I used my normal format when I did my third read through, so for this review, I want to focus on things that stood out after four read throughs.
First: Kaladin is freaking awesome! I can read this book a million times, and I will still love every word of his arc. This arc (in and of itself) is on the same level as that of Jaxom and Ruth and Rand al’Thor.
Second: Shallan’s arc gets progressively more annoying. I actually like Shallan as a character, but that is in spite of this book’s arc. First, Shallan was the character who taught readers a Rosharan economics lectures, and that is brilliant world building, but it’s not why I read Stormlight or Sanderson.
Third: No matter how annoying, the most rewarding details are in Shallan’s arc. For those who have read RoW, her arc still has little connections that make RoW more interesting.
Fourth: As progressively annoying as I find Shallan (again, just in this particular book), I find Adolin comparatively more endearing. There is indeed a scenario in which Adolin actually becomes my favorite character. If I really had to sit down and contemplate it, he might already be my favorite. Dalinar is up there. What about Kaladin?
Fifth: Kaladin was awesome in this book. He becomes epically awesome in Words of Radiance, but the last two books really tested my patience with Kaladin. I get his character flaw. As a service member with many friends who have PTSD, I completely understand, but fantasy is typically an extreme. I’m glad Kaladin (as reported by Sanderson) has turned the corner, but seeing Kaladin at his best makes me more frustrated. I’ll probably do a comparison between Kaladin’s downward arc and Rand’s. Both are similar, and maybe some will feel differently than I do, but here I’ll say that when Rand was falling into despair, I felt sad for him. I understood his pain and hoped he’d find a way through. With Kal, I simply got more and more annoyed, and that’s not good. I’ll probably even feel more strongly about this as I read Words.
Sixth: This book currently lands at third best in the series for me. Shallan’s arc alone is enough to bring it down, but I also acknowledge I have RoW higher (number two) at the moment than other readers might. I was talking to my brother who made some good points. He wasn’t such a fan of the science lesson in the middle of RoW that is Navani’s arc. I liked the science of the arc (if not the character decisions and reasonings). So again, a lot of how these books rank for readers will greatly depend on how much they like world building.
Overall: Any book I read more than once is (at worst) very good. If I read it every time a new book in the series, I hope that speaks for the quality of the story overall. This book still had me sitting in my car for 20 minutes simply because I didn’t want to stop listening to it. It’s that powerful. I honestly hope to start reading this series with my sons soon, but my wife will want to finish reading every napkin Tolkien ever sneezed on first, which I can probably understand (it’s her favorite series).
Spoiler Free Summary: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson is the fourth story in the Stormlight Archive series. The war on Roshar is in full bloom. Dalinar leads a desperately needed assault to take back territory the humans need. Kaladin is still struggling with his desire to fight. Shallan and Adolin must travel to Shadesmar to negotiate with spren who would rather avoid them. Navani is learning secrets about the tower that could change everything. Odium has his plans as well. Everything comes together as the contest of champions takes shape.
Character: I’m happy to say that Adolin and Kaladin have my favorite arcs. A while back, I wrote a blog about things I hope RoW does, and this delivers on 1.5 of them. Sanderson has wonderful and charming characters. Interestingly, at least two (and perhaps as many as four) arcs deal with specific mental disorders. I wonder if Sanderson meant this book (and maybe this series) to parallel so many mental health issues. Regardless, these characters are all awesome. I must, however, disagree with Navani’s arc. It just felt kind of stupid to me (spoilers). Not all of it was by itself stupid, but there was a final part near the end of the book that didn’t come together for me. I get the plot point, and I understand the implications of what she did, but the way it came together felt forced. Even accepting this as what I honestly feel is a weak arc, it’s still a fantastic story. It’s only in hindsight that I consider these issues, and the most important aspect of evaluating character is in the heat of the story, not days after I’ve had time to pick it apart in my mind.
Exposition: Since everything really is coming to a head, there isn’t a lot of exposition here. I imagine people reading that book before others might feel lost, but I never understood reading a book in the middle of a series. I kind of think that’s on the reader. This story is huge (about 1,200 pages), but it reads fast. The last two hundred pages flies by! There are some parts that drag as Sanderson expands on his magic system (another demerit to Navani’s arc), but all epic fantasy has some deep exposition to go over the magic system.
