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Brandon Sanderson

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Rhythm of War

Rhythm of War

Brandon Sanderson

4th July 2021

I don’t remember how many weeks, months probably, it has taken me to make my way through Rhythm of War, the fourth book in Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy series The Starlight Archive. As with the previous book, Oathbringer, I took advantage of the five-part structure to take breaks and read other, shorter, novels to help ensure my motivation didn’t falter.

It is of course, another fantastic story - following characters we’ve loved for several books already and new ones, some characters whose positions have changed, and about whom our feelings have changed, as they make their way through life against adversity on a number of fronts. Sanderson weaves the plot lines together deftly, mixing in this time a number of flashbacks to give more backstory for some of the characters that we’ve picked up along the way.

What really stood out about this novel was the prevalence of the themes of mental health - which we got to see affecting quite the number of characters in different ways. I don’t know whether this is more prominent, deliberately or otherwise, or whether my awareness of such topics has increased to allow me to notice it more, but I certainly appreciated seeing these aspects of the characters shown with honesty and realism.

The fifth and final part of the book felt like it massively upped the pace and drama, and had me utterly hooked throughout, leading me to stay up until 1am so as not to have to stop reading as everything became very exciting. I’m solidly looking forward to book five, and seeing where Sanderson takes us to for the mid-point of The Starlight Archive.

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Brandon Sanderson

23rd May 2020

The third epic novel in the epic series to end all epic series. I’ve been averaging a book every two to three days this year, sometimes faster during lockdown. This however took me five weeks - it’s 1200 pages long and handily divided into five parts, after each of which I needed a break of three shorter books just to let my arms recover enough to keep holding it up.

Beyond the length and weight, there is nothing I can find to criticise in this. As with many of Sanderson’s works, it features a rich mix of characters, some old, some new, some mysterious, some well known, and a world that keeps peeling back layer after layer to discover more and more of the tapestry he has crafted with words.

The are some vague hints of the Wheel of Time - with the theme of history repeating itself - but only vague, and the story is a constant delight and surprise.

I’m amazed by Sanderson’s mind and how he manages to construct these epics, and looking keenly forward to the fourth volume later this year.

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Brandon Sanderson

9th February 2020

The second novel of Spensa, a woman who has grown up on humanity’s last refuge, and become a pilot to help defend her world. Starlight starts without an obvious direction to go in - the plot of the first novel, while leaving space for the sequel, didn’t make the onward path obvious.

So I was happy to find that Sanderson has found a way to advance the plot, and of course his all-important worldbuilding, without dramatically shifting the tone of the narrative. We’re still aligned with Spensa, exploring an unfamiliar environment, learning so much, and facing an even bigger threat than before.

I didn’t find the novel as captivating as I had expected though. It’s not non-captivating, just not to the level I have come to expect from Sanderson’s novels. There are evident similarities between the style of the narrative here with his previous young adult novels, but it’s clearly grown since Alcatraz into something I can at least engage with without being put off.

What I loved the most about this novel is the worldbuilding - that Sanderson is taking all the little seeds that he planted in the first book and growing them into surprising new directions, that either make you feel a bit dumb for not seeing where it was going, or make you rethink your understanding, or just make you go wow.

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Arcanum Unbounded

Arcanum Unbounded

Brandon Sanderson

2nd January 2020

This is the second time I’ve read the Emperor’s Soul - my memory of what happened was barely existent from when I first read it nearly six years ago. It’s a really strong opener to this volume, standing alone despite being set in the world of “Elantris” and requiring no prior knowledge of Sanderson’s works. It does the standard Brandon thing of introducing a world and a magic system through a compelling character in an unusual situation, and does it masterfully.

The Hope of Elantris is like a deleted scene from the original novel, and fairly near the end I think, so contains a number of spoilers. It’s been six years since I read the novel, so took me a few pages to get my bearings again and remember the key aspects of the plot. But that done, it’s a great little short story about one character’s moments in this world.

The Eleventh Metal is a little bit of Mistborn backstory. It’s a nice little introduction to the Mistborn world, but didn’t feel like it added a lot to the overall mythos or character. It’s been quite a while since I read the original Mistborn trilogy though, so my memories of Kelsier’s story are patchy.

The third Mistborn short is a fiction within a fiction. It’s the sensational newspaper account of Allomancer Jak - and Indiana Jones style character. It’s very reminiscent of the author’s Alcatraz novels in tone, and feels a bit like it’s trying to be Pratchett-esque (Sanderson has stated that Terry Pratchett is his own favourite author) - but I’ve never quite got this form of Sanderson, feeling like it’s missing a layer of satire or sarcasm and being a bit too in-your-face with silliness.

Mistborn: Secret History - another story I’ve read before, but barely remember, tells a second story of things that were happening alongside the original trilogy. As such it’s massively spoilerific. It’s a long time since I’ve read the trilogy, so I read synopses if each novel from the internet before entering each part, and that felt like it stood me in good stead to understand. I kind of feel like someday I need to read the two intertwined though, to get a real understanding.

