Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

Information

Goodreads: Calamity
Series: The Reckoners #3
Source: Library
Published: 2016

Summary

David is facing the greatest challenge of his life.   His own friend has turned against him and now wreaks vengeance upon the world.  David will do anything to get him back.  Even if it means facing Calamity himself.

Review

Brandon Sanderson knows how to write a fantasy/action novel.  The stakes have been raised increasingly higher as the series progressed.  Now, in the final book of the Reckoners trilogy, things are about to get insane.  Not content with killing or saving individual Epics, David wants to go to the source itself: Calamity, who burns brightly in the night sky.  Teleporting to outer space to face down the greatest evil of them all?  No problem.  David lives on crazy.

Part of Sanderson’s appeal is that he tends not to pull punches.  Things are looking grim.  David and his crew are essentially alone.  Many have died.  They fully intend to die next.  Unspeakable horrors have happened and unspeakable horrors have been caused by them.  Sometimes, you see, saving the world gets messy.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell who is a hero and who is not.  As the final showdown approaches, David and the others are going to have to figure out who they are and what they are fighting for, as well as how far they are wiling to go.

The moral questions raised by Sanderson’s characters help to raise the Reckoners trilogy beyond an action story.  The point is not that things are explode–even though Sanderson’s action scenes tend to be pretty cool.  Rather, the point seems to be that everyone has a choice.  To good or to do harm, to stand up or to crawl away.  The story asks: what kind of choice will you make?

5 stars

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Information

Goodreads: Firefight
Series: The Reckoners #2
Source: Library
Published: 2015

Summary

David did the impossible.  He killed a High Epic.  But in the process he lost another.  Now he’s on his way to Babylon Restored, formerly Manhattan–to try to find answers.  He needs to know that Epics can be redeemed.  But Regalia, ruler of Babilar, is waiting.

Review

If there is one thing Brandon Sanderson knows, it’s how to write a thrilling fantasy.  Firefight contains all the action, drama, and detailed worldbuilding a fantasy fan could want.  Combined with its cast of compellingly sympathetic characters, it’s sure to keep readers up all night.

Firefight expands the world of the Reckoners, bringing them out of Newcago and into Babylon Restored.  A new setting,  new crew, and new villain all ensure that the story stays fresh.  This is no repeat of Steelheart.  The Reckoners may kill High Epics, but each Epic is different.  And Regalia, ruler of Babylon Restored, seems to have bigger plans in mind than simply lording over what used to be Manhattan.  It’s a race against time as David and his friends attempt to solve the mystery before they find themselves in a trap they cannot escape.

Fans of Sanderson will need no urging to read this book or start the series.  They will know his unique ability to create complex worlds, intriguing systems of magic, and plots with twists it is hard to see coming.  This book contains all that while also delighting in its ridiculous adherence to all the best tropes of action films.  It almost feels campy–in the best possible way.  This is one of the few series that I wish contained more than three books.

5 stars

Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson

EdgedancerInformation

Goodreads: Edgedancer
Series: Stormlight Archives #2.5
Source: Purchased
Published: October 17, 2017

Official Summary

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, a special gift edition of Edgedancer, a short novel of the Stormlight Archive (previously published in Arcanum Unbounded).

Three years ago, Lift asked a goddess to stop her from growing older–a wish she believed was granted. Now, in Edgedancer, the barely teenage nascent Knight Radiant finds that time stands still for no one. Although the young Azish emperor granted her safe haven from an executioner she knows only as Darkness, court life is suffocating the free-spirited Lift, who can’t help heading to Yeddaw when she hears the relentless Darkness is there hunting people like her with budding powers. The downtrodden in Yeddaw have no champion, and Lift knows she must seize this awesome responsibility.

Review

I get the impression that Edgedancer is going to prove its value primarily after I read Oathbringer.  As I was reading the story, I thought that it was entertaining but not necessarily as special as a lot of Sanderson’s other work.  However, the book made more sense to me after I read Sanderson’s postscript: he wrote it because he realized he needed to offer more character development for two characters who will be prominent in Oathbringer.  In one sense, then, I’m not sure I can fully judge this before continuing to read the Stormlight Archives, but I’ll offer a few thoughts anyway.

Protagonist Lift is, admittedly, annoying, but I think one of Sanderon’s strengths is that he writes a wide variety of characters, and they are often realistically flawed.  In Lift’s case, she’s a bit hard-headed and determined to believe in her own vision of the world, no matter what other people say to her or what evidence she sees to the contrary.  Part of this, we learn, is defensiveness, which suddenly makes it more understandable.  So while she’s not necessarily my favorite book character of all time, and we certainly wouldn’t be BFFs, she’s interesting, and I think a lot about her is very real.