Worldbuilding: This has been and remains where Sanderson shines. This book expands on Roshar and, more interestingly, the Cosmere. Everything in this story is vivid and immersive, and it just gets better and better with every book. I can’t say this story hits a home run, but I can absolutely say that anyone who’s been waiting as long as I had been for this book was (at worst) satisfied with it’s arrival. This book puts the larger arc in context. For those who don’t already know, the ten books that comprise this series are actually two, five-book arcs.
Dialogue: This is actually better than I’ve come to expect. The dialogue in this story is on par with Oathbringer (or better) for the same reasons. The relationship between Dalinar and Taravangian harken to Xavier and Magneto. It’s a wonderful arc that I hope continues in this vain. This is amplified (a credit to Navani’s arc) in Navani’s story. There’s some beautiful dramatic prose delivered via dialogue that kept even the exposition meaningful and interesting.
Description: This has all the wonderful traits of any Sanderson novel: expansive worlds, immersive scenes, and awesome fight sequences. If you like any Sanderson book, this one delivers as always.
Overall: I’d probably argue this is the second best book in the series so far (Words of Radiance). This book delivers on a few promises it has made early in the series, and it provides a thrilling plot twist that completely shocked me (in a good way). This book already has me chomping at the bit to get to Book 5!
Spoiler Free Summary: Dawnshard by Brandon Sanderson is considered book 3.5 of the Stormlight Archive. A ghost ship is found seeming to come from the mysterious island of Akinah. What secrets does that land hold? Why are some so driven to protect them? Mysterious beings composed of cremlings seem intent on keeping people off the island, and Rysn, a shipowner, must go there. Her pet Chiri-Chiri is sick, and only a visit to its home island, you guessed it, can give the creature a chance to survive.
Character: The Lopen always steals the show for me when he’s in a story, and this one is no different. I mention him first because he’s so charming. That said, Rysn is a fascinating character. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a story where someone who couldn’t walk is the main character. Rysn is intelligent and driven. She’s sympathetic and proactive, but her vunerability (perceived (I said perceived) powerlessness) makes her story interesting. Rysn doesn’t compare to Kaladin or Dalinar by any means. It’s not an insult to her; it’s just that she doesn’t grab me the way those two do. Still, she’s a great character, and Chiri-Chiri is awesome.
Exposition: Being a short story, there simply isn’t enough time to have too much bad exposition. There are some moments that we get a bit of a data dump in the form of conversation (negotiation) or internal monologue, but the story reads fast. I think I read about thirty percent a day.
Worldbuilding: This is what excited me. First, we get to see that island that’s been teased to us. Second, we get some expansion on the Cosmere. This book really opens up the origins of the Cosmere, so if you’re a fan of it, you really should read this book.
Dialogue: This isn’t as good as Sanderson’s work normally is. It’s not bad at all, it’s just not as amazing as it usually is (though I understand this was a rather rushed story). The Lopen gets another pass here because his dialogue is always fun. I think this book falls a bit short for me because the plot hinges (as is appropriate for Rysn) on a negotiation, and that scene didn’t really sing for me. I still loved and enjoyed it, but more so because of what I learned about the Cosmere and what this book teases about future books than the plot.
Description: Sanderson has some wonderful description. I’ve always appreciated how he balances good description with the pace of a story, and this is no different. I almost always feel like I’m watching a movie more than reading a book when I’m reading Sanderson, and this book was no different.
Overall: This book is awesome more so what it implies and promises about the Cosmere more than the story itself, which is probably not something Mr. Sanderson would want to hear. The book isn’t bad at all, but it was less Rysn and her arc that intrigued me than the greater implications this story offers to future books. Again, this story was good; it just wasn’t great. I will say this was a great primer for Rythm of War, and that alone makes it worth reading.
I was a bit bummed seeing this. It’s not new content. It’s not an alternate universe. It doesn’t provide new information. Sanderson is my favorite author in the game these days, and I’m always excited for new material. I don’t even mind re-reading it. I’m currently re-reading The Way of Kings as a way to get ready for the new Stormlight book. For people who haven’t tried any of his work (if they exist), this is a nice introduction. I’m a huge Dalinar fan, and this arc is wonderful. I just wish I had new Sanderson rather than stuff I’ve already paid for and enjoyed.
Wheel of Time is my second-favorite saga of all time. I joined the series after Knife of Dreams was out (though I started with Eye of the World), and I was hooked. I’ve read the whole series at least 14 times (1 time for each book in the series). There isn’t much news on the M.L.S. Weech front this week, so I thought I’d do a character study.
