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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Sasquan: Day 1

So I arrived at Sasquan yesterday. For those of you who don’t know, that’s the World Science Fiction Convention, usually referred to as WorldCon. This year, it’s up in Spokane, Washington. This is my first big con, and I’ve been planning this trip since around December of last year, when it was confirmed that Brandon Sanderson would be attending the entire time.

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Packing was fun. 🙂

I had to get up at 4:30 AM to start my day, so it was a really long one. Thankfully, travel was relatively uneventful. It was my first time traveling by myself, so it was an interesting experience. Thankfully, my flights were relatively on-time, my luggage made it here in one piece, and I was able to catch a bus to the con for $2 quite easily. Check-in at the hotel was easy, and even if the room is so posh I’m literally sinking into the bed as I write this… It’s worth it. The convention center itself is easy to navigate once I have my map oriented correctly. I hope my travels back are just as uneventful.

Registration was relatively easy, even if it did take half an hour to get through the line. Once I got through, since I had preregistered, I was given my badge in moments!

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I’m, like, officially at WorldCon now.

The thing is, being my first big con, I don’t really know anybody here. I think the only person here I’ve ever met in person before is Brandon himself, and he meets so many fans, I’m fairly sure that he won’t even remember meeting me before, even if Peter (who is also attending) does know who I am.

But that’s what the internet is for! I’m meeting people left and right that I only previously knew on the internet. I was on the plane with Dave Robison of the Roundtable Podcast (His voice is SO recognizable. Like, wow.), Mur Lafferty was on my bus from the airport to the hotel… I actually got to meet and talk to Dave in the registration line, and he now recognizes me by sight. I met Alice Arneson, more commonly known as Wetlander, who does half of the Stormlight Archive reread over on tor.com and is a long-time Sanderson beta-reader. I’ve talked with her several times on the internet, and she’s a super nice person.

The only panel I made it to yesterday was the Opening Ceremonies. They were worth it, though. A Native American storyteller from one of the local tribes came and sang a traditional song and told several traditional stories. He had an incredible stage presence, and the audience, myself included, was captured by his imagination and performance. After he spoke and the guests were introduced, we were treated to a video recording from our special guest of honor, Kjell Lindgren, who is currently living on the ISS, and who will be teleconferencing in at least a few times this week to do panels.

After that, Alice introduced me to the con suite, where there are apparently free snacks for participants 24 hours while the con is going. It’s kind of awesome. While there, she introduced me to Joel Phillips, another Sanderson beta-reader and owner of the signed and numbered #1 copy of A Memory of Light, for which he had to camp out 2 weeks in below-zero weather. I almost tripped over Charles Stross.

I decided to subsist on snacks for the evening, since dining around here is so freaking expensive. I’m only planning to go out to any of the nice restaurants to eat if I’m going with a group of people and it’s worth it for the connections and friends made. I crashed in my way too posh hotel bed, utterly exhausted after being up for… something close to 18 hours straight. I walked about 5 miles, and I’m sure that’s going to be demolished by the amount of walking I’m doing today. I have a lot more people I’m looking forward to meeting (Sanderson), and today I start hauling books around to get signed. Until tonight, everyone!

2015 Resolutions

Read 52 reviewable books.

I’ve set this goal on Goodreads, and I intend to stick to it. I only read 40-ish books last year, and I’d really like to improve upon that. In addition, this would give me a book to review every week for my blog, which brings me to my next resolution.

Have 2+ weekly posts on this blog, at least 1 of which is a review.

I really want to be more active here, and I enjoy writing posts, as well as reading on others’ blogs. I don’t have any kind of readership/views goal for myself. I’m just trusting that if I do what I enjoy, and write frequent (but still good) posts, good things will follow. I’m not engaging in any particular memes, so you should expect my non-review posts to be a bit random at times.

Walk 10k+ steps per day.

This isn’t a blogging related goal. It’s much more health oriented. I’m not what I would consider obese or anything, but I’m also not in great shape. I’m also a computer science major in college, which means I spend unhealthy amounts of time in front of a computer, staring at the screen and typing. Walking isn’t strenuous exercise, but 10k steps will usually get me up and out for at least an hour. My new phone measures how many steps I take, which may have been a large part of why I decided to do this.

