Review of “The Bands of Mourning” (Mistborn #6, The Alloy Era/Wax and Wayne #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson, Brandon. The Bands of Mourning. New York: Tor, 2016.

Hardcover | $27.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0765378576 | 446 pages | Fantasy

4 stars

The Bands of Mourning once again leaves me a bit conflicted regarding this era of Mistborn. Like with my recent read of Elantris, in spite of any shortcomings, I found the writing consistently engaging, to the point where I actually binge read it from early afternoon into the evening, but the flaws with some other aspects still felt a little lacking.

That’s not to say there aren’t other good consistent elements, and some improvements from the last two books. I still adore Wayne and his quirkiness, and it’s a shame that he’s so well-developed, only to essentially be playing second fiddle.

One of the things I also enjoyed was seeing greater development to Steris’s character, and I like that the development does feel natural in the sense of stripping away the layers of the stiff, somewhat bland character we were initially introduced to and seeing some of her awkwardness, which is balanced perfectly by her loyalty to those she’s close to.

And while there were some connections to Era One established in the prior two books, I think it was great to kind of see the way characters like Vin and Elend have entered the mythos of Scadrial hundreds of years later, especially as this is something that the characters talk about more openly in this one.

I do still feel like Waxilium isn’t that well fleshed-out, still adhering very much to very specific Western stereotypes for his character, which, even without really being exposed to that genre, still feels a bit much three books in.

On the whole, this is still a fun adventure in the world of Mistborn, albeit flawed, and I hope that, given the way Sanderson has worked to develop Steris this time around, he will make some effort to give some greater originality and depth to Waxilium in the final book. However, I do continue to recommend era two to fans of Sanderson who are looking for a fun Western-esque fantasy adventure.

Review of “Elantris” by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson, Brandon. Elantris. New York: Tor, 2005.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0765350374 | 638 pages | Fantasy

3.5 stars

Full disclosure: I had no intention of reading Elantris virtually right after finishing Oathbringer. I did plan to read it relatively soon, but that fell through when the book I intended to read did not hold my attention and I decided I may as well go back to Elantris, since I had put it off for a long time, due in part to warnings about the difference in Sanderson’s style and the fact that it isn’t quite up to par with his other work.

And it isn’t, but I don’t hold it against him, as it is his first (published) book, and debuts can be hit-or-miss, especially when you go back to them after having read the author’s more recent work. That said, one of the things that remains consistent is his approachable writing style that almost overrides the shortcomings, or at least made them easier to deal with. And it was also interesting to have the action start pretty much right away, and while it does mean there are some laggy moments here and there, it remains engaging, particularly in the second half.

However, I did find the characters took a bit of time to become engaged with. Hrathen was the one who stood out right away, because of the way he adds a complex, somewhat twisted religious aspect in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen as the focal point in epic fantasy.

It took a bit longer to get into the arcs for both Sarene and Raoden, as they felt a bit more bland. However, they did grow on me, and they at least were involved in some pretty cool things, like Sarene working to bring down a corrupt monarchy and Raoden working to discover the secret of Elantris’ fall.

This is overall a decent book, and one I think can be built on to explore more of the world, and since he plans to (eventually) release a sequel to this one, I’m curious as to where it can go from here. That said, I think any reluctant Sanderson fan should try this and see what they think for themselves.

Review of “Oathbringer” (The Stormlight Archive #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson, Brandon. Oathbringer. New York: Tor, 2017.

Hardcover | $34.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0765326379 | 1242 pages | Fantasy

4 stars

Oathbringer‘s premise excited me quite a bit, given that Dalinar is this book’s focal point, and there was a lot hinted about his past, and this is where it all comes to the forefront. And I think it’s fabulous how his background is written, especially given that it shows how dynamic his character is, given that a lot of the problems he dealt with happened in his past.

There were a couple things that did keep me from enjoying it quite as much as the prior books. One of them was the POV changes for the final battle, something I’ve noticed others also didn’t like. While I’ve managed to kind of work with some of the POV changes in the prior books and even earlier in this one, especially with the more minor characters, as their relevance quickly demonstrated itself, it was quite jarring to jump from head to head in that moment.

