Tag Archives: Brandon Sanderson

Vacation Reads

7 Jul

After sorting out some internet connection trouble over the weekend – what fun after coming back from a vacation – I’ve finally time for posting some short comments about my vacation reads. Although I have to say, the books were truly vacation reads: my memories are hazy and the comments are rudimentary.

Kelley Armstrong – Stolen

Armstrong, Kelley - Stolen

urban fantasy; “Women of the Otherworld” series, #2

“In Bitten, thirty-year-old Elena Michaels came to terms with her feral appetites and claimed the proud identity of a beautiful, successful woman–and the only living female werewolf.

In Stolen, on a mission for her own elite pack, she is lured into the net of ruthless Internet billionaire Tyrone Winsloe, who has funded a bogus scientific investigation of the “other races” and their supernatural powers. Kidnapped and studied in his underground lab deep in the Maine woods, these paranormals–witches, vampires, shamans, werewolves–are then released and hunted to the death in a real-world video game. But when Winsloe captures Elena, he finally meets his match.”

I had my problems with Elena for much of the first novel in this series, Bitten, though I appreciated Elena as a different heroine. I’m glad to say that my problems were much reduced in this novel. I enjoyed Stolen and I like Armstrong’s way to write. Stolen is a very straightforward story – Elena is captured, has to figure out how to escape and then comes back. Because I never doubted that she would escape, I didn’t find the story all that interesting. Still, Stolen gives a great introduction to all the other supernatural beings in this world. I think I’m going to continue with this series.

Verdict: 4/5

Madeline Hunter – The Rules of Seduction

Hunter, Madeline - Rules of Seduction

historical romance; “Rothwell Brothers” series, #1

“Dangerous. Sensual. Handsome as sin. Meet Hayden Rothwell, the shamelessly erotic hero of The Rules of Seduction and author Madeline Hunter’s most irresistible alpha male yet: a man of extraordinary passion and power, a man who can bring out the seductress in any woman….

He enters her home without warning or invitation–a stranger of shadowy motives and commanding sensuality. Within hours, Alexia Welbourne is penniless, without any hope of marriage. Until Hayden Rothwell takes her to bed. When one impulsive act of passion forces Alexia to marry the very man who has ruined her, Hayden’s seduction of Alexia is nearly complete. What Alexia doesn’t know is that her irresistible new husband is driven by a secret purpose–and a debt of honor he will risk everything to repay. Alexia is the wild card. Reluctant to give up their nightly pleasures, Hayden must find a way to keep Alexia by his side…only to be utterly, thoroughly seduced by a woman who is now playing by her own rules.”

I really liked The Rules of Seduction. It’s a character-driven story and I especially enjoyed that Alexia and Hayden seemed to be mature characters. Alexia knows she has to be practical but nevertheless, she also resents giving up some of her romantic dreams. And Hayden, the way love creeps up on his analytical and logical self…

Verdict: 4,5/5

Dorothy Koomson – My Best Friend’s Girl

Koomson, Dorothy - My Best Friend's Girl

fiction (chick-lit)

“How far would you go for the best friend who broke your heart?

From the moment they met in college, best friends Adele and Kamryn thought nothing could come between them–until Adele did the unthinkable and slept with Kamryn’s fiance, Nate. Now, after years of silence, the two women are reuniting, and Adele has a stunning request for her old friend: she wants Kamryn to adopt her five-year-old daughter, Tegan.

But Kamryn is wholly unprepared to take care of anyone–especially someone who reminds her so much of Nate. With crises brewing at work and her love life in shambles, can Kamryn somehow become the mother a little girl needs her to be?

It wasn’t a good decision to read this on my vacation. Reading at the pool and wanting to have a good cry? Not ideal, let me tell you. Especially the beginning had me teary-eyed quite a bit. Bonus: I didn’t know with whom Kamryn would end up with right up to the end although that question is not what this novel is about. Finished in one day.

Verdict: 4/5

Karen Marie Moning – Darkfever (audio book)

Moning, Karen Marie - Darkfever (audio book)

urban fantasy; “Fever” series, #1

from the author’s website:

“MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. Or so she thinks…until something extraordinary happens.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae….

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless Vlane–an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women–closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book–because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands. . . .”

Darkfever is the first audio book I’ve listened to. I really liked the experience and I think it changes the impression of a novel somewhat. I didn’t like the voice the narrator used for Jericho at all. I had images of reptiles dancing before my eyes whenever he talked. Not good.

