Monday, August 30, 2010

Review - The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

As one of the biggest releases of the year in one of the only genre's that count, The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive Book 1) [US] [UK] comes out tomorrow (in the US) and the word that normally comes to many people's minds is... hype. Does it live up to the hype? Well, let's see...

King Gavilar has been killed by an assassin in white and Alethkar's forces have been battling for years against the Parshendi on the Shattered Plains, a not-too-distant land filled with giant chasmfiends and valuable gemhearts, to right the wrong done to their king.

Kaladin is a warrior who dreams of fighting with the rest of the soldiers of Alethkar on the Shattered Plains, but quickly becomes embittered especially when he is sold into slavery and becomes even worse, a bridgeman. In other parts of the world, we follow Shallan on her quest to become the ward of not only the most famous scholar in the world, but also the sister to the king.

While taking the word "doorstop" to new levels, The Way of Kings is surprisingly fast paced. It's a thousand pages that reads like only a couple hundred, but this is also because the reader gets sucked into a world all it's own.

The Characters

Brandon Sanderson does an impressive job of creating an epic story while only focusing on a few central characters. The epic-ness, however, does suffer somewhat (not a lot) because of this. The main p.o.v.'s being Kaladin, Shalan, Dalinar, and Adolin, but there is hardly ever a time when it is not one of these outside of the interludes.

Kaladin is disenchanted (to say the least) with the world, with honor, and especially with lighteyes. He tries his best, but still leads everyone who follows to their deaths. If I had to say there was a central protagonist, I'd have to go with Kaladin and I'm glad of that. His were my favorite chapters, but not by much.

Shallan is a quick-witted lighteye from a smaller holding in the empire, but she's on a mission to save her family with some ulterior motives than those aforementioned. Her chapters were always fun to read, what with her tongue that gets her into or out of lots of trouble.

Dalinar Kholin and Adolin, Dalinar's son, are on the Shattered Plains fighting the interminable war against the Parshendi. The only house to hold to the Alethi Codes of War in a society that sees war as a competition, they have become somewhat outcast. These chapters were always full of debate on what it is to be a leader. What is it that makes one honorable and why? Always happy to go back to the Shattered Plains.

The Magic

Sanderson is definitely spoiling us with his inventive magic systems and The Stormlight Archive is no exception to his arsenal. Believability keeps up with inventiveness and we have a character unto itself.

Almost immediately, in the prologue, we're introduced to Lashings, which isn't a magic that is used very often throughout the rest of the book, although it's implications are great and have me more than a little excited for the next volumes in the series. With Lashings, the user is able to essentially turn gravity on its head for either the user or the one it's being used against. Lots of potential here.

Next, the magic we see throughout the majority of the book are the Shardblades and Shardbearers. A Shardblade is an ancient weapon used by the Knights Radiant and a Shardbearer is one who wears Shardplate, the only thing that can stand up to a Shardblade. One who kills a Shardbearer is able to inherit that plate and weapon. I can never get enough of these guys.

There are other systems that are mentioned such as Fabrials and all of the systems depend to some degree on stormlight, so one could make the argument that they're all of the same magic.

While the characters and magic are amazing, Sanderson tells a great story that shows what it is to be honorable, to lead others, and to find one's humanity even in the midst of inhumanity.

The Way of Kings is an opening to a series that is much more vast than what we've seen so far. This is, however, one of the drawbacks, that it is an introduction. There's a lot that I still have questions about, but I must say that this introduction does it's job well.

So, does The Way of Kings live up to the hype? With my vast credentials at judging such a thing, I'd have to say it does. The only real drawback is we have to wait a few years to get the second volume as Sanderson is planning on (rightfully so) finishing The Wheel of Time first.

4.5 to 5 out of 5 Stars

Thursday, August 26, 2010

(Audiobook) Review - On Basilisk Station by David Weber

This is a cult classic in military science fiction and I finally found a chance to get started on this 12 book (and counting) series. On Basilisk Station review at OTBSFF.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some Books in the Mail

A nice haul came in this last week or so, mostly thanks to Book Chick City and Fantasy Literature (thanks a bunch). (Blurbs are from Goodreads)

