My youngest son is working his way through the Harry Potter movies, and my family was worried I’d feel like I missed out if they watched it when I sleep in during vacation (as I tend to do). I told them that once they get through the third movie, I don’t care.
You see, I feel like that fourth movie and the seventh movie are just terrible. You’re welcome to disagree, that’s just my opinion. Then I gave it some thought. I realized that my sincere and (in my opinion justified) feelings on movies four and seven tainted my objective view of movies five and six. I didn’t see the fifth movie as my son watched it, but I started watching the sixth movie, and I’m really enjoying it.
This confirmed my hypothesis. It’s a phenomena that happens a lot. A few bad episodes, chapters, or volumes can absolutely have a negative impact on the whole or even the next part of a series.
I’m still on vacation, so I never intended to go into too much detail about it. Instead, I just wanted to say I underestimated this particular movie, and I’m glad I gave it another shot.
Spoiler free summary: New Spring by Robert Jordan is the prequel novel to the Wheel of Time. Moiraine and Siuan are accepted of the White Tower. Soon, they will be Aes Sedai, but even sooner than that, ancient prophesies long feared come to pass. The Dragon has been reborn on the slope of Dragonmount, and they are two among a small handful of people who even know. Unfortunately, those who would take or kill the baby to help the shadow also know, and Moiraine must find the boy. She runs into a group of soldiers on her travels, but will they help her, or will they turn out to be more darkfriends leading her to certain death?
Character: I must be open and transparent here. This is at least the tenth time I’ve read this book. The characters are the reason this whole series is my second favorite (Dragonriders of Pern). This book elevated Moiraine for me, and while Siuan was never on my top list of favorites, this book allowed me to understand her better. Then, of course, there’s Lan, who steals the show. The characters are sympathetic and proactive. They have goals and flaws. They are why this saga is so special.
Exposition: This is probably where the book is a bit weaker. That’s not to say it’s terrible, but a world of this scope demands exposition. The other issue is that this book is first out of 15, but it was written much later in the series. The author was forced to act as if it was the first book, and that drags the pace even though the book is relatively short (especially when compared to other volumes in the series). So yes, it is excessive, but it’s not more than anyone should expect from a book setting up an entire world.
Worldbuilding: The reward for excessive exposition (see Dune, Dragonriders) is immaculate worldbuilding, and in my opinion, Wheel of Time has the best worldbuilding ever. I’ll mention this here even though this book isn’t the best one to mention it. Most fantasy stories I’ve read talk about other lands or nations, but they are vague mentions. This world is full of different places with customs an habits. In this book alone, we learn about White Tower politics and Shienar and Malkier. We meet people from those lands. We don’t just hear about them, we see them, and that’s setting aside Moiraine’s home nation of Cairhien, the matchstick for the entire saga.
Dialogue: As is the case with most of my favorites, this book has charming dialogue that doesn’t just expand the plot, but it reveals characters. Even their curses are unique to their nation or background.
Description: if anything slows down this story for me, it’s the sheer volume of description. The positive is that I can practically smell these characters. The down side is I have to slog through all of it. I feel like Jordan falls on the excessive, but he may just be the standard for an aspect of writing I’ve never really been particularly good at or interested in. I don’t know if it bothers other fans as much as it did bother me, but it does wonders for the imagination.
Overall: As an outrigger, this book fills in a lot of gaps that I wish we’d have seen fulfilled. As a prequel, it sets the stage. I start with this book when I re-read the series, but I wouldn’t recommend people new to the series start here. I’d read at least book one before going back (and I might recommend at least waiting until after The Dragon Reborn). That’s not because it isn’t good. Instead, there are surprises and treats that a reader gets from waiting to let this book add to the content rather than methodically play it out. Whatever you do, it’s a great book that really sets the standard for fantasy fiction.
Spoiler free summary: Right off the heels of Peace Talks, (my review is here) Battle Ground ramps up the action as the battle for Chicago (and the world) begins. Everything changes in this tragically beautiful, action packed story that amounts to what might be the longest battle sequence in history.
Character: The character development in this book is much different here. I must give a special nod to Butters. I feel like he stole the show. Molly is interesting here as well. Honestly every character has huge revelations in this book that change the scope. I’m still shocked at the rumor that Dresden is ending since I feel like these books opened so many new doors to explore. I still think Butters and Molly steal the show, though neither has a ton of screen time. I must also give Murph some credit.