LOL: I thought Mac’s name was Michaela! Good thing I didn’t see the way it is written before. I would have thought it too cutesy, enforcing my impression that Mac is an incarnation of Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle Woods in Legally Blond.

link to podcast of Darkfever

Susan Squires – Body Electric


science fiction romance

(It says paranormal romance on the book spine, I use SF romance because it's set in the (near) future and technology is involved, nothing supernatural)

“Victoria Barnhardt set out to create something brilliant; she succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. With one keystroke her program spiraled out of control…and something was born that defied possibility: a being who called to her.

He spoke from within a prison, seeking escape, seeking her. He was a miracle that Vic had never intended. More than a scientific discovery, or a brilliant coup by an infamous hacker, he was life. He was beauty. And he needed to be released, just as Victoria did. Though the shadows of the past might rise against them, on one starry Los Angeles night, in each other’s arms, the pair would find a way to have each other and freedom both.”

This is the most interesting novel I read in terms of story. I thought it rather original. Sure, you have to believe and there were parts that I didn’t like all that much – the way Victoria’s creation got a body, for example – but overall, I enjoyed reading it. Also, Body Electric has a virgin hero. But with that kind of story it couldn’t be any other way.


not finished:

Brandon Sanderson – The Hero of Ages


fantasy; “Mistborn” trilogy, #3

half of the blurb (to avoid spoilers of the first two books in this trilogy):

“The conclusion of the Mistborn trilogy fulfills all the promise of the first two books. Revelations abound, connections rooted in early chapters of the series click into place, and surprises, as satisfying as they are stunning, blossom like fireworks to dazzle and delight. It all leads up to a finale unmatched for originality and audacity that will leave you rubbing your eyes in wonder, as if awaking from an amazing dream.

I only got halfway through this book on my vacation (I read ~ 400 pages) so no grade. But based on my experience with the first two books in this trilogy (really liked the first, thought the second one good), I fully expect some more story surprises on the way to the ending. So far, I enjoyed reading it.

Problems: It’s more than six months since I’ve finished the second book in this trilogy and that might be a bit too long to remember all revelations and how they fit in with what is happening now.

Brandon Sanderson – “The Well Of Ascension”

12 Nov

GENRE: Fantasy
PUBLISHED: Tor 2008 (2007)

SERIES: “Mistborn” trilogy, part 2

WHY THIS NOVEL: I liked the first part in this trilogy a lot.

The back blurb:
“Evil has been defeated.
The was has just begun.

They did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend, Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a healthy new society in the ashes of an empire.

They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege thightens, 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.

It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.”

The Well of Ascension begins a few months after the end of Mistborn: The Final Empire. Like Mistborn, it’s divided into parts (six this time) and begins each chapter with an account-like paragraph of what have happened one thousand years before. This time, it’s not the hero himself who writes. This time, it’s the scholar who discovered him, the Hero of Ages prophesied for so long in their religion, and this scholar tells his side of the story in these sentences. He begins his account with the words: “I write these words in steel, for anything not set in metal cannot be trusted” (3).

The Well of Ascension is a look at what happens when the good guys win. Most of it deals with the threat of the three armies laying siege to Luthadel, the “capital” of the Final Empire. Elend Venture is the new king and the former thieves are his advisers. The main story line in this novel is Elend’s struggle with himself and the question of what makes a good leader.

Who was he? A man who had haphazardly ended up on the throne? A poor replacement for their brilliant leader? An idealist who hadn’t considered the dangers his philosophies would bring? A fool? A child? An imposter?

His idealism clashes with the reality of what it takes to lead people, especially since he faces the harsh reality in a besieged city. Elend has a lot to learn about leading. It’s only when another “Keeper,” a secret organization of scholars, arrives that he realizes that ideals and good intentions are maybe not enough.

There are two secondary story lines (in terms of page count) and then some even smaller ones. At the end of Mistborn, Vin had a tenuous understanding of herself and thought she could be both Mistborn (and assassin) and the woman Elend needs as king. In The Well of Ascension, this is threatened as she is revisited by her old fears: to be betrayed and to be left alone. Her insecurities about herself are made worse when she meets another Mistborn and starts to question her relationship with Elend. She can’t reconcile her love for Elend with being Elend’s knife at the throat of his enemies and her aversion to being used as an assassin and a means of threat by him. On top of that, she can no longer see the mist as her means to be free because the mist has changed. She sees a figure in it watching her and she can’t shake the feeling that it all has to do with the Lord Ruler’s death.

