Book Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (The third time)

Book Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (The third time)
51jVA6k9AUL._SY346_
This image was taken from Amazon.com for review purposes.  Featured image was taken from Fruitlesspursuits.com, no source was listed on the website.

Spoiler Free Summary: Words of Radiance is the second book in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson.  My review for Book One is here. As Shallan Davar prepares to make her way to the Shattered Plains, her plan gets ruined before they even have a chance to begin. She’ll need to find her own way, and in the process, she’ll have to confront her greatest secret and her biggest lie. Meanwhile, Kaladin has escaped the oppression of the light eyes, choosing to align himself with the only honorable lighteyes in the world, maybe. The more he works with them, the more he fears what he thinks is their inevitable betrayal. Just as everything comes to a head, he discovers a plot that puts him on the wrong side of his oaths. What effect would breaking his oath have on Syl?

NOTE: This is my third (if not fourth) read of the book. I usually re-read books in a series like this before the new one comes out. I read this book again after finished Rhythm of War.

Since this is a re-read, I don’t want to give you information that I’ve already provided. That wouldn’t give you any value as a reader, so for this review, I’m going to focus on the characters. This book is already the best in the series (by a long shot). That doesn’t mean the other books aren’t good or even awesome in some cases, but it does mean this one still stands out.

BrandonGray
Photo by Nazrilof taken from Mr. Sanderson’s website.

Kaladin really steals the show here. This is supposed to be Shallan’s book, but for her, this is just the book where I stopped being so annoyed by her. Oddly, some will say Kaladin starts to annoy them in the future books (and I can’t really blame them), but not here. This book is where Kaladin becomes a beloved mainstay character. In fact, for those who feel the later books sort of let them down, I’d argue this book and how Kal progresses is exactly why people are willing to endure Kal’s struggles with him. I’ll talk more about those issues in the future reviews for the next books. For now, I want to express what a great story this was for him.

Kaladin, in this story, is a hero who doesn’t trust his good fortune, and with good reason. Every time he’s done something amazing in the past, he’s had that taken from him and been sent lower than he’d ever been. So how can he not be in a position where he doubts? This journey of a man who doesn’t trust his good fortune is unique because that fear of falling or losing is real despite not being the most overt threat one could see. Indeed most stories would have an identified villain who is in fact trying to take everything from the hero. Not so in this tale.

Shallan however, starts every bit as annoying as she was in Way of Kings. In that book, she pointedly felt like the expositional character. “Oh no, here comes Shallan and another lecture on the economics of Roshar!” However, this story gives us more on Shallan. While she’s still absolutely the characterization of Roshar, its history, and its economics, she’s also a character in her own right. Her history is compelling, and that builds sympathy.

Then we have Adolin, who I will never forget because I get so frustrated with people who do. Adolin doesn’t come into his full potential until the fourth book, but right about here is where we see him start to exist as more than a foil to Dalinar, and Sanderson openly admitted Adolin got more screen time to play that role. In this story, we start to see Adolin as more of an individual. As his goals and earnest charm start becoming clearer, he starts being a more beloved character. After this many reads of the saga, I might actually think he’s my favorite in the who series (though let’s see how Kaladin goes in Book 5). He’s certainly in contention at the moment, and that affection is born here. Adolin should be an arrogant jerk who is only after a new fling and another fight, but that’s just not how it goes. Sure, there’s a duel here where Kaladin get’s an awesome hero moment, but Adolin is all the more impressive because it’s all just him.

This book is the best book in the series because it’s the book that focuses most on the characters reaching their potential. This book shines because the characters grown and evolve, ending with them in a better place. I think the third book falls short because the characters regress. As an overall series, characters need to regress. However, seeing Kaladin regress as far as he does and Shallan do something relatively similar is actually a pretty big letdown because this book ends in a spot where we feel those characters should start to shine. That doesn’t make the future books bad, but it does explain why some may resent them and why this book stands out so well.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Announcing the 2021 M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of the Month for September! Keep Voting for October!

