Posts Tagged ‘Brandon Sanderson’


Review: ‘The Way of Kings: Book One of the Stormlight Archive’ by Brandon Sanderson

December 8, 2010

The Way of Kings: Book One of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

Introduction From the Back Cover:

I long for the days before the Last Desolation.

The age before the Heralds abandoned us and the Knights Radiant turned against us. A time when there was still magic in the world and honor in the hearts of men.

The world became ours, and we lost it. Nothing, it appears, is more challenging to the souls of men than victory itself.

Or was that victory an illusion all along? Did our enemies realize that the harder they fought, the stronger we resisted? Perhaps they saw that the heat and the hammer only make for a better grade of sword. But ignore the steel long enough, and it will eventually rust away.

There are four whom we watch. The first is the surgeon, forced to put aside healing to become a soldier in the most brutal war of our time. The second is the assassin, a murderer who weeps as he kills. The third is the liar, a young woman who wears a scholar’s mantle over the heart of a thief. The last is the highprince, a warlord whose eyes have opened to the past as his thirst for battle wanes.

The world can change. Surgebinding and Shardwielding can return; the magics of ancient days can become ours again. These four people are key.

One of them may redeem us.

And one of them will destroy us.

What Drew Me to the Book:

As anyone that’s visited Following that Raven in the last couple of years has likely surmised, Brandon Sanderson is currently my favorite modern fantasy writer so to say that I was looking forward to The Way of Kings would be something of an understatement. And even if I wasn’t already a huge fan, who could look at that epic Michael Whelan cover and not be drawn to the book!? It’s one of the strongest covers I’ve encountered and I suspect that more than a few readers will be gained gazing into the possibilities it suggests in its striking color and detail.

The Review:

Let me clarify that I will be reviewing The Way of Kings based on the Macmillan audio performance by fan favorites Michael Kramer and Kate Reading. I purchased the large tome for my library shelves as well, and am very impressed by the production values, illustrations, and reference material that it contains and will be referring to it often in the future to heighten my experience with the series no doubt, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to listen to the book as read by these two veteran voice actors that I already enjoy so much. Truthfully, it may have been their best performance yet. Whatever the case, they certainly brought their “A” game and I highly recommend that fans of the book (or potential fans) give the audio version a listen if at all possible.

The Way of Kings: Book One of the Stormlight Archive is the inaugural entry in a 10-volume epic, and it hits the ground at a sprint, thrusting the reader right into battle following an impressive prologue/prelude set-up which sets a grim mood following the wake of an apparent betrayal amongst immortal warriors, bringing desolation to the land of Roshar. The battles that ensue are fought not only by highly trained soldiers in the Alethi and Parshendi armies (the two warring sides in a 6-year struggle) but on a larger scale between great warriors donning coveted armored carapaces with superhuman capabilities, likewise by unarmored individuals able to harness the Stormlight prevalent in a world of high storms, granting them preternatural abilities, and one of Sanderson’s best magical “systems” yet. I can also say right off the bat that Sanderson crafts these clashes (and, yes, there are many) with meticulous care and outside the characters themselves the scenes of battle were the strongest part of the novels for me, rich in detail and never losing sight of the excitement that should be implicit in such scenes, particularly those involving close combat.

Following four principle characters throughout, The Way of Kings provides strong characterization in each case: Szeth is a reluctant assassin whose great power is as mysterious as his past and he gets the ball rolling quickly in the book with a thrilling battle and the death of a king, Shallan is a young woman who rides the high seas seeking an opportunity to apprentice under a gifted scholar, and heretic, named Jasnah; but there are motives underlying her quest that will have great repercussions the both of them, particularly as she begins to confront herself. Dalinar, the “Blackthorn,” is an aging Alethi high prince, a wielder of  Shardplate armoer, and a commander in King Elhokar’s army who awakens to visions of a cryptic “final desolation” while striving to unite his fellow high princes as a unified force to win the war against the drawn out war against the Parshendi and prepare for its coming. Finally, Kaladin, a great military man (and former surgeon’s apprentice) in the Alethi army tragically finds himself a slave to the very army in which he was enlisted after having been betrayed by a “light eyes” he once trusted. His trials as a bridge-runner (a job with a rather high mortality rate) provide the bulk of the narrative, and seeing him awaken to the potential within himself in this dire situation is a joy to behold throughout the narrative, particularly as his and Dalinar’s story begin to run parallel, ultimately converging.

