Novella Review: Snapshot

Snapshot
Note: If you like the cover art, Howard Lyon, the artist, has a cool process post and additional pictures here.

Disclaimer: I was a beta reader for this novella. My name is in the acknowledgments. My review may not be entirely unbiased.

From Goodreads:

Snapshot is a Science Fiction detective story following Anthony Davis, a cop assigned to Snapshot Duty. In this vivid world that author Brandon Sanderson has built, society can create a snapshot of a specific day in time. The experiences people have, the paths they follow—all of them are real again for a one day in the snapshot. All for the purposes of investigation by the court.

Davis’s job as a cop on Snapshot Duty is straight forward. Sometimes he is tasked with finding where a criminal dumped a weapon. Sometimes he is tasked with documenting domestic disputes. Simple. Mundane. One day, in between two snapshot assignments, Davis decides to investigate the memory of a call that was mysteriously never logged at the precinct, and he makes a horrifying discovery.

As in all many stories, Snapshot follows a wonderfully flawed character as he attempts to solve a horrific crime. Sanderson proves that no matter the genre, he is one of the most skilled storytellers in the business.

Snapshot is a novella, which means that it’s super short. At least, for the kind of books I like to read, it’s short. According to my Kindle, the whole thing can be read in an hour and a half. I definitely recommend reading works this short in a single sitting, because it really is one cohesive story, one single plot, and you’ll miss details if you take breaks. So if you want to read it, set aside the time to read it all at once, if you can. Also, read the Acknowledgments when you’re done. 🙂

Short doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot here, however. Snapshot is packed full of exciting moments, creepy thrills, and stunning twists. Sanderson is an expert at always keeping you unbalanced, guessing, unsure of what will happen next. There is never a boring moment in the book, and once you pick it up, it’s easy to just keep reading, to want to read just one more chapter, just one more, and suddenly, it’s done.

There are several plot twists here, and Sanderson’s ability to pack them into something this short amazes me. As with many of his books, there are bits that you will figure out ahead of time, but I guarantee there are also events that you won’t see coming. I hate it when, in a book that is about the twist, you can figure out the twists far ahead of time, and have the ending all plotted out in your head before it happens. I was super glad to find that Snapshot defied these expectations, in many ways making it feel like a full Sanderson novel.

The novella is based on a really cool idea, too, as with almost all of Sanderson’s novellas. In Snapshot, we’re asked what would happen if you could recreate a day at will, jump into it, do whatever, and leave again, with no consequences in the real world. Sanderson explores this through the lens of criminal investigations – what would the police do with this technology? It’s a fascinating question, and while his answers are only one possibility out of many, they are very interesting and thought-provoking.

As a side note, the setting is tangentially in the Reckonerverse, but you’ll only recognize this if you’re reading closely, as it’s only really hinted at in one or two paragraphs and is relevant only to the worldbuilding and not really the plot itself. If you are expecting more David and Megan, more Prof and Tia, more bad metaphors and gun nuts, you’ll be disappointed. Well, okay. Not about the gun nut part. But the rest of it. On the flip side, if you’ve never read the Reckoners books, you’re perfectly fine reading this at any time, because it won’t spoil any of that for you! (You really should read them, though.)

For all that, on the surface, Snapshot is a popcorn read, and a fun quick thrill ride, it presented a lot of interesting ideas about morality and reality that I am still pondering, several months after I first read it. When nothing is real, what is it okay to do? What is considered “wrong” in this case? How would you act? While It may not be quite as good at asking deep questions as The Emperor’s Soul was, Snapshot is a really good novella that handles the massive number of things that it is trying to do really well, and I absolutely loved it.

In summary, Snapshot is a quick, fun read, and when you can set aside an hour and a half, or maybe two hours, depending on your reading speed, you really should pick it up and read it all the way through. It is full of plot twists, cool worldbuilding, and somehow also manages to use this worldbuilding to ask some really interesting questions that I’m still not sure if I have an answer to. I give it five of five stars (but I may be slightly biased as a beta reader), and really think you should pick it up soon.

Note: While you can’t really get a physical copy right now (Vault Books is sold out, and the con exclusive is still con exclusive. I believe those’ll be available on Sanderson’s store sometime in November.), you can pick up the e-book for cheap right now at a variety of places.

Sanderson’s page with more info.

Goodreads.

5 Reasons you NEED to read CALAMITY.

This review contains minimal to no spoilers. Read at will! 🙂

CalamityUS Calamity

So, Brandon Sanderson has another book out today. It’s called CALAMITY, and it’s the 3rd and final book in the Reckoners series.

You should read it.

A lot of reviews start with a disclaimer about receiving a free review copy, and still being unbiased. I received a free copy, but there’s no way that I can be unbiased on this book. So instead of a proper review, I’m just going to present a list of 5 reasons you should read this book.

1: It’s a Sanderson.

Sanderson is a flat-out amazing storyteller. Mistborn. Stormlight. The Wheel of Time. His fantasy books stand tall among the field, and for good reason. He writes amazing characters, he writes awesome plots, and his endings are unsurpassed for sheer twisty awesome mind-blowing-ness.

2: It’s the end of the series.