Announcing the 2021 M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of the Month for September! Keep Voting for October!

Greetings all,

We’re steadily moving toward naming the 2021 M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of the Year. We have a winner for September, and we’re getting the roster for October’s poll together.

Let’s start by naming the 2021 M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of the Month for September. The winner is …

I really thought The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston was a super strong and energetic cover. Congrats to Johnston, and good luck in the 2021 poll.

We’re also making a lot of progress in October’s matchups. We have a winner for Week 2, which is …

Gutter Mage by J.S. Kelley was just such a classic cover with beautiful color. It was a close call between a few covers, but this unique style and design stood out.

You can vote for Week 3’s cover here.

I’d be grateful if you’d stop by my YouTube Channel and giving it a like and subscribe. It gets the covers out there and helps add voters to the contest.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Clara’s Diary by Angelique S. Anderson

Book Review: Clara’s Diary by Angelique S. Anderson

Spoiler free summary: In Clara’s Diary by Angelique S. Anderson, Detective Desmond is a man haunted by the death of his daughter. When a new case lands on his desk that is disturbingly similar to his daughter’s death, Desmond is plunged (OK, I’m going to take this pun for all it’s worth), into a mystery that ties to the strange octopus people who live in this steampunk world. On such person, Sadie, helps Desmond, and her past is the key to all of Desmond’s questions.

The cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Character: In terms of the standard measurements of character (sympathy, competence, proactivity), these characters are ok. I think the reason they suffer is they have odd bouts of incompetence in situations their characters should be the most confident. At every point there should be tension, there’s a brief conversation, and the conflict is resolved in an unfortunately boring way. What could have been a very compelling factor in this relationship ark felt cast aside because the author had a clear idea where they were supposed to end. The problem is, the end is supposed to be a conclusion of a journey, not an objective that denies any twists and turns because the end is more important, and that’s what I think happened here. Desmond is supposed to be this “Sherlock-like” detective (and that is a challenge as well), and the first thing he does is completely wreck a crime scene he probably shouldn’t have been in to begin with. Those little inconsistencies undercut what was actually a pretty charming story.

Exposition: This was actually pretty good. Sure, we have the inevitable dialogue world history, but how else is the reader going to learn about these octopus-human hybrids? So while there were parts that were a bit dumpy is some places, it wasn’t an amount that I didn’t expect. Could it have been better? Yes. Was it so bad it ruined the story? No.

Worldbuilding: This is probably the strength of the story. It has a bit of the same feel as Carnival Row (without the constant sex, which I appreciated). We have this species of sentient beings that are in this world and that world has origins (which are actually pretty important to the plot). The presence of the wordlbuilding was great. The execution is probably what held this story back for me. If you can fast-forward or skip the spicy scenes and focus on the world building of Carnival Row, you see what that show did well that this book didn’t do so well. However, I still feel this book is better because the content is much more appropriate. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t analyze the storytelling aspects of the two. Diary gives us the history and scope of this world through exposition hidden in dialogue. This story would have been better served if we saw this world expand. Yes, it would have expanded the size of the novel, but I don’t mind that much.

Dialogue: So the portions of dialogue that were clearly there to provide exposition through the character’s point of view do drag the story down, but the dialogue is actually pretty charming. Sadie shines in this regard. It’s clever, and the characters have unique voices. The conversations between Desmond and Sadie were a big part of what kept me reading. (I always finish a book, even if I hate it, but reading this book wasn’t nearly as difficult as some others.)

This author portrait was taken from her Amazon author page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Description: I wonder if any steampunk fans have read this story. You see, I expected much more description here than I got. Steampunk is all about the gadgets and romanticism of a period that wasn’t actually so romantic. Yet this story was pretty sparse. Sure, it had description, and I didn’t personally feel like I was missing out. But a part of me was mentally prepared for these huge blocks of description that just weren’t in this story. I don’t know if that’s common or not. This is probably the second or third steampunk book I’ve read. I think it was better than one, and a little less fun than the other (coming in a future review). So while I didn’t have a problem with the lack of description, I only call it a lack because of what I expected. My question for steampunk fans is: How much description do you expect in a steampunk story?

