Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Supervillains came onto the scene about 10 years ago and remade the world. They run independent city states cared out of the remnants of the US (and probably throughout the world, but horizons have narrowed).

It’s a story of resistance and struggle against an overwhelming foe. How do you bring down a man who can’t be killed? Who has remade the ground for floors deep into solid steel? And how do you coordinate that while on the run from his allies and servants?

It’s fun YA, with a very likable protagonist. I’d strongly recommend it to anyone interested in good YA fiction.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

A great YA book set in a late victorian clockwork and magic world that borrows a lot from real history… then throws in bold changes, making it unique. The borrowing from the real world, in the end, is mostly the names of countries and empires–but not even that, straight.

It’s a boarding school book, where our hero attends a large, exclusive school that trains people for their careers… including the career of Rithmatist. There’s a lot of interesting history about this weird magical practice that comes out over the book. The first thing we learn is that Rithmatic lines are drawn in chalk, often circles and lines. There’s art interspersed between chapters with drawings of the various circles and their points of intersection. That’s a fascinating read, and lends quite a bit to the feel of a complex, discovered magic system.

Joel is an interesting hero; near obsessed with Rithmatists, but unable to wield their powers. As you’d expect from YA, his focus and dedication, despite the evident incongruity, pays off in the end–but not much before that!

Much like Harry Potter, he’s poor in a society of wealthy aristocrats. While his father is also dead, his mother is present, if mostly in the background. Much of the book is about Joel coming to navigate relationships of his choosing, both with Professor Fitch and Melody.

Melody, in contrast to Joel, is a Rithmatist… but not a very good one. She doesn’t draw great circles, she drifts off in class, and “doodles” unicorns. She’s what Joel wishes to be, squandered… but we find that there’s more to her (and her chalklings) too.

In the end, it was well done. The book comes to a satisfying conclusion, but with a large thread left dangling. I’ll keep an eye out for its promised sequel, but writing hasn’t been begun on it yet.

Wheel of Time: Towers of Midnight and Memories of Light

I was wrong.

The flaws that prevented me from enjoying the Wheel of Time a few years ago, it turns out, were due almost entirely to the delay between books and my lack of willingness to reread/refamiliarize for clarity.

The pacing isn’t perfect (over 100,000+ pages, it’d be surprising if it was). but the 14 books make for a great experience. Now that the series is complete, I’d be happy to recommend it to anyone interested in a sprawling world grand fantasy.

The end delivered on the build up and promise of the initial books. Thinking about the transition, it’s clear that Sanderson worked hard to emulate Jordan’s style–and succeeded brilliantly. There were minor differences, but none that I couldn’t chalk up to Jordan writing at his best.

These two books are action packed. The world is ending and the heroes aren’t quite ready for it–but there’s no time.

Rand’s acceptance of his fate and developing wisdom feel earned; it’s great to see the other characters so surprised by his development and rapid change.

Perrin succeeds at embracing the wolf, but struggles appropriately. Master Luhan’s advice near the end rings true–as does Perrin’s surprised realization about his restraint.

Mat remains Mat, even when he is called upon to be the greatest general the world has known. His duel with Demandred is extensive (in page count), but it has to be. So many good people die, but that emphasizes the incredibly high stakes, and… honestly, if many more had survived, it would have strained credulity.

Again, the series was well done and the conclusion was earned. The characters went through an immense amount, but remained sympathetic, interesting, and reacted authentically throughout.

The end is final enough; there are projections toward the future, threads left hanging… but it’s a new world. I do wonder if anyone will bother with fan-fic after the series’ end… so much was resolved that seeing how people react to the great events would be fascinating, but you can’t match the excitement of the last battle without feeling derivative. [Well, that, and given the tremendous slaughter, the whole world needs trauma counseling.]

Wheel of Time: Towers of Midnight and Memories of Light

I was wrong.

The flaws that prevented me from enjoying the Wheel of Time a few years ago, it turns out, were due almost entirely to the delay between books and my lack of willingness to reread/refamiliarize for clarity.

The pacing isn’t perfect (over 100,000+ pages, it’d be surprising if it was). but the 14 books make for a great experience. Now that the series is complete, I’d be happy to recommend it to anyone interested in a sprawling world grand fantasy.