Write every day.

Last year, I resolved to try to get a short story published. I failed at that, and I’m not setting that as my goal again this year. Instead, I want to get back on the track of writing every day. I fell off of this train during the fall semester last year, thanks to some ridiculously hard classes. This semester, I have what I think will be a much lighter load, and so I’m looking forward to being able to take the time to blog more in addition to increasing my reading, as well as getting back into the (creative fiction) writing groove.

Attend Sasquan, this year’s WorldCon.

I’ve never actually been to a sci-fi/fantasy convention, and everyone keeps going to these things and having so much fun. I’ve already paid my registration, and I’m super excited. I already know a handful of authors and others who are going, and I’m really, really excited to meet them in person, as well as make new friends, attend a bunch of cool panels, and BE AT THE HUGO CEREMONY. The actual Hugo awards. I voted for the first time last year, and that was an amazing experience. Being able to actually attend the awards will be so much more awesome. Also, Brandon Sanderson is going to be there… I need to write a post about my Brandon Sanderson problem soon.

Keep my book-buying budget low.

Other than a handful of books I want to buy, I’m really trying to cut down on this this year. I’ll still go for special things, like Sanderson collectors copies when I can find them, but I really want to save my money for the WorldCon trip and not buy more books that I may not get around to reading for the next 10+ years. I’m not terrible worried about the size of my TBR (other than wanting to get another bookcase), but I think spending much money on books that are going to be that far out is just the other side of ridiculous. I’ll be buying/bringing plenty of copies to WorldCon, though, and I’ve already bought my 30-40 books for the year. I also want to start exploring another method for obtaining books, which brings me to my last resolution.

Request at least 1 ARC.

This one should be pretty self-explanatory. As I get more in to the blogging world, hopefully maintaining my reviewing and posting pace, and maybe even getting a few people to read the blog, I want to start requesting ARCs to review. So far, I’ve only been getting ARCs that I win in contests—and I’ve gotten quite good at winning them. But this still gives a random selection, often giving me later books in a series I haven’t read, and it also doesn’t come with any review requirements. Though I’m trying to treat my ARCs as review books from here on out, I would really like to request (and obtain) at least 1 ARC. I have a book in mind, too, and if that goes well I’ll try for a few more.

Well, I said last resolution. There’s 1 more, which I think everyone should have:

Have a great year!

Book Review: Steelheart

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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

Book Review: Elantris

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Amazon Summary:

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.

Arelon’s new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping — based on their correspondence — to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.

But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.

A rare epic fantasy that doesn’t recycle the classics and that is a complete and satisfying story in one volume, Elantris is fleet and fun, full of surprises and characters to care about. It’s also the wonderful debut of a welcome new star in the constellation of fantasy.

Many people complain that an author’s first book is, by far, their weakest. I usually agree, and even my hero, Brandon Sanderson, isn’t completely immune to this problem. Elantris was his first published work, and, I feel, the weakest of his novel length publications.

But take that with a grain of salt. It’s still a Sanderson. It has all of the hallmarks, all of the beauty, all of the power, that really make Sanderson worth reading.

It’s also the seventh novel he wrote, and by the time he sold it and edited it for publication, I believe he had written thirteen novels, and it shows. It is, by far, stronger than what you would typically expect to find in a debut novel.

Now, on to talking about the book itself. My biggest issue with any any Sanderson book is how they may not hook non-fans. Elantris, in particular, has an exciting prologue and first few chapters, and then there are several hundred pages where very interesting and important things happen, but you feel like you could put the book down at any point, and you’re not truly hooked until the last part, the last several hundred pages. He has talked about this strategy before, and said that it is necessary for epic fantasy length books. His YA novels have that can-not-put-down feel. I’ve seen epic fantasy done this way, though, notably by Brent Weeks and Brian Staveley, and the strategy has worked for me.

That’s not to say that that the first part of the book is boring—not even remotely. The characters are all going through interesting journeys, and Sanderson is setting them up for some truly spectacular changes and reveals by the end of the book. His character development can, at times, be a little ham-handed—it feels as if he hadn’t completely learned how to show, and not tell, us about some character traits yet.