Roshar is world whose hard landscape is filled with ever present danger, be it the constant threat of death on the shattered plains in battle, terror at being confronted by one of the many massive beasts that roam the chasms, mistrust and deceit among companions and peers, assassinations around every bend, or even the elements themselves that ravage the landscape with consistent high storms to deadly consequence. The characters that inhabit this world have to have a bit of grisliness in them simply in order to survive and while I have run across the minor criticism that the main players are cut a little too rigid in this mold, offering black and white morality in their roles, it is a criticism that I cannot level as I readily found what I perceived to be real “character” in both the righteous and deplorable actions of notable players (never having been one to believe that “character” is necessarily found in the gray areas) and real concern for the sticky situations that certainly provided the reader opportunities to fret over the actions they took and the consequences that followed. You’ll root for and against the principle and supporting cast and that certainly indicates something worthwhile to me. Additionally, there’s a lot to be said for supporting characters like Jasnah, Sylphrena (“Sil”), Navani, Wit and Saddeus (among others) that populate the novel. At times they outright steal the show and, along with the particulars of Sanderson’s magic system, make the world a much richer, more interesting, place to visit.

The tale interweaves through each character with ease as they come into spheres of influence one with another, the story working its threads skillfully toward a cohesive whole despite a few unanswered questions at the novels end — but such is the case with this being the first in a large multi-volume series and I was not unsatisfied at the conclusion. To the contrary, I was champing at the bit for the next novel. With my studies ramping up I knew that 2010 would be a hectic one and that I wouldn’t be able to read nearly as many novels of my own choosing as I’d like, but I am glad to have been able to finally experience this one and am glad to say that it’s definitely a journey worth taking — incidentally, something the novel itself has more than a little to say about.


Oh Great, More Books to Read…

November 24, 2010

I have to thank Aidan at a A Dribble of Ink for hosting his Brandon Sanderson interview on the eve of the release of Towers of Midnight and for inadvertently pointing me to an author I need to be reading thanks to his penchant for asking his interviewees which creators they’d recommend readers check out.

Well, Sanderson mentioned Dan Wells in his answer, and while I’ve actually listened to Dan Well’s podcast series “Writing Excuses” (good fun), and have heard great things about the book,  I’ve yet to pick up his novel I Am Not A Serial Killer (funds, I need ’em!). I will definitely have to make it a point to do that because if Dan Wells’ real life wit finds its way into the book to any degree, I know it’ll be a good read. And I hear the unique narration of the stories protagonist is a selling point for the book so I look forward to seeing how Wells incorporates that voice as well.

Anyone have any experiences with Dan Well’s books to share? Any other authors whose work I should pick up while I’m dolling out yet more money for books (which is admittedly not nearly as painful as I make it sound)?


Sanderson’s ‘The Way of Kings’ 1 Credit at

September 21, 2010

Just wanted to let anyone interested in picking up the audio version of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings: Book One of the Stormlight Archive know that until October 31st is offering the book to members for only 1 credit despite it’s hefty page count. And, of course, this is the same audio featuring the voices of veterans Michael Kramer and Kate Reading (of Wheel of Time fame) that everyone was a buzz about several months ago so there’s an awful lot of incentive to pick this up.

I’ve got the hardcover on my shelf already, but I know I’ll be picking up the audio as well so as to get the most out of both approaches to the story.

Here’s Macmillin’s offiical synopsis:

Widely acclaimed for his work completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, Brandon Sanderson now begins a grand cycle of his own, one every bit as ambitious and immersive.

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the 10 consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Wars were fought for them, and won by them. One such war rages on the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where 10 armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.


The Way of Kings, Ch. 4-6 Audio From

July 8, 2010

Well that was quick! And look who they brought to the party…


Last month, we released a sneak peek of The Way of Kings only to registered members. Now, thanks to our friends at Macmillan Audio, you can come listen to chapters 4-6! Michael Kramer and Kate Reading, who tackled the Wheel of Time together, pair up again to satisfy your curiosity.

