I remember when A Man Called Ove first took the book world by storm as a book in translation that everyone should read. Judging from the cover and synI remember when A Man Called Ove first took the book world by storm as a book in translation that everyone should read. Judging from the cover and synopsis, it didn’t at all seem like it would interest me. I’m not normally a lover of contemporary slice-of-life fiction. Give me dragons and magical libraries and quests to save the world from imminent doom any day of the week. As with everything, there have been notable exceptions, but A Man Called Ove didn’t strike me as a contender for that role. I can’t believe how wrong I was. This is a book that I loved so fervently that I honestly don’t have much to say about it. My words won’t be able to do it justice.
“Men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say.”
Ove is the very definition of a curmudgeon. He’s been forced into an early retirement and now he just wants to be left alone to die. But life keeps getting in the way as new neighbors move in next door and old neighbors suddenly become a larger presence in the area. It seems like the neighborhood just can’t function without him. He begrudgingly starts addressing the problems plaguing those around him, engaging with life for the first time in a long time. Against his will and better judgement, he finds himself becoming part of a motley family.
“You only need one ray of light to chase all the shadows away.”
I loved how slowly Backman fed us Ove’s backstory. We weren’t immediately told everything we needed to know about him, and it was delightful to gain insight into his character and understanding of his worldview as such a meandering pace. I also was completely blown away by Backman’s characterization across the cast of neighbors. Each and every included character was vibrant and tangibly real, and were incredibly varied from one another. Ove’s internal monologue was likewise brilliant, and while I know there’s already a foreign film incarnation in existence and an American version in the works, I just don’t see how a screen interpretation could ever work as well as the novel, because that internal monologue is so important to Ove’s character. I’ll be interested to compare the story across the two disparate mediums. Even more, I can't wait to get my hands on every single Fredrik Backman book that has been translated into English. I think I found a new author to add to my favorites shelf.
“We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”
A Man Called Ove is one of the most charming, delightful, funny, poignant books I’ve every read. I laughed more times than I can count, but that laughter almost always had to find its way around the lump in my throat, because tears threatened to hit the pages almost as often. This book moved me more than I can express. I could barely read the last chapter through the haze of unshed tears, which finally spilled as I read the final words. It was a perfect story, and there’s not a single thing I could change about it. You can find this review and more at Novel Notions. ...more
I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Orbit/RedhYou can find this review and more at Novel Notions.
Actual rating: way more than 5 stars.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Orbit/Redhook) in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“Listen, not every story is made for telling. Sometimes just by telling a story you’re stealing it, stealing a little of the mystery away from it.”
The Ten Thousand Doors of January is quite possibly the most achingly beautiful novel I’ve ever read, and I find it mind-boggling that anything this lovely could possibly be a debut novel. There are a scant handful of novels I’ve experienced in my life (The Name of the Wind, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, and The Night Circus come to mind) that were breathtaking debuts of this caliber, and they remain my very favorite books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I’m so incredibly happy to add Alix E. Harrow’s novel to that list.
“If we address stories as archeological sites, and dust through their layers with meticulous care, we find at some level there is always a doorway. A dividing point between here and there, mundane and magical. It is at the moment when the doors open, when things flow between worlds, that stories happen.”
As soon as the synopsis and cover art (isn’t that cover almost painfully pretty?) for this book became public, Ten Thousand Doors immediately catapulted to my most anticipated book of 2019. I preordered it for my birthday in February, even though it’s not scheduled to be released until September. Imagine my delight when, less than a week ago, I returned home from church to find an envelope featuring this book’s stunning artwork waiting for me on my doorstep. I’ve never received a more beautiful ARC, and this is the first time I have ever seen a galley delivered in special packaging such as I saw on my stoop. My husband laughed when I darted out of the car before it was even fully in park, leaving my phone and house key and everything else in the vehicle because I was so insanely excited. I tried desperately to pace myself, trying not to read more than 50 pages or so per day so that the book would last as long as possible. Alas, I was hopelessly incapable of sticking to that pace and found the story drawing to a close far too quickly.
“You see, doors are many things: fissures and cracks, ways between, mysteries and borders. But more than anything else, doors are change.”
When you have such a high level of excitement going into a book, it’s very hard to temper your expectations and not be disappointed. And yet, I never once felt disappointed in Ten Thousand Doors. From page one, I fell in love with January Scaller. When we first meet January, she is seven years old and, though her father is living, finds herself being raised by Mr. Locke, his benefactor, as her father travels the world, searching for exotic treasures to bring back to his employer. January is wild and sullen and headstrong and oddly colored, an unfortunate circumstance considering the time and place in which she lives. Worst of all, she’s imaginative. Throughout her childhood years, she is herded and tamed into submission by Mr. Locke and militant nursemaids, and sees less and less of her father. But though she has been bent by her benefactor, she has managed to remain unbroken, and finds many opportunities to test and marvel at the strength of her own character.
“I escaped outdoors (see how that word slips into even the most mundane of sentences? Sometimes I feel there are doors lurking in the creases of every sentence, with periods for knobs and verbs for hinges).”
What I loved the most about January was how alive she seemed. From the very beginning, she had an incredibly strong, distinctive voice, and an open honesty to her character that made her wonderfully believable. She’s far from perfect, and that’s what makes her so engaging. The amount of character development packed into less than 400 pages is astounding. I loved watching this fiery little girl grow into a woman and recapture that spark that had been smothered within her. January has also been blessed with a trio of amazing friends who will do anything in their power to aid her on her quest. I don’t want to describe them and inadvertently take anything away from the reading experiences of others, so I’ll just say that they’re all three brave and loyal and steadfast, but in radically different ways. I’m so impressed that Harrow was able to imbue even her side characters with such heaping amounts of personality and believability.
“At this point, you’re thinking that this story isn’t really about Doors, but about those more private, altogether more miraculous doors that can open between two hearts. Perhaps it is in the end—I happen to believe that every story is a love story if you catch it at the right moment, slantwise in the light of dusk—but it wasn’t then.”
Something else that I loved about this book was its duality. Though January is our protagonist, we also trek right along with her as she reads through a magical book that she found in an antique trunk. The chapters of said magical book are very different in tone and voice than January’s chapters, and I thoroughly enjoyed this added variance. January’s insatiable need to see how that story ended increased my own desire to continue reading. I felt that the author and purpose of the little book were both a bit obvious, but that they were meant to be so, which ensured that the predictability of that particular information couldn’t be in any way disappointing.
“If you are wondering why other worlds seem so brimful of magic compared to your own dreary Earth, consider how magical this world seems from another perspective.”
Between the magical book and the otherworldly Doors mentioned in the title, I was strongly reminded of two books that I adore: Inkheart and Every Heart a Doorway. However, as much as I dearly love the two aforementioned titles, The Ten Thousand Doors of January surpassed them both in my eyes by intermingling the things I love so much about both. As with Inkheart, Ten Thousand Doors makes much of not only books but the words with which they’re crafted. And, as with Every Heart a Doorway, there are magical portals to a multitude of realms, hidden behind and beneath the mundane, and the search for these Doors is an all-consuming quest for certain characters involved. I won’t talk more about January’s Doors, as they are the backbone of her story and readers should learn about these portals as they read, but I love the entire idea of them and desperately wish I could find one of my own, and found them even more enticing than those in McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway.
“Worlds are too complex, too beautifully fractured to be named.”
Though I loved January and her friends, and I rooted for them as they faced down their foes, that was not my favorite element of this novel. And though the plot was everything I could hope for and more, keeping me enthralled and remaining at the forefront of my mind far after I had closed its pages, that was not my favorite aspect, either. The thing I loved most about this book was the absolutely exquisite prose. Harrow is more than an author; she is a Wordsmith, a sorceress wielding a pen in place of a wand. Her writing is effortlessly stunning and unconsciously literary. I’ve read a lot of literary fiction, and fantasy, and literary fiction trying to also be fantasy. I have found very few novels that managed to bridge the gap from literary fiction to fantasy in a compelling and convincing way, though I have found many fantasy authors who, in my opinion, can hold their own with any literary author. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is one of a mere handful of books that I’ve come across that could sit comfortably in either the literary or fantasy genre, and I think it beautifully combines both.
“Doors, he told her, are change, and change is a dangerous necessity. Doors are revolutions and upheavals, uncertainties and mysteries, axis points around which entire worlds can be turned. They are the beginnings and ending of every true story, the passages between that lead to adventures and madness and—here he smiled—even love. Without doors the world’s would grow stagnant, calcified, storyless.”
Not only does Harrow have a gorgeous way with words, but she appreciates the building blocks of language in a way that I’ve rarely if ever seen in fiction. Something she did that I felt was incredibly unique was drawing attention to letters themselves. When a word is important, you capitalize it. And when you capitalize a word, that first letter suddenly becomes a representation of that word. At least, that is what Harrow points out through the eyes and mind of January. For example, when you capitalize the first letter of Villain, doesn’t that V speak of daggers and fangs? That’s what January thinks. When you read this book, which I desperately hope you will, watch for explanations of words like Door and Threshold, Companion and Home. They were such beautiful ideas that my heart kept them, and I know they will come back to me every time I come across these words.
Worlds were never meant to be prisons, locked and suffocating and safe. Worlds were supposed to be great rambling houses with all the windows thrown open and the wind and summer rain rushing through them, with magic passages in their closets and secret treasure chests in their attics.”
This is among the longest reviews I’ve ever written, and I still feel that I haven’t said enough. Or perhaps I’ve said too much. In either case, I hope I was able to convey how much I adore this book, and how deeply it touched me. For the first time in my adult life, I’m honestly contemplating rereading a book immediately, or at least within the same year. Maybe I’ll hold out until release day, and experience it again when I receive my preordered copy. I haven’t read a book twice in one year since I was in middle school. I can already tell that January is going to be one of my dearest friends, and that I’ll be revisiting her often. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a marvel, and I can’t wait for the world to read it.
The quotations in the review above were taken from an advance reading copy and are subject to change upon the book's publication....more
“What I’m going to do up here, kid, is tell you a story. Like all stories, it’s an attempt to make sense of something larger than itself. And, like most stories, it fails, to a certain degree. It’s a gloss, a rendition, so it’s not exact. But it’ll do.”
I’m going to see Paranormal Cirque this weekend and am insanely excited. In anticipation, I picked up The Troupe. While not about a circus, it is about a vaudevillian troupe, which is similar in feel. And though not exactly in the horror genre, I know from experience with his Divine Cities trilogy that Robert Jackson Bennett often weaves horror elements into his novels, and he does so deftly. I’m so incredibly glad I picked up this book. Because as excited as I am about seeing Paranormal Cirque, I already know that The Troupe will stay with me longer than any performance could. It turned out to be an absolutely beautiful story, and I read the last sixty or so pages through a haze of tears.
“Sometimes the last walk is all that’s left.” “Every inch was a battle, every step a war.”
George is a surly teenager who is already an incredibly gifted musician. The he hears that the Silenus Troupe is expected in a city not too far away, George quits his job as house pianist for a theater and sets off to finally see the show that is infamous for its audience’s inability to remember what they saw when the curtain falls. George has been obsessed with the show for years, not only because of its mystique but because Silenus, the leader of the troupe, is George’s father. Silenus just doesn’t know it yet. Finally, after yearning for so long, George sees both the show and his father. There’s a slight problem, though; George can remember the performance, which is supposed to be impossible. And to make matters worse, wolves in men’s clothing are hunting the troupe, and it looks like George has no choice but to go along for the ride.
“If you were to inspect my shoes, you would find on their soles the soil of a thousand countries. My many coats have soaked up the salty air of all the seven seas. Were you to see my dustbin you would find a dozen hats, all drained of color by distant suns. There are the lengths I have gone to to procure our world’s greatest treasure, our most precious resource, our most secret and unpredictable wonder… Entertainment.”
The entire novel is built around the Silenus Troupe’s unique mission: to perform what fragments they can find of the Song of Creation in order to keep the dark Nothingness from consuming their world. I’m always a sucker for books that feature musicians as central characters, but very rarely have I found a story in which music itself plays so significant a role.This music was conveyed so powerfully, so movingly, that there were instances that made my breath catch in my throat. I firmly believe in the power of music, and its ability to reach keeping into the human heart that any spoken or written word. Lyrics have had a profound impact in my life, especially when paired with beautifully crafted melodies. I think that music can move and enrage and incite and heal unlike any other medium on earth. And I felt that power in Bennett’s take on the Song of Creation.
“I think art… I think it’s making something from nothing, basically. It’s taking something as simple as a movement, or a few notes, or steps, or words, and putting them all together so that they’re bigger than what they ever could have been separate. They’re transformed. And just witnessing that transformation changes you. It reaches into your insides and moves things around. It’s magic, of a sort.”