Exposition: This might have been too short for a casual reader, but for fans who just wanted to get going, it’s perfect. So the quality of this category probably depends on your familiarity with the series as a whole. I loved it because I didn’t need to read segments of a story that were clearly put there just to fill in people who may not have been familiar with the series.
Worldbuilding: While there are many revelations in this book, the world building only expands a slight amount. Now that’s a metaphorical crack in the universe (Doctor Who reference), but it’s not in the amount of new data but the magnitude of the data.
Dialogue: This book actually contains a great example of how to use dialogue to develop and reveal character. Now that I think of it, it has a few. So many of the conversations, especially those that happen after the more major (spoiler related) events. If this category is an area in which you want to improve, this is a book that can help.
Description: While I think the same major thoughts apply from my last review, I do think this is better. That perception might be because this book is so much more action oriented. It would make sense, but this book did more for my imagination than its predecessor.
Overall: This book easily competes with the end of the war against the Red Court. It’s that good. I’m heartbroken if there really is only one book. If you can confirm it either way, please do so in the comments below. This story is fantastic, and brings Harry right back to his beloved place.
Spoiler free summary: Peace Talks is the sixteenth book in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. All the magical powers in the world are holding negotiations to end hostilities, and that’s when Harry’s brother, Thomas, decides to do something stupid. Already caught between four very different and conflicting lives, Harry must navigate these tightropes that can’t coexist. But most people aren’t even remotely interested in peace. One group plans to use this for its own ends.
Character: On one hand, it was just so good to see Harry and Murph and the others, that a part of me just sort of relished having them back. I remember feeling like this book was good to see old friends, but that the story itself didn’t really move for me. However, just having the gang back after I don’t know how long, made me happy. I must also note (and I feel this is the right section to do this) that I sort of consider these two books to be one larger story kindly split in two reasonable chunks. They are absolutely part of one narrative arc. However since both were individual titles, I kept them as separate reviews. I think readers should read both one right after the other to get the right effect.
Exposition: I was a little surprised here because while there is exposition, I actually expected there to be more. It’s be a looooong time since we’ve seen Harry, and I for one didn’t re-read the other books to re-familiarize myself with the plot. There’s really not so much going on that one can’t catch up, but maybe this isn’t the book to start. Honestly, this book (if I understand what I think I understand) is sort of leading up to the very end of the Dresden Files, which I disagree with. There’s so many more directions for this story to go. Hopefully I’m wrong. Regardless, it’s still leading to the end of a conflict that has been building for a few books now. So new readers will, I think, be a bit lost.
Worldbuilding: Given that this is the sixteenth book, Butcher doesn’t really expand on the world he’s been writing in. Instead, he just uses it as a launching point. This is another reason why it’s not a recommended path for new readers. It’s a solid edition to the series, though not great in and of itself.
Dialogue: Most of my favorite authors have witty dialogue. This is no different. It’s good to hear the banter between characters. It’s every bit as enjoyable as any other. I don’t really know what one would have to do to have “great” dialogue. But good dialogue is that in which the conversations express character at least (if not more than) advance the plot or provide exposition.
Description: If I’m being fair, it’s hard to evaluate something I don’t typically want to think about. I know Harry is tall. I know Murph is short. I know Thomas is handsome. I know Harry’s grandfather is old. So I have what I need to a certain degree. I think Butcher is great with fight description and scene description. But I don’t know that I can see the characters so much. I don’t personally care. I tend to want stories where I can sort of book my own cast. But then I think about Wheel of Time, which got annoying with description, but I can picture those characters in my head. I think writers should consider this and what they want readers to do when they write stories.
Overall: This book is more of a ramp up to the next, and that’s OK. It’s not a great stand alone story. I even remember feeling a bit let down when it came down to it. However, the next book (see my review next week), delivers on the promise this book makes.
As I’ve mentioned, I felt the need to re-read the Wheel of Time. I’ve also mentioned that Perrin is my favorite character.
Today, I thought I’d share with you the moment that happened. It’s not a big moment. It’s not anything that happens in Book 4, where Perrin truly shines. Instead, it’s this silly little quote tucked in the middle of Chapter 31 of The Great Hunt.