You can still read the prelude, the prologue, and chapters 1-3 on the site; just remember that you have to be logged in to do it.

Listen to The Way of Kings Chapters 4-6 audio here.


The Way of Kings, Future Audio

July 1, 2010

For several weeks now (and by no means “news” to 90% of you) has had the prelude, prologue, and the first 3-chapters of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings available to read, but by way of a brief update, author Brandon Sanderson has made mention on his blog that at least “one of the upcoming previews” will likely be available in audio form, as well:

Remember how last year previewed the second chapter of the audiobook of THE GATHERING STORM? Well, at least one of the upcoming previews of THE WAY OF KINGS on is going to be in audio form, and Wheel of Time audiobook fans should be pleased with who you hear reading the chapters.

So, not only do we get to preview more of the book but we’ll also be able to do so from the comfort of our favorite electronic devices  (as read by someone many fans will certainly appreciate) — which means I’ll be able to multi-task and enjoy it while trying to accomplish the umpteen other things I’ve got to get done.

And, as with most of his releases, The Way of Kings will ultimately be available in complete audio book form, so many of you can look forward to that as well. Great news all around, and thanks to Brandon Sanderson and Tor for all their efforts to reach their fans.


More on Brandon Sanderson’s Epic, The Way of Kings

March 17, 2010

It’s been really nice to have a little extra time as of late to spend reading, and thinking about speculative fiction literature again (following one of the most hectic chapters in my life thus far) and to spend some time just meandering the net in search of information on what looms on the horizon. Well, on March 16th, Sanderson provided readers a bit of perspective on his upcoming fantasy epic, The Way of Kings, including a little wisdom as to what we should and should not expect from the upcoming novels.

“KINGS is what you might call my baby, the grand epic I’ve been wanting to tell for many years. I now feel my writing skill is capable of doing the story justice.”

Some insight then, from Sanderson’s blog:

POINT ONE: This book is the start of a longer epic.
KINGS stands at 425,000 words right now. I’ll be trimming that down to (hopefully) 380–390k when I do the next draft. (Which will be the final draft.) That will put it at roughly double the length of MISTBORN or ELANTRIS. The series is called the Stormlight Archive, and Tor purchased four books from me. I’m not planning that to be the end, though I’m cautious at locking myself into a certain number of books. (Though I do have the entire series plotted, and am fairly certain I know exactly how many books it will be.) For now, let me just say that it won’t be as long as the Wheel of Time, but will be longer than anything I’ve attempted so far.

POINT TWO: It is not a replacement for the Wheel of Time.
I will be sorry to see the Wheel of Time end, just like many of you will be. It will be difficult for me on two levels, both as a fan and as a writer. I’ve been reading these books since I was fifteen. More than half of my life, now, has been spent with Rand and company. My career has been shaped by them, and several years of my life recently have been dominated by their stories.

However, I don’t intend to replace the series. I have to be my own person, approach storytelling in my own way, and write with my own voice. To intentionally set out to replace the Wheel of Time would be monumentous hubris. The Wheel of Time doesn’t need replacing. It’s still there, on our shelves, just like it’s always been. Once it’s complete, that will be (in many ways) even better. We’ll be able to read it straight through, beginning to end, without waiting.

POINT THREE: I think KINGS is one of the best books I’ve ever written.
I think the characters are incredible, the magic imaginative, the scope and history of the world impressive. I think the story is exciting, and has a depth beyond what I’ve been able to do before. I’m trying some new, exciting things for me—some nonlinear storytelling, some great internal artwork, and layers of depth to the storytelling.

POINT FOUR: However, the book is just a book.
My editor, bless his heart, compared THE WAY OF KINGS to DUNE and LORD OF THE RINGS in the catalogue copy that he wrote. He’s a wonderful man, but I cringe when any new book is compared to masterworks like those. DUNE and LotR have proven themselves over decades, passing the test of time. They had monumental influences on their respective genres.

No new novel has the right to claim such a comparison out of the gate. If you go into KINGS expecting the next LORD OF THE RINGS or DUNE, you will be disappointed. I am not Tolkien or Herbert. I am what I am—a largely unproven writer still in the early days of his career.