This book was also far deeper philosophically that I anticipated. Questions of creation and purpose and intelligent design wove themselves between darker questions regarding the problems of pain, and loss, and letting go. Hope and hopelessness mingled in discussions of the Creator and the intentions behind creation. If existence hurts so much, then why do we strive to continue on? It is worth it?
“I’ve come to some decisions recently, you see, and I think… I think that, even though existing is very painful sometimes, and very confusing, I think I would like it to… go on.”
Relationships in all their forms was also a central theme. Whether between friends, or lovers, or children with their parents, the bonds of relationship were presented as simultaneously imperative and heartbreakingly fragile. These relationships were often not what they first appeared to be, and two such relationships were sources of my aforementioned tears as the novel drew to a close. The ties between performers who travel and work together day in and day out are always tight, messy, tangled things, and the Silenus Troupe demonstrated this better than most. Each had their own breathtaking talent, and behind each talent lay immense, almost incomprehensible pain. The gnarled backstage reality of the troupe fulfilled the idea of beauty rising from ashes better than almost any such picture I’ve come across. Often, the best art, the art that moves us and stays with us long after the song is over or the last page is read, is spawned by pain.There’s a reason that artists are so often described as tortured. I love the rawness Bennett allowed his readers to see in his characters, as well as the beauty of their performances.
“But sometimes people just leave, kid. You can’t let the leaving or the absence rule you. We must all be the authors of our own lives now.”
I honestly don’t know what else to say. As much as I adored the Divine Cities, this book surpassed that trilogy in my heart. The Troupe moved me, and it spoke so deeply to my heart. I loved the characters, and the setting, and the writing. But most of all, I loved the Song. This is a standalone novel, and though I can compare it loosely to The Night Circus in setting and The Ocean at the End of the Lane in tone, it is utterly unique among the hundreds upon hundreds of books I’ve read in my life. It’s an instant favorite for me, and I implore you to read it and experience that same magical, musical power for yourself.
“Things do not stop. They move on without us. It is a truth so great that most people must invent and live lies to deny it.”
The world is big, the young are restless, and girls just want to have fun.
Bloody Rose made me feel all of the feelings; I want to follow Tam’s lead and sing its praises from the rooftops. Kings of the Wyld was incredibly fun, and I expected the same from its followup, but Eames managed to pull on my heartstrings with Bloody Rose in ways that his first novel did not. I picked up Bloody Rose excited to embark on an Easter egg hunt for classic rock and other pop culture references. While I found what I was looking for in spades, Eames delivered so much more than that. I read the last twenty pages or so through a veil of tears, which is the opposite of what I expected going in.
“Glory fades. Gold slips through our fingers like water, or sand. Love is the only thing worth fighting for.”
There were so many amazing aspects to this book that I almost don’t know where to begin, but I’ll start with the musical references. While I caught quite a few of the references in KotW, the musical references in Bloody Rose were more based in the 80s music scene instead of the 70s, and 80s rock was a gigantic part of my childhood. There were lines of dialogue taken from songs by Queen and Guns and Roses and so many more, and mercenary bands whose names riffed off of groups that I still love. Men Without Helmets and the Duran twins and The White Snakes were just a few of the brief references that made me grin from ear to ear when I came across them. There was a frontman whose name was a combination of two men who fronted the same band in the 80s. There was a character who sure played a mean pingball (yes, I spelled it like that on purpose). Mortal Kombat was referenced at one point, which made me laugh out loud. There were a few different references to one of my favorite movies of all time, The Princess Bride. There was even little tips of the hat to Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, and Joe Abercrombie.
You didn’t get to be the villain of one story, she supposed, unless you were the hero of another.
As much as I enjoyed all the references, the thing that blows my mind about this book is that you could have removed every single one of those references and it would have still been an amazing story. I thoroughly enjoyed Ready Player One, but the references used in that book were the story’s glue, and I don’t think it could have stood without them. The references in Eames’s novels have been like sprinkles on top of an already delicious cake; they’re fun, but not necessary to the plot.
Most people, she figured, sized up the truth when it came knocking, decided they didn’t much like the look of it, and shut the door in its face.
However, something that was essential for me, and is definitely one of the reasons that I have loved both of these books so fiercely, is the portrayal of mercenaries as this world’s rock stars. Eames actually gave us more of a backstage pass to band life in Bloody Rose, and he absolutely nailed it. Fable is the epitome of what a rock band should be, and Bloody Rose is a killer front woman, both figuratively and literally. I’ve fronted a band before, and lived on a tour bus, and played a show in one town and awakened in a different city to a repeat of the previous day with a different backdrop. Bloody Rose nailed every single one of those elements. We didn’t have groupies or guzzle gallons of alcohol a night since we were a Christian rock band, but Eames’s portrayal of life lived in close quarters, of being lulled to sleep by the bumps in the road, of even the most fascinating of careers losing some of its shine when it becomes too repetitious or when you gaze too often behind the curtain, of bandmates becoming closer than family, of paring your life down to what can fit under your bunk, of losing yourself in the persona you’ve built and forgetting who you are at your core, were all incredibly spot on. I related to all of the band elements on an almost spiritual level.
When you fought alongside those whose lives meant more to you than your own, succumbing to fear simply wasn’t an option, because nothing…was as scary as the prospect of losing them.
What I didn’t expect was how powerfully emotional Bloody Rose ended up being. Eames did an impeccable job of reminding readers that the term “tragic artist” evolved for a reason and is generally at least somewhat true. Almost all art, in whatever form it takes, stems from an emotion so vast that the artist has to pour it out in some fashion or they’ll explode. This is especially true of music, and the songs that touch us the most deeply are those that are raw and visceral, like the artist melted the heart in their chest and poured it from their lips for all the world to experience. Eames gave us larger than life characters with absolutely tragic backstories that had shaped them into the powerhouses the audience expected to see. Through Tam, we got a glimpse behind the personas and were able to bear witness to the tragedies, which cemented my attachment to the characters.
“I was raised on my father’s stories, spoon-fed glory until I hungered for it-until I thought I’d starve without it.”
Speaking of Tam, I absolutely adore her. Her character development throughout the book was incredible, in my opinion. But what really sold me on her was the fact that she’s an actual musician. I feel like the fantasy genre is sorely lacking in novels written from a musician’s perspective. (If you have recommendations, please comment them below! I’d love to read anything with a musician protagonist!) I’ve read a few in the Christian fantasy subgenre, which makes sense because music is so closely tied to worship, but I can’t think of many secular titles outside of The Name of the Wind. I also love that Tam is from a musical background, and that she often is requested to play a famous song written by her mother. This song, “Together,” sounds like “We Belong” by Pat Benatar in my head. There was a scene where this song was magically amplified through every flame in a city and it was one of the most magical moments I’ve ever read. Outside of her music, Tam is feisty and funny and loyal and brave, and not content to just sit back and write songs about Fable’s exploits, like a regular bard. I really love her.
“There’s a whole wide world out there. It’s messy, and ugly, and strange…But it’s beautiful, too.”
I know I’ve already spent nearly a thousand words gushing, but I just have to mention how epic the big final battle was, and how moved I was by the ending. It was sad and poignant and hopeful, and I wouldn’t change a word. This War of the Roses was so much more epic than the factual British war of the same name. And while I’ve only really discussed Tam and briefly mentioned Bloody Rose, every single member of Fable was incredible and so well-written that I’m surprised they didn’t physically burst to life from their inked pages, like Cora’s tattoos raging to life. Cora and Brune and Freecloud and even Roderick were all so tangible, and I would give almost anything to sit around a fire with them and hear their stories. I could wax poetic about how Cora spins fear and pain into something magical, about Brune’s search for his true identity even when he would rather just live life not knowing, about Freecloud’s selfless love and how it bordered on addiction, about how Roderick had made a home for himself in a world that viewed him as monstrous, about Rose’s inner war between her thirst for fame and her need to keep her loved ones safe, but I’ll spare you those extra thousands of words and beg you to please, just read their story. And their roles in the aforementioned final battle were among some of the most epic I’ve read in my life. I read with my heart in my throat and tears on my cheeks, and I gloried in every sentence.
There is nothing, I think, so wasteful-or so pointlessly tragic-as a battle that should haver have been fought in the first place.
If you couldn’t tell, I enjoyed this book immensely, and I’m so sad that it’s over. I can’t wait to see what Eames writes next! I heartily recommend this book and its predecessor to literally everyone. Bloody Rose is fun and heartfelt and will have you singing “Don’t Stop Believing” at the top of your lungs. Or, at least, inside your head. Fable is headlining, and seeing them is more than worth the cost of admission. They’ll rock your world.
The bards tell us that we live so long as there are those alive who remember us. In that can, I think it’s safe to say that Bloody Rose will live forever.
I am so incredibly thankful to have made some wonderful book friends, and to be able to blog with those friends about the books we read. Whether we loI am so incredibly thankful to have made some wonderful book friends, and to be able to blog with those friends about the books we read. Whether we love the book or hate it, we’re going to share our opinions with each other. Often we polish up our opinion and make it as tactful as possible before sharing it with the world through our reviews, but behind the scenes we get to share exactly how we feel with each other, no matter how raw our viewpoint. Because of these backstage experiences, I know when a book truly blows one of my friends away, what book makes them struggle for words strong enough to express the love they have for it. The Sword of Kaigen is one of the best examples of this, and not one but three of my co-bloggers absolutely adored it with their entire being, so much so that they had trouble finding the words. I can’t think of a stronger endorsement than that. And I’m thrilled that their love for this book is now one more thing that we share.
“Better to die sharp in war than rust through a time of peace.”
Because my friends love this book so much, I have to admit that I approached it with trepidation. My interested was piqued by the setting, so radically different that the medieval Europe-esque setting of so many fantasy novels. The Sword of Kaigen’s setting more closely resembles Japan, and blended tradition and modernity in a way I’ve rarely experienced. The magic system has been compared to that of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and that is a solid comparison; however, there was a freshness to the utilization that made the magic feel original. I love the implications of fire and ice and wind being both a part of everyday life and also weaponized for battle.
“Most strong things are rigid. If you are water, you can shift to fit any mold and freeze yourself strong. You can be strong in any shape. You can be anything.”
This was a slow burn for me. When I first started reading, I had a bit of trouble keeping all of the units of measurement straight, especially those related to time. That being said, I really appreciated the fact that Wang didn’t use measurements I was familiar with because, once I caught on, these inclusions helped me immerse myself in the story. Also, climactic scenes happened when I least expected them, which was a fun change of pace.
“Power was born into a person and lived in the wordless depths of their soul. The strength of a bloodline wasn’t something you sang about; it was something the holder knew and others witnessed.”
I don’t want to really get into the plot of the characters, because this is a hard book to discuss without inadvertently spoiling something. However, I’m going to make one exception and talk about Misaki, who is one of the most complex, well developed, unique heroines I can remember encountering. Misaki is not a young woman. She is the mother of four, and wife to the second son of a very traditional noble family. When she married, she buried her past and tried to lose herself in motherhood, but was never able to connect as deeply as she expected. When unforeseen dangers threaten her way of life, Misaki has to decide if she’ll retain the role she’s been given or let herself reclaim her true identity. I was blown away by Wang’s characterization of Misaki, and the deftness with which she wove together motherhood and the other aspects of Misaki we gradually discover. Wang never lets us forget that Misaki is not the same person she was as a teen, either mentally or physically, and I was insanely impressed by how well-balanced she was written. I truly empathized with her internal struggle, and with her feelings of worthlessness. She was tangible to me.
“Wholeness, she had learned, was not the absence of pain but the ability to hold it.”
There is one chapter in particular that was one of the most heartbreaking, epic, brutal, joyful things I’ve ever read. I actually went back and read the entire chapter over again, which just isn’t something I ever do. There was more character development for a secondary character in the span of this chapter’s scant few pages than some main characters are given over the course of multiple books in a series. It was absolutely incredible. I cried. And got chills. And frantically texted Petrik and TS and Haïfa. I’ve never read anything else quite like it.
“Let’s be older when we meet again… Not just in years. Let’s be better, and wiser, and brighter next time.”
Another thing I have to point out is that The Sword of Kaigen is a standalone, which is such a rarity in the fantasy genre. It’s also Wang’s first novel outside of the YA genre. If you haven’t noticed by this point, I was absurdly impressed. I couldn’t have loved this book more. I think that anime fans are really the target audience here, but I think this is a book that would surprise and enthrall just about anyone who picks it up. However, do be aware that this book is unapologetically brutal. I had to take a break after multiple chapters because I emotionally couldn’t handle any more. But it was so worth it. The Sword of Kaigen will cut your heart to the quick. And even when you’re reading through tears, you’ll never wonder if it’s worth the pain.