This was before people knew the big secret Rand had (I try to avoid spoilers when I can). Perrin and Mat knew, as did Verin. Verin was making a pointed comment at Rand.
“Perrin realized he was staring too, ‘Well, he did not fly,’ he said. ‘I don’t see any wings. Maybe he has more important things to tell us.'”
You see, this was a great divide for me. I actually hated Mat all the way through perhaps Book 5 or even a bit later. Mat was a fool, and he was hurtful to Rand when he needed a friend most. Perrin was clearly stricken, but there he was in this moment when everyone was making someone who was keeping the biggest, worst secret anyone could ever keep, and Perrin chose to be a faithful friend.
That was it. There were other cool things, and he has much bigger and more wonderful moments, but that little part right there was the part that made me look at him and see what a true friend is like.
I know it’s a bit silly, but I have my reasons.
I got picked on a lot as a kid. I probably deserved it if I’m being honest (well, no child deserves to be picked on, but if any child did, it would have been me). I can remember just wanting someone to stand up for me. I just wanted to be seen and feel valued. That moment even after all these years, resonates with me strongly in how much it means to stand up for someone.
What about you? What was the moment your favorite Wheel of Time character became your favorite.
Just a bit of an update today. When I sent Discovered out for Alpha Readers, I started on revisions to 1,200. The book really seems to be shaping up in a good way, but they are going slowly. There are two reasons for this.
First, I was a much less mature writer when I wrote 1,200 originally. There are things the book needs just to give it the depth it deserves. That means some additional chapters and a bit more development and (a lot more) description.
That leads to the next issue. Back when I wrote this, I hadn’t started generating character sheets like I do now. So what I’m doing is generating a character sheet each time I encounter a character. That’s really what’s taking so much time. I keep having to stop. But this is worth it. Back in those days, I really leaned into my discovery writing tendencies, which made it easy to type, but don’t help very much when I’m trying to be consistent with (or have any) description. Once I get the bulk of these character sheets generated, the revisions will go by much more quickly.
I’m still a little more than a week out from when I asked Alphas to get Discovered back to me, but I’m nowhere near done with 1,200 yet. I do plan to finish this set of revisions before doing the Alpha Draft of Discovered.
I haven’t heard any good or bad news about Discovered, and that’s fine. I only mention it because I would give you updates if I had any. I tend to leave my Alphas and Betas alone. They don’t get paid or anything, so the least I can do is leave them be. I don’t know that I’ve ever had any be late, so it’s worked.
Once I get through revisions on 1,200, I’ll get back at Discovered, and get that over to my editor for a developmental edit.
I just wanted to give you all an update. I’m working as hard as I can given circumstances, and I will keep you up to date on my progress.
As always, I thank you for your support. It means a lot to me.
So in my effort to soak in more tidbits regarding Stormlight, I always re-read the series after I finish the newest book.
This means that after I finished my first read, I started over, and Rhythm of War marks the end of that sequence of re-reads.
As always, I try to use these subsequent reviews to focus on different things since you already have a normal review.
Reaction 1: Adolin might be my new favorite character. His arc is so endearing. Sanderson could take him to darker places, places other authors might have gone. I genuinely love pretty much everything about him. With every book, I love him more. Honestly, if Stormlight were nothing but Adolin’s arc, it might not work because of how much set up he required. Remember he was just a doubting prince early on. But man has he developed.
Reaction 2: Kaladin is back (I think). His arc took a lot longer than I’d have liked, but I feel like he’s back to being the hero I fell in love with in Book 2. With a main character, one needs multiple arcs, but with these arc exhibiting similar symptoms, even though the challenges are very different, they feel redundant. Still, he’s found his feet, and I’m happy for it. Also, best. Hoid. Motivational. Story. Ever.
Reaction 3: Still not really a fan of Shallan. So I don’t hate her like I did in Book 1, but I’m still more or less annoyed when I read her arc. It’s interesting. It has some beautiful moments. But I don’t think she has a lot in the way of redeeming qualities. I actually think she took a step back from the previous book. Her arc (at least as it ends in this book) is satisfying, but I keep finding myself wanting to skip it. I’m pretty sure eighty percent of the reason I read her arc is because Adolin is involved. For the record, I’ve been Team Adolin from Book 1.
