BOOK REVIEW | The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Fantasy, philosophy, politics, action, compelling characters. In my later days of teen-hood, I realised that this was, for me, my holy formula. All the ingredients necessary to create the Perfect Book. I found this in the A Trial of Blood and Steel series by Joel Shepherd, and in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, but never in my life has a book left me so viscerally and profoundly satisfied in the way (heh) that the Way of Kings has.

5 stars

I was first introduced to Brandon Sanderson through a friend who recommended me Warbreaker. I remember the first two things about his writing that I was deeply impressed with: his detailed world-building (including a unique magic system), and complex characters. I witnessed this once again in Steelheart (which I still haven’t finished, much to my own dismay), and now here, in the first book of the Stormlight Archives. They say that three time’s a charm, so I guess it would be appropriate for me to say that Brandon Sanderson is a master.

And he has now become one of my favourite authors.

No joke, kids. This book was so damn good it made me want to buy ALL THE THINGS related to Brandon Sanderson. All his books, all the merch. Merch. This, coming from one of the world’s most frugal twenty-something. I mean sure, I’ll overspend on books. But me wanting to buy merch just goes to show how much of an impression this has left on me.

Stormlight hoodie, anyone?

First, to get the negatives out of the way. Yes, there are negatives, but obviously not enough to dampen the five star rating.

  • Overwhelming introduction. There is a lot of noun usage throughout the book but it’s most confusing in the beginning when you’re just starting out. Desolations, Shardplates, Voidbringers … it’s enough to make your head spin. Granted, I haven’t read a high fantasy book of this magnitude (over 1,000 pages!) in a while. It was only until the very end of the book that I had a good grasp of most of the concepts, except maybe for Desolations. I’m still unsure what that is exactly…
  • Awkward wittiness. Some of the lines by Shallan and Wit come off awkwardly and almost a little forced. For Shallan this mostly happened in the beginning of the book but flows much better when she starts to use the logic that she’s learned in tandem with her wit. For Wit, the awkwardness happens in a feast scene, where he greets Brightlords and Brightladies with insults.

Now for the positives!

  • The characters. Boy oh boy, where do I even begin? The characters are definitely the highlight of this book. One could even argue that this first installment was less about plot and more about developing the characters that will be central to this saga. I mean, this is going to be a 10 book series. That requires commitment. Fortunately, Sanderson has given me a reason to care, a reason to stay. The two standouts for me would have to be Kaladin and Dalinar.

Kaladin, the surgeon’s son, spearmaster, slave, bridgeman … and maybe something more. What I love most is how Sanderson uses flashbacks to layer his story and shows us how he came to be the person that he is. Though often drenched in misery, Kaladin’s arc is perhaps the most satisfying as you witness him navigate both his internal and external conflicts towards a climax that is the most blood-pumping, triumphant, exhilarating moment of my reading life. It had me looking like an idiot, squirming in the bus on the way to work, looking outside at the life bustling around me, then back down at the page thinking, “my life will never be the same again.”

File:Dalinar Kholin.jpg

Dalinar Kholin, Highprince of Alethkar, ferocious warrior, bearer of visions. His most endearing traits are his introspection and steadfast conviction in the Alethi Codes of War. On many occasions, I found myself thinking, “this world doesn’t deserve him.” Because he is good. Just so good. Give this man a holiday. He bears the burden of guilt and visions with the kind of strength that could carry the world and I want to be like him!

The moments with him that were icing on the cake? His interactions with Sadeas. I’m a complete sucker for friends-turned-rivals-turned-frenemies storylines, especially as it was it an effective way of showing how the same goal can be achieved through two very different, and sometimes disastrous means.