A Vintage Christmas is a charming and timeless collection of stories and poems from classic authors. It did a wonderful job of helping me get into theA Vintage Christmas is a charming and timeless collection of stories and poems from classic authors. It did a wonderful job of helping me get into the Christmas spirit during an incredibly busy and stressful year. While each segment of the collection was enjoyable, I did have favorites. I really enjoyed the stories from L. M. Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott, as well as the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Anne Brontë. If you’re looking for something bite-sized and wholesome to remind you of the purity of Christmas before it was overtaken by commercialism, I definitely recommend this little collection....more
City of Miracles is a stunning accomplishment; it is a marvelous ending to what I now consider myYou can find this review and more at Novel Notions.
City of Miracles is a stunning accomplishment; it is a marvelous ending to what I now consider my favorite trilogy, and a fast-paced, addictive story in its own right.
“One should not seek ugliness in this world. There is no lack of it. You will find it soon enough, or it will find you.”
Sigrud je Harkvaldsson was one of my favorite side characters in both City of Stairs and City of Blades, and I was both incredibly excited and more than a little nervous to read his story. Sometimes when a side character becomes the focal point of the story, they seem to lose a bit of their appeal for some reason. That was definitely not the case here. Sigrud has a wealth of experiences under his belt, most of them not good ones. Those experiences have shaped him into the man he is today, for better or for worse. He feels that he really only excels at one thing: violence. Once again, he finds himself in a position calling for violent action, and he revels in it. Until he doesn’t. Sigrud grows so much throughout this book, and I loved seeing him learn from past mistakes and struggle with his past and who that past made him.
“But violence is a tool that, if you use it but once, it begs you to use it again and again. And soon you will find yourself using it against someone undeserving of it.”
While reading the first two books in this trilogy, I kept thinking that Sigrud reminded me of someone, though I could never put my finger on it. In City of Miracles we get to see into his mind, and I finally figured out who Sigrud is reminiscent of, at least in my opinion. He reminds me of Frankenstein’s Monster, the nameless noble savage who cannot seem to separate beauty from brutality. Because there is definitely nobility within Sigrud je Harkvaldsson, but that nobility has been hardened by a lifetime of violence. Sigrud’s tortured inner monologue also reminded me of the Monster, as both struggle within themselves to break free of the savage cycle in which they reside.
“To live with hatred,” says Sigrud, “is like grabbing hot embers to throw them at someone you think an enemy. Who gets burned the worst?”
Mourning has become a way of life for Sigrud. He has lost everything, both through the machinations of fate and the works of his own hands. But he suddenly finds himself in a role of leadership, and must help others deal with the same pain. How do you lose everyone you love and not let it turn you bitter? Or, if it does, how do you let go of that bitterness and move past it? How do you make that pain into a reminder to enjoy what you do have to the fullest, instead of letting it blind you to everything except what you’ve lost?
“What a tremendous sin impatience is, he thinks. It blinds us to the moment before us, and it is only when that moment has passed that we look back and see it was full of treasures.”
I don’t want to discuss plot here, except to say that the one within these pages was excellent. I was afraid going in that this installment would be lacking the mystery element that so drew me into the first two books, because of the spoiler in the synopsis. (If you haven’t read this series, don’t read the synopsis! Go in as blind as you can. Trust me.) And for the first third or so, it seemed that I was right. This book felt more straightforward than the others. But I needn’t have worried. There were definitely mysteries and surprises to be had. I love that these books were so unpredictable.
“A better world comes not in a flood, but with a steady drip, drip, drip. Yet it feels at times that every drop is bought with sorrow and grief.”
This book also gave me one of the most satisfying endings to a book or trilogy I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It was powerful and moving and just exactly right. I read it through tears, which I think is one of the highest compliments I can pay a book. The only ending I remember ever moving me to this extent is that in one of my favorite books, Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.
“Death, as you know, had to die to understand death. War had to lose in order to understand victory.”
One of the things I love most about this trilogy is how well each book can stand on its own. I would of course strongly recommend reading all three books, and reading them in order. But if someone were to stumble upon the second or third installment and read that first, not realizing that it was part of a larger story, I feel that they could still appreciate it and enjoy it for what it is outside of its counterparts.
“We are all of us but the sum of our moments, our deeds.”
I can’t recommend this series enough. It is a perfect blending of multiple genres. It is a vivid, potent, multifaceted story. It is comprised of rich, broken characters, who have the benefit of years instead of youth to make them more compelling. It is original and unique and moving. It’s a story that will stay with you long after you read the final page....more
“Time renders all people and all things silent. And gods, it seems, are no exception.”
I have a confession to make. I purchased this trilogy in February of 2017, even preordered the final installment though I hadn’t read the first two. I just knew that it was a trilogy that I would love based off of the synopsis. There is nothing in the realm of fiction that I love more than unique religions and overt philosophizing. While setting and characterization and plot and prose are what make a book function, the books that make me happiest are those in which religion and philosophy play a vital part. However, even though I was almost positive that I would love Bennett’s trilogy, I kept putting it off for some reason. Petrik finally convinced me to give in and read it, and I’m so thankful that he did. It was everything I hoped it would be and more.
“[She] had never realized until that moment what books meant, the possibility they presented: you could protect them forever, store them up like engineers store water, endless resources of time and knowledge snared in ink, tied down to paper, layered on shelves… Moments made physical, untouchable, perfect, like preserving a dead hornet in crystal, one drop of venom forever hanging from its stinger.”
The above quote perfectly expresses how I felt about this story. It had lived on my shelf for a long while, simply biding its time until I pulled it from the embrace of its companions, opened to the first page, and allowed it to blow my mind. The book was so much more potent that I could have hoped, and I’ve thought of little else both while I was reading and after I closed the cover for the last time.
(Before I really dive in to the review, please be aware that there will be some light spoilers, but nothing specific. These will be descriptions of the world built by Bennett that can be found in the synopsis or within the few couple of chapters of the book. Also, this is a much longer review than I generally write; I had too much to say to keep it short. Consider yourself warned!)
“The Divine may have created many hells, but I think they pale beside what men create for themselves.”
Once upon a time, gods walked the earth, performing miracles and leading their followers in the ways they desired to go. The Divinities that revealed themselves were: Olvos, the light-bearer; Kolkan, the judge; Voortya, the warrior; Ahanas, the seed-sower; Jukov, the trickster, the starling shepherd; and Taalhavras, the builder. Between them, these Divine beings led the people of the Continent and build for them a land of wonders. But the Continent wasn’t the only land in this world, and the people from other lands were treated as slaves and worse by the Continentals, and had no Divinity of their own to protect them.
“If we were only meant for labor, why give us minds, why give us desires? Why can we not be as cattle in the field, or chickens in their coops? … If we are but a possession of the children of the gods, why do the gods allow us to grieve? The gods are cruel not because they make us work. They are cruel because they allow us to hope.”
But one day, the Saypuris, as one such slave race were called, rose up against their tyrant masters across the seas. The Kaj, their leader, created a weapon that could not only wound but actually kill a Divinity. And so Saypur cleansed the Continent of their protectors, and the slaves became the masters. Not that they viewed their conquest as enslavement, mind you. No, they were merely stepping in to care for the people of the Continent as they adjusted to their harsh new world. For you see, without the Divine, the miracles that they had known their entire lives had no ties to the earth. As each Divinity breathed their last, every miracle they had ever created blinked out of existence.
“Whole countries disappeared. Streets turned to chasms. Temples turned to ash. Stars vanished… In short, a whole way of life—and the history and knowledge of it—died in the blink of an eye.”
Saypur has outlawed any mention of the Divine on the Continent, while they themselves are free to study the forbidden history of the people they conquered. But in spite of all the Regulations Saypur has put in place, the memory of the Divine still hangs over the entire world like a storm cloud. No amount of fines or regulations can erase what the people hold in their minds and hearts. And nowhere is this more pronounced than in Bulikov, the capital of the the Continent. City of Walls. City of Stairs. Most Holy Mount. Seat of the World. Bulikov was and is all of these things, and one has but to look at the miraculous wall encircling the city or the thousands of sets of stairs leading up to nowhere to be reminded.
“The city knows. It remembers. Its past is written in its bones, though the past now speaks in silences.”
“In Bulikov, every piece of history feels lined with razors, and the closer I try and look at it, the more I wound myself.”
Bulikov is one of the most fascinating settings I’ve come across in fiction. It’s a place of secrets and depth and confounding plurality. I loved this description of the skyline:
“Columns pierce the gray sky again and again, stabbing it, slashing it. It bleeds soft rain that makes the crumbling building faces glisten and sweat.”
Isn’t that one of the most atmospheric descriptions you’ve ever read?
One of the first things that struck me was how technologically advanced the setting was compared to the majority of epic fantasy. (And yes, I do think this fits the epic fantasy mold. I think N.K. Jemisin definite the genre beautifully here, should you care to read more.) I’ve never come across epic fantasy that felt like urban fantasy as well, but that’s exactly what this was. Here we have modern conveniences like automobiles and indoor plumbing brought into the city by the Saypuris, while many of the Continentals continue to live in relative squalor, refusing to accept technological replacements for the miracles they’ve lost. But Saypur honestly cares little for advancing the Continentals, despite their public stance on outreach. More than anything, they occupy their former enemy to prevent said advancement. They want to keep the Continent in their shadow, instead of ever allowing their roles to be reversed again.
“Your job is to make sure that the past never happens again, that we never see such poverty and powerlessness again. Corruption and inequality are useful things: if they benefit us, we must own them fully.”
Our main character is Shara, a political spy for Saypur’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But Shara is conflicted about her job, even though she’s amazing at it. She’s come to Bulikov without permission to solve the murder of a close friend. Shara is incredibly intelligent and easily overlooked. She uses both of these qualities to her advantage, sniffing out clues that others would never catch. I loved her as a main character. There was no whininess here; just quick wits and determination and subterfuge. Her physical appearance is utterly unremarkable, which serves to make her even more dangerous. Shara has experienced pain and grief and betrayal, which made her a richer character. She’s a treasure, and her mind was a joy to experience.
“Scars are windows to bitterness—it is best to leave them untouched.”
Of our secondary characters, the three most important are Governor Mulaghesh, a war hero who is counting down the day until her retirement; Vohannes, a wealthy Continental City Father who was involved with Shara in the past; and Sigrud, the brawn to Shara’s brain. Sigrud was hands down my favorite supporting character. He’s such an unapologetic badass. I loved his friendship with Shara, and his willingness to get things done. There’s one particular scene involving him that was perhaps the most epic scene involving a single character I’ve come across in any book, ever.
“The world is a coward… It does not change before your face; it waits until your back is turned, and pounces…”
While I loved the setting and the characters and the mystery of the story, again I have to say that my favorite aspect of the book was the religious/philosophical element. There were so many questions raised here. Within the confines of this series, did the Divinities create their followers, or did man create the Divine? If the gods of this world were truly Divine, then how could they die? If man created the gods in their own image, then were all of their decisions, no matter how brutal, products of man’s unspoken desires?
“Look at them! They’re praying to pain, to punishment! They think that hate is holy, that every part of being human is wrong.”
“Humans are strange. They value punishment because they think it means their actions are important—that they are important. You don’t get punished for doing something unimportant, after all.”
We as humans are as varied as snowflakes. What works for one often does not work for everyone. When opinions can be manifested as edicts, were does that leave those who don’t fit the mold? It leaves them cast out. It leaves them punished for being themselves, for viewing the world differently than their neighbors.
“Namely, I am ashamed that I was asked to be ashamed, that it was expected of me… I am sorrowful that I happened to be born into a world where being disgusted with yourself was what you were supposed to be. I am sorrowful that my fellow countrymen fell that being human is something to repress, something ugly, something nasty.”
I’m a Christian. I believe in one God, a God who created us to be unique and free-willed. I believe that He was here before the dawn of time, and that He is bigger than we could ever imagine. I believe that He is unfathomable, and yet He is an open book who loves us and allows us to make our own decisions, even if they harm us. I believe that man has used God and His manmade counterparts throughout the centuries as excuses to wage war on his fellow man, and to excuse his hate and small-mindedness. Bennett’s book opens with one of the best explanations of religious persecution and hatred I’ve ever read:
“You blessed us as Your people, and we rejoiced, and were happy. But we found those who were not Your people, and they would not become Your people, and they were willful and ignorant of You. They would not open their ears to Your songs, or lay Your words upon their tongues. So we dashed them upon the rocks and threw down their houses and shed their blood and scattered them to the winds, and we were right to do so. For we are Your people. We carry Your blessings. We are Yours, and so we are right. Is this not what You said?”