Overall: The story is charming in its presentation, but it really falls short as a mystery because it was either super predictable or super convoluted. The author didn’t do herself any favors because we always got a giant block of dialogue-hidden exposition right before the “reveal.” That really spoiled it. Instead of sprinkling clues along the way for the reader to gobble up, the author smashed us over the head with a giant sign that (metaphorically) read “You need to know this before you read the next part!” This is a story that I still liked because the characters were actually adorable, but if you love mystery, you’ll feel differently.

Thanks for reading,

Matt





Week 2 of the 2021 M.L.S. Weech October Book Cover of the Moth Is Live!

Week 2 of the 2021 M.L.S. Weech October Book Cover of the Moth Is Live!

Greetings all,

Before we get started, please take a moment to vote for the 2021 M.L.S. Weech September Book Cover of the Month right here.

We’re moving along in our October contest, and we have seven new covers to choose from. Let’s announce the winner for Week 1, which is …

You Give Magic A Bad Name by Ty Burson was a great cover with amazing light. This will kick off all the book covers for October.

You can vote for your favorite cover for this week right here.

I’d appreciate it if you stopped by my YouTube channel and gave it a like and subscribe. It really helps me support the authors and covers, and it helps me.

Book Review: White Sand Volume 3 By Brandon Sanderson

Book Review: White Sand Volume 3 By Brandon Sanderson

Spoiler free summary: In White Sand Volume 3 by Brandon Sanderson, everything comes to a head as Kenton fights for the title of Lord Mastrell. He must earn the respect of his peers, preserve his guild, and discover the reason for the murder of his clan.

Character: I appreciated Kenton’s progression here as a rebellious son to one who better understands his father. That might even be my favorite part of this trilogy, but that’s actually a bad thing. The final fight was pretty cool. I’ll mention more about that below. I think I saw a bit more development from some of the other characters, but my issue is with one of the side characters. He has a pretty big shift in the story, and I didn’t really feel like it was natural. He had a very minor role though (in a manner of speaking), so it didn’t have that big of an impact on my opinion. It was just something worth noting.

Exposition: I think this is where the exposition was the roughest. There was a lot of data to share, and it either came up in exposition/narrative boxes or in dialogue that was a bit more Scooby Doo than I would have liked (see below).

Worldbuilding: Most of the worldbuilding was established in the previous volume. There’s a bit of a reveal here that I thought was interesting, and the political reveal (which is an aspect of worldbuilding) was believable if not satisfying.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is brandongray.jpg
This portrait of Mr. Sanderson was taken from his About page on his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Dialogue: So the aforementioned Scooby Doo. There really was a scene here were the Kenton calls someone out, and the guy gives a speech very akin to a villain’s Scooby Doo speech. The only thing missing was, ” … and I would have gotten away with it, too.” That one scene was certainly a bit corny, but the bulk of the dialogue was crisp and witty. It might have been enough to bring the quality down a few pegs, but it didn’t ruin the whole story.

Description: This was probably the place where the graphic novel adaptation was at its best. Sure, there were other scenes that looked cool to see in the other volumes, but the pace and style of this final volume. That fight was cool to watch, and the scenery and scope was brought to life as well.

Overall: I think I’m being unfair, but I can’t help it. I’m used to epic storylines with vivid description that lets me play the movie in my head. I’m used to prose and style that pull me along. I’m used to deeper plots that let me get to know a character, and this format just doesn’t allow for that. But, if I were being fair, I wouldn’t have bought this graphic novel if it wasn’t Sanderson and Cosmere, so I wanted something that felt like one of the other Cosmere books. Maybe I just wish it was a longer series. Maybe I wish the plot wasn’t centered around political intrigue (the assassins and sand magic were tertiary devices at most). It’s not a bad story; it’s just not what I love about Sanderson’s other work. I think fans of the Cosmere should still pick it up to know what happened and get to know the magic system, but it’s not his strongest story.