And that means that Sanderson gets to pull out all of the stops. Nobody is safe. Nothing is off-limits. It’s basically awesome, starting at a 7, then cranking up steadily until it hits a 12. And then it gets crazy. No, seriously. Sanderson knows how to finish off a series (If you’ve read the Mistborn Trilogy, you know what I mean), and he does it here in grand style.

3: It’s a superhero novel that deserves to be a movie.

And it would be, in my opinion, above the Marvel movies. The plot holds together better, the powers are, if anything, more awesome and showy, and the emotional and plot moments would translate amazingly well. Everyone seems caught up in the current super-hero craze, and Sanderson is writing some of the best Superhero fiction out there. And Calamity is the best of the series, with a whole new setting of pure indescribable bizarre coolness, complete with a new and old cast with all kinds of insane powers.

4: There’s a romance I ship. Hard.

I’m notoriously hard to convince with romances. As a perpetually single person by choice (others’ choice, not mine), I tend to dislike romances in general, especially when they’re overblown and sappy. Or super tension filled and angsty and just hold the plot back because characters are being stupid. I ship the romance in this series–and this book–so hard it almost hurts. It is PERFECT.

5:

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2015 Favorite Books.

Now that the year 2015 is over, I’m going to talk about the books I enjoyed the most during the year. Not like certain places that have voting for the best books in October or November…

I’ve broken the books down into two categories for 2015’s reading. The first are the books I enjoyed reading more than any other, which were released in 2015. The second category is books that were not released in 2015—or books in series where only the latest book was released, but include the entire series. I realize the division is a little arbitrary, but it’s how the books break down in my mind, so it’s how I’m going to list them here. Also, note that I’m not including rereads here—all of these are books that I read for the first time in 2015, else the list would be pretty much the same (and almost completely Sanderson) every year.

Releases:

5. Gemini Cell.

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I don’t read a ton of SF books, but my 5th place for 2015 is actually a tie between two SF novels. The first, Gemini Cell, is a brilliantly paced, brutal, and exciting military SF/fantasy tale that I absolutely devoured. It’s an excellent starting place for Myke’s universe if you’ve never read any of his books before, so check it out!

5. Time Salvager.

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This was my first Wesley Chu book, which I read because 1) I had it, 2) Chu was nominated for the Campbell Award, and 3) I was going to get to see him twice in 2015 (ArmadilloCon and WorldCon). It earned him my Campbell vote, and is probably my favorite time travel novel. It’s a very dark book, but has beautiful glimmers of hope, and I’m really looking forward to Time Siege next year.

4. The Autumn Republic.

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The concluding volume of Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy, which is a series I’ve been following from the beginning. McClellan has a real talent for battle scenes and rough, gritty fantasy without being grimdark (in my opinion), and it really shines here, when everything is going wrong, and the gods themselves are waging war across the planet. If you’ve not read any of his work, go check out some of his short fiction—it’s an excellent and quick starting point at a good price-point, and will hopefully convince you to pick up Promise of Blood.

3. The Providence of Fire.

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Staveley’s another author I’ve been following since his first book came out—and even before. The Providence of Fire is slightly longer, and perhaps a little slower paced than The Emperor’s Blades, but is also a more satisfying and epic read, and I thoroughly enjoyed how it is unabashedly straight up epic fantasy, done right. I am eagerly anticipating the last volume, out in March.

2. A Darker Shade of Magic.

A Darker Shade final for Irene

After Vicious (see below) was my first read of the year in 2015, I immediately preordered this one, and it is not a decision that I regret. I enjoyed the parallel Londons and the amazing characters that Schwab presents in the book, and how easy, fast, and thrilling the book was to read.

1. Sanderson.

Surprise, surprise, right? Well, Sanderson continued to not disappoint in 2015, with not 1, but 2, absolutely stunning novels full of everything awesome.

1-1. Firefight.

Firefight

As the second volume in a strict trilogy, this one should have been a bit longer, slower, and more boring than the first one. Even in my favorite series, this happens, and I don’t complain.

Someone forgot to give Sanderson the note about that, though, and Firefight was, in my opinion, better than Steelheart, and it has the distinction of being one of two books I read (probably since The Princess Bride, certainly of 2015) where I thoroughly enjoyed and cheered for the romance.

1-2. Shadows of Self.

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Cosmere! Mistborn! Wax and Wayne! Steris! Marasi! [SPOILER]! What isn’t to love? Shadows of Self was easily my favorite book released in 2015, and I can only imagine how entertaining it must have been for the people riding in the car with me while I finished the book on my way to the Sanderson signing. So many amazing, unexpected, surprising, and downright mindblowing moments. If you’ve never picked up a Sanderson book before, I might have to start recommending the Era 2 (1.5?) books as another starting point now.

Other new reads/Authors:

This list is 7 books long because the last 3 spots were more or less a tie—I thoroughly enjoyed all of these books, though they were all quite different, and they all earned their spot on my list.

5. The Goblin Emperor.

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The Goblin Emperor was a book I read last year because it was on the Hugo nominees list—and it is the book that ended up getting my vote. It’s just so much fun and happiness. This book has been described as anti-grimdark, and it fits the label. If you need an uplifting fantasy novel, check this one out!