Legend by David Gemmell This is the 25th Anniversary edition. I have already read it, but this is sure perty. :)
Druss is a warrior of legend who chooses to spend his last days in a mountaintop lair, alone. But when the fortress of Dros Delnoch is attacked by the Nadir hordes, the old and rusty hero returns to save the land. . .
Gridlinked by Neal Asher I realized I hadn't read anything by Neal Asher, so why not start from the beginning.
Cormac is a legendary Earth Central Security agent, the James Bond of a wealthy future where "runcibles" (matter transmitters controlled by AIs) allow interstellar travel in an eye blink throughout the settled worlds of the Polity. Unfortunately Cormac is nearly burnt out, "gridlinked" to the AI net so long that his humanity has begun to drain away. He has to take the cold-turkey cure and shake his addiction to having his brain on the net.Now he must do without just as he's sent to investigate the unique runcible disaster that's wiped out the entire human colony on planet Samarkand in a thirty-megaton explosion. With the runcible out, Cormac must get there by ship, but he has incurred the wrath of a vicious psychopath called Arian Pelter, who now follows him across the galaxy with a terrifying psychotic killer android in tow. And deep beneath Samarkand's surface there are buried mysteries, fiercely guarded.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman I have always considered myself a Neil Gaiman fan. I loved all the film adaptations, especially Stardust, and Good Omens is one of my favorites. Wait a sec. I haven't actually read anything that he's done on his own. What the heck is my problem? Here's the beginning of a solution.
When Richard Mayhew stops one day to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk, his life is forever altered, for he finds himself propelled into an alternate reality that exists in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere.
Metatropolis by a whole slew of authors (John Scalzi, Jay Lake, and Tobias Buckell to name a few) This is only available on audio with not only some great authors (a bunch whose books I own yet have never read) but also a great production cast.
Sci-fi creators, Battlestar Galactica cast members, and star narrators have teamed up to craft a world of zero-footprint cities and virtual nations. It is a world where armed camps of eco-survivalists battle purveyors of technology. Where once-thriving suburbs have crumbled into treacherous Wilds. Welcome to the dawn of uncivilization.
Full Circle (Book 3 in the Castings Trilogy) by Pamela Freeman This one and the next are obviously winnings as I do not own the first two in either of these series'. The more I read about them, the more I can't wait to start each (series that is).
Saker's ghost army is slaughtering those of the new blood, fueled by an ancient wrong. But while he'd thought revenge would be simple, he's now plagued by voices foreshadowing a calamity beyond his comprehension.

Ash and Bramble raise the warrior spirit of Acton, mighty in life and powerful in death. Only he can stop Saker's rampage. But is Acton, Lord of War, murderer or savior?

And why would he help strangers protect a world he's never known?
Fall of Thanes (Book 3 in the Godless World) by Brian Ruckley
"The world has fallen from its former state. The war between the clans of the Black Road and the True Bloods has spread. For Orisian, thane of the ruined Lannis Blood, there is no time to grieve the loss of his family, brutally slain by the invading armies. The Black Road must be stopped. However, as more blood is spilled on the battlefields, each side in the conflict becomes more riven by internal dissent and disunity." "Amid the mounting chaos, Aeglyss the na'kyrim uses his newfound powers to twist everything and everyone around him to serve his own mad desires." Meanwhile, the long-dormant Anain are stirring and when the most potent race the world has ever known returns, the bloodletting may never stop.
Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky Do I really need to say anything about this book? Can't wait to read it.
Seventeen years ago Stenwold witnessed the Wasp Empire storming the city of Myna in a brutal war of conquest. Since then he has preached vainly against this threat in his home city of Collegium, but now the Empire is on the march, with its spies and its armies everywhere, and the Lowlands lie directly in its path. All the while, Stenwold has been training youthful agents to fight the Wasp advance, and the latest recruits include his niece, Che, and his mysterious ward, Tynisa. When his home is violently attacked, he is forced to send them ahead of him and, hotly pursued, they fly by airship to Helleron, the first city in line for the latest Wasp invasion. Stenwold and Che are Beetle-kinden, one of many human races that take their powers and inspiration each from a totem insect, but he also has allies of many breeds: Mantis, Spider, Ant, with their own particular skills. Foremost is the deadly Mantis-kinden warrior, Tisamon, but other very unlikely allies also join the cause.

As things go from bad to worse amid escalating dangers, Stenwold learns that the Wasps intend to use the newly completed railroad between Helleron and Collegium to launch a lightning strike into the heart of the Lowlands. Then he gathers all of his agents to force a final showdown in the engine yard…

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Article - Why You Should Read... John Marco

You probably already saw this because you just can't get enough of me, but here's the link to my article on on "Why You Should Read... John Marco."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

(Audiobook) Review - The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

Peter V. Brett stays consistent with this great installment in the Demon Cycle, The Desert Spear. Review here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Edi's Book Lighthouse Giveaway - The Affinity Bridge

Edi's Book Lighthouse is having it's first giveaway with George Mann's The Affinity Bridge, Book 1 in the Newbury and Hobbs series. I've been eyeing George Mann's work lately, especially given Edi's praise, so you can count me in.