Book Review - Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

I've been looking forward to Words of Radiance ever since I read The Way of Kings shortly after it's release in 2010.  It's been a long wait and I was super excited for this novel to come out.  I'll be discussing some of the plot lines for the book so if you haven't read it yet, you may want to stop now, spoilers are ahead.  You have been warned.  And now, without further ado, on to the critique.

The Critique

Words of Radiance is the second book in the Stormlight Archive.  I loved the magic system in the first book and that continued in this book as more of it was discussed.  The plot lines for each of the major characters progressed, culminating in the arrival of the first of the full Radiant Knights and an epic battle on the Shattered Plains that leads to a huge discovery and enormous revelations about the past and hints about the future.

What I liked

Kaliden is everything I want from a hero.  His character is both idealistic and jaded from terrible experiences.  His plot line  is the reason I keep reading the series.  I also enjoy the Adolin and Dalinar plot lines and find them both compelling.  I also liked how Sanderson weaved the plot lines into the story that would eventually lead to the next book in the series pretty early in this book, and did so in a more subtle way than some authors use.

What I didn't Like

I don't really care for the Shallan Davar plot line.  I understand that her character is important to the overall story so I read her chapters, but I don't really find them compelling.  I'm not really sure why I feel this way.  It could be the fact that she's an intellectual and I tend to be more interested in warrior types.  Her sections are the least action packed of the entire book.  Having said that however, I must admit that I liked her a lot more in this book than I did in The Way of Kings.

I also don't care for the interludes.  I find them harder to keep track of with so many new characters that are introduced, and then quickly run their course to later be forgotten about.  These characters kind of remind me of the Star Fleet officer who used to appear in Star Trek episodes only to be killed off five minutes into the episode.  They seem to me to be almost a prop more than a character in some respects.

Audio Critique

This is an audio book done right.  First of all, I prefer an audio book with few narrators.  I like one ideally but no more than two helps the work feel more unified.  In this case there were two and they are both very good.  What makes them so good is not just that they can affect several different characters convincingly, but also the timing and emphasis of the words they say make the story far more real and exciting.  This is particularly true of Michael Kramer.  I listen to tons of audio books, and in my estimation Michael Kramer is the best there is.


Although I think that I liked the first book in the series a bit more, I have to admit that I loved the book, it's as simple as that.  Some may disagree with me, but I'd give it five stars.

Book Review -The Burning Sky

I was looking for a new book, and didn't have a lot of time when I saw the Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas.  I picked it up and started reading based on the name and cover image only, something that isn't my habit.  The story revolves around Iolanthe Seabourne, a 16 year old elemental mage who believes she can only control three elements, unlike the most powerful elemental mages that can control all four.  Focused on a party, Iolanthe uses her powers to create lightning, which sets in motion a chain of events which dramatically change her life.  Soon she finds herself allied to a prince, in hiding in an all boys school as a girl, and the unlikely opponent to the most powerful mage in the world, the Bane.
What I liked
The writing is interesting and the story well told.  I found the story compelling and was interested to see how it developed.
What I didn't like
The setting of the story, in England in a live in school where there are magicians felt very much like Harry Potter.  This was an all boys school and the magic system is different but it still felt very familiar, which was a big draw back for me.  I also found the characters motivations a bit shallow and under developed at times.  There were even moments when I thought to myself that they felt unauthentic.  I frankly couldn't connect with them at all and found them unmemorable.  The tense that the author used for the book also contributed to my lack of connection to the characters.
Overall I thought it was decent.  Like the characters, I found the book to be less than memorable, but not a bad read.  However despite the kind of shallow entertainment that it provided, I would be unlikely to recommend the book to a friend.  I'd give it three stars, knocking off two for the familiar feel similar to Harry Potter and for the overall lack of character development that I felt like existed.

Book Review - Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

After all my writing friends finally convinced me that I needed a blog I set about thinking of what I wanted to write about.  Instead of the seemingly obligitory hello world post, I decided that a better use of your time and mine would be a book review.  I chose Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson.  

First let me say that I'm a big fan of Brandon's.  His characters are engaging, his magic systems are unique, and his settings have very dystopian overtones which I dig.  Steelheart is no different.   It's set in a future world where powerful super villans known as 'epics' have taken control of the former United States, dividing it into small monarchy's headed by whichever epic has the power to hold the area.  

The story takes place in Chicago, renamed Newcago, (not sure if this is how Brandon spells it since I listened to the audio book) and follows a young man named David who joins 'The Reckoners,' the last remaining  group of human freedom fighters.  The group decides to target Steelheart, the god-like emperor of Newcago.  

What I liked

The story was interesting, the dialogue snappy, and wryly humorous, and the characters were engaging.  As usual for Sanderson novels, the magic system was very cool and unique.  In this case the powers of the epics were more unique than the typical comic book style characters which was refreshing for an old comic geek like me.  

What I didn't like

For fans of Sanderson, of which I am one the story line felt familiar.  Almost too familiar.  If you've read the Mistborn series (one of my favorites of all time) you'll instantly draw parallels between the two stories.  God-like, seemingly invincible tyrant rules over dystopic kingdom. Small group of unlikely heros commit themselves to hopeless battle against said ruler with no clear way of defeating him.  Unlikely heros work at plan, execute, and manage to succeed at the impossible.  To me it felt pretty formulaic in this way.  


Overall it's a great read, with really funny moments and great action.  I would recommend it for fans of dystopian fiction as well as especially if you love dystopian or comic books.  I give it four stars, knocking one off due to the close familiarity between Steelheart and some of Sanderson's previous works.