I’ve talked about character arcs a few times, and Rand is a fantastic analysis of character arc. Warning, there are spoilers here!
Characters need to grow: When we first meet Rand, we see a young man who thinks he knows how his life is going to go. He’s going to be a farmer, like his dad, and marry Egwene. He’s innocent. He’s naive. Eye of the World is essentially the story of a young man who must leave his home but desperately wants to return to it. The whole book is basically establishing Rand as a character living in ignorance (literally).
The Great Hunt forces Rand to act. Even in this book, Rand truly wants nothing more than to life to return to the way it was (a return to innocence). It is only his bond and desire to save his friend that keeps him on the path he needs to stay on. Which brings me to another point.
Characters need believable motivations: What else could keep a character moving along the plot line? Why would a character risk danger? In this case, Rand risks giving in to his power by putting himself on the Hunt. His loyalty to his friend is the motivation that makes us believe he’d do something he’d otherwise never do. The friendships established in the first book allow the reader to see that motivation.
The Dragon Reborn is such a clever tale for so many reason. Here we see Rand grow to accept who and what he is, and I don’t know that he has 5,000 words of screen time. We’re watching Rand grow from the perspective of those trying to catch up to him. This is the critical turning point. This is the book Rand realizes there is no returning to innocence. This book is Rand putting his fate to the test. He knows that only the Dragon Reborn could reclaim Callandor. I think this might be the book where people really fall in love with Rand. It seems weird to say, but this is the book where we see how heartbroken Rand is, and our hearts break with him. What do we learn about this?
Characters need to suffer: Sometimes, suffering can make us care for a character, and sometimes suffering can deepen how much we care. Either way, there must be conflict. In this book Rand is alone and struggling with nightmares and visits from Ba’alzamon. I have to admit, there was a large part of me that wanted it not to work. And that makes the story work.
The Shadow Rising is far more about Perrin than Rand. The scope of this series demands some books focus on one character more than others, and this is such a case.
The Fires of Heaven has a victory of sorts, but it’s a tragic victory. Everything is thrown into chaos, and Rand must evolve from a character who has reluctantly accepted his fate to one who must take the path he has. There’s a lot that happens in this story. The first is that Rand actively pursues his role as the Dragon Reborn. He’s acquired a plan. He’s still untrusting of Moraine, and why should he be? She’s been manipulating him from the beginning. Sure, she was doing it for the sake of the world and for his own good, but it doesn’t make her actions less manipulative. Of course, the moment he starts trusting her is exactly the moment she “dies.”
Character must be isolated to grow: This isn’t the same as The Great Hunt. First, he didn’t want to be anywhere near Moraine to begin with. Here, Moraine became a crutch. In a way, she also would have been a hinderance. Like the power these characters wield, Rand isn’t something you can direct, only something you can channel. Taking Moraine in that way and at that time forces Rand to become a leader.
Characters need evolving goals: The first three books are all about Rand trying to return to where he wants to be. Fires gives Rand a new goal and a new motivation. We still see his innocence, characterized by his desire to prevent women from dying, and even in this, Rand must allow others to die. This hurts Rand. He desperately wants to protect others, especially women, so his goal becomes morbid rather than hopeful. This is the seed that was planted for his fall.
Lord of Chaos changes Rand, and not in a good way.
Characters need to devolve every bit as much as they need to evolve: Rand’s capture and torture take someone who’s been manipulated before and pushes it to the extreme, leading him to be suspicious and distrustful of everyone. This betrayal changes Rand from one morbidly marching toward doom to a weapon. This was the most important moment since Moraine came to visit the Two Rivers.
Characters need anchors: Min and Aviendha (I’ll never see the value in Elayne) serve critical roles here. They represent who Rand used to be. They serve to give Rand some connection of love and trust that he desperately needs where others only fear him or what he must do. Rand tries to avoid this in a few ways, but Min (my favorite of the three) refuses to leave his side.
A Crown of Swords is a darker book that shows Rand descending into darkness. he does things that are “right,” but his motivations and justifications begin to darken. This book, Rand (not the Dragon) receives power. That power, like always, begins to corrupt him. He starts to want to break away from his older person. Again, motivation is key. Love and trust leads to loss and betrayal, so here, we see Rand beginning to use people and seek power rather than protect.