life-before-death
A very quick, poorly made edit I did of the First Ideal.
  • Philosophy and ethics. I feel this is very much the backbone of the novel, the driving force behind the characters and their motives, and something that I soaked up with great relish. The Immortal Words, The Way of Kings, the Alethi Codes of War … they all serve to highlight the “ideal” of mankind. To embody the qualities of honour, service, and integrity in everything that you do. The book is pretty much an exploration of a world where those ideals are lost, and in the broader sense, the fight that is needed to regain those ideals.
  • World-building and unique magic. I love that the highstorms shape this world. How both flora and fauna have adapted to being ravaged by it’s brutality, how it’s used for power, and how it’s used to infuse currency. While I haven’t read a lot of high fantasy it really has the feel of being unique. Most have come off a little too Tolkien-y for my taste (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) so this definitely was a breath of fresh air. As a scientist (I can say that because my degree officially declares that I am *cough*) I also love that the Surges have foundations in science. Those two factors give the book a sense of realism.
  • The interludes were also very welcome and refreshing as it added a layer of information on the world of Rokhar outside of the main conflict of the novel. It was kind of like a nice little breather in between all the intense parts.

  • The slow burn. I love me the slow burn. Give it to me bit by bit.  I know a lot of people may be put off by the pace, and in some cases I could also see where Sanderson could have cut things shorter or cut things out entirely, but please, I’m telling you: give this behemoth a chance because the slow burn pays off in a way so satisfying that it had me shaking and singing praises at three in the morning. At around the 80% mark, it becomes one helluva ride and culminates in an epilogue that made me feel with great certainty that I had just witnessed the beginning of a truly epic saga that will last the centuries.

Read it. Buy it. Give it to your best friend because your best friend deserves the best.

 

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BOOK REVIEW | Vision in Silver (The Others #3) by Anne Bishop

5 stars

I’m not even surprised. Anne Bishop is a master storyteller who’s written another amazing installment in The Others series.

Goodreads Summary: The Others freed the cassandra sangue  to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

I haven’t read a book in months, but Anne Bishop’s The Other’s series has proven to be my go-to books to kickstart my love for reading.

Honestly, a lot of the things I love about this new installment, I’ve written in my reviews for the the first two books. The most important being the characters. I could read a pile of books on them just doing everyday things because they are just that compelling and well-defined, and human. Despite a large portion of them being supernatural creatures, there are those underlying themes of understanding, connection, and friendship that knit them together, with the Humans First and Last movement representing the antithesis of that. They’re very interesting themes, really. And it’s a testament to Anne Bishop that she’s got me really thinking about the story and even empathasing with the humans who are against the terra idigine.

It’s the resulting fear from the refusal to understand and connect that drive the plot. And of course, that primal desire all animals have to survive and claim territory. I found myself thinking about what I would do if there were such things as terra indigine who controlled the land. Would I be swept up in the HFL, or try to help in forging peace with the earth natives? Which side would fear lead me to? The HFL, or the Others?

I like to make notes while I read, and here are some of the few I’ve written down that really stood out for me:

  • Merri Lee’s patience and empathy really shines in this book. Her role, of essentially being the ears and interpreter for Meg’s visions, expands a little in this novel as she helps Meg understand herself and what it means to be cassandra sangue apart from the cutting involved. When Meg does things that seem strange, Merri Lee never judges. Instead she asks her questions in order to understand why she’s acting the way she’s acting, and when she’s understood, provides anecdotes and facts from her own knowledge and experience to assure Meg that her behaviour isn’t all that strange.
  • The dash of humour! It’s always unexpected and it gets me literally laughing out loud. Like Simon knowing not to ask human women about periods and the song of the “Teakettle Woman and Broomstick Girl.”
  • The writing is simple, clean, and well-executed. Anne Bishop describes what only needs to be describes, allowing for a great and immersive read. She’s so good that she’s got me feeling things in my bones, especially at the mere mention of the more feared and powerful others, such as the Elementals.
  • The relationship between Meg and Simon continues to move slowly, but it’s a natural progression that helps the reader value the two parts as strong and complex individuals in their own right, who just so happen to be strong and complex and formidable together.

I enjoyed this book so much that after the first ten pages I decided to order the books from thebookdepository to have on my shelf, and they arrived a few days ago!

The Others Books
Mmmmm…. hardcover.

I’ve also preordered Marked In Flesh because HELL YESSSSSSSSSSS, give me more of that Anne Bishop lovin’.

Hello, 2016!

