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 “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 “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.

Review of “Warbreaker” by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson, Brandon. Warbreaker. New York: Tor/Tom Doherty Associates, 2009.

Hardcover | $34.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0765320308 | 592 pages | Fantasy

5 stars

I could not wait to read Warbreaker after seeing the way it was hyped by some of the BookTubers I watched as a good starting point for Sanderson’s Cosmere books. And this is one of those that did not disappoint.

One of the things Sanderson is great at is worldbuilding and establishing a great magic system within that world. And even though much of the story is contained into a smaller landscape geographically than other fantasy books I’ve read in the past, there is still a lot happening. And I loved the intricacies with the magic and how it played into the plot without it ever feeling like it just existed for the sake of plot convenience.

And while there are a bunch of characters and several points of view, I liked that they were more or less distinct from one another, and, even if the story isn’t super high action, I loved how the intrigue of their relationships and interactions really played into the plot.

I also loved the subtle romantic elements embedded into the story without overpowering the fact that it is meant to be a fantasy book. While I obviously often enjoy a more ostentatious passionate love story when I’m picking up a straight-up romance, it’s nice to see a relationship that slowly builds and develops in an organic way without having to be in-your-face about it.

That said, I would enthusiastically recommend this book as a starting point for Sanderson’s Cosmere books, given its fast pace and colorful characters, and smaller scope. But I would also recommend it to all fans of a good fantasy, especially since this in my opinion (and other people’s) an incredibly underrated book.