While I might not agree with Bennett’s worldview on all points, I have immense respect for his depth. The story he wove here is mindblowingly good. It gave me an incredible amount of food for thought. I’m already discussing it with my family and trying to convince them to read it.
On a final note, can I just say that Bennett’s prose is superb? I don’t usually include this many quotes in a review; in fact, I often forget to include any at all. But I have around 40 highlighted passages in my Kindle copy of this book, and they were just too good not to share. Not only am I excited to finish this trilogy, but I can’t wait to track down everything else that Bennett has written. I love how he crafts a story. I’m pretty sure that I’ve discovered a new favorite author, and am already trying to decide what books I’ll be moving from my special shelf to make room for this trilogy.
“Life is full of beautiful dangers, dangerous beauties… The wound us in ways we cannot see: an injury ripples out, like a stone dropped into water, touching moments years into the future.
I recommend this series to anyone who appreciates depth in their fiction. If you want a story that will not only enthrall you but will make you think and grow and question, this is the series for you. City of Stairs was so genre-defying that I feel it can be recommended to anyone. It’s a mystery, chock full of suspense and shocking revelations. It’s an epic fantasy, with a creative magic system and a lush mythology. It’s an urban fantasy, with action lurking in every alley. It’s a horror novel, with creatures that will haunt your nightmares. It’s a philosophical treatise, a religious dissertation, an anti-colonialism critique. It’s without a doubt a book worth reading, and I can’t praise it enough.
I buddy read this with the ever-lovely TS. Thanks for making an amazing experience even more wonderful, love!...more
“She was no longer writing about tragedies that bYou can now find this review and more at Novel Notions.
I honestly need more than five stars to give.
“She was no longer writing about tragedies that blew apart peoples lives, but about something else entirely: how dreams could keep hope alive and fresh.”
Getting this book was kind of a big deal for me. Okay, it was a really big deal. This was the first physical ARC I ever received. I’ll be honest: being asked to review this book made me feel kind of special, which was a large part of the reason I accepted it. When the book was delivered, I was tentatively excited, but I wasn’t going to hold my breath that it was going to be any good. And I wasn’t going to lie and say that it was amazing if it wasn’t, though I would’ve tried to soften the blow the best I could, because I hate to hurt anyone’s feelings, even if the author never read my review. But it turns out that I needn’t have worried.
I can’t believe this is a debut novel. The plot was great; it was subtle and vast and beautiful. The characters, especially Ashby herself, were tangibly real. But the prose is what set the book apart for me. The writing is absolutely stunning. There’s a blurb on the front comparing Wolas to J.D. Salinger, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, and Joan Didion, and I never at any point in the book felt like that comparison was unmerited, something slapped on the cover to increase sales. It took me almost a month to read this book, but not because of its length or a lack of interest on my part. I was savoring.
Some books are like popcorn, light and addictive and demands to be finished in one sitting. Some books are like a steak, juicy and filling and satisfying of some deeper hunger that only red meat can appease. Others are like some exotic dish that confuses your tongue but leaves it craving more, even if you can never quite understand the flavors. Some are ice cream, and while a spoonful or two may satisfy your sweet tooth, you can’t help but eat the entire carton and live with the regret when your stomach rebels. But Wolas’s book was none of those things. Ashby’s tale is an expensive box of rich, smooth chocolate truffles, meant to be savored with tiny bites and closed eyes as the chocolate melts on your tongue, a decadence meant to be stretched as long as possible.
Joan Ashby is a rare author, a genius of a girl who has always been a woman. She had wild success at a young age, but life changed dramatically for her after she met Martin, and she disappeared from the literary scene. Wolas’s book is about Ashby’s efforts to make the most of a life she never wanted, and her journey back to the life she thought she had lost. What would you do if you had to sacrifice the life you loved to fulfill the dream of another, even if that dream of theirs is a betrayal? And if you made that sacrifice, and even managed to love your new life a little, how could you justify the regret, and the guilt that stemmed from that regret? Would you hide your soul, and damn the consequences?
I can’t keep anything hidden. I’m an open book to any and everyone in my life, as you've probably gathered know from my reviews. I can be an oversharer, without a doubt. So while I can understand the need to keep some part of yourself private, I can’t understand the actual practice of that level of secrecy. I feel like a lot of trauma could be avoided by discussion. But I have lived a rare life, one straight out of a storybook, so I know a big part of my mindset about secrets comes from a place of intentional naïvety. But I still hold to the belief that honesty and transparency strengthen relationships tremendously. That being said, do I understand Ashby’s desperation for privacy? I do indeed. Even when I didn’t agree with Ashby’s decisions, I understood them, which I think is an incredibly difficult understanding for a writer to cultivate among her readers.
Something else I thought was wonderful was the fact that I kept forgetting that this was a novel and not a memoir of an actual author. As I said before, Joan Ashby was tangibly real. And Ashby’s writing was so convincing that I desperately wanted to go buy her short story collections. I wanted to read the works she buried, the works lost to her, the words she had yet to pen. If they actually existed, I would have bought them in a heartbeat. I want to read more of Ashby’s words, even though Ashby isn’t real. And even more than that, this novel made me want to write, to struggle and strive until I craft something exquisite from the same 26 letters Wolas and her creation wielded in such marvelous ways.
“But weren’t people ultimately and irrevocably lost if they abandoned those dreams, ceased trying to create a rich alternative world, for themselves and for others? Wasn’t the beauty of art found in the uncovering and discovering, in being taken, or led, to the line, the step, the curve, the color, the note, the word? Wasn’t the ability to start anew, again and again, the very definition of human endeavor?”
Without a doubt, this book is brilliant. Sometimes, brilliance can be intimidating, can make dreams fade and wither beneath its glow. Because what’s the point of trying to create if you know your creation will never shine that brightly? No one wants to hang their first finger-painting next to Van Gogh’s Starry Night, right? But sometimes, brilliance inspires, lends resolve, convinces shaky feet to take first steps.And that’s what Wolas did here, at least for me. This is a book I will cherish and reread, one I foresee being tattered when I give it to my niece as she heads off to college. It’s a book that matters.
I would like to thank Flatiron Books for sending me this unsolicited ARC. Though I’m grateful, the opinions expressed in this review are completely my own....more
I am an unapologetic Sandersonite. I’m completely in love with the Cosmere Brandon Sanderson has created, andOriginal review can be found on Booknest.
I am an unapologetic Sandersonite. I’m completely in love with the Cosmere Brandon Sanderson has created, and so far I’ve adored every story he’s crafted that is part of that greater whole.
One of the things I love so much about his writing is the size of the books, and the knowledge that he’s a prolific writer, so I never have to wait too terribly long for more of the story. And yet, somehow, this tiny novella is now one of my favorite things he’s written, right after The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. It was beautiful and profound and made me think deeply. I just wish there had been more of it. This is going to be less of a review than a “deep thoughts inspired by a story” session, so bear with me.
Shai is a Forger, a woman who can “flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic,” according to the synopsis. And she is the very best at what she does. The story follows Shai as she attempts an impossible task. It made me question everything I believe about what makes art worthy of praise and what defines a person or object.
Is a skillful forgery any less lovely and awe-inspiring simply because it isn’t an “original”? It requires just as much talent and even more attention to detail, along with research and study that the original artist never had to consider. King Solomon claimed that “there is nothing new under the sun,” so what constitutes originality? Art has always been incredibly important in my life. Should I not sing or write or play guitar unless I have something entirely new to say? The most we can hope for as artists is to say something that’s already been said countless times but in some new way. Because nothing is ever said quite the same way twice. There can be no perfect forgeries, not really. When you pour yourself into something, when you give your art everything you are, your blood and sweat and tears and heart and soul, there will be some originality there, in spite of what critics may say. There has to be, because you are an original. There has never been and never will be a copy of you, and thus everything you create bears the unique imprint of your fingertips, your soul, your self.
These were the tears of a man who saw before him a masterpiece. True art was more than beauty; it was more than technique. It was not just imitation. It was boldness, it was contrast, it was subtlety. In this book, [he] found a rare work to rival that of the greatest painters, sculptors, and poets of any era. It was the greatest work of art he had ever witnessed.
Without getting into the story itself (because it’s a tiny thing and everyone should read it. If you’ve never tried Brandon Sanderson before, here is a fantastic place to dip your toes in the waters of his writing.), Shai’s power comes from her understanding of the three different Realms: the Physical, the Cognitive, and the Spiritual. Everything exists in all three realms. In order to influence an object in the Physical Realm, you must understand how it views itself in the Cognitive Realm. Following this line of thinking, all things have some sort of self-awareness, whether animate or inanimate. This fascinated me. I’m a Christian, and as such I believe that God created us in three parts as He Himself is Triune. We are body, soul, and spirit, our own self-contained imitation of the Holy Trinity. Thus, in order to truly understand ourselves, we must understand all of our components. If I’m physically as in shape as an Olympic athlete but am depressed and suicidal, am I completely healthy? No! I have to have my mind and my body and my heart all working as one to be happy and healthy and at peace. Sanderson has taken that idea and applied it to everything in Shai’s world. Others in that world find this belief system pagan and disturbing, but their opinions don’t shake Shai’s views. She’s quite possibly my favorite character Sanderson has created so far. At the very least, she’s in my top five. She’s an artist who sticks to her beliefs and cannot be swayed, which I respect immensely.
There were so many other deep questions that vied for my attention as I read. What makes us who were are? Are we just the sum of our experiences, or are we more? Is a person’s personality and soul quantifiable? How well do you know those around you? Do you pay attention only to what benefits you, or do you observe people for their own sake? Do you admire art for what it is, or simply because it’s popular at this moment? Sanderson crafted a beautiful addition to his Cosmere with Shai’s story. And, though this is set in the same world as Elantris and not The Way of Kings, it helped me understand Soulcasting much better, even if it’s not quite the same magic system. There’s a lot to love in this novella, whether you’re already a hardcore Sanderson fan or if you’ve never read a word he’s written. Give this a try, and let Shai’s story leave her stamp your soul.
This book deserves all the stars in the Cosmere. And then some.
When I read The Way of Kings, it became one ofFull review now posted!
Rating: 6/5 stars
This book deserves all the stars in the Cosmere. And then some.
When I read The Way of Kings, it became one of my favorite books of all time. When I read Words of Radiance, it supplanted its predecessor, which I find to be incredibly rare for a second book in a series. I was understandably impressed, but while I was excited for Oathbringer, I honestly believed there was no way it could be better than the books that came before it. I’ve never in my life been happier to have been proven wrong. Sanderson absolutely blew me away with Oathbringer. I don’t how he did it, but I’m ecstatic that he did.
In The Way of Kings, we got Kaladin’s back story, which I loved. In Words of Radiance, we learned about the past that shaped Shallan. Here, in Oathbringer, it is Dalinar’s turn. His past has so far been the most painful to read about in my opinion, because the man he used to be is so vastly different from the man he is today. Something I really appreciated was the fact that we were getting his flashback scenes as he himself remembered them, allowing readers to feel like they were truly making this journey step for step with Dalinar. His past is both fascinating and incredibly disturbing.
However, as with the preceding books, Dalinar is far from the only perspective we receive. We get more of Kaladin, Shallan, Adolin, and others who I won’t list because I don’t want to spoil anything. One thing I absolutely loved was the inclusion of Bridge Four chapters, from the perspectives of various bridgemen. This was a wonderful gift Sanderson included for his fans.
Watching the Knights Radiant expand and grow and even take squires was absolutely wonderful to behold. Yet again, the Words spoken were powerful and varied and moving. I love the Ideals Sanderson has created here, as I think they make for incredibly powerful words to live by for both character and reader. But sometimes those Words feel impossible to say, and we’re unable to choke them out. I like that this struggle isn’t shied away from in the series. Saying the Words isn’t easy; if it was, everyone would be a Radiant. What makes someone Radiant potential is the immense pain they’ve experienced and their ability to rise above it, even as they continue to struggle.
There was an immense amount of character development in this book, for both our main characters and side characters. Some characters struggled with their identity, incapable of accepting themselves for who they are. Depression was battled, and it wasn’t always conquered. Addictions reared their ugly heads and refused to be ignored. Demons from the past plagued their hosts and laughed at the pain they inflicted. Decisions were questioned and regretted. Everything the characters went through made them feel so incredibly alive. Sanderson showed us raw, real people, and he exposed their pain and struggles to us. But he also showed us their triumphs, which were made all the more poignant because we witnessed the fight to attain them.