Plot-wise, the book is fairly straightforward with just enough small twists to remind me that Sanderson is generally a master of taking me by surprise.  This isn’t quite as mind-blowing as some of his novels, but since it’s a novella meant to fill in some gaps of the main series, I think the amount of surprises is fair.

Mostly I appreciated this book for prodding my memory about some of the primary events that happened in The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance.  I’m probably still going to need to read a more detailed recap of the first two books before jumping into Oathbringer, but before reading Edgedancer I remembered practically nothing about the start of the series, so it was nice to get some reminders about what the major developments are and what a couple of the major characters were up to.  (So, yes, Edgedancer is going to be spoilery if you have not read the first two Stormlight Archives books yet.)

I purchased this because Sanderson is basically an auto-buy author for me now, and even though it’s fairly short and not 100% on the level of most of his other work, I think it was money well-spent, and I think it’s going to be worth having read before I get to Oathbringer.

4 stars Briana

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker


WarbreakerInformation

Goodreads: Warbreaker
Series: Warbreaker #1
Source: Purchased
Published: 2009

Official Summary

Warbreaker is the story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses, the God King one of them has to marry, the lesser god who doesn’t like his job, and the immortal who’s still trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago.

Their world is one in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital city and where a power known as BioChromatic magic is based on an essence known as breath that can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people.

By using breath and drawing upon the color in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be accomplished. It will take considerable quantities of each to resolve all the challenges facing Vivenna and Siri, princesses of Idris; Susebron the God King; Lightsong, reluctant god of bravery, and mysterious Vasher, the Warbreaker.

Review

Warbreaker seems overlooked compared to Brandon Sanderson’s other books (in a very relative way, mind you; people are definitely reading it).  The fact that people seem far more obsessed with the Mistborn books, The Stormlight Archives, The Reckoners series, etc. gave me a pause, however. I wondered if Warbreaker is secretly known to be less well-written than Sanderson’s other books, and I just wasn’t in the know.  However, after reading it, I can say with sincerity that the novel fully lives up to typical Sanderson standards.

With characteristic detail, Sanderson builds a wildly imaginative world in Warbreaker.  Here, color and Breath is the foundation of magic. It’s complicated, and the world hasn’t quite figured everything out, but Sanderson avoids bogging the story down with too much explanation. It’s actually a nice change from all the detailed magical fight scenes in the Mistborn series.

That leaves quite the right amount of focus on the characters and the plot, both of which are extraordinary.  Sanderson has a talent for inventing cultures that push things to the extreme, and here he introduces readers to a city obsessed with attention and color  that brings to mind parallels with the Hunger Games Capitol.   Contrasted with the bright city, however, is a “rebel” town that values modesty, moderation, anything but standing out.

The real show is the characters, however, including the gods that the city puts on display.  I admit I pretty much despise Lightsong and didn’t find him funny at all.  He seems to think he’s witty, if annoying, but his jokes really aren’t that clever.  I struggled with finding him a character to root for.  Many of the other characters grated on me, as well,  even as I appreciated the skills with which they are drawn.  Siri and Vivenna, the two princesses, resonated with me better.

Warbreaker isn’t my favorite book, mainly because I didn’t like half the characters in it.  However, it says a lot of interesting things about human nature, and I enjoyed watching various characters struggle with learning to respect the religions of others, and struggle with trying to follow their own. That, combined with a plot full of magic and intrigue, earns this four stars from me.

4 stars Briana

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson (Mini Review)

Shadows of Self


Shadows of Self coverInformation

GoodreadsShadows of Self
Series: Mistborn #5
Source: Purchased
Published: October 6, 2015

Official Summary

Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts.

This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.

Review

I love everything I’ve read by Brandon Sanderson, but in some ways that makes reviewing his books boring.  Each time I have the urge to say, “It’s good. Very good. They’re all good in the same ways all of his books are good. Let’s move on.”  I mean, if you want a unique premise, a complex magic system, detailed world building, dynamic characters, and crazy plot twists, you should check out Brandon Sanderson.  Any of his books, because that could describe each one of them.  Just close your eyes and pick one at random off the shelf.

So what do I have to say that’s new about Shadows of Self?  Frankly, not much.  The Wax and Wanye series isn’t my favorite of Sanderson’s work, but only because pseudo-medieval worlds are more of my thing than Industrial Revolution-type worlds.  However, I completely respect Sanderson’s attempt to imagine what his Mistborn world would look hundreds of years in the future and how the magic would develop, and the books are really skillfully written, regardless of my personal preferences for setting.