The Path of Daggers is a tipping point. Rand is gobbling up nations and gaining power. His actions fill him with pride and hubris, leading him to a critical battle with the Seanchan.
Characters need to fail: Failures teach characters. Failures humble characters. This particular Failure shows how far Rand has fallen, and the scary thing is, he doesn’t learn from it. Instead, he’s insulted by the failure. He’s goes even bigger.
Winter’s Heart becomes a sort of crowning moment of arrogance for Rand. He and Nyaeve cleanse the Source. Armies attack. The world watches in horror, and Rand does the impossible. It doesn’t actually do anything for him. He’s still insane. So are the Asha’men. As amazing as this is, it only means future men won’t lose their minds. At best, those already tainted will be saved from going completely mad. Rand’s falling deeper into despair, and this huge act of awesome power is great, but ultimately doesn’t do anything for Rand. He still has his anchors in the form of Nyneave and Min (and a few others). They continue to support Rand, who desperately needs that protection and that loyalty.
Many people hate Crossroads of Twilight. The plot doesn’t move an inch. It’s essentially a whole book of people reacting to Winter’s Heart. I had the advantage of being able to read straight through it to the next book, but I can understand how people who had been reading since the ’90s and wanted to see what happens next might have felt. I don’t imagine New Spring helped much either. Sure it showed us some new information in terms of back story, but we’re still left eager to see what happens next.
Knife of Dreams continues to push Rand to the edge. Everything he tries fails. Everything he tries comes to disaster. Failure isn’t new to Rand at this point, but this is different.
Characters need to be humbled: Here Rand isn’t just humbled, he loses a hand and almost loses himself to Lews Therin. The secret about his insanity is revealed. Where Rand was willing to go into the darkness for people, now it’s proven that he’s worthy of fear and distrust. This is important to show how close to the edge he is.
Characters need to appear as though they might go the wrong way: This is such a powerful writer tool and one so rarely used. We never worried that Harry Potter might become a Death Eater. We never worry that Luke would join the Dark Side. Those are great stories, but here is where Lord of the Rings and Wheel of Time shine. We begin to seriously fear Rand would go too far. At this point, our fear is small, but we’re just a tiny bit afraid that Rand will simply become a ruthless overlord. Him saving the world seems farther away than ever.
The Gathering Storm brings all of this to a head. Rand is again betrayed. Rand is again hurt. Rand becomes convinced that ruthlessness and death are all his options. He seems to have lost all his faith in people and in the world. This is most obvious when he not only kills a woman, he erases her from existence and then (apparently) does the same thing to an entire building. Is it effective? Ironically, no. The whole idea of his abusive, excessive actions was to catch his enemy off guard, and it fails. Rand falls farther than ever, until he encounters his father for the first time since this saga began.
Characters need to remember their original motivations/who they are: There’s an argument that characters need to change. I prefer grow. Rand is clearly a different man than he was. He’s harder. He’s wiser. At this point he’s more sly and mistrusting. But he’s still motivated by love. In desperation, Rand returns to Dragonmount to seemingly end his own life, and then he realizes the beautiful potential in the world. Sure, one may fail over and over again, but each new opportunity is a chance to get it right. That return to hope is what saves the day and leads us to the new Rand.
Through Towers of Midnight (far more about Matt) and into A Memory of Light, we see the changed Rand. He has accepted that he is both Lews Therin and Rand. He has accepted that suffering is a part of life, but he has returned to hope. His encounter with his father and his love for his friends (and other forms of love) has become his anchor. Rather than morbidly thinking about getting the Last Battle over with, Rand instead looks to the future.
We still see the change. He’s certainly never pushed around by any woman again. He’s not manipulated. He’s powerful, but now humility and loss has tempered his ego in to wisdom.
Those are the things that made him ready for the Last Battle. We see the battle end, and Rand is a new man. Rather than going home (who can ever go home again?), he sets out to see the world through new eyes (literally). The boy who only wanted to stay home and live a quiet life has now left to live a life of exploration and adventure.
Rand is a beautiful character in an equally beautiful saga. Just writing this post makes me want to read the saga again (maybe not this year because a new Stormlight book is coming). I just thought that analyzing this story gave so much insight to how to craft great characters into great stories. I hope you found this post helpful.
A while back, I wrote a song dedicated to Wheel of Time. The recording isn’t anything near studio quality, but hey, why not? Enjoy!