In my opinion, the central theme of this book was one of forgiveness and acceptance, mostly of yourself. It’s about knowing your flaws and accepting them as part of you. It’s about not hiding who you are, even if you don’t like who that person is. It’s about owning up to your mistakes and learning from them. It’s about knowing that you’re broken, perhaps beyond repair, and loving yourself anyway. It’s about people’s powerful ability to heal other people, and in the process lessen their own pain. It’s about sharing the pain with friends, because no one can shoulder a bridge alone. It’s about crying when you need to and finding a way to laugh through the tears. It’s about flinging your arms wide and letting the sun shine on your scars when you’d rather wallow in the shadows. It’s about accepting that life is hard and imperfect and unfair and embracing it anyway.
"Accept the pain, but don't accept that you deserved it."
This book moved me. I laughed and cried and raged. Its over 1,200 pages passed by too quickly, but reading it was an incredible experience. Yes, now the waiting game begins for book 4, but if the first three books are any indication, it will be well worth the wait.
I’d like to thank my marvelous friend TS for not only sending me this beautiful book as an early Christmas gift, but for being there to laugh and cry and rage with me as I read. She made an already incredible experience even more wonderful.
Upon rereading both the novel and my review of it, I stand beside every word written below. This iYou can find this review and more at Novel Notions.
Upon rereading both the novel and my review of it, I stand beside every word written below. This is a phenomenal book that has catapulted itself into the company of my very favorite books.
I was late to the Mark Lawrence game. And I was missing out. Red Sister is Lawrence’s seventh full-length novel, and the first in a new series entitled “Book of the Ancestor.” Reading his other trilogies has definitely made its way onto my agenda, because this book was fantastic. I am so insanely excited to continue this series.
“There is a thread that runs through all things, that binds each story to every other, a thread that runs through the veins and the marrow and the memory of every creature.”
If X-23 ever donned a habit, she would be Nona’s twin. Nona is perhaps one of the most intense children I’ve ever read. She’s as savage as Arya Stark, but far less selfish. Here is a girl who is different and deadly, but would lay down her life for a friend without a second thought. With all she had been through, Nona could have been cold and closed-off, but she is anything but either of those things. She might not understand people, but she values those she loves more highly life itself. And she is not a character who skates easily through life. More than anything else, Nona has known pain. She has endured things that would break most people; but they don’t break Nona, because she won’t let them.
“Every star, turning in the black depth of heaven, burns for no better reason than that humanity raised its face to look. Every great deed needs to be witnessed. Go out there and do something great.”
Although this book is without a doubt Nona’s story, Lawrence has assembled an incredible cast around her, most of whom are women. The majority of the story takes place in a convent, and the nuns here are unique, to say the least. At Sweet Mercy Convent of the Ancestor, a nun’s education is more well-rounded, shall we say, than most. Here, a girl must learn the arts of warfare and poisoning and far more in addition to their religious education if they are to become Sisters of Sweet Mercy. The Sisters here, as well as Nona’s fellow novices, are an incredibly diverse group of females. There are women young and old, fat and thin, light and dark, spiritual and physical and both. These girls and women grow and change tremendously over the course of the book. I won’t mention any names, so that when you read this book (because you definitely should), you get to meet the characters for yourself and make your own judgements without my interference.
“Those that burn short burn bright. The shortest lives can cast the longest shadows.”
A trope that will never get old for me is the “special school” trope. I just always love it with all of my heart. It all started with Harry Potter, as it does for most people. I’ve read a plethora of such stories since then, some better told than others. This one was very well told, and diving into the training necessary to produce such deadly nuns was enthralling. The fighting instruction, the classes with the Poisoner, the scenes in the dormitory and the cafeteria, were all so much fun. Lawrence did an especially great job with the fighting in this book, both in the convent and outside of it. But honestly, one of my favorite smaller aspects of the book was every time Nona woke up in the infirmary. Not because I’m sadistic, I promise! This was another of the things that reminded me of Harry Potter without feeling at all like a rip-off of Harry Potter. Whenever Harry went through something traumatic and woke up in the infirmary, you knew that everything was going to be okay. I felt the same relief every time Nona woke up under the care of Sister Rose. And those times were many.
“‘Tell me a story’ began every seduction ever.”
I’ve heard some mixed opinions of Lawrence’s prose, which was actually one of the reasons I hadn’t yet picked up any of his books. Some people love it; some people struggle with it. Most agree that it’s lovely. Thankfully I fell into the category of those who love his writing style.I thought it was beautifully written, and I respected the fact that he made writing decisions that weren’t safe. He plays with language and has fun with it. Take this quote, for instance:
“A lone chicken strutted in the shadow of the scriptorium, pausing to scrape and peck as if looking for any dropped punctuation.”
That sentence delighted me. The image he invoked there was just so fun that I couldn’t help but grin. Lawrence’s writing style is different, even from itself as he moves through the story. But I think that the beauty of stories is that they can be told in such vastly different ways, and I loved the choices Lawrence made here. I also enjoyed the setting much more than I expected. This is firmly fantasy, and yet the arrival of alien races and space ships has made its way into the history of world. Seeing science-fiction as a backdrop for a predecessor to a fantasy setting felt very original.
. I’ll leave you with one of my absolute favorite quotes from the book:
“But be warned…: a book is as dangerous as any journey you might take. The person who closes the back cover may not be the same one that opened the front one. Treat books with respect.”
I received an e-ARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own....more
This is the most satisfying finale I’ve ever read.
I just spent some time rearranging my bookshelves, because tFull review now posted!
Rating: 6/5 stars
This is the most satisfying finale I’ve ever read.
I just spent some time rearranging my bookshelves, because this series has become one I desperately want in my living room. I want it to be one of the first series people see when they walk in my house. It’s now gracing a shelf with Harry Potter, The King Killer Chronicles, and Tolkien’s Middle Earth books. The Faithful and the Fallen has truly usurped A Song of Ice and Fire in my heart and mind, and has relegated my copies to the study. Remember when I said, “Move over, GRRM, because Gwynne is here to steal yo’ girl,” in my review of Malice? That’s literally what happened to my bookshelf. GRRM has been deposed, and has lost the game of thrones when it comes to bookshelf dominance.
“To my thinking, though, it's what happens before death that's important. All of us die. How many really live?”
This is a hard series to review without spoiling, so I’m going to refrain from mentioning any specific characters, though I long to do so. If you’ve read the books and would like to discuss, find me on Goodreads and I would be more than happy to discuss them with you. If you’re just picking them up and want someone to gush and mourn with you as you read, I’m your girl. But in the hopes of convincing others to read this marvelous series, I’m not going to get into specifics so that I don’t accidentally spoil them for anyone. I’ll instead be writing about what the books, this volume in particular, have made me think and feel as I journeyed through them.
"You speak of truth and courage. Forgiveness can be the greatest act of courage.”
What an emotional roller coaster this series was. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Gwynne made me laugh and cry and gasp as I read. I had actual nightmares about certain scenes; not because they were particularly scary or anything, but because I was so emotionally invested. There were so many characters that I cared deeply about, man and woman, beast and giant included. There were twists that I didn’t see coming. There were losses that blindsided me and victories that made me cheer, startling my husband in the process. GRRM has become infamous for killing off characters who were central to the story, but Gwynne made me care so much more about character deaths, because he made me care so much more about the characters.
"All feel fear, both the coward and the hero, and all those in between... it's what we do about it that counts."
I don’t know that I’ve ever read about a war whose outcome I cared more about than the God-War. This was the ultimate battle of good against evil, of courage in the face of overwhelming odds as others compromised their morals, of love and loyalty pitted against greed and selfish ambition. This final book was all about the final battle between the Ben-Elim and their Bright Star against the Kadoshim and their Black Sun. I won’t tell you which side prevailed, but I will say that the final battle was one of the most brutal and intense battlefield scenes I’ve ever read. This might not sound like the biggest compliment but I promise that it is; I was never, ever bored. During a battle scene that lasted roughly 150 pages, I never started skimming or wishing that it was over already. I was engrossed and invested and completely enthralled by every chapter of this book.
Within this book, we witness loyalties being tried and tested. Sometimes, loyalty is not enough once a person’s eyes are opened to the truth of the one they follow, and those loyalties are broken despite the pain such a decision brings to someone with honor. Other times, loyalties don’t shift so much as they expand to hold those whom they thought would forever be their enemy. When love is mingled with loyalty, it can’t help but expand. Love broadens; it does not narrow. And the love in this book is palpably real. We watch romantic love blossom, the love between friends strengthen, and the love for one’s home define. It’s moving to behold.
"This is not who I am. One act of darkness, of treachery. But also many of loyalty, too. Judge me by the sum of my deeds, not just the one mistake.”
Once again, I just have to say that one of my favorite aspects of this series is Gwynne’s beautiful renderings of relationships between man and beast. The animals of the Banished Lands have big personalities of their own, and their loyalty to the humans or giants they choose to love is beyond reproach. And man, can they be vicious. Other series have tried to craft relationships between man and beast, and some have succeeded. But none have succeeded as well for me as The Faithful and the Fallen. I’ll definitely never look at crows and ravens the same way again!
There is nothing Gwynne could have done differently to improve this finale, in my opinion. Yes, I would have loved for all of my favorite characters to still be living when I finished the final chapter, but their deaths added a poignant realism that would have been lacking otherwise. But this ending was epic and surprising and emotional and never felt rushed. I loved how humor and heartache and hope all intermingled in the final pages.
So far, I’ve recommended this series to eight members of my family. My dad is reading Malice right now, with my brother waiting next in line. I’m recommending TFatF to people who aren’t even fantasy fans because it was one of the most phenomenal stories I’ve ever consumed. If you like stories about good standing against evil, you should read this. If you like your books with lots of heart, please at least give this series a try. I expect to have to buy new copies of these four books in the years to come, because I foresee them being tattered and worn from being reread and lent out. I have no qualms about proclaiming The Faithful and the Fallen my favorite completed adult fantasy series that I’ve read so far. And I hope that you pick them up and love them just as much as I have.
Full review now posted! Original review can be found at Booknest.
The best books in any genre are the ones that move you. And I just found a new one inFull review now posted! Original review can be found at Booknest.
The best books in any genre are the ones that move you. And I just found a new one in my very favorite genre.
“There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.”
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I’ve read hundreds of fantasy books in my lifetime. I’ve taken so many adventures through extravagantly strange worlds with casts of immensely varied characters on a multitude of nigh impossible quests. Fantasy is a genre that never gets old for me, because there’s no limit to what the human imagination can spawn onto a page. That doesn’t mean that every single fantasy book I read is a hit for me. I’ve had disappointments. But my first foray into the writings of Guy Gavriel Kay was definitely not a disappointment. I think I’ve found a new favorite author.
“Language. The process of sharing with words seemed such a futile exercise sometimes.”
GGK has an exquisite way with words. My favorite fantasies are always those with breathtaking prose, and GGK delivers that is spades with Tigana. But the lovely language is just a vehicle for the amazing story he has crafted. In a world where magic is very real, what happens when an entire land and people are torn from their name, and to what lengths will they go to recover that identity? That is the central plot of the book, but there is so much more to the story. What truly defines you? How important is a name? When does seeking vengeance cross a line and become not worthy of its cost? Where does the line between love and loyalty break, and which wins in your heart? Is a dream worth sacrificing not just your life, but your quality of life? Is it easier to die for a dream than live without it? There were so many deep questions raised here. Philosophy and religion are always one of my favorite aspects of fantasy worlds, and both were very well developed here.
“Words were power, words tried to change you, to shape bridges of longing that no one could ever really cross.”
There is such a beautiful, eclectic cast of characters in this book. And they all have so much personality and depth. Devin, a young man with the voice of an angel but the face of a child, is my very favorite character. I also loved Alessan, Baerd, Catriana, Alais, Dionara, and a couple of others whose names I can’t even use because they’re almost spoilers. I will say this, though: I appreciate so much how GGK made his characters gray instead of black and white. Even the characters who were supposedly “bad” had so many redeeming qualities. Except for Alberico. He was just a douche. But every character had understandable motivations, and it was nearly impossible to choose a side. I loved that. Because people are nuanced and deep and almost never see themselves as evil, and it takes a really great author to get that point across in his work.
“In this world, where we find ourselves, we need compassion more than anything, I think, or we are all alone.”
Because GGK was able to make the vast majority of his characters so sympathetic, reading this book was an incredibly emotional experience for me. Seriously, I was reading through tears for hundreds of pages. There was just something about the way GGK strung together his prose and plot that resonated deeply with me, and moved me more than most fantasy novels are able to. I was profoundly invested in the story and the characters and the fate the Palm as a whole and Tigana in particular. The ending was beautiful and devastating, and I’m still trying to come to terms with the amount of both joy and sadness it inspired within me.
