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Thjoth
03 Jul 2011, 04:10
Since I read roughly a billion books a year, this being only a very slight exaggeration, I figured I would put my impressions here so that anyone that feels like they need new reading material can check here and hopefully find something good.

The Way of Kings - Book 1 of The Stormlight Archive - Brandon Sanderson

Ever since I heard Brandon Sanderson (of Bringham Young University) had been chosen to complete the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, I have been looking forward to reading Sanderson's own, original material that is not overshadowed by Jordan's legacy. I got the chance to do so last week, when I picked up a copy of The Way of Kings and subsequently couldn't put it down until it was done.

The first six chapters are provided for free by Brandon Sanderson here (http://www.brandonsanderson.com/library/catalog/The-Way-of-Kings_Sample-Chapters/).

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Plot and Pacing

The Way of Kings is action packed from the first page to the last. Not a page is wasted on padding or meaningless action; every single event that occurs in the book has an impact that can be felt in the rest of the book. Events that aren't resolved within The Way of Kings are very obviously meant to be resolved in the following books; nothing is out of place, and nothing leaves the reader wanting. Although Sanderson is a fan of cliffhanger endings for some of his individual chapters, the book as a whole does not end on a cliffhanger, neatly wrapping up many of its plotlines and preparing the story for the next installment. The volume could easily be read as a standalone novel, albeit one with an incredibly open ending. Each major chapter is told from the perspective of one of his main characters, and each of the book's interludes consists of three short chapters told from the perspective of a more minor character.

Plot devices that are integral to the story are established early; The ecology and weather patterns of the world, the Ten Heralds and the Knights Radiant, as well as Shardblades and Shardplate, all appear within the first chapter or two and provide continuity throughout the work. Even events that seemingly come out of nowhere later in the book can be discovered to have been introduced in the very first few chapters, if those chapters are given a quick reread from the perspective of hindsight. Sanderson's attention to detail is nothing short of amazing, and plot holes cannot be found even if one goes looking for them with a microscope.

All in all, Sanderson establishes his story and most of his recurring plot devices, as well as important events and groups of people, very early, and this leads to smooth reading and makes it so that confusion is minimal to nonexistent.

Characters

In terms of the number of main characters, Sanderson follows a trend that seems to have been gaining traction over the last several years among fantasy authors, and this is to tell the story from the perspective of a handful of main characters (in Sanderson's case, there are four major characters from whose perspective the majority of the story is told; see George R. R. Martin for an example of this being taken to a ridiculous extreme) rather than a more static approach to perspective. Every character, both the main characters and the secondary ones, has a believable backstory, a believable motivation, and a believable personality; one can sympathize with every single one of the main characters, even those whose pursuits are less than noble.

Even the "bad guys" of the text are made a little more relatable, as their motivations behind why they are the way they are are explained through the suppositions of their downtrodden victims.

Overall, all of the characters are wonderful and well-rounded. They are all believable on every front, and as such lend the story that much more gravity and believability in its own right.

Overall

Overall, The Way of Kings is an almost perfectly crafted fantasy novel that will keep the reader hooked until the final page is turned. The only speck on its nearly flawless delivery is that some of the cliffhanger chapter endings seem to be cut off at slightly unnatural places, and many of those cliffhangers are unnecessarily torturous, to the point that the reader feels the need to skip ahead and resolve the storyline before going back and reading everything that came between. Other than that, The Stormlight Archive promises to be one of the best and most groundbreaking new fantasy novels since Tolkien; do yourself a favor, and pick it up. You won't be disappointed.

Thjoth
15 Jul 2011, 17:09
The Warded Man - Book 1 of The Demon Cycle - Peter V. Brett

The Warded Man (alternately titled The Painted Man) was a book I picked up from Goodwill for $0.50. My sense of pride doesn't normally allow me to even think about buying things from Goodwill, but hardcover novels for 50 cents makes me happier than it should. I basically read the dustjacket of this one and proceeded to take it home with no real expectations. I am pleased to say that Brett turns out to be a very capable author, and I am looking forward to his future material; the second book in The Demon Cycle, entitled The Desert Spear, is out now, with three more novels being planned.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Plot and Pacing

The basic premise is this: In the world created by Brett, demons rise up from the Core at night to prey on basically anything that lives, but mostly humans. Human beings have been pushed to the brink of extinction and traveling more than one day's ride in any direction is difficult unto impossibility. To protect them, humans have Wards, which are magical symbols that they cut, paint, or otherwise mark on a surface in certain arrays to form a barrier to the demons. Humans only have defensive Wards; the knowledge of offensive combat Wards was lost centuries before. The only people that dare travel are the Messengers, who are compensated handsomely for the danger they put themselves in every day to keep the world connected; they travel with the aid of portable Warding circles that keep the demons from getting to them.

Characters

The story mainly follows three children as they grow up; Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer. The three stories only begin to merge towards the end of the book, when the titular character is introduced. Since you effectively get to see the characters grow up from children, albeit with liberal use of timeskips, every character gets a lot of very detailed backstory.

Overall

Overall, The Warded Man is a very fun and interesting novel. The story sometimes drags, due to the fact that the characters are followed from childhood, but the effect is fairly minimal. The world is interesting, the people are engaging, and the plot is fairly fast and action-oriented, although it would be hard not to be with murderous hordes of demons crawling from the ground as soon as the sun went down every night. I'd recommend The Warded Man to anyone that's into fantasy novels, as it is a perfectly solid entry into that genre.