Thanks for reading,

Matt





Book Review: White Sand Volume 2 By Brandon Sanderson

Book Review: White Sand Volume 2 By Brandon Sanderson
The cover image for this graphic novel was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In White Sand Volume 2 by Brandon Sanderson, Kenton ends up Lord Mastrell by default, but the Sand Masters who are left aren’t necessarily fully supportive of him. The ruling council is out to end the guild. Oh, and did we mention the assassins? The only person he can trust (if only a little) i s Khriss, a visiter from the dark side of the planet who has her own goals. Can these two work together to save the Sand Masters guild?

Character: Kenton’s growth here is more as a leader and a negotiator, but the man who strove to earn his father’s respect is starting to see his father in a different light. I stand behind what I said in last week’s post, but character growth is definitely something we see here. Not only does Kenton grow as a character, but his journey as the Lord Mastrell causes him to grow in literal power as well. This is one of the strengths of the trilogy.

Exposition: I feel more or less the same about the exposition in this volume that I felt for the previous. The exposition blocks were more scene and background portions of exposition. The story moved fine, but it didn’t pull me along.

Worldbuilding: The worldbuilding picks up in this volume. It’s more political than any other aspect of worldbuilding, but there is some development in the magic system. That’s probably the part that interested me the most. I have to say it wasn’t quite as prominent as I’d have liked, but it was enough to keep me interested in a story that more politically driven than by mystery or action.

Dialogue: Once more the graphic novel format allows Sanderson’s typically witty dialogue to shine. It also helps drive the plot even if it’s harder to hide the expositional dumps that are normal in dialogue. The story is at it’s best when Khriss and Kenton are talking, though there are some other conversations that stand out.

This portrait of Mr. Sanderson was taken from his About page on his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Description: I felt like this volume was oddly (strangely) segmented. The idea may have been to weave the political intrigue alongside the assassin plot. So there were some incredible skirmish panels, but there weren’t the fight scenes that normally carry a graphic novel. So it’s good art that lacked the truly epic imagery that we normally find in these limited series.

Overall: This was a setup volume, and I think most trilogies would have this same style, so you can’t really hold it against this particular story. It sets up the drama and establishes a bit of mystery. I still affirm this story would be far better in a longer medium, but it’s an interesting story.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: White Sand Volume 1 By Brandon Sanderson

Book Review: White Sand Volume 1 By Brandon Sanderson

Spoiler free summary: In White Sand by Brandon Sanderson, Kenton aspires to be a master, but he’s barely able to control on stream of sand. That doesn’t stop him from taking on a challenge only a master could overcome. No test, however, can prepare him for the events of the future. His guild is devastated by betrayal and murder, and Kenton must rise up despite his lack of power.

Character: Kenton is a fine enough character. I like his drive and effort. The most interesting part of this book is that Kenton is weak. Most stories reveal a main character who discovers a great power. Kenton is probably the best part of the story.

Exposition: So it’s here that I’ll I’m not a fan of the graphic novel format for Sanderson. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it since I finished reading it a few months ago, and I can’t really identify it except this: the graphic novel deprives a reader of Sanderson’s prose and perspective. So while the story was ok, it lacked the life Sanderson writes with even with the quality of the art. The story didn’t drag, but neither was I pulled along the way I was with nearly every other Sanderson book. Yes, I’ll probably check out Dark One, but I was surprised to realize how much I missed Sanderson’s writing.

Worldbuilding: This is a strength of Sanderson’s, and lack of prose didn’t diminish that. The world is interesting. The way the magic system works within the society is interesting. I feel like this got right what Elantris didn’t do so well for me. I am of the opinion that Taldain has a much bugger role to play in the Cosmere than it currently has, so I may think more highly of some aspects of White Sand’s worldbuilding than is justified, but at its worst, the story’s worldbuilding is comparable to most Sanderson stories.

Dialogue: Where I really missed his prose in some areas, I think the graphic novel adaptation did Sanderson’s dialogue justice. The characters were unique. The conversations weren’t just vaguely hidden expositional blocks. The dialogue was even charming in some places.