Early in my drafting process for this book, I fell into some traps by putting too much weight upon the future of this novel. I began to think that KINGS would be the book that would define my solo career, and I began to worry (with all of the recent eyes that have been watching me) that this book needed to be something incredibly jaw-dropping and earth-shattering, otherwise it would be a failure.

That’s a bad way to be thinking as you write a book, and probably an even worse way to be thinking as you start reading a book. The Wheel of Time didn’t start to really make its mark until book three or four; it was the same for Harry Potter. Series like this take time to build. Beyond that, you can’t go into a series with the mind-set that it needs to be a huge blockbuster to be successful.

I’m not sure what I want people to think about this book. I want them to read it, enjoy it, and say nice things about it. I want them to anticipate it and talk about it on blogs, waiting for the day it is released. But in the end, it’s just a book. Let’s not hype this thing to death.

POINT FIVE: Have I mentioned that it’s big?
I started working on THE WAY OF KINGS fifteen years ago. I wrote the first version of the book in full back in 2003. It was always planned to be big. You don’t grow up reading Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, and Melanie Rawn without wanting to do your own big epic. When I showed it to my editor back in ’03, he thought it was too ambitious to be published, at least as my second novel.

There are thirty magic systems in this world, depending on how you count them, and around six thousand years of history I’ve mapped out. There are dozens of cultures, a continent of enormous scope, and a deep, rich mythology. However, when I say things like that, you have to realize that very little of it will end up in the first book. The best fantasy epics I’ve read begin with a personal look at the characters in the early books, then have a steady expansion into epic scope.

I’ve spent many years thinking about the epic fantasy genre, what makes it work, what I love about it, and how to deal with its inherent weaknesses. And so I’m trying to make use of the form of the novel (meaning how I place chapters and which viewpoints I put where) in order to convey the scope without distracting from the main stories I wish to tell.

Anyway, I don’t jump between dozens of characters in this novel. There are three central viewpoints, with two or so primary supporting viewpoints. I intend the first book to be its own story, focused and personal. I don’t want this to be the “Wow! Thirty Magic Systems!” series. I want it to be a series about a group of characters you care about, with a lush and real world that has solid and expansive depth.

We all wrestle with hubris, and it’s a credit to Sanderson’s character that he bares his worries for all to see — where the promotion of these books are concerned — striving to keep our expectations in check, but to simultaneously expect something great if we can keep things in perspective (i.e. not expecting the next Tolkien). But as far as hype goes, it is certainly my belief that the majority of readers are able to see beyond the hyperbole and form worthwhile conclusions on their own independent of what someone else has to say, be it a cover blurb, review, or publisher’s press piece and that Sanderson probably needn’t worry about Kings own comparisons with other grand epics. It’s been done to death before and will certainly be done again and again. I’d reckon it can be deemed an honor that his turn has come. Whatever the case, based on what we know so far and on its own merit, I’m really excited for this.


Review: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

March 16, 2010

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: MacMillan

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling…

What Drew Me to the Book: Brandon Sanderson’s name was seemingly everywhere when I started Follow That Raven and, as with several other authors whose work I began seeking out the last couple of years, I had heard almost nothing but praise for what he had been able to accomplish thus far. What’s more, all that I had uncovered about the books seemed to be the elements of a good story that would draw me in most: that the characters felt real and were relatable, that the stories were very entertaining, and full of unique world-building skills — as well as the rarer ability to create compelling magic systems that operated within prescribed boundaries with consequences attached — within those worlds.

Granted, it also didn’t hurt that he was fairly new on the scene (relatively speaking). I didn’t feel that the task of starting at the beginning of his works and working through them one by one nearly as daunting as some of the other authors I was interested in trying out and after enjoying his short story “Firstborn”, I was raring to get started on Elantris, Sanderson’s debut novel.

“Elantris was beautiful, once.”

The Review: I should say, right off the bat, that it was a privilege to be formally introduced to Sanderson’s work through this exceptional novel. Elantris, unlike some other works of fantasy & sci-fi  in recent months that have taken a little too long to gain momentum within their narratives, I was almost immediately drawn into the story thanks (or no thanks) to the tragedy that befalls one of the three chief protagonists in the story, prince Raoden of Kae, within moments of the novel’s opening sequences. As Roaden looks out his palace window, surveying the once vibrant city of Elantris that looms on the horizon, we learn of the god-like beings who once inhabited the great city following the Shaod. These were former citizens of Arelon who were (seemingly randomly) transformed into long lived god-like creatures with silvery skin, white hair, wise beyond their years and with powers to heal the sick, transform earth’s elements into food, and perform intricate magics for the benefit of themselves and others. They had been the guides and protectors of Arelon for so long, they were loved, respected, and sought out near and far for their unique gifts.