This is were the Sazed’s story line comes in. He’s a Keeper and at the start of the story, he’s out in the country to teach the people what he knows. He discovers the scholar’s account “set in steel” and also disturbing things about the mist and so decides to go back to Luthadel. Together with the other Keeper there, he tries to understand the account in light of what they know and to find the answer to the question of what the Well of Ascension is and what the Deepness, the thing the Lord Ruler defeated one thousand years before, was. There are discrepancies in books and the accounts, especially about the Hero of Ages, and then somehow it looks like history is repeating itself. The answer to all this makes for a powerful ending that changes a lot.

On the whole, The Well of Ascension seems less focused than Mistborn, probably because there are several POV characters and several plot lines to juggle. Some of the subplots sometimes appear to be dropped because it seems that several weeks passed by between each mention of it, like for example the spy subplot. Then there’s the character who vanishes early in the story without nobody wondering about it. There is also not much action in this story, something that gets particularly clear when you look back on what happened: the big battle for Luthadel and the realization about the Well of Ascension. Both things happen at the end. Most of the story reads like the quiet before the storm and concerns itself with the exploration of leadership. While I thought this interesting on a philosophical level, the writing there wasn’t tight and focused enough to gather it’s own momentum, making the first parts of the novel a somewhat slow read because the balance didn’t quite work. What kept me reading then was mostly Vin’s and Sazed’s story line.

The last parts of the novel made up for the slower first half/two thirds of the novel and overall, there is much to like in this novel, like Vin’s struggle with her identity, her insecurities and her fears. I also thought the exploration of themes of leadership and religion in this story interesting. And I liked the answer Sazed finds and the twist it puts on religion and prophecies, especially since it also offers a comment on the end of Mistborn and its question of heroism. But I’m not sure if it was such a good idea to read this book so soon after Mistborn. It probably made it suffer more in comparison than necessary.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes (not as a stand-alone).

Would I read this novel again? Yes.

Grade: 4 – / 5

Brandon Sanderson – “Mistborn: The Final Empire”

9 Nov

GENRE: Fantasy
PUBLISHED: Tor, 2007 (2006)

WHY THIS NOVEL: I liked Sanderson’s Elantris and was impressed by its magic system so it was a question of when I’ll read another book by him not if.

The back blurb:
“The Mists rule the night.
The Lord Ruler owns the world.

Once, a hero arose to save the world. A young man with a mysterious heritage courageously challenged the darkness that strangled the land.
He failed.
For a thousand years since, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal emperor known as the Lord Ruler. Every revolt has failed miserably.
Yet somehow, hope survives. Hope that dares to dream of ending the empire and even the Lord Ruler himself. A new kind of uprising is being planned, one built around the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine, a street urchin who must learn to master Allomancy, the power of a Mistborn.”

Mistborn is a deceptive novel, IMO, because, as Kelsier, the “brilliant criminal mastermind” (back blurb) likes to say, “there is always another secret.” Things are not always as easy as they look; there is more going on than you expect from the “bare bones” of the story. It’s this that made this story so interesting and enjoyable to read (and it’s this that makes it difficult to write this).

Although the start is somewhat slow, I thought the writing is good. There is no head-hopping and for most of the time, the number of POV characters is just two. The novel itself is divided into five parts (corresponding to the dramatic structure) and each chapter opens with a transcript of an unknown man’s journal. The very first sentence of this journal reads: “Sometimes, I worry that I’m not the hero everyone thinks I am” (page 1; I quoted the whole paragraph here) and right there is what I see as one of the main themes of this novel, the question what is or what makes a hero.

Mistborn seems to have the traditional fantasy plot of free-the-world-from-an-evil-power, called the Lord Ruler this time around (the back blurb is fairly accurate with that, but some other things are questionable). But in Mistborn, it’s a group of thieves that tries to fight evil and because of that, it’s not just a heroic good vs evil story, it’s also a heist story. The characters are as easily motivated by the expected material gain as they are motivated by their wish to help the oppressed people. And of course, there are also a few surprises and setbacks on the way – remember: there is always another secret – and the ending is the most stunning of them all.

The world in Mistborn is harsh and brutal, with many deaths, dense mists at night, nearly constant ash rains, and with a society roughly divided into a noblemen class and the slave-like skaa with the Lord Ruler as the immortal god (figure) of all and who controls all – army, aristocracy, wealth. So it’s no wonder a few rebels plan a rebellion to overthrow the Lord Ruler and hire a thieving gang for help. Part of the plan is the infiltration of the aristocracy with the “street urchin” posing as a noblewoman to spy. This provides a detailed look on both classes of the society and points to questions of (rightful) leadership and identity and character. Thrown into the mix are some rather original creatures like mistwraiths and Inquisitors, and an intriguing magic system. Especially the Inquisitors (some of the Lord Ruler’s priests) are important because they are mostly used to hunt skaas with allomantic powers (always half-breeds) and kill them.

