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Brandon Sanderson

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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opening chapters of the graphic novel (which I have read about half of previously), and as the opening chapters of the unpublished prose version upon which it was based.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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Buy book: UK
Skyward

Skyward

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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Snapshot

Snapshot

Brandon Sanderson

15th December 2018

This standalone novella from Brandon Sanderson has a similar feel to his Reckoners series, despite the content being very different. It’s an incredibly complex short tale, focussing on two police officers who investigate crimes in Snapshot - a way of seeing back in time, enabling them to investigate crimes before or as they are happening - with some caveats.

It’s a great idea, with some reminiscences of Philip K Dick, and the story is told well with intriguing main characters and a compelling set of twists, turns and reveals. Somewhat outside my preferred reading from Sanderson, which is his epic fantasies, but totally worth reading.

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The Way of Kings (part two)

The Way of Kings (part two)

Brandon Sanderson

2nd January 2018

The second half of The Way of Kings, the opening book of Brandon Sanderson’s epic series, feels very much like the second half of a book (which of course it is). This means that it's fast-paced, with a lot going on, and next to no introduction. It's like getting to the unputdownable part of a book from page one.

It continues the stories of three main characters, interwoven as their civilisation takes part in a massive war. One is the warlord, another a slave, and the third a con artist, but none of them quite fit into the roles that life has cast them in.

The book over both volumes is split into five sections, and different sections focus on different selections of the main characters. This is a tad frustrating in places because the reader is left for a considerable number of chapters to find out what’s happening to one of your favourites. But that’s hardly a terrible thing.

I absolutely adored this half of the book and am desperate to pick up the next one in the series.

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Buy book: UK
The Way of Kings (part one)

The Way of Kings (part one)

Brandon Sanderson

19th July 2017

After many years of waiting on my bookcase, I have finally picked up this first book in the Stormlight Archive series, by one of my favourite authors. I’ve only been putting it off while I read through pretty much the entire rest of his output, as this series is one that is ongoing and I didn’t want to feel I would have too long to wait for additional entries.

My paperback copies of The Way of Kings are split into two volumes, and as with previous novels where this has been the case, I’ve chosen only to read the first half, then take a break and read some other things before returning to part two.

I found the story a little harder than expected to get into - it feels a little more formal and grandiose than some of Sanderson’s other work, and I’m not sure if this is a deliberate style choice (likely, as he does like to plan these things) or a side effect of this being his masterpiece and him subconsciously changing the style). The reader is dropped in quite quickly to several different characters and understanding and becoming used to them takes a while.

Once in though, this is another great book. The characters are rich, deep and rewarding. Their backgrounds and personalities varied and fascinating, with hints of more to be revealed, and it doesn’t take long to fall in love with them and want to follow their stories forever.

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Buy book: UK

Other reviewed books

Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians
White Sand volume one
Calamity
Secret History
The Bands of Mourning
Shadows of Self
Legion: Skin Deep
Warbreaker
Firefight
Mitosis
Elantris
The Emperor's Soul
Steelheart
Legion
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
Oathbringer
White Sand volume two

Top books

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  2. Skyward
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  4. Arcanum Unbounded
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  6. Firefight
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  8. The Way of Kings (part two)
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  10. Warbreaker
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  12. The Gathering Storm
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  14. Words of Radiance