I was just thinking about books I’ve been waiting forever for, and that led me to this post.
First, I’m very guilty. I was supposed to have the entire Oneiros Log done by now (Hey! I’m getting there). I got derailed on quite a few projects, and while I still produced books, I didn’t publish the titles some of you are waiting for.
The thing is, authors owe readers stories. More importantly, they owe readers the stories they’re waiting for. Now, the author doesn’t owe the reader the stories the reader wants in terms of I want Kaladin to marry Shallan, but they do owe readers the next chapter in the story.
There should be some grace in this. For instance, any Stormlight book is some 700 pages. They’re huge, so waiting two years for 500,000 words is probably fair. But what about three, four?
Readers should be patient. I think Towers of Midnight had some issues here and there because they were working so hard to get it out there. So there’s a balance between the fact that the author owes the reader another story and the reader needing to be patient.
I dream of the day someone gets mad at me for not having this book or that book done. It hasn’t come yet, though I do have a few readers who are indeed waiting for Betrayed. Thinking about how angry I was waiting for word on the next Dresden book gave me some perspective on that.
Why is this important? Well for starters, it’s very hard to gain momentum when you’re not putting out product. A guy like George R. R. Martin can make anyone wait as long as he wants because he has his money. The worst readers can do to him is say, “Well, HBO ended it, so I’m good.” Please know that I don’t think that’s the case; I’m only saying if it was, no one could really do anything about it.
However, a guy like me trying to earn a living doing this needs to make sure that he’s always ready with the next book.
I get a lot of questions about being an author, and in the context of this post, I always say, “If you’re writing a story, don’t publish book one until you have the other two books in the series ready.”
Caught and the rest of Oneiros taught me that. For starters, when you publish books in quick succession, you give yourself more visibility. We’re in a binge age, and people want that next series. However, they want that series readily available. Even as I mention the need for readers to have at least some degree of patience, I understand that people want to marathon a whole season of television. I do the same with books. I don’t want to read one book in a series; I want to read the whole series, and I don’t want to wait a year to move to the next book.
Does that mean authors are evil if they don’t release books in quick succession? No. I confess Power of Words, Repressed, and Sojourn all distracted me from the book I probably should have written. Sometimes an artist has to go where the muse takes him. You may want a book quickly, but you don’t want a quick turd. Again, there’s a balance. I finally got Betrayed ready and COVID obliterated the chance for conventions (and therefore the opportunity to make what I need to get edits done).
That led me to start working on Discovered, and I even had the chance to return to Images of Truth. I have so many things I want to release, but I live on a budget. Yes, I owe you the rest of Oneiros, and I’m getting it done as quickly as I’m able with that budget.
What about the big guys? Well, I don’t think they’re being rude either. That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes wonder what Martin is up to (probably editing another series). It doesn’t mean I didn’t wonder what Butcher was up to. As a reader, I found myself frustrated at the wait. As an author, I feel convicted about not having stuff ready to print.
So maybe you’re not personally waiting for Betrayed, but you might be waiting for the next Ice and Fire book or something of that sort. I agree, it is frustrating to wait. You have a right to that emotion. Authors owe readers stories, and they should be produced in a timely fashion.
On my end, I’ll start drafting Discovered on the first. Once I’ve saved up enough money, I’ll send Betrayed to Sara for edits.
So I’m curious. How long do you feel it is appropriate to wait for “the next book?” Are you satisfied if an author at least publishes something in that time?
Most people who follow my blog know I’m a huge Brandon Sanderson fan. Well, his newest book, Rhythm of War comes out Nov. 17, so I thought I’d do a blog about the things I hope to see in Rhythm of War.
SPOILER WARNING! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
1. An end to Kal’s trauma: It’s perfectly understandable that Kal had a traumatic life. That trauma came to a head in Oathbringer. I think I’ve reached my limit on Kal’s struggle to save everyone. I’d really like to see him accept that sometimes you lose people you love, and sometimes you don’t.
2. Hoid do something awesome. A while back, we heard, “Hoid would do something awesome.” I believe that was originally intended to be in Book 5, but I hope it’s in this one. What I hope is to see Hoid do some sort of cross-world magic stuff. Like using biochromatic breath or allomancy against some of Odium’s peeps.
3. I want to see how Nightblood got to this planet! Obviously we know where Vasher is but I really want to know how they came to be there and how they got separated. I’m thinking Vivenna had something to do with it. This is probably the thing I’m most interested in at the moment.