I love the characters. Hrathen, a gyorn, or high priest of the Shu Dereth religion, has come to Elantris with the mission of converting the city in ninety days. If he fails, the armies of Fjordell will invade. He was my favorite of the main characters, for several reasons. In large part, I think it’s because I see the world the way he does. Things are meant to be calculated and done for a reason. His entire crusade to convert the people is driven heavily by his desire to save them from the destruction he knows would be caused by an invading army. Much of his faith is based on the logic of his religion, and how things seem to simply make sense.

I can’t mention Hrathen without getting Dilaf shivers. Dilaf, who serves under Hrathen, is much lower in standing in the church. Yet, his devotion outstrips Hrathen’s by tenfold, to the point that he occasionally causes Hrathen himself to question his beliefs. He is also about as close as the book comes to pure evil. Reading scenes with him just make me shiver. Hrathen is a grey character who truly believes that he can justify that what he is doing is right. Dilaf is a religious fanatic. Both are, in their own way, a fascinating study of how religion can go tragically wrong.

Raoden, the prince taken by the reod and cast into Elantris, has, perhaps, the most difficult struggle of the book. He must work constantly under unceasing pain to try to save not only himself, but also those around him. He is, in some ways, a bit too perfect. I think Sanderson overdid him a hair, and that his unflagging optimism and perseverance are a bit much. He’s too much of a Mary Sue, a perfect character with no flaws. Regardless, he’s an important and powerful character, and I love his journey as he tries to restore at least a little of Elantris’ former glory.

Saerene is the most often criticized character in the book, I feel, and I do not feel that she deserves it. She’s headstrong and willful, and I’ll admit that personally, she scares me. She’s not someone I would want to spend a lot of time around and count as a friend, because of how unpredictable, sometimes wrong, and incredibly bull-headed she can be. But I think she’s written well. Her sarcasm and attitude, the things that some people have issues with, ring true for me. I feel that she’s a well written, ahead of her time character who wants change and is going to get it, and who cares about the consequences?

Before I finish talking about the characters that I loved, I have to mention a minor character who, I have heard, is going to be one of the main characters in the eventual sequel to Elantris. (Sanderson, 8 ongoing series is a bit much, even for you…) Kiin’s son, Adien, has a special place in my heart. I won’t say too much about why, without spoiling the book, but his obsession with numbers and vital role in the pivotal ending scenes of the book are just perfect.

The plot of the book is nothing incredible for the first several hundred pages. Lots of political intrigue, plenty of twists, and the eventual looming threat of Hrathen’s invasion give it a sense of purpose. With only that, and a satisfying climax that tied up some threads, it would have been a good book. But that’s not how Sanderson does things. I am being completely serious when I say that nothing, ever, in my entire reading experience, can compare to the last 10% of a Sanderson book. It’s called the “Sanderson Avalanche”. Sanderson, with his epic scopes, manages to juggle an incredible number of threads, each complicated and confusing, all sharing a few common elements. Most authors will bring these together in a few interesting ways, and resolve the majority of them. Sanderson… Sanderson mashes them all together in what, in the hands of a less talented author, might turn into a train wreck, but in his books turns into the most awesome avalanche of constant climaxes, twisty reveals, and powerful feels. And then, just when you think it’s over, he yanks the rug out from under you again.

Elantris is no exception to this rule, and once you get to the last part of the book, I promise that you will not be able to put it down. It’s utterly thrilling and crushing, and I’m not doing it justice here. You need to go read one of Sanderson’s novels, and you need to read it through to the end. You’ll see what I mean.

Because of the character issues and generally slower pacing, I’m going to have to give Elantris four stars. That is, perhaps, because I know how much better Sanderson’s books have gotten. Still, giving one of his novels only four stars makes me feel like a traitor, and as if I should revise my opinion down of most of the other books I’ve ever read and given five stars to… Regardless, Elantris has its flaws, but if you push through to the end, you will be rewarded. I promise. I recommend it, though if you’re going to read Sanderson, I’d probably urge you to read Mistborn first; it’s a better, stronger introduction to his style.

Links:

Brandon’s website.

Elantris on Brandon’s website.