I also feel like the romantic element was not well developed, and I hope that at least part of it was intentional with it being addressed in the next book. While I’m not always the biggest fan of a love triangle, I expected there to be more payoff than Kaladin saying that he didn’t really love Shallan by the end of this book. And while I do feel the relationship development thus far for Shallan and Adolin was compelling, I was shocked that they were married already by the end of this one, given that it’s increasingly obvious that they both have personal issues, especially Shallan with the increased hints of mental illness.

However, Sanderson continues to develop the world in such a compelling way, especially in this book as we get more insight into the past of not just Dalinar but of some of the major events that have influenced the present storyline. I also recommend anyone who loves an epic fantasy with depth pick this one up.

Review of “Shadows of Self” (Mistborn #5, The Alloy Era/Wax and Wayne #2) by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson, Brandon. Shadows of Self. New York: Tor, 2015.

Hardcover | $27.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0765378552 | 383 pages | Fantasy

4 stars

Shadows of Self continues the fun that was introduced in its predecessor, The Alloy of Law to great effect. While I still believe this series definitely pales in comparison to some of Sanderson’s other work, it doesn’t have to be another great epic masterpiece, especially considering he already is working on that with the Stormlight Archive. And one of the things I continue to love about this era is the continued development of the world and how it feels organic to what you would expect it would feel like to take the world of Scadrial and advance it several hundred years, allowing the magic to evolve as the technology does, in a way that still feels faithful to the original series, but has enough new concepts to keep things interesting.

I would say that the character development is still the weakest part of the series thus far, with some overcompensation to establish the importance of characters like Marasi, whose role wasn’t fully fleshed out in the prior book, and Wax not really having a ton of character growth. But Wayne remains the most endearing character, with a balance of his quirky charm and the exploration of his dark past. I can only hope that, with the next book and going forward to the book in progress, that there is more improvement in making all the main characters feel as rounded and developed as the characters of the original trilogy.

On the whole, I enjoyed this one, although as with the prior book, more for the fun of further exploring the world than anything else. I will repeat what I said in my last review that I do recommend this to some of the Sanderson fans who may be a little reluctant to try it.

Review of “Words of Radiance” (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson, Brandon. Words of Radiance. New York: Tor, 2014.

Hardcover | $34.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0765326362 | 1087 pages | Fantasy

5 stars

Words of Radiance indeed. Despite his approachable writing style, Brandon Sanderson once again manages to create a masterful epic fantasy with an intricate magic system and an even more intricate plot, slowly bringing together the threads he established not only in the prior book, but also beginning to establish hints at the interconnectivity of the Cosmere as a universe itself (although it still remains subtle for the moment).

I also like that, while he does have this large cast, he is cycling through them and giving each a time to shine and focus on their backstories, first with Kaladin in book one, and this time with Shallan in book two. And I was deeply moved by what was revealed about Shallan’s past and what she herself suffered, leading to her ultimate breaking point.

But there is still some great growth for other characters. Kaladin in particular was subject to two major revelations, one relating to a connection he has with Shallan, and I like how that continued to illustrate the trauma he has from his own past, in the midst of him developing this friendship/possible love relationship with Shallan. And generally, while some of the other characters I felt a bit less connected to than others, I really liked the way they major characters were fleshed out, especially through their relationships with one another, like Dalinar and Kaladin’s, which grew despite Kaladin’s animosity toward lighteyed people. And Adolin in particular was one I quite liked, as his flaws really come to the fore towards the end of the book. Are his actions justified? Most definitely. But it also shows why he, unlike his father and Kaladin, is not a Knight Radiant.

This book continues the work of the prior book in the series of exemplifying Brandon Sanderson’s skill as a fantasy author, managing to straddle both the complexities of world building and character development. While the plot isn’t always the most fast-paced, particularly in the beginning, it’s still ultimately a great read, and one I’d recommend to every epic fantasy fan.

Review of “The Alloy of Law” (Mistborn #4, Alloy Era/Wax and Wayne #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson, Brandon. The Alloy of Law. New York: Tor, 2011.

Paperback | $24.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0765330420 | 332 pages | Fantasy

4 stars

Upon completing the original Mistborn trilogy, I wasn’t sure about going into the second era, especially given that I had heard it was different in tone from the first trilogy. Therefore, I figured the best thing to do would be to ease my way into that series by alternating them with the larger Stormlight books, which was something that had been suggested as a reading order by a more seasoned Sanderson fan.