White Sand is presented interestingly as both the opening chapters of the graphic novel (which I have read about half of previously), and as the opening chapters of the unpublished prose version upon which it was based. As before, I found the graphic version hard to consume. I don’t think my brain works in the right way to read graphic novels - I just focus on the words, so miss the artwork and the visual elements of the storytelling. However I found the prose version of the story much more engaging and compelling, and found myself wishing this was the version I had available to read in full.

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell is a shorter story I’ve read before in the Dangerous Women anthology, but which my memory of was patchy. It’s a dark short set in a world that Sanderson will hopefully return to one day, as there’s clearly a lot of potential. It’s a tad reminiscent of Peter V Brett’s Daemon Cycle in terms of the world building, and there’s a slight sense that Star Trek’s Borg might have been a part of the inspiration.

Sixth of the Dust is a new story to me. It’s another great new world to explore, with a fascinating idea for a magic system, and a nice few moral messages to go alongside. One I greatly enjoyed reading.

The final 40,000 words of this collection make up Edgdancer, a Stormlight Archive novella, which I really enjoyed. It’s written in the slightly more casual form reminiscent of Sanderson’s Alcatraz, which is a nice fit for the character of Lift, despite taking me a while to get used to. It almost feels like it’s tying to be Pratchett-esque, but without the satirical element I’m not sure this works. The plot here feels surprisingly important, and I’d be a little concerned that casual Stormlight readers would miss it and just read the main series - although having said that I’m not sure there is such as thing as a ‘casual’ reader of Brandon Sanderson’s works.

Overall, this is a great collection, and I’ve really enjoyed both revisiting the works I’ve read before, and taking in the new ones for the first time.

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Words of Radiance

Words of Radiance

Brandon Sanderson

22nd June 2019

Book two of Sanderson’s mega epic The Starlight Archives is individually epic in itself - I’ve got the full hardback edition and carrying it around on my commute every day made for one rather full rucksack.

The story follows the lives of several ordinary citizens of a fantasy world with a rich cultural memory of past magical wars, and a rich present of military wars and political infighting - but those characters seem to be gradually drawn out and together by events, and discover that they seem to have interesting and useful abilities.

Sanderson’s ability to create cultures and worlds is amazing. I have not found a better author for creating such a multitude of compelling settings and stories to tell in them. Other authors will have a balance of compelling characters and characters whose viewpoints you just want to get over and done with, but Sanderson manages to make every character feel like you could spend an eternity seeing the world from their perspective.

This is great. I can’t wait to read book three, Oathbringer, but don’t want to rush myself as then I’ll have a long wait until book four.

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Brandon Sanderson

23rd January 2019

I honestly don’t know how Brandon Sanderson can create so many amazing different worlds. This one is a new series - a science fiction tale that’s marketed as Young Adult but is frankly as suitable for any adult as any of his other works. It’s the tale of a colony defending itself against alien attack, and a teenager who wants to be a pilot in defiance of those around her.

It took me a couple of chapters to get into the swing of the novel - but from then I was completely hooked. There’s so much going on with all the distinct and complex characters - who are gradually unpicked throughout - the intrigue and mystery of the various threads of the plot, the action and adventure, the science fiction principles and world building, and the odd little teases that there’s something else going on under the surface.

It’s like a cross between Sanderson’s Rithmatist (another excellent tale about a child at a school they aren’t wanted at) and Ernest Cline’s Armada, and I absolutely loved it and am so glad that there are going to be three more books in the series.

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Lies of the Beholder

Lies of the Beholder

Brandon Sanderson

13th January 2019

The third and final novella in the Legion series sees our main character beset by problems when one of his aspects - hallucinations that represent part of his own mental faculties - goes missing, and he’s forced to face another absent person from his history.

It’s been quite a while since I read the first two books in the trilogy, so my memory of the story so far was patchy, but I was soon back into the swing of things and gripped to what ends up being quite a complex narrative, which must have required an extensive set of notes to keep track of while writing, despite the short length.

I’m not sure though that it entirely works - I think the first book was the best in the series, and it feels a little bit like the latter pair were follow-ups that exist for closure rather than because there was a story waiting to be told. Regardless, it’s incredibly impressive how dedicated and disciplined Sanderson must be to keep up the levels of output he does, and I’m very grateful for all I get to read - one day I might even catch up!

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Other reviewed books

The Way of Kings (part two)
The Way of Kings (part one)
Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians
White Sand volume one
Secret History
The Bands of Mourning
Shadows of Self
Legion: Skin Deep
The Emperor's Soul
The Rithmatist
A Memory of Light
Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia
Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones
The Alloy of Law
The Hero of Ages
The Well of Ascension
The Final Empire
Towers of Midnight
The Gathering Storm

Unreviewed books

Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
Alcatraz vs. The Dark Talent
White Sand volume two

Top books

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  2. The Way of Kings (part two)
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  4. Skyward
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  6. Rhythm of War
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  8. A Memory of Light
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  10. The Alloy of Law
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  12. Words of Radiance
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  14. Oathbringer