My one gripe is that Wayne is sometimes overdone.  He provides much of the comic relief in the series, and generally I like him.  He might be annoying to know in real life, despite his marvelous intentions, but he’s perfect for a book character–except when Sanderson just keeps pushing him.  Readers see a little more of Wayne’s serious side here, and I’d like to see more balance in that respect.  We can’t forget that Wayne isn’t all bad jokes; he’s human and also a hero in his own right, even though he sometimes gets stuck in Wax’s shadow.

I also wish the book would give a little more situating details for readers who hadn’t read the original Mistborn trilogy in a while. Sanderson tries, but I was still confused sometimes and felt I need to look up details online. However, this is a small thing since, if I were reading the series straight through, I’d probably complain if I though there were too many reminders of past events.

Otherwise, this book is about as fantastic as I’ve come to expect Sanderson’s books to be.  Sanderson also, once again, caught me off guard with the ending, even though I thought there was no way he could surprise me with Shadows of Self.  I’m looking forward to the next book.

4 stars Briana

Secret History by Brandon Sanderson (Mini Review, Spoiler Free)

Secret HistoryInformation

Goodreads: Secret History
Series: Mistborn #3.5
Source: Purchased
Published: January 26, 2016

Official Summary

Mistborn: Secret History is a companion story to the original Mistborn trilogy.

As such, it contains HUGE SPOILERS for the books Mistborn (The Final Empire), The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages. It also contains very minor spoilers for the book The Bands of Mourning.

Mistborn: Secret History builds upon the characterization, events, and worldbuilding of the original trilogy. Reading it without that background will be a confusing process at best.

In short, this isn’t the place to start your journey into Mistborn. (Though if you have read the trilogy—but it has been a while—you should be just fine, so long as you remember the characters and the general plot of the books.)

Saying anything more here risks revealing too much. Even knowledge of this story’s existence is, in a way, a spoiler.

There’s always another secret.

Review

As you can see from the official summary, saying basically anything specific about this book is considered a spoiler (I’ve seen bloggers agree), which makes it really hard to write a review. However, I’ll try to be as vague as possible while still being helpful.

I’m torn on this book because on one hand I thought it was fascinating to read–not necessarily because of the secrets revealed but just because it has a really great plot. Sanderson knows how to write excitement, and he doesn’t fall short in this novella.  It’s just a really good read.

On the other hand, I’m a little sad I read this because it really exemplifies Sanderson’s need to try to explain everything about his fantasy worlds.  I follow the school of Tolkien in thinking it adds something to a fantasy to have some things left unexplained, to believe there’s also something more, wonderful and mysterious, just back another layer.  Sanderson is all about stripping away mystique to prove to readers he has an explanation for everything, and I don’t always want one. However, I’m a sucker for anything he writes, so he could publish something titled “How Exactly My Entire Cosmere Functions” and I would buy it.

I’ve seen other readers suggest reading this only about Mistborn #6, which is what I did. However, I think I personally would have been fine reading it after Mistborn #3 and perhaps would have preferred that.  It’s been a while since I read the original Mistborn trilogy, and I would have liked to remember more of the details from that in order to read this novella.  That said, a general knowledge was sufficient, if not ideal.

4 stars Briana

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

Emperor's SoulInformation

Goodreads: The Emperor’s Soul
Series: None (Same world as Elantris)
Source: Gift
Published: October 11, 2012

Official Summary

A heretic thief is the empire’s only hope in this fascinating tale that inhabits the same world as the popular novel, Elantris.

Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead.

Probing deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan’s truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councilor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that Shai’s forgery is as much artistry as it is deception.

Brimming with magic and political intrigue, this deftly woven fantasy delves into the essence of a living spirit.

Review

As much as I enjoy Brandon Sanderson’s series (his plot twists between installments are unparalleled), he truly shines when he’s writing standalones. The Emperor’s Soul is a masterpiece, fast-paced and tightly written, counting down the days until protagonist Shai is set to die.

In a short space, Sanderson builds readers a world. One with magic and history and a fraught political system. Whereas in his series Sanderson tends to the extremes with details of world-building, here he tells readers what’s necessary—and it works. He focuses on explicating Shai’s Forging, as other characters ask her about her magic and her work, and brings in information about other types of magic or other characters only when pertinent to the plot. The information is amazingly complete without being overwhelming.

The story is also characteristically thoughtful. Sanderson explores human motivations, the origins of prejudice, and the definition of art. As Shai strives to craft a soul, he asks what it is that makes us human and how much we should be allowed to play with other people’s lives. Important issues and fundamental questions lie deeply embedded in this compelling and fast-paced tale.