Most members of the thieving group have such allomantic powers and most of the characters (main and secondary) have character traits of certain character types but most of them are also more than that. Especially of course the main characters, Vin the street urchin and Kelsier the criminal mastermind, along with some of the secondary characters. I mostly think of Sazed here, a scholarly type of character from another oppressed people who has a great interest in religion (main theme in Elantris).

Vin, the “unlikely heroine,” grew up on the streets in the slums together with her brother. He beat some hard lessons into her, the most important one being: anyone will betray you, even he himself. At the start of the novel, Vin is a scrawny young woman (16) in a thieving group that functions on the principle her brother warned her about. She has no believes and she dreams of being free, but she needs all her wits to even survive where she is. Her life changes drastically after she becomes part of Kelsier’s thieving group and thanks to the development of her allomantic powers (she’s a Mistborn). Her main struggle is to let go of her mindset which urges her to hide and trust no one, and to find her identity in all that’s going on (coming-of-age character arc). It’s only at the end of the novel that she understands friendship and that she begins to trust in others (and herself). She’s also the character I thought the most interesting to read about, I especially liked the parts where she posed as a noblewoman.

Kelsier is also a Mistborn and he becomes Vin’s teacher in Allomancy. He’s the charismatic and daring leader of the thieves who plans to overthrow the Lord Ruler. So Kelsier (also) has the trappings of a hero but his optimism and daring are sometimes too much with rather negative consequences, putting a twist on the hero type character. He has to face setbacks and even though his dashing and daring character might be tempered in the course of the story, in true hero fashion he gets his great scene at the end.

The main “magic” in Mistborn is called Allomancy. It means the use of metals to gain special skills/powers, each metal giving one specific ability. There’s no “she concentrated hard and a fireball appeared in the palm of her hand.” Instead, the magic in this story is one of the most elaborate, thought-out and original systems I saw in fantasy novels so far and despite that, it’s easy to understand. It’s also where the title of the novel comes from: someone who can use all metals is called a Mistborn (like Vin and Kelsier) and someone who can only use one of the metals is called a Mistling. Here’s one of the first mentions of how magic works in Mistborn:

Kelsier gave his friend a count of ten before reaching within himself and burning his metals. His body came awash with strenth, clarity, and power.
Kelsier smiled; then–burning zinc–he reached out and yanked firmly on the Inquisitor’s emotions. The creature froze in place, then spun, looking back toward the Canton building.
Let’s have a chase now, you and I, Kelsier thought. (43)

The only part that’s a bit woo-woo (= no real explanation) about this system is how you reach inside yourself to burn the metals you swallow. Everything else, what each metal does, it’s strength and weakness, and so on is clearly defined (there’s even a small chart at the end of the book). I liked that there are only a few short explanations of how Allomancy works before Kelsier teaches Vin. The characters using it know how it works so lengthy explanations of it would be odd there. Also, the action scenes reminded me of films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – fast and elegant with some incredible feats from the characters.

Overall, the focus in this novel seems to be more on philosophical questions than on character (development) and action, although I didn’t think these parts lacking. It also seems to be a rather easy story to summarize: standard plot, standard characters. But when you look closer, things get more difficult, transcend their easy-ness and hint at something more (giving the impression of a more philosophical focus). Everything in this novel is connected – characters, plot, themes. It uses traditional fantasy elements to write a story that questions the notion of heroism, leadership, justice, religion, maybe even evil and good, transforming the often used elements into something more in the process and making reading this novel a real pleasure.

And because of all that, Mistborn is one of my best and most favorite reads this year.

Final words/thoughts:

  • The dialog might not always be believable in that some characters speak probably to well for their background but I take that any day over a character that talks in a dialect I can’t understand (like one of the characters in this novel does sometimes).
  • There’s a romance in this novel although it is told only in the most rudimentary sentences. But for that, it has some quite effective scenes. It’s between Vin and an nobleman called Elend, heir to the most powerful House.
  • “Elend” is a word that in German can mean: 1. “wretched, miserable; awful; ill; dreadful” 2. “misery; distress; squalor; poverty; penury.” I thought it funny because he’s the love interest.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Yes.

Grade: 5 / 5