Only something happened 10 years ago.

Elantris and her inhabitants fell to a curse that left the city in ruins and the once god-like creatures to fall into a pitiful state of near-death, though unable to die in the conventional sense,  in which they resemble something much more akin to walking corpses than demigod. The power that once changed Arelon’s citizens into Elantrians with amazing abilities, now marks them with graying skin and dark splotches throughout their bodies, unable to heal themselves, and exiled within the walls of the decaying, dilapidated, city walls of the fallen city with an undying hunger and precious little food to quench their desire. Hope is gone in Elantris. That is, until Prince Raoden awakens one morning in horror to find that he too has transformed into an Elantrian, exiled to the fallen city, lost forever to the world he once knew…and the young bride to whom he was betrothed.

The novel then follows the plight (and perhaps more appropriately termed “blight”) of the former prince Raoden as he strives to survive in his new condition and surroundings, the adventures and machinations of his former bride-to-be Sarene who remains married to the prince thought dead as Arelon law dictates, and the cunning plan of a religious zealot named Hrathen who seeks to convert the city of Kae en masse before a more thorough threat from a distant land seeks extermination as a more viable option for the ‘unbelieving populace.’

Elantris is an ambitious novel from out of the gate as the story weaves seamlessly through themes of hopelessness, bigotry, oppression, politics, religion and war — yet never feels quite heavy handed as it does so, and almost always managing to entertain throughout the extended journey. Where hope could easily be abandoned at every turn, where it is expected, and at times when things seem awful bleak for everyone involved, there is always a glimmer of hope to hang on to thanks to the convictions of a handful of men and women who refuse to give in to despair. One could perhaps level the charge that such a principled world view by a few of the stories protagonists is somewhat naive and unrealistic given their situations, and at times I wondered how their actions might be received by the more cynical reader, but I was definitely buoyed up by the actions of several of the characters and if I’ve learned anything from real world history it is that good men and women are often exactly where they need to be when a hero is needed — and it is no different here.

Though always engaging, the novel really picks up at its halfway point, grabbing the reader and never letting go until the final epilogue ultimately concludes. I was on the edge of my seat as the conflict throughout the story came to a head, and I really should take a moment to praise Sanderson a little for bringing so many of the characters to life, from the main protagonists to the supporting characters, in ways that make the reader care for so many of them. For example, there is one well established character who picks up an axe near the end of the story who could easily be the main focus of a full length novel all his own, as a layer to his character is further revealed in that scene and the potential for a vivid back story is sought by the reader (certainly this reader anyway) and perhaps one day we will find out more. Additionally, the “villain” of the piece also turns out to be more than one might have initially expected and his story/perspective becomes more and more fascinating as the novel progresses. No doubt he’ll go down as one of my favorite characters in recent years and I look forward to revisiting the book again to see how later revelations cast light on his journey throughout, giving a greater insight to his actions.

The novel wrapped up nicely and as the end loomed near yesterday morning I was certainly saddened that the experience would end, which is always something of a sign of a really good book for me. Though it is worth mentioning here that one of the coolest things about this story is that Sanderson has provided his readers an awful lot of “bonus content” upon its conclusion in the form of extensive annotations, commentary, and even a bonus short story entitled “The Hope of Elantris” which can be purchased as a downloadable file for a measly .49 cents on on, or read for an even measlier “free” price on his official website. I’ll be enthusiastically checking those out now that I’ve finished the novel and am really looking forward to the chance to dive further into the inner workings of the novel and see what else will be added to my experience with the book. Elantris was a lot of fun, and for a debut novel it was all the more impressive. So for the final verdict, definitely comes highly recommended by me.

Now, I just have to decide which Sanderson novel to tackle next. I’ve got both Warbreaker and the Mistborn trilogy patiently waiting in the wings and I’m torn as to which to start first!