The end delivered on the build up and promise of the initial books. Thinking about the transition, it’s clear that Sanderson worked hard to emulate Jordan’s style–and succeeded brilliantly. There were minor differences, but none that I couldn’t chalk up to Jordan writing at his best.

These two books are action packed. The world is ending and the heroes aren’t quite ready for it–but there’s no time.

Rand’s acceptance of his fate and developing wisdom feel earned; it’s great to see the other characters so surprised by his development and rapid change.

Perrin succeeds at embracing the wolf, but struggles appropriately. Master Luhan’s advice near the end rings true–as does Perrin’s surprised realization about his restraint.

Mat remains Mat, even when he is called upon to be the greatest general the world has known. His duel with Demandred is extensive (in page count), but it has to be. So many good people die, but that emphasizes the incredibly high stakes, and… honestly, if many more had survived, it would have strained credulity.

Again, the series was well done and the conclusion was earned. The characters went through an immense amount, but remained sympathetic, interesting, and reacted authentically throughout.

The end is final enough; there are projections toward the future, threads left hanging… but it’s a new world. I do wonder if anyone will bother with fan-fic after the series’ end… so much was resolved that seeing how people react to the great events would be fascinating, but you can’t match the excitement of the last battle without feeling derivative. [Well, that, and given the tremendous slaughter, the whole world needs trauma counseling.]

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

I just completed rereading Elantris, Brandon Sanderson’s first book. While the book is less polished (mostly word choices at the very beginning), it quickly develops into an interesting book. The three main characters are well drawn, and the Gyorn’s crisis of faith is handled particularly well in a low key way.

This world does a great job of detailing the results of a magic dependent society when their magic is suddenly cut off. The Shaod (and its cause) are interesting and well presented. All in all, it’s a good book and a great first effort.

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn 3)

The conclusion of the Mistborn Trilogy, The Hero of Ages is an excellent book. As promised in the last book, the end of the world is in progress. Vin, Elend, and Kleiser’s crew struggle with Ruin. A new power, Hemalurgy, joins the mix and along the way we learn the secrets of the Koloss, Kandra, and Inquisitors.

What happens is too dependent and spoilery of the previous books, but the promised end of the world is in full swing. Spook’s development is handled well, bringing him into the spotlight– which he deserves as the book goes on.

If you’ve read the first two Mistborn books, this is a worthy conclusion.

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn 2)

The Well of Ascension is the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy. It’s very much an Empire Strikes Back type middle book. There are still lots of interesting things going on but the conflicts are muddier and the opposition is suffocating (rather than more viscerally scary).

After the good accomplished by the heroes in the first book, everything seems ready to fall apart. The book begins a year after book one, with Elend ruling a shaky kingdom centered on Luthadiel.

If I had to quickly summarize the difference between this book and its predecessor, I’d say this book is like the first, minus the “planning the overthrow of the Last Empire” crime caper style collaboration and adding an extensive “politics and ruling” subplot. This was still a great book and has me eagerly awaiting book 3 (The Hero of Ages).

One of the biggest changes is spoilery, so I’ll put it below the fold. Continue reading “The Well of Ascension (Mistborn 2)”

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

I read Mistborn almost compulsively over Thanksgiving. It was responsible for a couple of short nights– up too late reading.

Mistborn is almost a crime / revolutionaries blend, set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world. It’s a fascinating setting, with an underworld that feels appropriately gritty and deceptive. The two primary characters shine and the rest of the cast does well.

I loved Vin; she felt real and reliable even as she changed dramatically over the course of the book. Kelsier is interesting– the book really focuses on him, but most of our view of him comes through Vin’s eyes. The way he changes and pushes what’s possible time and again made it a joy to watch him in action.

The world is fascinating; bleak, with ash steadily falling for the last thousand years. The skaa; peasants and serfs, beaten down and beyond the possibility of revolt… almost. The magic system is interesting– balanced, logical, and simple in concept. The greater metals and lesser, mistings versus mistborn, and the like all combine to make the world feel like it’s had these concepts for a long time. Security takes appropriate precautions versus the metals, but has to balance the few metal wielding magicians against the bulk of the peasantry.

I can’t say enough good things about it– except that I was unaware that its sequels are already out. They’ve already been requested from the library, so I hope to leap into the sequels soon.