If there’s anything I learned in 2015, it’s that I’m not very good at running a blog. I’ll make promises and schedules, but never stick to them, which resulted in almost half of year of, well, nothing. Of course, there’s the full-time job to blame (which started around August) which takes up a lot of my energy especially due to the nature of the work and the hours I do. My spare time is spent lazing around because I’m too tired to do anything, and even the thought of reading sounded like a chore.

I’m not going to make promises for this blog for this new year, but I do want to start reading again. I miss being excited over characters and stories and writing my thoughts on them. Which is why I went to the library today for my first haul of 2016.

First 2016 Library Book Haul
I may have gotten too excited…

From top to bottom:

  1. Seven Second Delay, Tom Easton
  2. Winter Be My Shield, Jo Spurrier
  3. Vision In Silver, Anne Bishop
  4. Conqueror’s Moon, Julian May
  5. Malice, John Gwynne

I think I might start with Vision in Silver because I’m 100% guaranteed to enjoy it. Hopefully it’ll reignite that desire to read so that I can move on to others.

Anyway… happy 2016, everyone, and happy reading! 🙂

What Does It Mean to Write About Happiness?

This puts into words what I’ve been trying to get at in my reviews for Anne Bishop’s The Others series. I’ve said that despite the dark and grim nature of the books, there are very human and ordinary moments which make it so endearing. Now I realise they were endearing also because they were happy. We get so many scenes where the characters get to breathe, get to *be*, without the problems they’re facing dragging them down.

And obviously I should get to reading Vision In Silver because it might just end this slump of mine.

A Writer's Path

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A few weeks ago, I came across a review on Goodreads mentioning Laurie Colwin and how, in that reader’s opinion, she was one of the few recent authors who wrote about happiness. My curiosity piqued, I ordered one of her novels, Happy All the Time, through my local library, and I let myself entertain modest hopes for the book.

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It’s been a while!

I’ll be honest with you, blogging got tiring and reading became a job instead of a hobby.  I pushed through books just to make it to my review deadline which really took the fun out of it. I felt like if I didn’t post regularly, there was no point in having this blog at all, which was stupid. I mean, it’s not like I’m doing this for money.

In the past month that I’ve been gone, I haven’t finished any novels. I’d go through a few dozen pages, and the moment I found something I didn’t like about it, no matter how small, I’d put it down. It’s most likely because I broke my habit of reading so it’s just a matter of starting back up again slowly.

Anyway, after that little internet/blogging detox, I am back! I don’t have anything specifically planned, but I have noticed I’ve been tagged in a few things so I’ll probably do those first, and then see how things go.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW | Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

Soooo… I was in a reading slump which is why there was no review yesterday but decided to follow my own advice and sought out a book I knew I would like. Yesterday, I had a quick library run and picked up Murder of Crows. THANK ALL THE DEITIES I LISTENED TO MYSELF. 5 stars Yeah, that’s another FIVE STARS for you, Ms. Anne Bishop. Congratulations on being amazing. You’re already on my list of favourite authors.

Goodreads Summary: After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more. The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murders of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard—Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader—wonders whether their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or of a future threat. As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.
Anne Bishop
Behold, the woman rocking my world with her amazing books.

Opening the pages felt like coming home. I’d already decided by the end of the first book that Anne Bishop could do no wrong with these novels because the characters had already taken hold of my heart so it astounds me to no end that in this book, I’ve fallen in love with them even more.

Here are some of the things I loved:

  • An expanding world and new characters. A host of new characters are introduced with the same finesse found in the first book. I was particularly fun to read about the Intuits of Great Island. I could really feel the connection and sense of community between their inhabitants and am looking forward to seeing what role they’ll play in the events of the next book, especially with their new resident.
  • Slow-burn romance. Emphasis on the slow. A few glowing embers of a fire have appeared and I absolutely loved this. The relationship between Meg and Simon develops so organically — as it should — and it’s approached with care. The two of them are complicated in their own ways and it wouldn’t do their characters justice to have them jumping on each other for sexy times without developing anything between them. As with a lot of the things in this series so far, there is a very human story beneath all the supernatural elements and I really felt it in their relationship. This is because of how it emphasises the value of friendship. Meg and Simon acknowledge this on multiple occassions, both in thought and in words. You see it in how they, when faced with a misunderstanding that usually stems from the differences in their nature, talk things through with honesty. How they make efforts to understand the things about the other that confuse them. How they compromise. It is especially refreshing to see a male, Wolf character be honest with himself about such feelings, even though he doesn’t realise those feelings are much more than friendship.
  • Tension galore and Captain Burke. I loved how the tension was so palpable in this book, especially as Captain Burke played a more active role. That scene in the with him and the Hot Crust employees was one of my favourites because it felt like an assertion of how serious the tensions between the humans and the Others were. You can’t just simply put a “Humans Only” sign on your doors and refuse to send deliveries to the Courtyard and not get away with it. The humans live because the Others let them, a fact that seems to be forgotten by the humans as they become more arrogant (stupid). It’s amazing how, while I understand where the humans are coming from, I can side with the Others quite easily. Of course, this issue is very much a parallel to the history of the real world, with explorers claiming ownership to land and resources belonging to indigenous peoples.
  • The human pack. They played a bigger role in this book and it was great to see more scenes with them together. They go through the ringer a little in this, labeled as “Wolf lovers” and shunned by their friends and family as employees and frequent visitors to the Courtyard. But I loved how level-headed they remain compared to the rest of the humans. There’s a conversation they have in the sorting room where they come to the realisation that all of this fighting and tension between the humans and the Others merely comes down to misunderstanding. Both sides have never taken the effort to really get to know and understand each other, their interactions merely like a business deal. You give me that and I’ll give you this. That’s no way to co-exist. It was a really great moment because you could see, especially through Ruth, how much a little effort to understand can change things, and I hope we get to see more of that in the next book with the role that she’ll play in the Courtyard.
  • A different heroine. I’ve seen some reviews that have said Meg is boring and I am here to argue that she is not. She is simply different. Most female protagonists in urban fantasies are made from the same mould: they kick butt, are stubborn and tend to break the rules, and are probably proficient with a *insert weapons of choice here*, or become proficient later on. But Meg’s weapon is her kindness, which I touched on a little in my review of Written In Red. She is kind. That is who she is at her core and as a cassandra sangue and it’s not a weakness. In a world filled with so much tension and violence both on the human and Others side, she is a bright ray of hope and peace. She is strong in her own way. She is smart. She is a survivor. And she, armed only with a broom, will save a Wolf, much to approval of scary Others, thank you very much.

Overall, it was another great read. Though I’m kind of hesitant to start Vision in Silver because Marked in Flesh, the fourth book, comes out and in March 2016 and who can actually wait that long? Barbaric, I tell you. Barbaric.

How do you like your books?

My books are my precious children. I cover them with clear adhesive wrap like an overprotective mother. When I read them, I make sure my hands are clean, refrain from eating, and try not to crease the spine too much. You could say I’m a tad obsessive. But who isn’t? I know plenty of book lovers, myself included, who’d never let someone borrow their books for fear that it’ll come back damaged. Or even just the simple fear of seeing a dog eared page. *shudders*

But I also love the look of used and battered book. You can tell it’s well-loved and well-read (unless this look was achieved by being dropped from a twenty storey building). If you see this book in the library, you know that many must have opened the cover, flipped through it’s pages, and left the world for hours as they stepped into the story. On my own shelf, the Goblet of Fire and the Order of the Phoenix fit this description, as they captured my imagination when I was young. I used to read those books at least twice a year and never got sick of them. When I pick them up now and look at their creased spines, covers bent at the corners, and yellowing pages, I get vivid memories of those younger times.

But now, for some reason, while I love the look and feel of a well-read book, I can’t bring myself to do that to my own anymore. Of course, they’ll get to that stage over time, but not yet! Not right now. I don’t know what it is. Sometimes I feel like maybe I love them less because how many times they’ve been read doesn’t show, like the books on my shelves are just trophies on display. Sometimes, it seems a little impersonal. I remember Scott Westerfeld saying how he loved it when he signs books that look well-read and are filled with little notes and post-its. Do it mean I love my books less? Of course not!


How do you like your books?