of the three other characters as they progress.
The world itself -- its creatures, its environment, its features, its weather -- are much of what make this book a good read. This is a world whose features strongly affect the story, to the point of its almost being a character of sorts. Throw in Sanderson's creative, patented magic systems, and you've got a winner.
Storywise, however, some aspects of this book are kind of predictable. Kaladin and Dalinar are in the same place, so it's pretty much given their stories will intersect. Kaladin starts out as a lowly slave, browbeaten by the captain overseeing him -- take a guess how his status will change. Shallan aspires to study under Jasnah for not entirely noble purposes -- guess at how that secret will play out. But even still, exactly how the story plays out isn't so obviously guessable. And when it does play out, it's such a joy watching the slow reveal of the world's magic (there are more kinds than one, and we certainly don't learn everything about any of them). The world itself with its distinctive geographic features and its powerful weather system also plays a strong part in the story. So while the book deals in some tropes, it does so entertainingly.
The other thing worth noting about this book is its length. I don't mind, even enjoy long books. But this one probably could have been trimmed a bit without losing too much, and probably should have.
So is it the best book in the world? Probably not. But it has promise, and it sets up a world whose stories I want to read, and will read as Sanderson writes more of his grand vision. Pick it up if you like long epic fantasy and don't mind that it's going to take at least a decade to fully unwind it.
A parting word on this edition of the book: I purchased the hardcover on a whim passing a Borders going-out-of-business sale. When I opened the hardcover, I discovered that this book contains the most incredible inner artwork: twenty-plus full pages of art, illustrations of settings, beasts, and allusions not fully explained yet. It is magnificent. I was skeptical the paperback (let alone any electronic copies) would come anywhere close to doing the illustrations justice. (I usually buy paperbacks, borrowing library copies when I can't wait. And if I do buy a hardcover, I buy the paperback when it's released.) When I looked at a paperback months later in stores, I discovered I was right. The illustrations in the paperback are rubbish -- it's like you're only getting half the book that way. Don't shortchange yourself here -- get the hardcover. It's worth it for the illustrations alone. (Feel free to get the ebook too if you like portability, but beware that it can't be appreciated nearly as well in that format.)...more
Robert Jordan passed away in 2007, leaving the Wheel of Time series adrift. However, he had the forethought to leave notes on the series conclusion (tRobert Jordan passed away in 2007, leaving the Wheel of Time series adrift. However, he had the forethought to leave notes on the series conclusion (then to be a single book titled "A Memory of Light", later split in three) for another author to complete, should events come to that. Jordan's wife, Harriet McDougal, chose Brandon Sanderson to complete the series. This book is the first of three books, written by Sanderson (although as seems proper Jordan receives prominent primary authorship) using Jordan's notes, completing the series.
Does the book deliver, and does Sanderson deliver? Yes, and yes. Later books in the series have been criticized, and not without reason, for moving too slowly, as Jordan spent more time on minor characters and less-important side stories and less time on the major plots. Knife of Dreams remedied this somewhat, and this book does so even more. One major character's story conflict is resolved (albeit with a minor lingering concern raised in the epilogue). Another character's story sees substantial progress. Put simply, this book moves, and for that reason I'd put it up there as easily one of the better ones in the entire series. I think we can pin the book moving faster at least partly on Sanderson. If you've ever read any of his novels, you know that his dialogue is relatively fast-paced, and his action scenes move quickly. Yet at the same time, Sanderson manages to preserve continuity with Jordan's style. There are certainly places where the difference becomes noticeable; for example, it's difficult to imagine Jordan writing some of the White Tower scenes. But no worries -- this book is true to Jordan, arguably even an improvement as we get Jordan's style with Sanderson's quicker pacing. (Although, speaking only for myself, I would have liked a slightly more languorous pace to accommodate a little more descriptiveness. But I'm still happy with what it is.)
Is this Jordan's book? Yes, and no. For all that, I'm quite happy with how it turned out....more