Spolier Free Summary: Edgedancerby Brandon Sandersonis a novella featuring Lift, a character from the Stormlight Archive. This was the second time I’d read this. You can see my initial review here. Lift is a girl who’s apparently been 10 for about three years. She goes from sneaking into a place to helping a friend become emperor. The only problem is Darkness. He’s an emotionless hunter who seems obsessed with Lift and her pet Voidbringer who may not actually be a Voidbringer. The only thing crazier than her situation, is her idea to actually track down Darkness and stop him before he kills more people. While the rest of Roshar frets over the Assassin in White and the Kings and Emperors he kills, Lift is fighting for those other people. Those who might not otherwise be remembered.
Character: Lift is a fun character. She’s witty and unpredictable. She’s super proactive and incredibly sympathetic. The thing that makes her most interesting is she doesn’t put things together the way others might. Her fresh perspective on a situation often turns out right. She almost feels like a YA version of Columbo. I don’t know where she fits on my “list of favorites,” but I’m always happy when she’s is.n the scene, so this novella based on her is charming.
Exposition: Sanderson doesn’t beat the reader over the head with exposition. This book flows even more swiftly because of Lift’s quick wit. Honestly I know it had to be there (no book can have zero exposition), but I don’t remember any.
World building: Sanderson calls this Stormlight Archive 2.5, and it first. There are some parts here that might lose a person if they’ve never been to Roshar before. I don’t know how big the impact would be because I read this in order even on my first read of the story, but looking at it another time though made it easier to see how one might get a tad lost. I don’t think it’s that big a deal as long as you can grasp a few of the details of the world.
Dialogue: There’s a particular amount of plot revealed in dialogue. There’s also some foreshadowing here that I’d recommend people note before other books in the series come out. It’s quick and smart, like most Sanderson books, but I’d recommend anyone read this book a few times because I’m certain some of the names thrown out and characters introduced will grow in importance.
Description: Sanderson is more passive in his description than some might like. I’m not among them. I enjoy a book that’s streamlined for content. It’s still effective. What Sanderson does in this book is hone in on the important details. He doesn’t spend much time on making everything detailed. Instead, he makes sure the details you need to see are vivid.
Overall: I’m always grateful for re-reading books like this because I miss details. In this story, some of the characters introduced and information passed slipped by me the first time. Then again, Sanderson’s books usually do get more rewarding the more times you read them.
Spolier Free Summary: Singularby Zack Hubertis a YA novel about a teenage boy who has to stop an artificial intelligence from downloading the minds of humanity into a computer. What’s the catch? Milo Bell is nowhere near a normal teenager. With the help of his AI friend and loyal AI dog, he faces an army of avatars and a computer program determined to end humanity as we know it to save humanity. This was my April Book Cover of the Month winner. If you want to see an interview from the artist, just click here.
Character: I have to be honest. YA usually relies on its main character, and Milo didn’t connect with me. The premise for the story was awesome, and the plot points were interesting, but I think Hubert missed an opportunity with Milo’s circumstances. I expect a degree of convenience in YA books; it’s simply unavoidable, but while Milo faces conflict, I don’t know how much he grows as a result of those struggles. He changes, but that’s not the same as growth. I might be being unfair here as the story I thought this could have been wasn’t the story it turned out to be, but, as a reader, I feel I have that right. Now, if readers can learn Milo’s secret, and not have an issue with some of his actions, then they’ll wonder what my ever-loving problem was. I think that’s the test for readers. When they learn Milo’s secret, can they accept how he reacts to it? I couldn’t.
Another note on character. This book oddly switched points of view. It wouldn’t have been hard to understand if it was consistent, but somewhere around the halfway point, we get these new characters. The reasoning made sense. Readers needed to know how the rest of humanity was responding. I just wanted those characters to have a role through the whole book.
Exposition: This was solid. It was there, but not overly frustrating. Hubert did a nice job letting the reader watch the story unfold rather than explain what was happening and why.
World building: This was probably the strength for Hubert. It was an interesting near-futuristic world with an obvious amount of research into AI and how it would function. People who enjoy speculative fiction like this might enjoy this book for this reason.
Dialogue: This didn’t really do much for me. It felt more like a back door to exposition rather than interaction of characters. Books do this. They do this a lot, so it’s not a crime in itself. I just think it happened too much in this particular book. We even get exposition in the form of digital messages from a character. I think it was too much, but if anyone throws Obi Wan at me, I couldn’t really argue with them. (Am I the only one who realizes his only function in any of the original movies is to explain stuff?)