On last thing I loved about this book: the importance of hope. Even when things looked dire, even when people were devastated or torn, there was hope. The worldview felt so bright, even in the midst of despair. I don’t know exactly what GGK believes, but I feel like he has to believe in something in order to create a world this broken that still has so much room for hope.
If this level of craftsmanship is what I can expect from the rest of GGK’s catalogue, I will be reading every book penned by him I’m able to get my little hands on. I heartily recommend it to any fan of high fantasy.
I have a new favorite book, and it’s this one! Words of Radiance was powerful and moving and epic in both size and scope. ThereFull review now posted!
I have a new favorite book, and it’s this one! Words of Radiance was powerful and moving and epic in both size and scope. There is absolutely no negative feedback I could give this book. I know I had some friends that were disappointed in how long it took me to read this, and the fact that I paused and read a few other books. But there’s a reason for that! When I truly love a story with all of my heart, I don’t want to the book I’m reading to end. So I’ll put it down and read something else for a while, giving myself a reason to stretch out my stay in the world I don’t want to leave. And that’s what I did here. This book is huge, even bigger than The Way of Kings. My “little” mass-marked paperback is 1310 pages long. Its basically a colorful brick. But it never felt like it dragged; in fact, I would’ve been completely happy with another thousand pages.
Since I was young, I have loved the fantasy genre with all of my heart. It transports you in a way nothing else does, in my opinion. And no series has ever transported me and enthralled me quite as much as the Stormlight Archive. The world Sanderson has built here is the most unique I have ever read. The flora and fauna are completely unique from our world. The magic system (like all of Sanderson’s magic systems) is vast and varied and well fleshed-out while still retaining an air of mystery, and the religion of the land ties into that remarkably well. All of the world-building is beyond compare, but what makes this series truly shine are Sanderson’s characters.
Some of my very favorite fantasies have focused mainly on the lives of single individuals. Harry Potter, Kvothe, Ender Wiggins, Locke Lamora, Percy Jackson, Thomas Hunter, Errol Stone, Karou, Meg Corbyn, Mercy Thompson, Bilbo Baggins, and many more (though fewer female characters than I’d like, since I can’t make myself include Katniss or Tris) have been the nearly complete focus of their stories, and I love that. But a lot of fantasies now are choosing to focus on more and more perspectives. Which is completely fine, I just end up picking favorites. In A Song of Ice and Fire, I prefer reading about Tyrion and Danaerys and Arya and Bran than I do Cersei or Jaime or the other Starks. Picking favorites just happens. But so far, that is most definitely not the case with the Stormlight Archive. Every perspective is fantastic, and every character carries their weight in the story. I never caught myself counting the pages until I got back to one of my favorite characters, because they’re all my favorites! And each character has grown so much since being introduced in the first book (which was amazing in its own right, but this one blew it out of the water) that I couldn’t wait to see what new decisions they made and how they changed. I’ve grown really attached to just about every character in the vast cast Sanderson has assembled. There’s determination, despair, romance, hatred, philosophy, stupidity, and humor. A lot of humor!
Another thing I love about Sanderson is that the man knows how to write an ending. The last two hundred pages or so were intense. There was an insane amount of action, character breakthroughs, discoveries, plot twists, new appearances and reappearances. Also, this book begins tying threads of the Cosmere together, which was SO MUCH FUN to read! There were threads in The Way of Kings, but Words of Radiance brought those a bit more to the reader’s attention and built on them further. Sanderson’s creation of the Cosmere is incredibly ambitious, and I can’t wait to see how everything comes together. Which is more than likely going to take decades. But with his work ethic and imagination, I’m excited about the future of the Cosmere instead of despairing of the long road ahead. And good news; the third volume of the Stormlight Archive, Oathbringer, is set to release this November, so we have another installment to look forward to soon!
Some books don’t hold up well over time. Others improve with every reading. This is a book that is firmly in the latter category for me. I liked this book a lot when I was a child. I love it as an adult. Maybe I’ve grown to adore this book because, as I age, the premise of the book and the lessons it teaches strike my heart harder. I’ve never experienced highs quite as high as those Sara Crewe experiences, and I’ve never suffered through lows quite as low as Sara is forced to endure. But, like everyone, I have experienced triumphs and tragedies. The more I go through in my life, the more I respect little Sara Crewe, a little princess if ever there was one, and how she handled everything both happy or horrific that life threw her way. She always carried herself as the little princess she pretended to be, whether dressed in tattered rags or extravagant riches. She shared what she had with those less fortunate, even when she didn’t really have enough for herself. Sara endured. And if Sara can endure, so can I. My story can be her story in the disguise of my times, hidden within the setting of my life.
“Everything’s a story - You are a story - I am a story.”
I don’t want to say much about the story, though I know it’s a classic and thus the plot is probably already known to anyone who reads this review. If you haven’t read this book, please do. It’s short and it’s lovely and it reminds readers that the way we view ourselves and the actions spawned from that view truly matters. It also reminds us to see others as people, no matter their station in life, and to give freely. Is there any better way to wrap yourself in Christmas spirit than by remembering to give unto others as Christ gave to us? That’s what Sara Crewe’s story does for me.
“If nature has made you for a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart. And though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that—warm things, kind things, sweet things—help and comfort and laughter—and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all.”
Merry Christmas. May you remember the true reason for the season. And if your memory should fail, let little Sara Crewe remind you....more
On a side note, this is the 100th book I’ve reviewed this year, and I’m incredibly thankful that such a title fell onto a novel that mattered so muchOn a side note, this is the 100th book I’ve reviewed this year, and I’m incredibly thankful that such a title fell onto a novel that mattered so much to me.
This was my first fully engaged experience with Steinbeck, and I was completely blown away. His prose was lovely in the way a desert is lovely; sparse but absolutely breathtaking in a certain slant of light. I read The Grapes of Wrath in college, but did so while reading 4 or 5 other classic chunky novels at the same time for various classes, meaning that none of them really stuck with me. But man, this book will stick. The ending gave me literal goosebumps, which is incredibly rare. If there is such a thing as The Great American Novel, I strongly believe that this should be it. I’ve never read a novel that felt more quintessentially American. The landscape described, the eras experienced, and the mentalities revealed all felt like an ode to everything that makes us American, which was one of the reasons it resonated with me so strongly. It just exactly captured our identity as a nation, both what we regret being and what we yearn to become. Not that this book won't ring true for NonAmerican readers. Not at all! Instead, I believe it would shed some light on our history, on who we are, and who we wish to be.
“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”
East of Eden spans various families and generations, but centers around the intersection of the Hamilton family and the Trask family. Unbeknownst to them, the Trask family is caught in a cycle of living and reliving a curse as old as time: the battle of wills between Cain and Abel. This curse makes itself felt in multiple generations, and in multiple ways. It’s the saddest thing in the world to watch, but was an incredibly powerful trope to develop into the central focus of the plot. If you’re well acquainted with the Cain/Abel narrative from the Book of Genesis in the Bible, there are so many little Easter eggs in the story to track down and keep your eyes open for, which added another layer of fascination for me. There are so many clues to look for, but discovering them for yourself is half the fun.
“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.”
This was one of the most deeply philosophical books I’ve ever read, which made me love it far more than I expected. The love I have for Samuel Hamilton and Lee knows no bounds. Their conversations on philosophy and Scripture and life in general were my very favorite parts of the novel. The linchpin of the entire story is the conversation they had about the Hebrew word Timshel, translated by some as “Thou shalt” and others as “Thou wilt.” But Lee contended that a third translation held more truth: “Thou mayest.” Free will is imperative to humankind; without it, we would be mere automatons in the hands of God. But instead, He imbued us with the capability of determining our own fate. That’s where Timshel comes into play. The words “Thou mayest” are incredibly powerful, as they put our choices back in our own hands. And that is the central struggle in the novel; becoming who you want to be in spite of the genetics or past stacked against you.
“An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There's a punishment for it, and it's usually crucifixion.”
I don’t know that I’ve ever been this impacted by a classic outside of C.S. Lewis’s novel, Till We Have Faces. It moved me and made me think and I think it will stay with me. This is a book deserves to be reread. It deserves to be highlighted and annotated and tattered. It deserves to be discussed and debated. Most of all, it deserves to be read.
“And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good.”
“Remember, remember the fifth of November; the gunpowder treason and plot. I can think of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”
V“Remember, remember the fifth of November; the gunpowder treason and plot. I can think of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”
V for Vendetta is one of my favorite movies of all time. For that reason, I never read the graphic novel that inspired the movie, for fear that it would fall short. Until today, that is. And I needn’t have worried; Alan Moore’s original story was just as powerful as the movie. I wasn’t disappointed at all, and this is now my favorite graphic novel.
I think of V for Vendetta as an alternate 1984, one where Winston and Julia fought back against Big Brother and won. It’s such a powerful story that I can’t really think of how to properly describe it. Bigots and fear mongers will always twist tragedies to their own ends, and will always seek to eradicate anyone who looks different or acts different or thinks different than they do, and will do their best to cow the remainder of the population into submission. In both V for Vendetta and 1984, those bigots and fear mongers succeeded. But V for Vendetta gives us something that 1984 does not; it gives us hope. Because ideas are bulletproof, and the Thought Police and Norsefire can only reach so far. They can beat us down and even kill us, but there is an inch of us they cannot touch without our consent. Even in death, that inch, our integrity, is ours and ours alone. They cannot take it, as they cannot take hope.
There was one thing that was added to the movie that I missed in the book: V’s Alliteration Speech. Here it is below:
"Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is it vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished, as the once vital voice of the verisimilitude now venerates what they once vilified. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose vis-à-vis an introduction, and so it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V."
Such a superbly satisfying soliloquy, sí?
One thing I liked better about the graphic novel was the growth of Evey. Natalie Portman did a wonderful job in the movie, but I felt like the Evey present in the final scenes of the graphic novel was stronger, harder, more fully developed.
Do I recommend the graphic novel? Wholeheartedly. Is it better than the movie? No. But they’re both wonderful and inspiring and worth consuming. Please, consume them both....more
I feel sated. I had high hopes for Warbreaker, and those hopes were far surpassed. I cannot comprehend the mind of Brandon Sanderson. How does he come up with such complex magic systems, layered religions, and multifaceted characters? Not just once, but multiple times in multiple different universes? I know that they’re all part of the same Cosmere, and I can’t wait for more information about what exactly the Cosmere is and how everything connects to be revealed. Fantasy is my favorite genre. I came to it a little late in the game, and there is a multitude of authors whose works I’ve yet to read. I’ve picked up books by Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks, and other founding fathers of the modern fantasy genre, but that was before I had any true interest in fantasy and I didn’t stick with them. I’m sure I’ll give them another try one day. But Sanderson grabbed me from page one of The Final Empire. And he still hasn’t let me go. With the rate of his fictional output, I don’t think he’ll be letting me go for a long, long time.
Now, on to Warbreaker itself. I don’t really have words for how much I loved this story. The magic system depended on Breath, with which each person is born. However, a person’s Breath can be given up to another without causing death to the giver, resulting in those who stockpile Breath. With a plethora of Breaths come various Heightenings, each of which affects the bearer different. The First Heightening allows one to sense the auras of others, the next gives perfect pitch, and on and on they go. Those who reach the Fifth Heightening are ageless, and can live forever. Those with a multitude of Breaths can also Awaken inanimate objects and Command said objects to do their will. Breath can even be used to Awaken and Command Lifeless, which are basically non-decomposing zombies. There’s another way to live on after death, however; if a person died a particularly heroic death, they could come back as a Returned, otherwise known in Hallandren as gods. But becoming a god comes with a price.
The magic system and religions were incredibly interesting, but they would have fallen flat without such an interesting cast of characters backing them up. Siri and Vivenna are sisters, princesses from a kingdom of grays and beiges where humility is their greatest calling. One sister embraces her duty, becoming exactly what her country needs her to be and training to become the wife of the God King, the ruler of her kingdom’s greatest rival. The other sister shirks responsibility and runs wild, basking in the freedom of her unimportance. But a decision is made that changes to lives of both sisters forever. In my opinion, these sisters are the backbone of the story. That being said, there is a host of other amazing characters: Lightsong, one of the Returned who doesn’t believe in his own deity; Llarimar, Lightsong's high priest who has enough faith for both of them; Denth and Tonk Fah, mercenaries with a sense of humor; the God King, larger than life and mysterious in his silence; Vasher, an Awakener with incredible skill, a murky past, and less-than-perfect people skills; and Nightblood, Vasher’s talking, bloodthirsty sword. Such a varied and interesting group of people!