5. Robin Hobb.

Assassin's Apprentice

I only managed to read Robin Hobb’s first trilogy, The Farseer Trilogy, last year. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and while it’s not flashy, it is still powerful, and her writing has a way of making things compelling, and she puts her characters through intense torture without resorting to tactics such as chopping off hands or other bits. I’m definitely aiming to read more of her books in the coming year, though I don’t know if I’ll have time to catch up to the latest books she’s written or not—but I’ll certainly try!

4. Jaime Lee Moyer.

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Now, this one is a little bit of cheating, since I’m talking about the Delia trilogy, the last book of which, Against a Brightening Sky, came out in October. However, I decided to consider the series as a group, and so I placed it on this list, because the first two books came out before last year. I only managed to review the first book, Delia’s Shadow, before school overwhelmed me and I had to take a break for a few months from blogging, but I read and loved the entire trilogy. Set in an alternate San Francisco, the books fall largely into an alternate history setting. The characters are such good people, the mysteries are intriguing, the magic is exciting, and the endings were exciting, even if they left questions unanswered.

4. Dan Wells.

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This one is also cheating a little bit, since I’m talking about Dan’s John Cleaver books, the latest of which, The Devil’s Only Friend, was released in 2015. Also, the series in ongoing. But… This is my list, so I get to do what I want with it. While I felt the first book got off to a slightly rocky start—it foreshadowed the supernatural elements a little too heavily for my tastes—they ended up being really good, quick, exciting reads, even though horror is not usually my genre of choice.

3. City of Stairs.

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I’ve talked about this one a lot—it was a surprisingly good read, and I am so glad that I made the time to read it. I really enjoyed Shara, and Saypur and the continent, the worldbuilding, the way political issues were handled, and Sigurd. I can’t talk about Sigurd enough… I think the most convincing recommendation I can give for this book is that when I was about 100 pages from the end, and forgot my copy at home, I bought the eBook so I could finish reading it on my phone on the train to work.

2. Vicious.

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I keep talking about how Schwab is one of my new favorite authors from last year, and this is the book that did it for me. My first read of 2015, it set the tone for the rest of the year, and I am so glad to hear that we are going to get a sequel! Seriously fun tale of superheroes and supervillains—and of people. Also, it has a really cool time-line structure that I’ve never seen any other book pull off successfully.

1. Ready Player One.

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I read this book for the first time last spring. Upon finishing the book, I turned it back over and started from the beginning, not even pausing to have something to drink. I don’t think I’ve done that since Harry Potter.

Since then, I’ve listened to the audiobook. And reread the book. So yes, I’ve been through it 4 times last year, something else I’m not sure I’ve done since I was reading Harry Potter, back in the days when I wasn’t in college and had a lot more free time.

This book scratched every itch I didn’t even know I had. Gaming, nerd-dom, geekery, virtual reality goodness, some absolutely awesome characters and twists, as big of an epic battle of good against evil as you can imagine, and the other romance that I cheered for. It was perfect, and in the grand scheme of books I’ve read, the only ones I’ve loved more are the Stormlight Archive.

It’s that good.

I realize that I haven’t posted a review of it yet—that’s because I haven’t figured out how to hack Goodreads to give it 6 stars. (I’m working on it, though.)

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So that was my year in books… What did y’all enjoy reading last year, new or old?

Most Anticipated Books of 2016.

Yes, I’m back to blogging. More on this–hopefully tomorrow, depending on how travel goes. For now, the post.

2016 looks like it’s going to be another amazing year for books. I’ve managed to narrow my list of super most incredibly anticipated books down to 5 (with some wiggling). Before presenting the list, I’m going to note that I’m rather spoiler-phobic, so I haven’t read the blurbs yet for any of the books on this list that I haven’t read—therefore, my anticipation is largely based on series/authors whose work I’ve loved in the past. Authors I trust. Every single one of these books has been pre-ordered for months now, most ordered on the day I discovered they existed. So, without further ado…

5. A Gathering of Shadows.

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V.E. Schwab is one of my new additions to my favorite authors list. I read Vicious as my first book of 2015, and it was awesome. I read A Darker Shade of Magic as soon as I could get my hands on a copy, and I loved it even more. A Gathering of Shadows continues the series that A Darker Shade of Magic started, and I am super excited to get back to the world of the multiple Londons and all the amazing characters—Rhy, Kell, and Lila–who inhabit it!

4. City of Blades.

CityOfBlades

City of Stairs was my most unanticipated love of 2015, and Robert Jackson Bennett is the other new addition to my favorite authors list I made last year. I actually got a chance to read this one this week, thanks to Patrick McQuoid, and it is a worthy successor to the first book. If you haven’t read City of Stairs, you really need to remedy that—it’s fast paced, has a really varied and unique cast, some really cool worldbuilding of a flavor I’ve never seen before, and Sigrud. You need Sigrud in your life.

3. Solutions and Other Problems.

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This one’s a little strange—everything else on my list is a fantasy novel of some sort. Allie Brosh’s books are part stick-figures-of-awesome comic book, part memoir, part fantastical stories, and complete and utter side-splitting hilarity, while sometimes delving into deep and important topics, such as depression. If you have not read her blog… Why are you reading mine? Hers is infinitely more awesome, GO READ IT.