Description: This was solid. Again, Hubert had a crystal clear view of this world, its technology, and how the events would affect those locations. He gave me what I needed to see and let my imagination do the rest.
Overall: This was a fascinating plot idea. It feels like classic speculative scifi. The characters aren’t the most believable, and some things feel too convenient, but it’s an entertaining read for younger readers.
It’s a new year, and before I kick of my 2018 tour, I wanted to share my top three reads of 2017 with you all. Goodreads says I’ve read 39 books in 2017. I didn’t quite hit my goal of triple last year (that would have been 42), but I’m still pretty happy with the rate at which I’m reading. This list was made without regard to publisher, format, or author.
How I did it: This time, I knew I’d be doing this list, so I kept track of books I liked and mentally compared one to the other. Without further delay, here’s my list.
#3 Flash Point by C.L. Schneider: You can find my review for that book here. I had this book ranked as high as second place for a while. I’m a fan of mystery in fantasy. I’m a huge fan of the Dresden Files, and (as I said in the review), this book did a lot to fill the gap left by no Dresden. This was the first book in a series, so I’m looking forward to more, though I may wait for the series to end, as I like binge reading a series. My heart can only handle so much waiting.
#2 Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson: Before you call me out. Yes, it just so happens that numbers two and three from this year are the same as numbers two and three from last year in terms of the authors. It’s not intentional. I just like who I like. I’m honestly surprised this book didn’t take the top spot, but I have some explanations for that I’m saving for a future blog post. Oathbringer was a fantastic edition to the Stormlight Archive. My review for it is here. This book is packed with fan rewards and easter eggs that have me more excited than ever about the Cosmere.
#1 Betrayer’s Bane by Michael G. Manning: You can find my review for this book here. This book was my first ever Book Cover of the Month winner. It’s currently in the Book Cover of the Year Bracket. I read the book and was simply awestruck. It’s so powerful and tragic. That book caused me to leap at every book Manning wrote. I simply can’t post all the reviews for it. Here’s the review for The Final Redemption, which will have most of the other books linked to it. The rest in the series are good, and I’m enjoying the follow-on books, but this book grabbed me by every emotion I have and didn’t let go.
So that’s my top three. What are yours? Why? Do you have a review you can link it to? I’d love to reblog it for you.
Spoiler Free Summary: Oathbringer is the third book in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. My review for Book One is here. My review for Book Two is here. Dalinar Kholin has reached Urithiru. The Voidbringers have returned. However, Roshar isn’t united. While Odium’s forces gather, Dalinar must strive to find a way to get the nations to work together. But as he works toward his goal, his past begins to haunt him all over again. Kaladin returns home to face his past and learns the Voidbringers aren’t what he thought they were, in fact, they’re not what anyone thought they were. Shallan’s secrets mount against her, but the only way for her to progress is to continue to face them. Each role she takes fractures her mind again, and she must take control before she faces the challenges before her.
NOTE: If you follow my Goodreads account, you’ll notice I have this marked as “currently reading.” That’s my second read through (I won’t review it again so soon). I tend to reread books like this right away to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
Character: If this book was JUST about Dalinar’s arc, it would be the best book I’ve read in 2017. His story is simply amazing! It’s such a great blend of tragedy and heroics that I can’t really name a rival for it in all my memory. Shallan is improved. Her arc with a certain reoccurring character is as inspiring as it is charming. I must admit a certain grudge with Kaladin’s arc. I think I’ll talk about this more in a different post (no spoilers there either). Something happens with him, and I believe it had to happen for a few reasons. But this plot point felt rushed and then explained. It was very UN-Sanderson. This explanation was done via flashback, and it felt to me like Sanderson saying, “You see, he would struggle with something like this.” I think it’s a fairly significant knock, but even with this issue, I feel like Oathbringer is an amazing book. Keep an eye out for more on this subject, but I don’t want to dwell on the issue because it didn’t hurt the book beyond reason.
Exposition: As I mentioned above, we get a little of this, and that’s not common for Sanderson. However, there’s only that one slowdown as Sanderson patches up things in order to move the plot going. Other than that, this is his usual stuff. The book is HUGE, but it didn’t take very long at all to read it (I’m thinking 12-24 hours). The pages fly past, especially when you get closer to the end. When that happens, make sure you’re well rested and don’t have to use the restroom; you won’t want to put the book down for anything.
World building: Like every one of his books (especially those in a series), Sanderson takes you somewhere new, and then ties that location to the plot. This is no different. A large portion of the book happens in a place I think a great many readers have wanted to visit.
Dialogue: This is still what he’s great at, so I wasn’t surprised that it was done well in this case.