But I ended up really appreciating that Sanderson wanted to do something different after finishing the first era of Mistborn. I love how the tone feels a bit lighter, due to it stylistically paying homage to the Western and steampunk genres, something you don’t see often with epic fantasy, much less any progression beyond the medieval tech level. And upon learning his future plans to continue developing the world technologically into a futuristic setting down the road, I am definitely sold on this idea. And now being more intimately aware of how he plans to progress the world and make the characters from previous eras into god-like legends in succeding eras, I now understand his rationale for the Ascension at the end of The Hero of Ages.

The characters themselves were a bit less engaging than the original trilogy, although I do feel like it was meant to be smaller in scope, and the characters do feed into some Western genre stereotypes, which explains them not feeling overly fleshed out. However, Wax and Wayne are intriguing characters to follow, and seem to carry this sub-series well. Wayne in particular was fun to read, as he adds humor that I haven’t seen in any of Sanderson’s other works I’ve read to date, aside from Warbreaker.

While it’s definitely not the best thing Brandon Sanderson has written, it’s obvious that this is something he seems to have fun working on (especially given that there are now three books in this series, with a fourth announced and being worked on), and it is definitely a great example of his process of taking something that’s been done to death and doing something different with it. I would recommend it to anyone who likes Sanderson’s style and process, but may have been reluctant to try it, given what they may have heard about it being drastically different from the first Mistborn trilogy.

Review of “The Way of Kings” (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson, Brandon. The Way of Kings. 2010. New York: Tor, 2011.

Mass Market Paperback | $8.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0765365279 | 1258 pages | Fantasy

5 stars

Upon beginning to delve into Brandon Sanderson’ work, I’ve heard much about his Stormlight Archive series, and how good it is, although I wasn’t certain about it, given my reticence to pick up thousand-plus page books with multiple arcs going on simultaneously. However, having come to trust Sanderson as an author, I took a chance, and it paid off. I almost regret splitting my reading between this book with some other shorter books, as this was the one I really wanted to come back to.

Given the size of the book, it is one of those where he does take his time establishing the world (to much success). He once again establishes unique magic system, and touches on racial issues in a fun allegorical way, through the exploration the lives of lighteyes (upper class) and darkeyes (middle and lower classes). He also puts a cool spin on fairies with the spren.

But I think where this book really stands out is the characters, and I like how the longer length of the book allows the reader to become invested in each of these complex individuals. I like how, through Kaladin, he delves into someone who has been thoroughly beaten down by the things that have happened in his life, and this once again sees Sanderson delving into mental health and trauma in a way that is as poignant, if not more so than, Vin in Mistborn. I liked seeing Dalinar as a warlord with some regrets about the things he’s done in the past. Shallan has such a great internal conflict, in terms of her intent to steal from Jasnah Kholin, but also feeling respect for her, although the relationship becomes a bit more complex as Jasnah’s bad qualities are revealed.

This book may be somewhat daunting, but the payoff is worth it, and I am already prepared to agree with others that this series (projected to be ten books) will cement Brandon Sanderson’s status among the great classic fantasy authors, along with the likes of Tolkien. And I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a truly epic fantasy.

Review of “The Hero of Ages” (Mistborn #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson, Brandon. The Hero of Ages. New York: Tor, 2008.

Hardcover | $27.95 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0765316899 | 572 pages | Fantasy

4.5 stars

The Hero of Ages is a brilliant wrap-up to the Mistborn (First Era) Trilogy, as well as a just a wonderful book in its own right. It, for the most part, presented a beautiful conclusion for the major characters’ arcs.

While Brandon Sanderson does continue to show he enjoys a familiar trope or two, I love how he continues to add something new to keep the reader guessing, especially in terms of the way he continues to use foreshadowing and misdirection in terms of the identity of the true Hero of Ages, who is revealed in the final pages of the book.

The character development was great. I really enjoyed the way we see how Vin has grown as a heroine over the course of the three books, and Elend grow more in his leadership role. I did find myself a little concerned regarding book two’s ending after having taken the time to really think about it, but I think, once I got into this book, it did help to provide more equal footing to Vin and Elend’s relationship. However, I did find myself a bit conflicted by their fate by the end of this one. I appreciate the setup leading up to it, indicating that not everyone will survive this huge potentially world-ending conflict, but the ascension to godhood seemed a bit weird to me.