2. The Last Mortal Bond.

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If you don’t want to order it just for that Richard Anderson cover… You need to go check out the first book in the trilogy, The Emperor’s Blades. The Last Mortal Bond finishes out the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy, and it promises to be an awesome adventure. Brian has said that the book will be considerably longer than The Providence of Fire, which I believe puts him firmly in the epic category. There were so many plot threads left up in the air, so many world-shaking events in progress, so much tension left at the end of the second book… GIVE IT TO ME ALREADY!

1. Sanderson.

Yes, okay. This is cheating. This is 3 books in 1, but without it, it would take up 3/5 of my list.

You probably know by now that Sanderson is my favorite author ever. (If you don’t go look at this.) I more or less worship him, and getting to go out to dinner with him was the highlight of my year.

1-1. The Bands of Mourning.

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I’ve read this one. It is everything it is promised to be, and more. All the best characters from this era of books, all of them being awesome. Plus, boatloads of Cosmere, one heck of an awesome plot, and some brilliantly funny moments. I cannot wait to see this one out in the world.

1-2. Calamity.

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Yes, I’ve read this one too. I was truly blessed with e-ARCs last year (I’m still looking for physical ARCs, so if you know how to get ahold of those, let me know.). It’s the end of a trilogy, the last book Sanderson is planning to set in this world (for a while, at least), and it’s named Calamity. What more could you ask for? It delivers on every promise, and there’s one sentence that I would pay to sit down and watch people’s reactions as they read it. SO GOOD.

1-3. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians: Book 5: The Dark Talent.

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I haven’t read this one. It’s going to be shorter, but it’s another series ender for Sanderson, and one that I’ve been anticipating for a long, long time. Alcatraz was the only series that could make me laugh when I was depressed a few years ago, and they’ve always held a special place in my heart. I am super excited to see what happens in the last book, and it looks like it’s going to be beautifully illustrated as well! (I’m anticipating the re-releases of the entire series quite avidly.)

Well, that’s my list for 2016. What are you looking forward to reading?

Thank You, Brandon Sanderson

Today is the official 10th anniversary of the publication of Brandon Sanderson’s first novel, Elantris. Brandon is my favorite author, and I’ve written a short post about why, and phrased it as a thank-you note for Brandon. Here it is:

Thank you, Brandon Sanderson.

Thank you for writing such brilliant, mind-bending twisty endings that always make me gasp. Thank you for such well-defined magic systems that make me feel as if I could almost use them myself and always get my imagination going at full speed.

Thank you for writing such beautiful books, and ensuring that they are in such beautiful packages. Thank you for fighting for the cover art that the books deserve until they have it, and never compromising on this quality.

Thank you for writing so quickly that I’m always anticipating the next four novels you have out within a year, and even though you have a ridiculous number of simultaneous series going, I’m never waiting too long for the next installment.

Thank you for making your writing knowledge available to aspiring writers like me, through your podcasts and classes. Thank you for telling me, every week, that I’m out of excuses and I should go write.

Thank you for caring about me and the rest of your fans. Thank you for taking the time to sign all of our books, even when we have dozens of them, and to answer all of our questions, even if half of them are RAFOs. Thank you for not forgetting that you were a fan once, and knowing who we are and how to treat us right.

Thank you for helping me complete my collection with your generosity, even when it went way beyond what I expected of you.

Thank you for making my laugh with the Alcatraz series when nothing else could make me smile.

Thank you for writing such a massive variety of characters, not only physically, but also mentally. Thank you for writing so many odd little characters with mental disabilities that I can connect with.

Thank you for finishing my favorite series of all time, and finishing it right.

Thank you for 10 amazing years of books, and here’s to many, many more.

Thank you, Brandon Sanderson.

Book Review: The Hero of Ages

WARNING: THIS IS THE THIRD BOOK IN THE MISTBORN TRILOGY. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE FIRST ONE, GO CHECK OUT MY REVIEW AND READ IT. THIS REVIEW–AND THE SUMMARY–CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Hero of Ages

From Goodreads:

Tricked into releasing the evil spirit Ruin while attempting to close the Well of Ascension, new emperor Elend Venture and his wife, the assassin Vin, are now hard-pressed to save the world.This adventure brings the Mistborn epic fantasy trilogy to a dramatic and surprising climax as Sanderson’s saga offers complex characters and a compelling plot, asking hard questions about loyalty, faith and responsibility.

I usually think of Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, concluded in The Hero of Ages (HoA), as a single unit, split into three parts, much like Lord of the Rings. This is, I think, partly because of how Sanderson wrote the books, all back-to-back, and had therefore finished the first draft of HoA before The Final Empire went off for copyedits, and so he was able to tweak thematic things to make them fit and flow through all three books. And they flow quite well. The overarching story is nicely continuous, and built up magnificently.

That’s not to say that HoA picks up exactly where Well of Ascension left off. Rather, it starts with a bang, throwing the reader into new and exciting mysteries, and answering questions much more quickly than you would have thought. Sanderson does not save all of his secrets for the big finish, and HoA is an exciting book throughout. If you found Well of Ascension a little boring, do not fear, HoA remedies that and more. The set-up in the first two books begins to pay off in droves, and it is glorious.

It also starts off with the excellent epigraph, “I am, unfortunately, the Hero of Ages.” Remember that as you read it. (If you’ve already read it, I’m sorry—kinda—for doing that to you.)