Description: A few of the more critical plot points rely on the description here. It gives the book a lot of life while also letting Sanderson show off his world. I’d recommend you keep your eyes wide open for all of this book, you don’t know what you might miss.
Overall: I want to celebrate a bit. My brother and I had a theory heading into this book. It’s one of those, “Wouldn’t it be cool if!” theories. We also had a list of who we think might turn out bad. We were thrilled that the cool thing happened, and the “bad” thing we expected, well, as usual with Sanderson, it wasn’t how we thought it’d go. Sanderson is the master of rewarding readers. He has so many fan pleasers in this book. I couldn’t even keep track. I’d recommend this book JUST for the last part! The book as a whole is just like one giant bonus.
There’s only one month left till the (hopefully final) deadline for The Power of Words update. If you’re interested and want to know the requirements and submission method, please feel free to click here or just send me an email.
I did have a chance to review the submissions that were sent in so far, so I’m happy to announce that three authors have been confirmed for the anthology!
The contributors so far are:
Here’s his bio. Writing is an escape, and an outlet.
The job, the family, the things that make up a normal life — these are no place for wild, dark ideas. And so, in the quieter moments, TW Iain emerges. He taps away on a laptop, or on a phone, sometimes at a ridiculously early time in the morning, and gives these ideas their freedom. When he’s not writing, he’s lurking in the shadows, thinking about the next story.
Maybe he’s always existed, in the school-boy who filled exercise books with stories. Maybe he was there one winter, when a first novel emerged around shifts at a four mill (a first novel, like many, that does not deserve to see the light of day). Maybe. But he came to the fore at the start of 2015, and work on these stories became serious.
Since then, TW has published three novels and other shorter works in the Dominions series of dark Dystopian thrillers, and the first novel in a new sci-fi/horror series, Shadows. He also posts a free short story every fortnight on twiain.com.
TW’s story is called Ghost Stream. Here’s a summary:
In the Citadel, everyone listens to the Voices, and it is Cass’ job to monitor this, swimming in their streams. But then she stumbles upon the mythical ghost stream, and discovers how this can be used to influence the Voices. With attacks to the north, and a silent protest in the heart of the Citadel, those above her are not happy. And when she works out how to add her own voice to the ghost stream, she knows they are after her.
But is staying silent ever an option?
You may recognize the name. His book Expedient was featured in one of my Book Cover of the Month brackets. So I was just thrilled when he sent a submission. His story went straight to the theme of the anthology. I was excited to read the submission, and I’m happy to say I just received his revisions.
Richard T. Drake:
Here’s his bio. Richard T. Drake is the author of the Hollow World series of Epic Fantasy novels.
At age seven, in the dungeon-library of his 19th-century boarding school, Richard discovered the classic fantasy gamebook The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and became so lost within the infamous ‘Maze of Zagor’ that he needed to draw a map to find his way out. His love of epic adventure and fantasy has been growing ever since.
He graduated from gamebooks to tabletop role-playing where, as game master, he would invent worlds, draw maps, and weave adventures for his friends. As heroes fell and legends grew, Richard discovered a love of epic storytelling.
Over the next few years, he set to work crafting an original fantasy universe, envisioning a vast array of planets and galaxies bound together by powerful magic, ancient covenants, and the schemes of primordial gods. Finally, the Hollow World was born.
When he isn’t writing, Richard keeps busy with the other staples of a heroic fantasy lifestyle: dressing up in superhero costumes, playing MMORPGs, and collecting an absurd number of action figures and comic books. He’s also a black belt ninja.
His submission is called Catalin’s Gambit. Here’s a summary:
In a shadowy tavern in the slums of Syrentium, one meeting will decide the fate of the city.
Catalin Ruic, a young woman raised in the throat-cutting alleys of the docklands, is about to come face to face with the most powerful and dangerous man in the Circle of Kingdoms.
Her plan goes beyond bravery; it is practically suicide.
But the stakes are too high for half measures. Catalin is the last protector of the lives of her people, and perhaps the very soul of Syrentium.
This is a clever negotiation story I felt had great tension and conflict. It’s clever because lots of authors use fighting for tension. It takes a lot of skill to build tension in a simple conversation. Richard has done that. He’s currently working on revisions based on my initial feedback.
This is particularly awesome as Heidi is a friend of mine I met during my online adventures as an author. She and I did a few panels together, and I’m pretty sure she’s a mind reader. We don’t really disagree on much. She heard about the anthology and was kind enough to send the first book in a new series she’s working on. She’s someone I respect enormously, and I’m honestly flattered she decided to join in on the fun.