So those are three things I figured I’d share with you all this time around. If you haven’t picked up Stormlight, you’re missing out. It’s not in my top five, but it could grow there. (Top three is pretty much set for life, but you never know. I might eat those words). It’s still very good.
What I remember is this is the book that (for me) confirms that Dalinar’s arc is one of the better arcs in fantasy fiction. I think what I come away with most is that if you are (or possibly were before this book) a fan of Kaladin’s this book might have rubbed you the wrong way. This relies on something I can appreciate in that it relies on an understanding of PTSD and how Mr. Sanderson conveyed that. If you understand that problem, then the debate is how it was conveyed, and while I do understand the condition to a degree, I think the problem is how the condition was conveyed depends how familiar one is with the actual condition.
That’s an interesting study in and of itself. I feel that this conversation is debatable. I wish it was conveyed better, and I wish there was more effort to address Kaladin’s abilities, which make it much harder for a casual reader to buy off on because it can be pretty hard to understand what Kaladin was actually going through. I personally feel it was accurately conveyed, but only to the degree I mentioned above. Now that’s awesome in the effort Sanderson obviously put forth to treat the condition with dignity, and I appreciate that. However, if I were a bug in Sanderson’s ear, I might have asked that he create the circumstances to make it more difficult for a Windrunner.
I would also argue that the degree to which I was disappointed in Kaladin’s arc was at most equal (if not less than) the degree to which I loved Dalinar’s arc.
Watching Dalinar grow from beginning to end would have created a far more complex situation than letting us get to know the man he is before we see the man he was, and that’s something some authors need to consider. A lot of writers (especially new ones) are very linear, and while that might really work in most situations, to get locked into a certain formula cuts one off from opportunities that might be even better.
Ultimately I feel this book is polarizing and depends on where fans of the series weigh their love of Dalinar in comparison to their love of Kaladin. Thankfully, the next volume brings all that back together.
So just a few days ago, I started reading New Spring by Robert Jordan with the intent to go all the way through the Wheel of Time.
First: It’s my second favorite series ever (Dragonriders of Pern). It’s one of only three series I’ve read multiple times (five if you count Mistborn and Stormlight separately, but I see them as one Cosmere saga). I realized that so many of the plot points had fallen out of my mind, and I don’t want that series to fade from memory. This is the beauty of books.
Second: It’s perfectly OK if you appreciate the Amazon series. I don’t. I think that series took pretty much everything I loved about Wheel of Time and perverted it by Episode Three or Four. Such an unfortunate tragedy demands I go back to the story that I love depicting the characters I love in the manner I came to love them for. Perhaps I’m being harsh. It’s better to say that I’m not of the opinion are for fans of the series. I then wonder why it was made, but the truth is obvious. This show is for people who didn’t read it. This is for a new audience. If you’re a fan of the show, and you’ve read the books, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. Yes, I feel very strongly, but I’m willing to hear dissenting opinions.
So I’ll be listening to the audiobooks while driving to work and enjoying a story I’ve loved for nearly a decade now, and I’m relatively new to the fandom. I wanted to share this because I don’t actually re-read a lot of books. I tend to do this for ongoing series that force me to wait for the next installment (though I don’t expect I’ll do that for the Kingkiller Chronicles). I have to love to a powerful degree for a book if I’m going to read it multiple times.
This is more true for Wheel of Time. There’s so much depth and so many characters. I’ve read this series at least five times (and that’s a very low estimate). Each time I read it, I notice something I missed, so it feels fresh and wonderful to me. I don’t think I’ll ever absorb this series fully, but I’m going to enjoy trying.
So check back on the blog for the reviews. I don’t want you to think they’ll come quickly. I read every day, but it takes me a good long while to get through a book these days. Still, I’ll keep you up to date and maybe share something from time to time.
I’ve never kept it secret that Sanderson is my favorite active writer. It gets more complicated for me if you throw Tolstoy, McCaffrey, or Jordan into that mix, but given that they are no long with us, I can use the term active, and not start a debate.
Well, I was at work taking a break when I got an email with this YouTube video link:
So when he dropped that first stack of papers, I wasn’t very shocked. I was like, “Oh, I remember when he did that with Shadows of Self!” The short version: He said he was struggling with Shadows, so he paid with Bands of Mourning and ended up writing the whole book to make sure that second on worked well.”