In general, I did thoroughly enjoy this series, and look forward to reading more of Brandon Sanderson’s work very soon. Now having completed the trilogy, I would definitely recommend it to anyone, whether they’re new to fantasy or a veteran fantasy reader, as regardless of any flaws, it’s still a series worth savoring.

Review of “The Well of Ascension” (Mistborn #2) by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson, Brandon. The Well of Ascension. New York: Tor, 2007.

Hardcover | $29.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0765316882 | 590 pages | Fantasy

4.5 (ish?) stars

I went in to The Well of Ascension with similar expectations that I did to the first book, but aware from what I had heard that there was a shift in that this one was much slower, and that while for a lot of people it didn’t work for them, it has become the underrated favorite of the series among the BookTubers I watch. Thus, I did find myself having a lot of mixed feelings, as while I did like, and even love a lot of the book, I did feel like the pacing was more of a negative for me.

That said, I did still enjoy the book for the most part. I was curious to know where the story could go after the defeat of a Great Evil that is built up so much in the first book, and Sanderson delivers, offering twists to the narrative to make it feel fresh. And even if some of the reveals did feel a little obvious, I continue to appreciate that he tries to do something different than a lot of classic, “traditional” epic fantasy.

I enjoyed seeing Vin grow as a character as well. She grows a lot in this one, overcoming quite a few challenges and inner struggles. But I was even more won over by Elend. He was a character I wasn’t really sure about in book one, but he definitely grew on me in this one, especially with the focus on his role as a new king, and all the intrigue that comes with that new role. And while I’m not one hundred percent sold on the romance between them, I think the feelings were conveyed a bit better this time around, especially with both of them being a bit more fleshed out.

And while the cast did grow a bit, an as such it did feel a bit more harder to become invested in everyone as people, I continue to love Sazed as a secondary character. He is such a lovely, sweet character, and seeing him and Tindwyl was heartwarming.

In short, this book was enjoyable, in spite of any pacing issues. But there definitely seems to be a trend of people either loving this one and not being massively wowed by book one, or vice versa, and only a few who love both equally. That being said, I think it’s worth reading if you’ve read the first book, regardless of whether that one worked for you or not stylistically.

Review of “Mistborn: The Final Empire” by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson, Brandon. Mistborn: The Final Empire. New York: Tor, 2006.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0765350381 | 657 pages | Fantasy

5 stars

I was super hyped to finally read Mistborn: The Final Empire (sometimes just called Mistborn) following my enjoyment of Warbreaker. And it is definitely another great book from Brandon Sanderson. One of the strengths is the balance between the use of tropes and the subversion of them. There are some elements that led to the natural progression into the promotion of this series as YA, like the young, emotionally traumatized protagonist, but the overall premise of the series is radical in its approach to the idea that the “bad guy” defeated the hero.

I also like the way the overall structure of the book presents both a full story in and of itself and the first installment of a larger story with some plot threads to wrap up. While I have no issue with cliffhangers or one book’s story feeling merely like one piece of a puzzle, it’s nice to have a story where you end feeling both a sense of satisfaction and a longing for more, rather than frustration that it ended with so much unresolved and you can’t get to the next book fast enough (or in the case of currently running series, you have to wait at least another year for the next book).

Vin herself is an incredibly nuanced character, with the difficulties in her past. I like how it struck the balance between her being competent due to her upbringing, being somewhat slow to trust due to the trauma, and really coming to value the relationships she develops with the others she encounters throughout.

And all the other characters were complex and interesting as well, from the somewhat roguish hero, Kelsier to even the Lord Ruler whose identity presented a twist I did not see coming, and while it has been done before in some ways, provided a measure of amusement for me given the premise.

This was a fabulous book, albeit one where the opinions about it are definitely polarizing, especially when it comes to whether it will appeal to those who read more adult fantasy and aren’t as into the YA-leaning themes. My opinion is, if you’re new to fantasy and looking to ease yourself into the genre (or back in, in my case) this is a great starting point, but wouldn’t dissuade an avid fantasy fan from trying this one either, in spite of the criticisms.