Here’s her bio. Heidi Angell is a bibliophile, lexicomaniac and wordsmith. She is the author of The Hunters Saga, The Clear Angel Chronicles, The Hell School Series and Survivalist Bible series releasing Fall 2017. She also created Royal Prince Vince, Creative Exercises to Inspire, and A Penslinger’s Ponderings. When she is not reading and writing, she can be found spending quality time with her family. You can learn more about her and her work here.
Her story, Survivalist Bible – Genesis, is a fun zombie outbreak tale. Where most zombie stories feature people who are ironically suited for such things, her story features a character with no business surviving such an event. What does it have to do with words? Well, our square-peg-in-a-round-hole main character is writing a journal of events for others to reference in order to survive. This is more in line with the prompt of the title than the First Amendment, but that’s just fine. It fits the theme.
Here’s a summary:
Gabriel Llewellyn is a writer. He’d like to be happily wooing women during the off hours of a writing conference. Instead he’s leaping out of windows and fighting off people who’ve suddenly decided to tear apart anyone near by. However it’s happened, he’s left a message in hopes that people will be able to look back at these events and remember. His first words are:
My name is Gabriel Llewellyn. If you are reading this, then I am probably dead. Or infected. Or maybe I dropped it while fleeing the infected. I suppose it is hard to say. I hope it’s the latter.
He’s not suited for survival in this world, but someone comes along to help him survive every time he’s supposed to end up dead, but how many times can he be saved before he has to step up?
I’ve already talked about my contribution here. I’ve already had a few alpha readers get back to me, and I’m pleased to say they liked it.
That makes four stories so far. I’ve had a few people reach out to me and say they intended to submit. I’ve had some stories I just didn’t feel were right for the project. My intention is to select four more stories, so please feel free to send in something if you think it fits the theme. I’d love to see it.
It’s kind of cool to know I’ve been doing this for a year. We’ve picked out 12 amazing covers, and we still have some work to do (more on that below). For now, the November Book Cover of the Month bracket has just wrapped up. This month had a great surge of voters. Three particular authors came out in force and really got their following involved, and that’s wonderful to me.
We had 4,177 votes this month.
This was honestly one of my favorite months to watch. We had some wonderful matches, and one of those matches has me clicking refresh even as I type this announcement. The Sweet Sixteen match between Prey till the End by S.L. Eaves and Living the Good Death by Scott Baron was back and forth for nearly a week. I don’t remember that match being more than five votes apart, and they both had more than 30 people vote their covers all the way to the winners’ circle. It’s so close, I actually feel the need to type an announcement for each of those covers, and wait until the bracket closes to edit the winner in. I had to check back and fourth, but it was fun watching it.
The November Book Cover of the Month is…
Living the Good Death by Scott Baron! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.
Baron received 268 total votes. He edged Eaves out of the sweet sixteen by two votes.
Here’s the part where people may upset. Though Eaves would have one had she beaten Baron, she didn’t. The runner up to this (the author who won her side of the bracket) was The Dragon Rider Vol. 1 by T.J. Weekes. I did a lot of thinking, but the fact is Weekes earned the right to try again by winning her bracket. Sure, the NCAA may loop Alabama into the playoffs, and I can’t even say I’ve never done it (though that was an extreme even beyond this) before, but the Book Cover of the Year Wild Card Round only has one slot left, and Weekes earned it. You have to be the runner up. So Weekes will be the final entry into the aforementioned (and still to be discussed below) wild card round.
For Baron, he doesn’t have to stress over another “tryout” bracket. He’s in the main Book Cover of the Year Bracket. Let’s look at the summary for his book.
Wearing nothing but psych ward pajamas and fluffy slippers, the odd girl wasn’t really dressed to kill. Being the Grim Reaper, however, she felt confident she could make it work.
Have you ever had one of those days? You know, the kind of day when things just don’t go your way. Like when your botched suicide attempt and claims of supernatural powers get you hauled to the emergency room, placed under observation, then transferred to a locked-down psych facility.
The girl who thought she was Death had failed miserably in her efforts to shed the troublesome human body in which she was trapped. The result? Finding herself surrounded by nutjobs, locked in a mental ward ruled by a humorless doctor with a Napoleon complex and a penchant for sleight of hand. Sure, she did technically bring it on herself, but how was she to know that trying to off herself in public and using her outside voice to proclaim she was Death incarnate would result in a psych ward lockdown?
With that problematic little blunder behind her, the concerns now vexing her were pressing. Escape, both from the mental hospital, as well as from this plane of existence, was vital, but equally so was addressing the other issue haunting her. The big one. The one that could end the world. The issue that with Death missing, people would rather inconveniently no longer die like they were supposed to. Eventually, things would hit critical mass. She just didn’t know when.