Sanderson does not give everything away just to keep the book going, though. He saves his best tricks for the end. And what an end it is. The first two books really were just warm-up exercises, all set-up for the climax of HoA. The battles are epic on a scale rarely seen, the stakes are incredible, and the twists are marvelous. And then, just when you think it’s over, Sanderson gives you an epilogue that will make you tear up. Guaranteed, no matter how little you usually tear up at books. If you get even slightly emotional at the end of books, have chocolate and/or ice cream ready. Probably best to have a box of tissues and a friend as well. (If none are available in person, poke me or Nikki on Twitter, and we’ll assemble a support group for you. It may be wise to do this even before you reach the ending.)

I think he can manage this, in large part, because of the characters to whom we have become so deeply connected over the series. Elend and Vin, now married and fully-powered Mistborn, make an excellent kick-butt couple. Vin, in particular, has come so far from the little street urchin who doesn’t trust anyone, and I love how her journey continues here.

Sazed’s quest continues, and it is, in my opinion, the best character arc in the series. Sanderson is a deeply religious man, but that does not show in the slightest in his writing. Sazed’s belief, or lack thereof, is pulled off so convincingly, that it makes me question what it really means to believe, every time I read through the trilogy.

Spook’s arc also has a fitting conclusion, one I feel is fully justified and deserved, given how the other characters have treated him throughout the series. I feel perhaps most like him—shunted to the side, used as an errand boy, and always, always, wanting to do more to help. I do not, in any way, blame him for anything that happens.

Ruin. Ruin is the perfect villain. Simultaneously nebulous and concrete, yet utterly nefarious and evil, Ruin plays his cards so brilliantly that I’m not even disappointed that, at the end of Well of Ascension, we learn that our characters have been doing what he wanted/expected all along. Plots like this usually annoy me, but Ruin is just so… Disgusting and excellent that I have no problems with it here.

In summary, the capstone to Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy is a brilliant, feels-inducing, climax that ties up all the right threads and gives us satisfying—if unexpected—conclusions for all of our beloved characters, complete with an epic Sanderson Avalanche. Thought of as a single unit, the Mistborn Trilogy is one of my favorites of all time, and as Hero of Ages is, I feel, the best in the trilogy, I give it Five of Five stars without blinking. Go. Get it. Read it. You’ll thank me when you’re done crying.

Brandon Sanderson.

Goodreads.

Amazon.

Book Review: The Well of Ascension

WARNING: THIS IS THE SECOND BOOK IN THE MISTBORN TRILOGY. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE FIRST ONE, GO CHECK OUT MY REVIEW AND READ IT. THIS REVIEW–AND THE SUMMARY–CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Well of Ascension

From Goodreads:

The impossible has been accomplished. The Lord Ruler – the man who claimed to be god incarnate and brutally ruled the world for a thousand years – has been vanquished. But Kelsier, the hero who masterminded that triumph, is dead too, and now the awesome task of building a new world has been left to his young protégé, Vin, the former street urchin who is now the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and to the idealistic young nobleman she loves.

As Kelsier’s protégé and slayer of the Lord Ruler she is now venerated by a budding new religion, a distinction that makes her intensely uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists have begun behaving strangely since the Lord Ruler died, and seem to harbor a strange vaporous entity that haunts her.

Stopping assassins may keep Vin’s Mistborn skills sharp, but it’s the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the former empire, doesn’t run itself, and Vin and the other members of Kelsier’s crew, who lead the revolution, must learn a whole new set of practical and political skills to help. It certainly won’t get easier with three armies – one of them composed of ferocious giants – now vying to conquer the city, and no sign of the Lord Ruler’s hidden cache of atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal.

As the siege of Luthadel tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

Mistborn: The Final Empire, was everything the first book in a trilogy should be. It had all the action, intrigue, and cool characters it needed to get me booked on the series. The emotional beats were great, and it demanded that I read Well of Ascension immediately.

Well of Ascension caught me off guard a little bit, though. It’s not the same book that Mistborn was. Sanderson took a dangerous route by changing up the plot structure, and though the world itself still has the same dark atmospheric feeling, the book itself feels very different from the first.

As expected, Sanderson managed to pull this off with aplomb, crafting yet another thrilling tale.

While Mistborn was a tale of thieves trying to overthrow an empire, a tale of the dark alley ways and shadowy places of Luthadel, Well of Ascension is a political novel and a war novel. With the Lord Ruler and Kelsier gone (I did warn you about spoilers…), and funds running low, the remainder of the thieving crew must try their hand at running an empire, a task that is proving even more difficult than overthrowing it.

An old villain comes into new prominence, and he’s very nasty. Straff Venture, Elend’s father, is one of the generals who is leading an army against Luthadel, trying to claim the city—and the empire—as his own. But he’s not alone. Others want the city too, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it. The impending armies give the book its main sense of drive, and for the most part, they’re enough to keep it going.

Elend is forced to play the part of king, and the novel delves deeply into what this really means, and what the politics of the Final Empire might really look like. I must admit that I found this element of the pacing slow at times, and these were some of the least enjoyable sections of the book.