I have immense respect for the work that Sanderson puts into his books. They build slowly, giving the reader time to become invested in the lives of the characters, but the last hundred or so pages progress at breakneck speed, with plot twists on almost every page. And the most wonderful part is that the twists are so unexpected! I’m fairly good at predicting the outcomes of books, but I’ve yet to predict anything written by Sanderson. I think one of the reasons is that he’s not a third-person omniscient writer. He never implements heavy-handed foreshadowing that spoils the surprise of the story. Sanderson even utilizes characters to explain his magic systems and religions instead of explaining them himself, which makes them so much more interesting. As far as I can tell, Sanderson is an author with a deep respect of the intellect of his readers, and he refuses to spoon-feed them anything. (Also, he's the most prolific fantasy author, in my eyes; he shows his readers love by working incredibly hard to get us new books as quickly as possible!)
One day, I’ll reread the other Sanderson books I’ve read up until this point and give them the reviews they deserve. In the mean time, I’ll add this to my special bookshelf where all of my favorites reside. Because that’s what Warbreaker is, without a doubt; a new favorite. I can’t wait to dig into more of Sanderson’s work. Stormlight Archives, here I come!...more
Sometimes, a monster is the least of your worries. Sometimes in fact, a monster seems laughable in light of your deepest fears. At least, that was the Sometimes, a monster is the least of your worries. Sometimes in fact, a monster seems laughable in light of your deepest fears. At least, that was the case for Conor O’Malley. When a monster showed up one night at his bedroom window, calling his name, Conor didn’t tremble under its gaze. Compared to the rest of his life, what did he have to fear from a monster?
I don’t want to say too much about this book, but it wrecked me. I have read books about heartache and situations without hope of a happy ending, but I can’t think of any of those books that dealt with loss in a way that left a weight in my stomach and a knot in my throat like this story. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. My intention was to write a long review, sharing my thoughts on the book with anyone who scrolled across my words on their feed. But what I have to say wouldn’t do the book justice. The best I can do is ask you to please, read this book. If you’ve ever faced heartbreak, read this book. Just know that Ness’s story is powerful and beautiful and devastating. It made me ache for a child made of paper and ink. When I read the last page I cradled the book against my chest, wishing I could comfort that fictional child. And if ever I have children and they are fighting their need to grieve, this is the book I will read to them. ...more
Perfect. Absolutely perfect. The only thing that could have improved my experience with this book would have been finding it fifteen years sooner. I wPerfect. Absolutely perfect. The only thing that could have improved my experience with this book would have been finding it fifteen years sooner. I wish twelve year-old me had known this book existed, and had been able to experience the life of Francie Nolan when we were closer to the same age. But even as an adult, I’ve found a kindred spirit in this scrappy little girl from Brooklyn, and watching her grow up and experience both heartaches and triumph was one of the most wonderful reading journeys I’ve ever embarked upon. Better late than never.
Francie and her family are incredibly poor, barely able to scrape by. Meals are sometimes scant, sometimes skipped. But in spite of hunger and cold, Francie is happy. She experiences life to the absolute fullest, wringing enjoyment from every possible source. Is she sometimes unhappy and angry and afraid? Of course. But she overcomes adversity by following doggedly in the footsteps of her mother, but with her father’s sunnier outlook on life.
Witnessing all the various ways in which Francie’s life changes, be they slow and steady changes or alterations that spring up fast enough to induce whiplash, is a study in the human condition and a child’s resilience. But what I loved most here was Francie’s intense love of words, and how that love manifests itself during different portions of her life. I have never in my life related more to a quote from a book than I did this one:
“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books because her friends and there was one for every mood.”
I had a hard time making friends with kids my own age when I first started school. I could strike up conversations with adults and even older kids, no problem. But I didn’t relate well to people my own age. Plus, I looked kind of funny, and there’s no one in the world meaner than kids. So I submersed myself in fiction for the first five years of elementary school. Once I got braces and grew into my ears and hit puberty, I developed friendships with most of my (very small) class. But, until then, I carried a book with me onto the playground and into the cafeteria every single day. So the magic Francie found in books, I found too.
It’s hard to explain why this book impacted me so much. It’s just the story of a poor girl growing up in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. But she was so real to me. And every character I saw through her eyes was real, even with their flaws, whether those flaws were real or simply implied by Francie. She’s fictional, but I love her. I love her family and her neighbors and the character of her neighborhood itself. Betty Smith did a fantastic job showing us Francie’s life through the girl’s own eyes, instead of just telling us about it.
If you’ve never read this book, you should. It’s a classic for a reason, and it’s one I’ll be revisiting again and again. If there’s a little girl in your life who inhales books like the words they contain are oxygen, please give her a copy of this book. She’ll find a lifelong friend in France Nolan. I know I did.
Full review now posted! Original review can be found at Booknest.
There was still something unfinished around her eyes; she wasn’t done yet. She was a s
Full review now posted! Original review can be found at Booknest.
There was still something unfinished around her eyes; she wasn’t done yet. She was a story, not an epilogue.
This was my second time reading this, and I loved it even more than the first time. Seanan McGuire created something magical with this novella. I’m not one to judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what attracted me to this book about a year ago. A random door in the middle of a forest is the stuff of daydreams, and I had to see if the story inside was as captivating as the cover. It was. Everyone who has every felt like they didn’t fit should read this book. It’s a love letter to dreamers and outcasts, and a declaration that everyone should have the freedom to be exactly who they are, without worrying about the disapproval of others.
“This world is unforgiving and cruel to those it judges as even the slightest bit outside the norm. If anyone should be kind, understanding, accepting, loving to their fellow outcasts, it’s you. All of you. You are the guardians of the secrets of the universe, beloved of worlds that most will never dream of, much less see … can’t you see where you owe it to yourselves to be kind? To care for one another? No one outside this room will ever understand what you’ve been through the way the people around you right now understand. This is not your home. I know that better than most. But this is your way station and your sanctuary, and you will treat those around you with respect.”
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children isn’t what parents and guardians are led to believe. The children accepted to the school have one thing in common: they all claim to have visited another world through a doorway that no one else can see, a world that is far more their home than the reality in which they were born. Each child has come back from their “adventure” radically changed, and parents expect Eleanor West and her staff to fix them. However, Eleanor has no intention of “fixing” these children, because she doesn’t believe them to be broken. She had her own door, you see, so she understands that every single one of them is telling the truth. Her school was created to give them a safe place and sense of belonging until they can find their doors again.
“‘Real’ is a four-letter word, and I’ll thank you to use it as little as possible while you live under my roof.”
I have never come across a better metaphor to explain outcasts than McGuire’s use of doorways to other worlds, and their habit of spitting out their occupants and disappearing, leaving their travelers scrambling about in a world that no longer fits them. There were worlds of rainbows and unicorns, of warring faeries and goblins, of monsters and science, of dancing skeletons and of death as a refuge. And there were kids who found their homes in each of these, and yearned for nothing more than to return. In these worlds they found their true identities, and the world they returned to cannot comprehend them, and thus cannot accept them.
Their love wanted to fix her, and refused to see that she wasn’t broken.
There were some wonderful characters here. Nancy, recently returned from the Halls of the Dead, and desperate to return, is our main protagonist, if there is one. Kade, tailor extraordinaire, was cast out of a fairy realm, and returned altered in ways that his parents refuse to see, much less accept. Christopher is biding his time until he can return to his realm and marry the Skeleton Girl. Jack and Jill, identical twins, have been cast out of the Moors, a realm of logical monsters. In the world they loved and were forced to leave, Jack was an apprentice to a mad scientist, and she’s probably my favorite character. Behold the sass:
“You must be a lot of fun at parties,” said Christopher.
Jack smirked. “It depends on the kind of party. If there are shovels involved, I am the life, death, and resurrection of the place.”
There is such depth to this story. What makes us strange makes us special, even if those differences makes the rest of the world uncomfortable. Never try to suppress who you truly are, no matter how ill-at-ease it makes everyone else. Be you. And McGuire expressed such a hopeful view of death in this story. Such as: “Death is precious. That didn’t change the fact that life was limited.” I think that’s a lovely outlook. Some might find this book bleak. I found it hopeful. It is an ode to misfits, and I highly recommend it.
You’re nobody’s rainbow. You’re nobody’s princess. You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.
Full review now posted! Original review can be found at Booknest.
Rating: 6/5 stars.
Yes, you read that right. Six out of five stars. This is one of theFull review now posted! Original review can be found at Booknest.
Rating: 6/5 stars.
Yes, you read that right. Six out of five stars. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. M-O-O-N, that spells phenomenal.
Going into this book can be intimidating. It’s 1153 pages in its complete and uncut edition, making it one of King’s largest books. It is also considered by many King fans to be his best work. There’s disagreement, of course. Some swear by King’s magnum opus, The Dark Tower, while others hale IT as their favorite book of all time, while still others hold up various of King’s other works as their personal favorites. I have yet to read The Dark Tower and thus might change my mind on this, but so far I’m firmly in the camp that The Stand is King’s masterpiece. Within this massive book mingle so many genres. The setting is an apocalyptic dystopia, but there is romance and adventure and humor and theology and satire and fantasy. If I could only re-read five books for the rest of my life, this would be one of those five because it gives its readers so much.
“Can you dig that happy crappy? Do you believe that happy crappy?”
There were some fantastically well-developed characters in this book, and they all joined the side of one of the two most charismatic characters of all: Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg. Mother Abigail is a 108 year-old black woman who has been appointed by God to lead the side of good. Randall Flagg is the dark man, the tall man, the Walkin’ Dude, and he is the face of evil in this brave new world that’s been wrought by Captain Trips, the worse plague to ever sweep the earth. With 99 percent of the earth’s population wiped out at the hand of man, those remaining face off as they try to remake the world, for good or for ill. Though Flagg and Mother Abigail lead their respective sides, their followers are just as well-developed, of not more so. Honestly, there are too many amazing characters to list. But I think that the star of the show is Tom Cullen, a mentally handicapped man who accomplishes more than anyone would have believed possible. Tom made my heart squishy with his innocence and his belief in his friends. Every character King crafted within this story felt special and real and relatable, but Tom shone.
One thing I really loved about this book was King’s decision to portray “good” characters and “bad” characters in such a human way. Those who sided with Flagg were still sympathetic and relatable, while those who sided with Mother Abigail were still fallible and petty at times. There were no perfect protagonists here, and no flat cardboard antagonists who are easy to hate. These were all people, real people, and I connected with them all.
Besides the characters, my absolute favorite thing about this novel was its religious commentary. There was a level of theological depth here that’s not present in most religious fiction. I knew going into this book that it was a post-apocalyptic war between good and evil, but I had no idea that it would impact my thinking this much. Take this quote from Mother Abigail’s thoughts, for instance:
"They filed in through the gate that Ralph opened and she felt her sin, the one she thought of as the mother of sin. The father of sin was theft; every one of the Ten Commandments boiled down to “Thou shalt not steal.” Murder was the theft of a life, adultery the theft of a wife, covetousness the secret, slinking theft that took place in the cave of the heart. Blasphemy was the theft of God’s name, swiped from the House of the Lord and set out to walk the streets like a strutting whore. She had never been much of a thief; a minor pilferer from time to time at worst. The mother of sin was pride. Pride was the female side of Satan in the human race, the quiet egg of sin, always fertile.”
See? That’s some deep stuff, man. And this book was chock-full of it! Characters who didn’t believe in a Higher Power at all were faced with His probability, and watching them struggle between the rejection and acceptance of that knowledge was fascinating. The theological debates between characters and within their own thoughts was incredibly thought-provoking, and I would read this book again just for that. But there were so many more facets to this story. I was actually even okay with the ending here, which is often lacking in King’s novels; I felt like this one delivered. I highly recommend this book. If you’re going to read one Stephen King book, I wholeheartedly believe that this should be the top contender. It’s a commitment, true, but incredibly worth it.
"The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there … and still on your feet.”
I first read this book 5 years ago when it was first published, and I absolutely adored it. The writing was stunning, and up unFull review now posted!
I first read this book 5 years ago when it was first published, and I absolutely adored it. The writing was stunning, and up until that point in my life it was the prettiest book I had ever read. I remember thinking that the Circus was breathtaking, and that I wanted to run away from college and live there forever. (As long as I could take my husband with me, of course.) The memory of Morgenstern’s writing has stayed with me, and I’ve recommended it to at least a dozen people since then. Because I had such good memories of the book, I was very hesitant to reread it. What if it didn’t hold up? I’ve read hundreds of books since 2011, so what if the book I thought was so lovely then wasn’t as lovely the second time around?