This is the place to start for anyone looking to begin reading high fantasy. Sanderson is a skilled wordsmith with a breath-taking imagination. But he also looks to the core of human emotions in ways that will remind readers of J.R.R. Tolkien or Chaim Potok.
5 StarsBriana

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (2)

MistbornINFORMATION

Goodreads: Mistborn
Series: Mistborn #1
Source: Gift
Published: 2006

SUMMARY

Years ago a young man set out on a quest to save the land from darkness.  He rose in power as the Lord Ruler, but his world became one of darkness and ash.  Now the skaa work as slaves under the nobles,  who alone possess the genes that can impart the magical skills of Allomancy.  Kelsier, a skaa  thief escaped from a life of labor, dares to challenge the might of the Lord Ruler.  He, after all, as a result of his mixed heritage, possesses all the skills of a Mistborn.  But, if his plan is to succeed, he will also need the help of an unlikely ally–a young street urchin who does not yet know the power she wields.

REVIEW

Briana has been pressing me to read Sanderson’s work for a long time (You can check out Briana’s review of Mistborn here.) and, now that I have, I am sorry I waited so long.  From the opening pages the characters, the plot, and the world grabbed me, promising a rare fantasy adventure–the kind that makes you wish you could live in that world.

Mistborn seems to rely on the old standbys of fantasy, from its thieving protagonists to its tyrannical ruler whose dark reign must end.   Sanderson, however, vividly reworks these tropes, making his characters come alive and his plot seem distinct.  Each character possesses a background to give depth and motivation, so that even a girl like Vin, who grew up on the streets and believes everyone a possible threat, seems real and nuanced, rather than a type.  And the Lord Ruler is no ordinary Dark Lord with a magical amulet that must be broken.  Instead,  he is a god, an apparent immortal who controls the bloodlines and the economy of his realm to maintain power.  To defeat him, Kelsier and his band will have to do more than kill him.  They will have to stage a successful rebellion focused on crippling the economy, infiltrating the nobility, and immobilizing the army .

It can be rare to find a fantasy that goes beyond the buildup to a great battle or war and instead focuses on issues of supplying troops and gathering intelligence, so immediately Mistborn presents itself as more thoughtful read.  This is not simply a question of overthrowing an undeniable evil.  Lives and the political stability of an empire are at stake, and Kelsier and his crew must ask themselves if the costs will be worth the reward.

Sanderson’s world is rich in detailed politics, economics, and geography, but it goes beyond that to present a system of magic where all the rules are laid clear.  Some may find the extended fight scenes or the lengthy explanations tiresome, but I revelled in the information; Sanderson has evidently thought through this to make it as realistic as possible.  Want to know why an Allomancer can push or pull metal but not the metal in one’s body?  That’s covered.  Wondering how Allomancers can distinguish a “pushing” or a “pulling” metal.  That’s explained, too.  Finding gaps in the logic is unusually difficult.

Aside from not enjoying the prose very much and feeling that the romance lacked believability and spark, I find that the only problem I have with this book is that it ends.  I am eager to rejoin Vin and her friends as soon as possible and to follow the political intrigue once more.

5 StarsKrysta 64

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

FirefightInformation

Goodreads: Firefight
Series: Reckoners #2
Source: Library
Published: January 1, 2015

Official Summary

They told David it was impossible–that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet, Steelheart–invincible, immortal, unconquerable–is dead. And he died by David’s hand.

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life more simple. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And there’s no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs.

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. And while entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble, David’s willing to risk it. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic–Firefight. And he’s willing to go on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

Review

Firefight is a breathtaking sequel to Steelheart.  After defeating Steelheart and achieving his lifelong dream of vengeance, Davis is unsure what he’s going to do with his life–until he’s presented with the opportunity to free Babylon Restored (old Manhattan) from a similar Epic tyrant.

Imaginative as all of Sanderson’s works, Firefight takes readers through city as unique as Newcago was in Steelheart.  One of David’s first challenges is adjusting to a life so different from the one of conformity, fear, and lifeless steel he lived in while growing up.  In Babylon Restored, David has to learn to fight Epics out in the open, blending in with the crowds instead of hiding underground.  He has to learn to channel his passion and use his brain as much as his guns.  Seeing David take on a new environment will be a pleasure for fans of Steelheart.