The rest of the book more than made up for it, though. Vin, growing every more confident in herself and her powers, is up to her usual mistborn antics, and there are plenty of nerve-wracking fight scenes, including two of particular note. The first is still one of the bloodiest, most revolting massacres ever, and I love it for both the visual aspect and the impact it has on me—and the characters—every time. The other, well. Let’s just say it involves Vin, a lot of iron, and a very large sword, and ranks in the top five scenes that I want to see on the big screen. Heck. I’d pay for an entire movie just to see that one scene.

But that’s not to say that the awesomeness is limited to our favorite mistborn. The whole crew from the first book is here, and there are plenty of new additions. The old characters gain new depth—in particular, Sazed continues to develop into one of the best written non-religious (or poly-religious, I’m not sure) characters I’ve ever read, and I truly admire Sanderson’s ability to write viewpoints he disagrees with so very, very well. Everyone gets their own scenes in which to shine, and the variety of the cast makes it an entertaining book.

My favorite character, perhaps because his situation is the most relatable, and because I can understand why he takes every action that he does, is Spook.

And, as you saw in Mistborn, nobody is safe. The feels that Sanderson unleashed on page 573 of Mistborn (Kelsier. Yes, I have the MMPB page number memorized. 588 in the YA TPB edition.) are a good indicator of what is to come. With a whole host of armies sitting around, all of whom want the same thing, you really can’t expect everyone to survive. Have the chocolate ready, especially as you approach the end.

And what an ending it is. While Well of Ascension is the middle book of the trilogy, and almost by necessity, is a little slower than the other two, the ending is still a completely amazing piece of work, and the number of twists and surprises that Sanderson pulls really make it utterly thrilling. And it’s not over until the last page. The last time I saw someone read this book, she went from amazed to horrified, to swearing she would never read Sanderson again to crying from happiness, to demanding Hero of Ages immediately, all in about 10 minutes. This is a fairly typical reaction.

In summary, The Well of Ascension, the second book in the Mistborn trilogy, is another triumph for Sanderson, and while it feels slow at times, it has some of my favorite scenes ever, and adds depth to pretty much every character in the series, all the while raising the stakes constantly and building towards a surprising, twisting ending that will leave you demanding the third book as soon as you can get your hands on it. Five of Five stars.

Brandon’s Website.

Goodreads.

Amazon.

Book Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire

Mistborn_MMPB2 Mistborn_Simonetti

From Goodreads:

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?

In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage – Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

Note: The complete title of the book is Mistborn: The Final Empire, but TFE is something of a subtitle, and the vast majority call it Mistborn, which is the only title printed on some editions of the book. I follow that convention in this review.

Second Note: I included the Brazillian cover above as well because of the utterly amazing artwork by Marc Simonetti. It’s my favorite cover, though I don’t have a copy of it–yet.

Mistborn was the first Sanderson book I picked up, after hearing that he would be finishing The Wheel of Time, which, at that time, was my favorite fantasy series. I was wondering who this kid was, and if he was really any good at all. Needless to say, this means that I went into Mistborn with very high standards, standards that I was fairly sure wouldn’t be met.

They were.

I don’t think I’ve read a book that has exceeded my expectations by this much since—every new Sanderson I read continues to blow me away, but I already have the highest expectations of those books, and I have decently high expectations of everything else I read too. Perhaps one or two debut novels—The Emperor’s Blades, for instance—have met this mark, but even that is debatable.

But what makes Mistborn so great? Well, what doesn’t?

Sanderson has brought his signature magic system creation to the table, giving us Allomancy, a skill, generally thought to be genetically passed on, which grants the user the ability to ingest and burn certain metals to temporarily gain magical powers. It’s really interesting, as per Sanderson’s second law of magic, because of its limitations: You can only burn as much metal as you have in you, some metals are incredibly rare, and some metals burn much more quickly than others.

Paired with the Allomancy is the world of Scadrial, another brilliant creation. Covered in giant volcanoes (ashmounts), which belch ash into the atmosphere, staining everything with soot and requiring a huge workforce to keep the cities clean, Scadrial is also subject to nightly mists, which cover the entire planet. These mists are the domain of the Allomancers, which gives them—and the book—the name of Mistborn. It’s an incredibly evocative image of a planet, and one that I loved reading about.

And he’s filled the planet with incredibly interesting people. The skaa, the slave class, have been oppressed for centuries, and forbidden from mating with the non-skaa, for fear that Allomantic powers might leak through. But, of course, this restriction hasn’t really worked out all that well for the Lord Ruler, the, uh, ruler of The Final Empire, and there are some among the skaa with magical powers.

But, of course, the world is nothing, the the story is nothing, without interesting characters. And Sanderson has created a cast of them.

There’s Kelsier, a skaa, and yet, somehow, a full Allomancer, with power over all of the metals. He’s survived an incredibly tragic and harsh past, yet he always manages to smile in the face of danger and despair. He wants revenge upon the Lord Ruler, and he is assembling a crew to help him get it. He and his crew are an utterly awesome band with a really cool dynamic—some of my favorite chapters in the book are the planning chapters, where the whole group is in one room, simply talking.