This portrait of Mr. Sanderson was taken from his About page on his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Description: This was the other area I felt hurt the story for me at least in regard to Sanderson. Sure, the art was well done, and it was cool to see the power work in a visual format, but I felt like my imagination was deprived of its ability to visualize the story. It’s kind of unfair to say about the format, but it is how I felt. I think another aspect was actually how there weren’t a lot of fights. White Sand is more of a political drama than an adventure story. It has fight scenes, but they aren’t what drive the story, so a graphic novel loses some power without a lot if great fights to give it that cinematic feeling.

Overall: I’m glad I read it, and it was an OK story, but I hope Sanderson doesn’t release that much stuff (especially Cosmere stuff) in an exclusive graphic novel format. The story doesn’t have the same power it would have in a fully fleshed out Sanderson book. However, I’d take a graphic novel version as opposed to nothing.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Vote for the Week 2 September Book Cover of the Month

Vote for the Week 2 September Book Cover of the Month

Greetings all,

Before we talk about September, please know that the voting for the 2021 M.L.S. Weech August Book Cover of the Month is still live. As I type this, we have a tie, so your vote really matters. Please take a moment to vote.

With that said, we’re already working our way through September. We have a new winning cover to announce and seven new covers to choose from.

The winner for September Week 1 is …

The Desert Prince by Peter V. Brett was not actually my favorite in the last seven, but Brett is a wonderful author, so I’m glad this got the victory. The framing is solid, and the art style is unique, so those are points in the column, too. Prince is the first book to make it to the September poll.

You can vote for Week 2’s cover right here.

I’d appreciate it if you took a moment to visit my YouTube channel and give it a like and a follow. It’s a way to support me and watch me talk about these covers for a few minutes.

Thanks for watching,

Matt

The Wheel of Time Amazon Series is Coming! How Do I Feel?

The Wheel of Time Amazon Series is Coming! How Do I Feel?

Greetings all,

I thought I’d talk about this since the Weech news is a little light this week. As any who follow this blog knows, The Wheel of Time is my second favorite series. I think it’s brilliant. The Amazon live-action series based on those books is scheduled to air in November.

I’m not normally one to rely too heavily on book adaptations. They’re better than they use to be, but they can be hit or miss, especially for those who are truly invested in the source material.

If I’m being honest, I’m worried. I’ve read a few posts from Brandon Sanderson regarding it, and I want to hope for the best, but the correct frame of mine isn’t to think of this as a live action version of the books. Instead, one needs to think of it as a reimagining of a story based on the source material.

That’s pretty much impossible for me to do. I don’t want to watch someone else’s version of Rand, I just want to see that story played out in a live setting.

So that leaves me in a place where I already know I’m going to watch the show, but I have to keep telling myself not to expect a direct recreation (though if they do that, I’ll be ecstatic). I don’t know how I’ll feel about it. The thing is, I just want to see these characters.

Sure, they’re making some casting decisions for the sake of diversity, and I understand those decisions on some level. I think I can swallow some of those decisions. (If you want me to talk more on this, just post a comment below). What should matter more to me is that the essence of the story be maintained. However, what I must admit I want is that the actual story (not just some director’s vision of the essence of that story) be respected. I don’t need every scene played out exactly the way it happened in the book. I don’t need every character. But I do hope to see the story play out the way it did in the books. That’s why I loved it.

None of those desires changes the fact that I doubt things will play out that way. I guess I’m going to try and accept it for what it is, but I can’t express how hard that is for me.

Take the Phoenix saga. They’ve tried that twice, and twice they failed my favorite comic event ever (horrifically). I will say I thought the second attempt was better (I at least saw the entity twice). I’ll never understand how people don’t just faithfully recreate what people love.

So expect to see reviews from me (I’m not sure how often). I’m hoping I’ve grown enough as a person to at least give this a fair try. My hope is acknowledging my bias will help me be more conscious of it, and so better able to control it.