4. More intimate battles. The last book, the scope of the battle was huge, and that’s cool, but I’m more a one-on-one kind of guy. I’d really like to see a few of those. I’d also like those fights to display more of the other radiant abilities. I have a good handle on Kal’s abilities, but they currently seem to be the ONLY offensive radiant abilities. Lift I suppose has some abilities that are more visual, but even they seem more defensive in nature, but at least they’re active.
5. I want to see Odium throw down. With how powerful everyone else is, I think it’s time for a threat. I want to see Kal get his but whipped (which might contradict what I mentioned above, but if it’s to make Odium a threat, I’m all for it). It doesn’t have to be Kal, but now that the knights had a huge victory, we need to see the Odium and those he’s working with or manipulating show their stuff. Now Sanderson usually does this through subversion. If you look closely at all his books, the good guy hardly ever gets beat. It happens, but it’s rare. I’m hoping to see some bad guy flexing. I need this personally because Kal (and his order) are pretty much OP at this point. Lift is all but impossible to kill. I’m not asking for a body count, but I wouldn’t be against it. The minimum for me is to see the threat posed. I get Odium’s situation, so I don’t really expect him to do much, but I need someone on team Odium to show that maybe Kaladin and Dalinar aren’t up to the task.
6. I ALMOST FORGOT! I want to see Adolin awaken his shardblade. He knows its name now. He can hear it. I really want to see him become a knight by brining his spren back to life. I almost forgot that because I expect it, but I EXPECT it, so I really want to see it happen.
7. A reunion of Vivenna, Vasher, and Nightblood. Do I need to go farther?
That’s pretty much it. I mean there are several other things I’m looking forward to, but those are the highlights. I don’t necessarily want to see all of these things happen in the next book. (Otherwise, what would be the point of the other six?) But I’d really like to see maybe two of them. If I had to pick which two, I’d say number 6 and 3. Those are the ones I really want, but any of the others in any combination would already make Rhythm a great addition to the saga.
What about you? What would you like to see out of the book?
Starsight is the second story in the Skyward saga by Brandon Sanderson. My review for Skyward is here. Spoiler Free Summary: Spensa’s dream of becoming a hero is only the beginning. An alien visitor appears, giving her the chance to learn about the people who have kept her captive this whole time. She also learns about the entity that is even more horrifying than the thought of humans at war. What secrets will she unveil? Will she be able to protect the secrets she keeps? What doe the eyes of the starts know?
Character: Spensa is still a charming character. She’s growing, which is nice to see. I like MBot too. She’s proactive still, rather like Naruto in a lot of ways. However, she’s growing smarter. She’s forced to teach, and that gives her some tools that she needs. I honestly think seeing her growth from the last book to this one was one of the more interesting parts of the story. The cast sort of splits and expands here. We meet essentially an entire new cast. We don’t cut completely away from the other characters, but they don’t get much screen time.
Exposition: The exposition of this story wasn’t beyond what I’d expect from a first person narrative. There are, of course, some “conversations” that decently hide the information we’re provided. They’re fun conversations and also reveal character, so I didn’t mind them at all.
Worldbuilding: This novel expands on the universe and provides insight to “the big bad” everyone is afraid of. In true Sanderson fashion, “the big bad” is never really what people think it is. This is where Sanderson has always, and will always, shined. This book made me miss Rithmatist (but not enough for him to stop working on Stormlight 4). The slow expansion of the world and it’s secrets is similar.
Dialogue: This is pretty much what I’d expect from any Sanderson story (especially a Sanderson YA story).
Description: I thought the description was great. I felt Sanderson was a little understated in his description in the last story, but this gave me the “something” I felt was missing from the last story.
Overall: This is easily the second-best book I’ve read so far this year. It fulfilled a lot of the promises the first book made. It became impossible to stop listening to it (this was an Audible story for me) with about three hours to go. It was a lot of fun. The only demerit I have is the cliffhanger ending. I hate those. I will always hate those. Even with that ending, I still loved it.
It’s a new year, which means it’s time to share my top three reads of 2019 with you all. Goodreads says I’ve read 21 books in 2019. I know I’m reading less and less. I’m hoping to find more time to read, but I have to find a balance between reading and writing. I’m also reading much larger books. This list was made without regard to publisher, format, or author.