The main character, Vin, is a street urchin skaa who is trying to survive as part of a thieving crew. But when the crew’s latest hit goes awry, she’s in mortal danger—until Kelsier decides to recruit her. Vin’s growth through the story, as she slowly gains the ability to trust others, and her sheer resilience to whatever life throws at her make her an instant favorite, and she is a truly kick-ass heroine.

Elend Venture is the man I would wish to be if I were living on Scadrial. Born to the nobility, he’s not satisfied with the government, and in an empire where such meetings are declared treasonous by the all-power Lord Ruler, he has a close selection of friends who plot ways to better the government—even if it means going against the Lord Ruler’s orders, or overthrowing parts of his system. He also has an incredible love of books, and an utterly disarming attitude that I absolutely love.

The villains, Lord Venture, the Inquisitors, the Lord-Ruler… They are all utterly terrifying, and Sanderson has done them all brilliantly. In a world where GRRM-like books are becoming more and more common, it’s nice to have some villains I can just straight up hate, and some heroes I can cheer for.

Although, as Kelsier says, “There’s always another secret.”

In summary, Mistborn is the brilliant beginning to one of my favorite trilogies of all time, with an utterly unique Sanderson magic system, a dark, ash-covered world, a spunky, yet flawed heroine, and a cool team of thieves who want to pull of the heist of the millennium, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Five of Five stars, and if you’ve not read this book yet, I may have to disown you.

Brandon Sanderson’s Website.

Goodreads.

Amazon.

ARC Review: Firefight

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR STEELHEART. IF YOU HAVE NOT READ STEELHEART, STOP AND GO READ IT.

Firefight

From Goodreads:

They told David it was impossible–that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet, Steelheart–invincible, immortal, unconquerable–is dead. And he died by David’s hand.

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life more simple. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And there’s no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs.

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. And while entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble, David’s willing to risk it. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic–Firefight. And he’s willing to go on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

Dear Megan Firefight,

From the moment I first laid eyes on you, I knew you were as awesome as the last hot-dog salesman in Newcago[1]. The way you took down Fortuity was amazing. You nearly had him trapped with the strength of your charms alone; he was quite beguiled by them. You’re so beautiful even a blind nun would stop to look at you… If she weren’t blind[2], that is. Regardless, when your plans went awry, you had the ability, with my help, to take him down and rid this world of yet another evil Epic.

They say that you are one too of them. You told me that you are one of them. That you infiltrated us like an oatmeal raisin cookie[3]. But I don’t believe them. I think you are a good person. I’ve seen Prof fighting the evil that comes with his powers, blocking it out by not using them. I know it can be done. And I believe you can do it. You’re as strong as an egg you have your whole hand around[4]. You can fight it, you can overcome it. You just have to get away from the Epics, away from the battles, and you need to not use your powers for a while. Trust me on this.

I meant what I said when you were dying, Firefight. I love you. You truly are a potato in a minefield[5]. I have been trying to convince the others of your goodness, but even Prof, who should know that your powers, your evils, can be overcome, will not listen to me. I recommend that if you see me with them that you avoid them at all costs. I wish you no harm, but it will take time to convince them of your goodness.

Our next destination is Babylon Restored. I have heard that you’re already there, and I hope to meet you on more amicable terms than the last time we met.

Yours Truly,

—David Charleston

[1] Read Mitosis.

[2] Pulled directly from Steelheart.

[3] Haven’t you ever grabbed a chocolate chip cookie, taken a bite, and found that it was oatmeal raisin in disguise?

[4] This actually works, surprisingly enough. If you hold the egg in the palm of your hand and wrap your fingers all the way around it, it’s basically impossible to crush.

[5] Go read Firefight.

The actual review:

I had a lot of fun trying to write the above letter in David’s voice, as he might be feeling at the end of Steelheart. I don’t know that I succeeded incredibly well, but I enjoyed it.

And if it wasn’t clear, Firefight was amazing. Steelheart was a really good book for the start of a trilogy. It bucks a lot of tropes, as is typical with Sanderson’s work, and it introduced us to an incredible cast of characters, Tia, Prof, Cody, Abraham, Megan, and, of course, David. Firefight takes us from Newcago to Babylon Restored, the home of Regalia. If you managed to get one of the exclusive editions of Steelheart with her profile in it, you know a little bit about what’s coming; if not, I’ll just say that it’s awesome.

You need to read Steelheart before you read Firefight. The events of the bridging novella, Mitosis, are mentioned a few times, and play a minor, but important role in one of the plot points of the book. You can, however, get away without reading it, and you’ll be fine.

There’s a lot of new characters that we meet, including another Reckoner team and several new epics for them to pit their powers against. I’m not going to spoil any of the introductions, because they’re truly delightful, but I will say that I really, really liked one of the new characters, and the way she was introduced/described.

The plot starts off in a very similar manner to that of Steelheart: There’s a chilling prologue, then a fight with a minor epic, and then the team heads out to start planning their main mission. Like Steelheart, the entire book is a ramping up of the tension, with a really intense pacing that never loses track of the essentials of the plot and the overall goal. But the epics are bigger, the stakes are higher, and the secrets more surprising. When you get to the last 70-100 pages, you have to be able to read it all at once. it’s an incredible experience that you really just have to experience all at once.