Thankfully, I needn’t have worried. The prose was just as poetic as I remembered, the descriptions just as vibrant. I could smell the caramel and popcorn, feel the coolness of the Ice Garden, see the brilliant red of Widget and Poppet’s hair and the revéurs scarves against the stark blacks and whites and grays of the tents and performers. Reading this book is like stepping into a work of art. If the book was a painting, the scene itself was lovely, but I’m pausing and taking the time to appreciate the beauty of the brushstrokes, as well. I could write of plot or characters or romance, but to me the whole purpose behind the story is the beauty of the setting and of the prose itself.
That being said, I can completely understand why some people aren’t fans of this book. For a book that claims to revolve around a magical battle to the death, there is almost no action. Very little actually happens in the book. And many of the characters are hard to connect to, because they’re written so prettily that they seem more like sculptures than flesh. I felt like Bailey, Poppet, and Widget were the exceptions, and were meant to be the exceptions. This Circus might not be for everyone. But, if you go into this book expecting beauty instead of action, I think you’ll find something exquisite.
“Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.”
This book has always been so special to me. I know that a lot of people read it as children without knowing about the allegorical aspects, and that some of these people feel tricked or even betrayed when they learn of those elements as adults. These readers were there for the fantasy of the story, and for it alone. I came to Narnia for wholly different reasons.
This review is really going to be more of an exploration of my faith and how this book impacted it. While I definitely am not trying to preach at anyone, you might want to avoid the rest of this review if you’re triggered by or sensitive regarding overtly Christian topics.
I became a Christian at the very early age of 6, and it was the hub around which the rest of my life turned. When I was in the early years of my schooling, this was how I introduced myself to new teachers and classmates and strangers in supermarkets:
“Hi, my name is Celeste and I have Jesus in my heart! He’s my best friend. He can be yours too, if you want. I can tell you how!”
Seriously, for years that was the first thing out of my mouth whenever I met someone new. I remember being around 8 years old or so, keeping a small Bible in my back pocket everyday at recess just in case anyone had questions about Jesus. It’s not that I was trying to be pushy or anything; I was just very passionate about Him and wanted to share that with everyone I met. I was also already a huge reader, and was rapidly outgrowing my classroom library. At one point my teacher started telling me about a series by a Christian author, which immediately piqued my interest.
“Imagine,” she said, “a world where Jesus was a real lion, instead of just having the title of Lion of Judah like he does in the Bible. And imagine that unicorns and centaurs and all kinds of other amazing creatures from the stories you’ve read lived there, and that it was a world where animals could talk. Now imagine that you could get there through your closet. That’s what this book is about.”
Obviously I was all over that.
The allegory of Narnia was what made me so fascinated by the story. Because my teacher had told me that Aslan was Jesus, I read every scene He was a part of with extreme care, looking for parallels. Remember how I said I was a huge reader? By this point in my life I had already read every Bible storybook I came across from cover to cover more than once, and had started trying to read my “grown-up” Bible as well, so I was already very familiar with the story of Christ. Seeing Jesus’s story told in another way like this gave it even more resonance and power in my mind. It moved me in a mighty way, and it still moves me as an adult woman who is edging into her thirties.
***From this point forward, there will be spoilers. Consider yourself warned!***
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
While I loved the book from cover to cover, the part that stuck with me so strongly was where Aslan gave himself to the White Witch in Edmund’s stead. We had just witnessed Edmund betray his siblings and Narnia and Aslan himself to the Witch in order to satisfy his selfish cravings. Edmund had made this decision with eyes wide open, knowing it was wrong even as he rationalized it within himself. He had just been saved from death at the Witch’s hand by the very creatures he sought to betray. And now Aslan, instead of returning the traitor to his accuser to suffer his deserved fate, goes to the Witch in Edmund’s place.
After the deal is struck, Aslan goes about His business until nightfall. At this time, Lucy and Susan are roused from their beds by a feeling of wrongness, and step outside to see Aslan leaving camp. Mirroring Jesus’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane, Aslan is accompanied by His followers, although in Aslan’s case they are more attentive. After He bids the girls to leave Him, Lucy and Susan witness an absolute travesty: the Witch has gathered her cohorts, and Aslan is allowing Himself to be beaten and belittled by them without defending Himself. He lets His abusers lead Him to the Stone Table, where they hack off His mane and bind His paws and fit Him with a muzzle. Just when the children believe things can’t possibly get any worse, they watch in horror as the Witch brings down her knife, killing Aslan where He lay. How could Aslan allow this to happen? The girls know beyond doubt that He could have stopped His torturers at any time, so why didn’t He?
“I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been - if you've been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you - you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing is ever going to happen again.”
Thankfully the story doesn’t end there, just as Jesus’s story didn’t end at the cross. Aslan had broken the Witch’s deep magic, which demanded a sacrifice, with an even older and deeper magic by becoming an innocent, willing stand-in for the accused. The Stone Table was broken in two, just as the Veil of the Temple was ripped from top to bottom the moment Jesus breathed His last. The idea of God loving man so much that He would die in their place, that justice might be served while grace is being given, is mind-blowing to me and is exactly why I became a Christian. Jesus and Aslan both had the power and love needed to lay down Their lives willingly, but death didn’t have the power to hold Them there. Just as Jesus rose, so did Aslan, and Narnia was never the same.
As a child I had a hard time relating to Judas Iscariot and his betrayal of Christ. But I had no problem at all seeing myself in Edmund. I could relate to him and the choices he made, as well as the reasons behind them. But what I adore about Lewis’s Narnia so much was his decision to show both betrayal and redemption in the form of the same boy. While Judas definitely had the option to repent, and I believe wholeheartedly that God would have forgiven him, we don’t see that in the crucifixion narrative. Instead we see Judas’s horror at his own choices and his decision to kill himself. Whereas with Edmund, we see his repentance, as well as his total transformation into the boy who threw himself at the Witch during the battle and broke her wand, leaving her much weakened and bereft of her greatest power. It’s truly a beautiful addition to the story.
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
There are a plethora of other parallels between Narnia and the Gospel, but these are the ones that still come to my mind when reading or even remembering the story of Jesus. I love Mr. Beaver’s comment about Aslan not being safe, but being good. God isn’t safe. Having a relationship with Jesus isn’t safe. He told His followers that the world would hate them because of Him, and we’ve seen that historically in the persecution of Christians around the world. Horrid things have been done in His name, but they went against everything He taught. I believe that those people who have used His name to excuse their hatred of or malice toward other people, who have killed and oppressed others on His behalf, will be told “depart from Me, you workers of iniquity, for I never knew you.” During His time on earth, Jesus boiled all of the Law down to two commandments: love God and love others. That hasn’t changed, and those who don’t follow those commands don’t know Him.
Lewis was an amazing author, and his work has had more of an impact on my faith than any other books outside of the Bible. Is this book perfect? No. The dialogue can feel stilted at times, and the gender roles are definitely outdated. (Lucy and Susan were given weapons but then told not to use them because “war is ugly when women are involved.” I obviously disagree with this. But times have changed.) However, it will always be magical for me, because it took a faith in which I already believed strongly and gave it this rich depth that has remained with me for more than twenty years. And that’s what it was meant to do. Lewis set out to write a fairytale version of the greatest story ever told, and in my eyes he unequivocally succeeded....more
I so desperately wish I would’ve met Anne when I was a child, because we would’ve been bosom friends. However, I didn’t first rFull review now posted!
I so desperately wish I would’ve met Anne when I was a child, because we would’ve been bosom friends. However, I didn’t first read this book until I was in my 20s, and I was really missing out on something wonderful. But better late than never, right? I’ve since read this book 4 times, and I’ve loved it more every time I’ve read it.
Anne Shirley reminds me so much of myself as a child, minus the red hair. She’s doggedly optimistic, though she can be incredibly dramatic when things don’t go her way. She’s always getting into scrapes that seem impossible, even though she always means well. She’s a dreamer and a lover of nature and novels. I was all of those things as a child, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of maintaining those characteristics as an adult (even the propensity for getting into trouble, unfortunately). Anne’s greatest gift is her imagination, and so is mine. I’ve visited thousands of different worlds and time periods through that imagination, and it’s one of the things I’m the most thankful for.
Anne adores Green Gables, the little farm where she comes to reside in Avonlea. She loves Matthew and Marilla, the siblings who take her in. Anne is one of the biggest nature nuts I’ve ever come across, and I love how she renames things with more “appropriate” (in other words, more romantic) names, such as The Lake of Shining Waters instead of Barry’s Pond. I can’t express to you how very “me” that is! When I was a little girl, I was always naming parts of our land and pretending they were far away places.
I have always been incredibly thankful to have been raised in the country, where my imagination could run wild every single day. I’m thankful for spring flowers, summer fruit, rambunctious goats, and mockingbird song outside my window. I’m thankful for summers in the pool and for wild thunderstorms as I go to sleep. I’m thankful for the nearness of my family and the distance of the rest of the world. I’m thankful for the freedom to take a long walk without worrying about my safety. And I see that same thankfulness in Anne Shirley. We are without a doubt kindred spirits, even if she is fictional.
Another thing I have in common with Anne is a passion for stories, both the reading and the telling of them. I know of nothing else that can transport a person and allow them to live a thousand lives instead of only the life they’ve been given. There is something magical about the ability of letters on a page to create something new in the minds of whoever reads them. Anne of Green Gables is no different. I felt completely at home in Avonlea, and I thoroughly enjoyed following Anne’s adventures (and misadventures) through her late childhood.
If I could reach into the world of fiction and adopt any literary orphan, Anne would be one of my top two picks alongside Harry Potter. I have to confess, though, I’m pretty sure Anne would come out on top if I could only choose one. She’s enchanting and lives life to the fullest, and she’s a much better person than she believes herself to be. I love Anne with all of my heart, and I can’t wait to share her with my niece. She’s a character that I’ll keep revisiting for the rest of my life, and I can’t imagine ever tiring of her. Kindred spirits are hard to find, but I definitely found one in Anne of Green Gables.
I’ve been struck speechless. I’ve loved Sanderson’s books in the past, but this one completely blew me away. I really wish I could give The Way of KinI’ve been struck speechless. I’ve loved Sanderson’s books in the past, but this one completely blew me away. I really wish I could give The Way of Kings a sixth star. It has supplanted The Name of the Wind as my favorite fantasy novel of all-time. Rothfuss is still high-prince of my heart, but Sanderson reigns as king. Kvothe is an amazing, beautifully written character, but he doesn’t hold a Stormlighted-sphere to Kaladin. (Also, how can I not esteem the sheer amount of writing we get from Sanderson? Rothfuss is a craftsman, without a doubt. His writing is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. But Sanderson’s work ethic earns him my respect and my gratitude.)
I tried to read this as slowly as possible, savoring every character’s perspective, every plot twist, every revelation. But alas, it was still over far too soon. I know that I have the second volume lying in wait on my shelf, but I think I’ll wait a month or two before I consume it, so as to give this delectable novel time to fully digest before diving back into the world of Roshar. I’ve read a plethora of fantasy novels, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across a world more unique or skillfully woven than Roshar. Sanderson should be applauded for that creation alone.
But that’s not all he gave us in the first volume of what I truly believe will be the greatest epic fantasy series of our generation, if not of all time. Sanderson gave us a cast of incredibly varied characters with believable inner turmoil and motivations. He gave us (yet another) unique, multifaceted magic system, backed by a similarly unique and multifaceted religion. He gave us a new view on the roles of women in fantasy, making literacy and scholarship and invention feminine arts. He even gave us completely original flora and fauna. And included sketches from the hand of one of the central characters! Is there anything this man can’t do?
I don’t want to get too into the character development present in this book, but I will say that, despite the strength of Sanderson’s world building, the characters are what made the story really come alive. He gave us Szeth, the tortured assassin; Shallan, the artist-turned-scholar with ulterior motives; Jasnah, Shallan's incredibly gifted but heretical sponsor; Dalinar, a lighteyed high-prince and follower of the Codes, which sets him at odds with his peers; Adolin, Dalinar’s eldest son who questions his father’s decisions but adheres reluctantly; Navani, the widow of the fallen king; Wit, whose shroud of mystery and intellect make him a misfit; and, finally, Kaladin, a soldier with the hands and demeanor of a surgeon, with shoulders bowed beneath the weight of the world.
There were incredible battles in this book. Incredible plot twists. Incredible characters as mentioned above. Simply incredible storytelling. I know this review has pretty much been blathering praise and little else. But I don’t know how to say anything more about The Way of Kings without giving something special away, and I want anyone who chooses to read it to be able to mine all of those treasures for themselves. But I will say, if you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, don’t let the size of this tome intimidate you. Every page was a jewel well worth reading. You would be doing yourself a disservice by not reading this wonderful book. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next. Thank you, Mr. Sanderson, for crafting such a beautiful addition to the genre.