How I did it: I kept track of books I liked and mentally compared one to the other. Without further delay, here’s my list.
#3 Skyward by Brandon Sanderson: You can find my review for that book here. Sanderson is probably going to be on my list every year I reads something from him. He’s my favorite author in the business. Skyward was a charming story that had a universe that intrigues me. Spin is fun. It probably fell because it’s YA. It’s a great story that I enjoyed, but I tend to be drawn to a bit more drama than YA goes here or there. Still, this book’s pages flew by as I read.
#2 Transcendence and Rebellion by Michael G. Manning: The rotation I have on reviews (I review in the order that I’ve read) means I won’t have reviews for number two or one. While I haven’t had the chance to review it, I will say this book was bitter sweet for me. I love Mordecai and his saga. I love that world. The conclusion was appropriate and satisfying. I’m just sad to see it over (like, very over). I still think Embers of Illeniel is the segment of this world that takes the cake, but Riven Gates was great in that it brought all the Illeniel generations together. There were some character decisions that I wasn’t such a fan of, and Rebellion did a decent job of sweetening the sour taste the last book left in my mouth. All in all, I love the characters so much. Listen, if you love fantasy (especially fantasy that’s just a shade darker than normal, just a shade mind you) try this who series out. These books have shown that Manning is an author who readers should wait with eager longing to write another. In fact, he has another saga out there I mean to start here soon.
#1 Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis: Again, I haven’t had the pleasure of posting that review yet, but man do I love it when a cool cover contains a cool book. If you like Dresden, you NEED to read this book! It has all the emotional feel and charm that Dresden has with a new world of magic. I couldn’t put it down, and I couldn’t wait to add its sequel to my TBR. This book has everything I look for in a great book: Great characters (plural), interesting world, fast plot, great ending. If I could only recommend one book (book, not author) for you, it’s this one.
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.
Whenever I do a review, those familiar with my blog know that I have a very consistent approach because I know what I like in stories, and I evaluate stories by what I like. I think the more someone works to understand what they like, they’re more likely to find books they enjoy and (if they aspire to be an author) write books they will enjoy.
What I decided to do today is provide examples on what books did particularly well in various categories.
Character: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I chose this specifically because of how divisive this book is in my opinion. I love it. I know people who hate it. The love and hate of this book is based entirely on how people feel about Kvothe. I think Kvothe is a brilliant character. He’s sympathetic, proactive, and highly competent. Now this is actually why a lot of people don’t like the book. He’s too perfect. I don’t think he’s a Mary Sue, but some do. Still the point is, this book hangs it hat on the main character.
Exposition: Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. Every book needs exposition. Sooner or later, the author has to just tell the reader what’s going on. The trick is to make sure that writers show everything they can and lace the exposition through the story. Mistborn has an incredibly complex magic system, and the world it happens in has a deep history. This book never once beats up the reader with complicated blocks of exposition. There is one “education” scene, where Vin learns the basics of allomancy, but other than that, the book weaves what we need throughout the action.
Worldbuilding: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. If you’re wondering, yes, it was very hard to not include Sanderson here as well, but Eye of the World is another example. Great stories typically have worlds that feel real. Eye of the World establishes so much with culture, the magic system, the mythos, and the setting. It’s truly masterful worldbuilding, but it’s not just worldbuilding for the sake of worldbuilding. There are books I feel that take worldbuilding too far. I don’t want to spend my life reading about the economic value of a whosit. This book balances intricate worldbuilding with the story to make the scene and universe believable.
Dialogue: Brother Odd by Dean Koontz. I’ve always been a fan of the dialogue in Koontz’s books, but I think this book is a text book for how dialogue is done. The conversations in this book are crisp and relevant, and each character has a distinct voice. Also, it’s a pretty amazing book.
Description: Betrayer’s Bane by Michael G. Manning. Honestly, I’m so finicky with description, this is hard for me. I think Timothy Zahn should also get some credit here, but Manning came to mind first, so here it is. This book has a lot of action and a lot of dramatic scenes. Manning artfully places strategic adjectives that bring a story to life without beating the reader to death with huge paragraphs of description.
There are many books that do many of these well. I don’t know that I can truly place a book here that does all of them well. I think a good book only has to do a majority of these well. I’ll even go so far as to say that, for me personally, I just need good character and low exposition, and I’ll probably like it. The point is, the more of these a writer pays attention to, the better the book will be.