As you may have guessed from the letter, I actually ship David and Megan. I’m not usually a shipper type person… In fact, I’m usually the opposite. I want minimal romance and I certainly don’t want it to distract from the plot. This one, though, is just so… Perfectly right. I can’t deny that, at the end of Steelheart, I was so excited that the next book was titled Firefight, and that I had really high hopes for Megan and David. I’m not going to say if these hopes are realized or not, but… Yeah. I ship them. I think it’s largely because David is so adorably nerdy and is trying so hard to do the right thing, but he’s not superhuman or blessed with any incredible powers, and Megan is the perfect foil for him, as well as being a very exciting “grey” character.

And the twists are huge, especially near the end. I thought I was prepared for the Sanderson ending, but no… It was utterly amazing and brilliant. So many moments when I had to stop and put the book down to try to process the epicness (pun intended) of what had just happened.

One last comment to tell you how good it was: I read this book in the middle of the school semester from hell, where I had two 20+ hour projects each week plus standard homework in two other classes, and I barely kept up with all of it. I read Firefight in one sitting the night I received it, finishing around 3 AM after I had been awake at 5:30 AM the previous day and in class essentially 7 AM-7 PM. And I do not regret it. Firefight is the rare book where the author not only matches the first book in the trilogy, but exceeds it. Apparently nobody gave Sanderson the note that second books in trilogies are supposed to be boring bridging material, because Firefight is packed with 100% pure awesome all the way through.

Verdict: 5 of 5 stars, because there aren’t more than five, and GIVE ME CALAMITY!

Brandon Sanderson’s Website (With awesome Firefight theme.).

Goodreads

Amazon

Book Review: Steelheart

steelheart

From Goodreads:

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

Most people know Brandon Sanderson as the magic system guy, or as the guy who writes massive, 400,000 page tomes. He’s the Mistborn guy, or the guy who finished the Wheel of Time.

Yes, he has done all of those things in his short (<10 years) career, and he has done so much more. Sanderson, some people seem to forget, has written outside of his Cosmere. He’s written at the very least, YA, Middle Grade, sci-fi, and tech-thrillers. And he’s done all of those things incredibly well. Steelheart is the first book in his second YA series, and I loved it.

Steelheart is a post-apocalyptic YA action-adventure super-villain story. Many people complain about the post-apocalyptic/dystopian market being saturated… but they’re complaining about the copy-cats, the long lists of books that are all essentially the same, often even using the same characters with different names.

Steelheart is not like those books. Steelheart is a breath of fresh air into the field, with all of Sanderson’s trademark elements.

He’s got a brilliant, diverse cast of characters. The Reckoners, Tia, Prof, Abraham, Cody, and Megan, are all fun and unique, each in their own way. My favorite is probably Cody, and his constant insistence on silly things, like the magical little men living inside devices that make them run, and his ever-changing list of claimed inheritances/nationalities.

But that’s not to forget the main character, David. David could easy have become a blank, revenge-coated slate. I mean, it would have been awesome for him to say, “Hello. My name is David Charleston. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” But that’s not all of who he is. He is a nerd of the highest order, researching epics and their weaknesses, giving us someone the nerd inside all of us can utterly relate to, and a brilliant way to info-dump without being boring the reader. He’s a gun nut, and has a very personal relationship with his weapons. He also makes the most horrible metaphors. Ever. And they’re so crazy you can’t help but laugh. I love David. He’s not a flawless hunk of man-meat, single-mindedly destroying villains. He’s a real person with all kinds of quirks who wants to see things set right in the world that has collapsed around him. He is the hero I would want to be, if I ever travelled into a book.

Sanderson also has his trademark magic-system feel with the epics, the evil super-villains that David so carefully categorizes and the Reckoners are determined to kill. Sanderson’s invented an impressive set of powers and names—no mean feat in a world already full of comic book superheroes and supervillains. And yet, we don’t quite know how they got their powers, or why only the evil people get them. This is one of the driving forces of the book, and I don’t want to spoil it for you.

And the plot is driven, all the way through. Sanderson’s adult novels are sometimes criticized for being slow and boring. The first one or two, perhaps, are, though I feel in general that the criticism is unfounded. Luckily, there’s no way that anyone could make this criticism about Steelheart. It’s one heck of a ride, stuffed full of adrenaline filled fight scenes and tense moments. But, unlike so many other YA books I have read, it does not get lost in these moments, the drive for a plot that keeps you turning the page. The characters, the real story of the whole thing… That is never lost among the scenes. Ever scene, every action, is integral to the plot and they are all put together in a way that makes perfect sense.

In summary, Steelheart’s a fast, intense, adrenaline-filled read, appropriate for both YA and adult audiences, with an incredibly cast of characters, another trademark Sanderson magic system, and some very bad metaphors. Everyone should go read and enjoy this great book. Five of Five stars.

Before I give links, I’ll conclude this review with a quote from Patrick Rothfuss’ (If you haven’t read Name of the Wind, you… need to fix that.) review of Steelheart.

Why? Well, because Brandon writes so much faster than me. It only seems fair that some of his stuff should be crap. It just doesn’t seem fair that he’s brilliant AND fast….

Unfortunately for my ego, Steelheart is another win for Sanderson, proving that he’s not a brilliant writer of epic fantasy, he’s simply a brilliant writer. Period.

Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart on Amazon

Steelheart on Goodreads