The situation was, well, grim, to say the very least. An irony not lost on the girl claiming to be the Death.
I’ll try to find out who did that cover. I’m frankly behind my interviews, but I’m hopeful my vacation can give me a chance to get caught up.
But wait! There’s more! Starting Dec. 18, my Book Cover of the Year Wild Card Round begins. Weekes and seven other authors who came up just short of winning a monthly bracket will have five days to duke it out for one last, last chance to get into the Book Cover of the Year bracket. The way it will work is the top four winners (as determined by Brackify) will earn the four remaining slots into the Sweet Sixteen of 2017 (I like the ring of that).
V.E. Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows.
Michael J. Sullivan’s Age of Myth.
Kara Swanson’s The Girl Who Could See.
Joshua Robertson’s and J.C. Boyd’s Anaerfell (Which I’ve read and reviewed).
Amanda Jay’s The Other One.
Frank Dorrian’s To Brave the End.
And Neo Edmund’s Fate of the Big Bad Wolf.
When the bracket kicks off, I’ll post a summary of why each book made it into the Wild Card Round, but I felt it fair to announce who all eight were so, if they read this, they can start to summon their followers.
Now, that brings up some additional news. My first ever BOOK COVER OF THE YEAR tournament is coming. This will feature all 12 BCTOM winners and four “Wild Card” covers.
The Book Cover of the Year Bracket (for which I’m purchasing an actual trophy to send to the artist) will launch Jan. 1. It will be a two-week tournament. Then, I’ll launch the December Book Cover of the Month, which will start off a new year. Yes, that means I’ve decided to to this at least one more year. It’s exhausting, but matches like this one make it fun, and I’ll do it as long as it’s fun.
I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebookpage, you can see what covers will make the bracket.
Kaladin is a man who was betrayed and enslaved for doing the right thing. Forced to help a team of men carry heavy bridges miles just to charge enemy arrows, he chooses to do what he can to protect those bridgemen.
Shallan is a noble woman from a minor house. She’s trying to save her family’s household. Her plan to do it? Rob the most powerful, respected scholar in the world. What’s she stealing? A religious artifact everyone seems to be after.
Dalinar is a general and high prince of his house, but he’s having strange visions, and those visions are forcing him to change not just how he looks at himself, but how he looks at the war he’s been fighting. His son doubts him, the other high princes think he’s lost his mind. Never-the-less, he’s trying to unite those same high princes to end a war that’s gone on for far too long. His fear is that his current war is nothing compared to what’s coming.
Character: This is always a strength for Sanderson. I did an entire study on Dalinar. Kaladin is one of my favorite characters ever. What I’ll admit is that the first few times, I didn’t like Shallan at all. Functionally speaking, her only real role is to provide an economic lecture and show off some of the world building. It’s great for fans of deep, realistic worlds, but the first two times reading, all I wanted to do was skip her chapters to get to one of the others. For some reason (probably having read Words of Radiance), Shallan didn’t bother me nearly so much. I saw her conflict and story line more compelling in this case.
Exposition: There was a scene here or there that I felt slowed the book down. The thing I have to note is I’m not a huge world building or description guy. Others demand that level of detail. But I have to admit there were a few scenes I felt could have gone a lot faster. In any story this big, one expects a bunch of exposition. Honestly, I think there’s less in this book than most, but the large blocks drag a reader down here or there. Don’t let that stop you (if you’re like me). Keep reading, I promise you won’t regret it.
Worldbuilding: This was massive. Even putting aside the scope of the Cosmere, this planet had so much going on for it. It made me want to travel to Roshar just to see everything. Fans of science fiction, with its detailed planets and culture, will get a huge kick out of this.
Dialogue: Sanderson always has great, snappy dialogue. He really does a good job of showing honest, realistic conversations.
Description: I’m not a fan of description. Normally, I warn people because I was fine with a book, but I make sure they know I’m not that into description. This time, I’ll say there’s a lot of visceral, imagination-inspireing stuff here. There’s just so much to see and interact with. I honestly don’t know how he did it.
Overall: How good is this book? This is the third time I went through the book (I listen to audiobooks on additional references with a story). To me, it just keeps getting better. I honestly think I can read this another 20 times and STILL miss something I should have noticed. But those “I should have seen that” moments area always satisfying during re-reads. I keep finding myself trying to ferret out plot points for future books. If you haven’t read Way of Kings, there’s really no better time. You can burn through to Book 3, and then commiserate with the rest of us while we wait for Book 4!