What about you? Are you going to watch? What are you hoping for? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Character Study: Adolin Kholin, The Cosmere’s Most Underrated Hero

Character Study: Adolin Kholin, The Cosmere’s Most Underrated Hero

Greetings all,

It’s been a while since I’ve done a character study, and since I’m currently through my fifth read through of Oathbringer, I’ve been thinking about Adolin.

I’ve had the chance to speak with the author, Brandon Sanderson, who is my favorite in the business right now, and people were talking about Kal and Shallan. I couldn’t help but say, “The only thing wrong with Adolin is that he isn’t Kal.”

Fanboy moment: Mr. Sanderson felt that was a good point.

You see, if Stormlight doesn’t have Kaladin, I affirm that Adolin would be the main character. In fact, Adolin would be a fine main character in pretty much any other fantasy story that doesn’t have Kaladin in it. And yet, poor Adolin is stuck behind this generation’s greatest hero. Kaladin is the greatest main character since Rand al’Thor, and Adolin can’t help but get lost in that shadow. (I’ll probably do a character study on Kaladin later, but I’m still a bit perturbed by his character given what happens in Oathbringer.)

Even in writing a blog praising Adolin, I can’t help but acknowledge why he isn’t the main character, but he is possibly one of the greatest secondary characters ever (I’d put him behind Perrin myself, but Adolin is up there).

So why not take a look at Adolin and try to understand why he’s so compelling.

The simple answer is his sympathy aspect. Adolin is loyal. He’s the picture of a good son and a model of a great big brother. He’s charming. He’s earnest. The most fascinating part of all that is how he sees himself: Not good enough.

Like his father, Adolin is his harshest critic. He’s an acclaimed duelist. He’s the planet’s most eligible bachelor, but he sees in himself flaws that don’t even exist. The flaws that do exist in him are mountains that rest on his shoulders. This leads him to do something beautiful: He tries. He tries so hard to be the sort of man he thinks everyone thinks he should be, and he’s unable to see he’s already so much more. This is what makes Adolin stand out.

When I was first reading Oathbringer, I was afraid Adolin would turn against the team. A part of me still is. How long can a man be just short of good enough before that yearning to be recognized becomes bitter? It would make for a great fall-from-grace arc, but I sure hope it doesn’t happen. I still think it might, and that has me rooting for Adolin all the more.

This is why some of the events of The Rhythm of War made me so happy, which brings me to the other point I wanted to make about this character.

Adolin does all the “hero arc” things others do in a completely original way, and when you compare his arc to Kal’s you can see the parallel. To be honest, Adolin does it all the hard way.

The trade off is Adolin’s suffering (the tool most authors use to build sympathy) isn’t as obvious as someone like Kal. This is probably one reason why I don’t hear people talk about him. Honestly, I hear more people talk about Renarin.

This image by Exmakina was taken from The Coppermind for review purposes. Please don’t sue me.

I think the fact that Adolin doesn’t suffer physically or by the loss of others is the the key, and that makes me sad. Adolin is sort of a caricature for an average person in today’s world, and we do the same thing to him that real people do to others.

We look at him and think, “Well it’s not like he’s been imprisoned or hurt, betrayed or forced to experience loss. What’s he got to complain about?”

Think about it. He’s wealthy, charming, and handsome. He must be fine right?

Except he’s not. He’s fighting every bit to be seen as his own man, a man a father and brother can be proud of, a man a woman can love, as Kaladin fights to protect those around him, but because he’s never been poor or enslaved, people just don’t appreciate him, and that’s tragic. It’s a depressing view of how people treat each other.

Yet he fights on, not so much with his awesome swordsmanship or his spren, who he’s helping to find herself. Instead, he fights on by being a kind, loyal man who does all he can.

That, dear readers, is a character worth putting on t-shirts. That, dear readers, is a main character trapped in a more-compelling main character’s arc.

So the next time you’re reading a Stormlight book, take a moment to give Adolin a bit of love.

Thanks for reading,

Matt