The ever-expanding world-building also means the creation of new Epics.  Sanderson introduces a plethora of Epics with a bewildering array of powers, limitations, and weaknesses.  While most of his inventions are fascinating, some of the Epics’ descriptions seem little too convenient for the Reckoner teams and a little too detailed for readers to take seriously.  When someone’s powers are effective within a specific range at specific times of day under specific circumstances and from specific angles but not from others…it seems a little much.

There are times Sanderson’s attention to detail is impressive–but there are also times it is tedious.  Some of the action scenes are also drawn out.  In series like Mistborn, it seems excusable that Sanderson would be very explicit about how the magic he invented would work during a fight scene.  In Firefight, Sanderson invents some technology he needs to explain, but it just isn’t as complicated as the world-building in some of his other series and doesn’t warrant the same length of description.  I ended up skimming a lot of the fight scenes to get to what I considered the “real action,” the overarching plot.

Other than these two issues, I enjoyed Firefight immensely.  It includes everything right about a Sanderson novel: action, wild twists, incredible character development.  I cannot wait to read Calamity, when it seems as if the stakes for David and the Reckoners will be higher than ever.

4 stars Briana

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

words of radianceInformation

Goodreads: Words of Radiance
Series: The Stormlight Archive #2
Source: Purchased
Published: March 4, 2014

Official Summary

Six years ago, the Assassin in White, a hireling of the inscrutable Parshendi, assassinated the Alethi king on the very night a treaty between men and Parshendi was being celebrated. So began the Vengeance Pact among the highprinces of Alethkar and the War of Reckoning against the Parshendi.

Now the Assassin is active again, murdering rulers all over the world of Roshar, using his baffling powers to thwart every bodyguard and elude all pursuers. Among his prime targets is Highprince Dalinar, widely considered the power behind the Alethi throne. His leading role in the war would seem reason enough, but the Assassin’s master has much deeper motives.
Expected by his enemies to die the miserable death of a military slave, Kaladin survived to be given command of the royal bodyguards, a controversial first for a low-status “darkeyes.” Now he must protect the king and Dalinar from every common peril as well as the distinctly uncommon threat of the Assassin, all while secretly struggling to master remarkable new powers that are somehow linked to his honorspren, Syl.

Brilliant but troubled Shallan strives along a parallel path. Despite being broken in ways she refuses to acknowledge, she bears a terrible burden: to somehow prevent the return of the legendary Voidbringers and the civilization-ending Desolation that will follow. The secrets she needs can be found at the Shattered Plains, but just arriving there proves more difficult than she could have imagined.

Meanwhile, at the heart of the Shattered Plains, the Parshendi are making an epochal decision. Hard pressed by years of Alethi attacks, their numbers ever shrinking, they are convinced by their war leader, Eshonai, to risk everything on a desperate gamble with the very supernatural forces they once fled. The possible consequences for Parshendi and humans alike, indeed, for Roshar itself, are as dangerous as they are incalculable.

Review

Words of Radiance continues to immerse readers in the world of Roshar that Sanderson set up in The Way of Kings.  All the best characters are back and, even better, their paths truly begin to converge.  This is really just the beginning but it is clear that eventually, the most powerful people from across the world will meet and things are going to be epic–if the world doesn’t end first.

I will admit that the opening of Words of Radiance is a bit slow.  Sanderson loves to describe things in exquisite detail, and while that means his world building and magical systems are incredibly well-imagined, it also means the story can get bogged down while Sanderson tries to perfectly set things up.  I also found Kaladin–my favorite character from The Way of Kings (after Syl?)–to be insufferable for the first half of this novel.  His determination to be perpetually disgruntled is certainly part of his character development, but it also reminded me a lot of Harry in Order of the Phoenix, lots of irrational anger and unnecessary angst.  Thankfully, Kaladin eventually pulls himself together.  The other characters also continue to find themselves and transform.

And, in the end, the characters are really the main draw.  The overarching plot certainly progresses–but it is also difficult to judge what it is progressing toward.  The Stormlight Archive is a projected ten-book series, and from what readers know now, I can really only predict the plot for two additional books.  Sanderson, of course, is a master of pulling off twist endings (see the Mistborn trilogy), so I’m certain he’ll eventually pull off something wild and unexpected. For now, however, all I know is that the Voidbringers will probably come back and there is no way Dalinar and company are going to spend eight books trying to defeat them.  The journey of this series is fascinating, but it’s hard to feel as if you’re really progressing if you have no idea what the end goal is.

I will, of course, continue to read the series anyway.  I love the characters and the world and am dying for Sanderson to surprise me!  Sanderson usually shines with the structure of his writing, and I’m sure I’ll be impressed once I figure out what the structure of the Stormlight Archive is.  I can’t wait until 2016 and Book 3!

Briana