Month: August 2015
I just finished this one today. For some reason, I never got around to reading anything by Wells, but I recently made it a quest of mine to seek out female fantasy authors I haven’t read (in addition to those authors, both female and male, that I already read). I didn’t know what to expect coming into this one, but I’m glad I did decide to read it.
Wells goes against quite a few trends in fantasy. In an era when so many authors write antiheroes, she wrote a book with a heroic (but troubled at times) main character. In an era of fantasy doorstops, she wrote a book that came in at less than three hundred pages. That’s a true rarity. Not only is the book short. It still feels like a completely satisfying and complex story.
What really sets this story apart is the setting. Wells brought the fantasy back into fantasy. This is a world where our main character is a shapeshifter, where there are multiple intelligent species with animal-like qualities. It was a world I haven’t seen before, and that was refreshing.
The plot and characterization are also strong. Not as strong as the worldbuilding, but still strong enough to carry you through a very good story. I’m excited to read more by Wells.
Here’s one that I read quite a while ago. In fact, it’s been three years since I’ve read it, so this won’t be too heavy on plot details. Besides, I don’t like to spoil too many things anyways.
This book is a good beginning to the Stormlight Archive, which looks like it will turn out to be Sanderson’s magnum opus. It’s a huge world with a huge story (more than 1000 pages of it, in fact). There’s a lot of good about this book, but at the same time, it’s setting up a much more massive story. Some of Sanderson’s other stuff stands alone (Elantris, Warbreaker, the first Mistborn book). This does not.
It’s also a major time investment and requires you to trust the author before you tackle it. I suggest reading some of his other works first. They’re not as deep and complex as this, but they’re also faster-paced and serve as better introductions to his work.
Now for the good:
This is a highly interesting and complex world. There’s the threat of an apocalyptic war. There are fierce storms that shape geography and wildlife. There’s conflict between and within nations. On top of all that, you have Sanderson’s great magic, though you should be warned that the magic in these books is a bit more mysterious than you’ll find in Mistborn. I’m sure there are rules for it, but it’s been missing for a long time, and so when it does show up, the characters are still figuring it out.
That brings me to the characters. In this book, Sanderson has crafted some of his best characters. Kaladin makes an interesting and conflicted protagonist. Shallan is annoying at times, but she grows on you as you read (and especially in the second book).
I especially found myself absorbed in Kaladin’s struggles. Some of the things he has to endure are truly horrific, and his character journey is a fascinating one to watch.
There’s also a great deal of mystery in these books. Since it’s the first of a ten-book series, you don’t get as many answers as you normally get from Sanderson. I found this mystery added to the book and helped me get through some of the slower sections.
Don’t worry. There is action. Great action. You just have to wait a while for it.
This book continues one of the things I love about Sanderson’s work. He’s not afraid to use common fantasy tropes. He just put his own spin on them. In doing that, he gives the reader something that’s both familiar and different, and that’s the right balance for me. If you’re looking for something that completely avoids tropes, this isn’t the right story for you.
For me, it’s the kind of story that reminds me of why I fell in love with fantasy in the first place. Sanderson writes the modern update of classic fantasy that keeps most in touch with the roots of the genre.
In all, this was a very good book, but it did have its slow sections. For those who are interested, I thought Words of Radiance was truly excellent.