I vaguely remember Steelheart also happening in a way similar to that. A flash of inspiration and white space in his time ended in a novel.
After having a few days to think about it, I honestly wonder why I didn’t see it coming (not the one, I saw that ONE extra book coming). My payoff moment was that second pull, and then the following three.
I’ve seen some look at the business side of it. I’ve seen some talk about how cool it is that we’ll have a bunch of Sanderson novels to read (and Cosmere to boot). But every now and then, my brother and I will discuss something that I thought would be good to address.
Are you one of those people who thinks, “Well, great, Brandon! You write five whole books, and we’re still waiting for Stormlight Five, and God knows when you’ll get those other books written”?
I can understand that. My brother might agree with you. He’s probably more patient when those books are Cosmere stories, but every time he releases one of those, he reacts in a manner somewhat like the above.
I think the ephemeral thing I try to point out is either something one “gets” or doesn’t. But I understand it, and I’d like to try and explain it.
I’m working very hard on Discovered (about 27 chapters, 61%, through). I worked hard on Betrayed. Some people look at writing like building a home or making sandwiches or cutting hair. They see it as a mechanical process that one can do and then stop do. This leads to the belief that if one had more time to work, they’d just continue work on whatever home or sandwich or head of hair they had been working on.
That’s just not how it works with Sanderson. It’s not how it works with me either. If I had more time to write, I would get some more work on Discovered done, but I’d probably end up working on Mercer or Perception of War. You see, in this creative process, it’s not just “writing.” The process of writing a specific novel really requires a mindset. And to go into that mindset outside of the time designated (at least for me and perhaps Sanderson) is really hard. But what is pretty easy is letting my imagination run wild. When I’m actively working on a novel, I have to reign that wild horse in, and that takes energy and focus. This is how novels get finished.
Another factor is expectation. When I’m working on Discovered, I’m trying very hard to make sure it’s satisfying based on feedback and anticipation that’s been building since Caught came out. Now I have somewhere around ten loyal readers. Sanderson has somewhere around 20,000. I can’t imagine what it’s like trying to write something 20,000 people have been following for some ten years.
These secret novels of his have no expectation or urgency. They’re completely free and harmless. Sure, I bet he hopes his readers enjoy it. There’s probably some pressure because people will read these and think, “I should be reading another Stormlight book, not some random book.” I imagine Sanderson is aware that people will think that.
What I’m trying to convey is that it isn’t this book or that book. It never was. We authors work very hard, and Brandon isn’t slacking on his deadline at all.
Maybe another analogy would be working out. Let’s say for some reason Sanderson was a body builder, and we all love those (metaphorical) biceps. Then one day he goes, “check out this six pac.” When working out, it’s actually very important not to overwork certain muscles. These secret novels aren’t examples of Sanderson not putting in all the energy he should (or can) on Stormlight or the Cosmere. It’s just him making the most of his energy by working a different (metaphorical) muscle group.
I hold this belief (and if anyone could get this in front of him and ask) because I work the same way. I have far more demands on my time now than I did four years ago. But if I had that same amount of time, maybe Discovered would be out a bit sooner, but it’s far more likely I’d have a full season of Mercer done because I like having multiple projects going in multiple stages to keep me fresh.
So if you’re someone who feels a little angry that “He’s been writing all these other books and will never finish Stormlight,” please take a moment to step back and respect the process one needs to make these wonderful stories. If Sanderson hadn’t done these books, he probably would have done something else, but I doubt very seriously he’d apply much more energy, not because he doesn’t want to, but because it’s just so darn hard to keep creative energy focused on one project. When I was releasing more books per year, it wasn’t that I worked on the longer projects more quickly, it’s that I could work on more projects with that extra time.
Even while typing this blog, I’ve stopped four times because it’s just that hard to focus, at least for me.
So maybe support this Kickstarter of his. Get some new things to read or listen to, and enjoy them for what they are. Stormlight 5 is coming. I’m sure Sanderson will work very hard to finish the third era Mistborn saga and get to work on the second half of the overall Archive. Try not to see this as books you’re reading instead of Stormlight. Instead, see them as books you can read along with Stormlight.