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Found 7 results

  1. Welcome to the first weekly book review by Sharders, for Sharders! Come here to read critiques and discuss what everyone's reading this week. (To write your own review and contribute to this great community, Sign up here!) Applause goes to The Young Bard for organizing this group. To get the ball rolling, I'll share my review of The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa, originally written a few years ago after I read the book the second time. And, if you've already read The Immortal Rules, you might be interested in my reviews of books 2 and 3 in the Blood of Eden trilogy, The Eternity Cure and The Forever Song. (SPOILER WARNING: My reviews of books 2 and 3 contain spoilers for previous books in the series.)
  2. Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection is finally here. This is a big, 670+ page book, with a ton of stuff. This has every single cosmere story that has been published outside of the main novels in one convenient collection. It has: The Hope of Elantris, The Emperor's Soul (which is incredible), The Eleventh Metal, "Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Episodes 28 and 30", an excerpt from White Sand (both graphic novel and from prose), Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, The Sixth of Dusk, and, for the first time in physical print, Mistborn: Secret History. That's a ton of value, just considering Secret History and Emperor's Soul. But that is not all. Its main headline feature is a large, 40,000 word long Stormlight Archive novella: Edgedancer. It's a novella about Lift, of course, and covers her story after we saw her interlude up until the end of Words of Radiance. Not only that, but Arcanum Unbounded has some crazy cosmere information--essays from the author of the Ars Arcanum, Khriss, on each of the star systems--and star charts. So how is it? I'd say its a resounding success. The original content is enough for me to be thrilled about this release, and if you haven't read any of the older content, the value keeps piling up. Khriss Essays and Artwork First, let's talk about the cosmere goodies. Each of the stories is separated per star system, and at the beginning, we have a gorgeous drawing of each solar system, followed by a short two page essay written by Khriss. Since she writes the Ars Arcana in each book, that gives you a certain level of expectation on awesomeness. And, well, get excited. Khriss talks about more than a planet's magic system. She talks about the sizes of planets, the Shards of the planets, and overall covers the basic history. I know that sounds boring, and maybe if you aren't into the cosmere, some of this will be boring. But each star system has crazy, unique things. Here's the thing: Khriss delivers lore bombs casually, if they were nothing. Things that I have wondered for years are answered in a sentence. There's a thing that I never even considered could be possible that is discussed, and it is insane. And, like always, there are new mysteries for us to ponder. (If Khriss can't figure them out... well, we will have on the forums theorizing about it for years to come.) There are essays on every planet, save for Nalthis. It's probably because there was no Nalthis content in this rather than any other deeper reason. While I'm sure much of this essay info you'll find on the internet (like on the forums, or on the Coppermind soon), but it really does add to this idea that these worldhoppers collected and catalogued this information. It's awesome. Each story has original artwork preceding it, and every star system gets a neat icon. Oh, and on the endpages of the book, there's also a completely awesome star chart of the cosmere. It's an artistic thing, with drawings that represent constellations on it. It's gorgeous, and terrifying, for a reason that you'll see as soon as you lay your eyes upon it. The entire product is far more than an anthology. Edgedancer But, of course, you want to know about new Stormlight content. It feels like an eternity since Words of Radiance, so it is amazing to finally advance the story. Edgedancer is about Lift, featured in one of the interludes of Words of Radiance. She'll actually be a main viewpoint character in the back five Stormlight books. So, if you love Lift, you'll love Edgedancer. It is that simple. It's funny. It's dramatic. It's emotional. It's everything you wanted out of a Lift story and more. It's hard for me to imagine going into Oathbringer without having read this. Significant stuff happens. There was actually some mindblowing events here. (And it also has something I did not expect, which answered a huge, huge question in the series. It totally blindsided me that this was the story that this happened in, and I did actually scream.) I suppose it isn't strictly necessary, because the characters here are separated from the main characters of the Stormlight Archive, but you'll be really glad you read this. I will say, though, that Edgedancer was so sweet that it made me desperate for Oathbringer. It made me realize how much I love Roshar. So, in a way, this piece which Brandon wrote to tide us over until Book 3 as an apology for it taking so long ends up being a novella which makes me need Oathbringer, immediately. I'm basically Gollum, and I wantses it now. I think any way you slice it Arcanum Unbounded is worth the full price release. The original stuff is great, and the value that the art and the essays bring to the old work is fantastic. Sure, some of the older works in this collection are not my favorite, but come on, with Emperor's Soul, Secret History, and Edgedancer, you get a lot here, and that isn't everything. It's a great anthology.
  3. The day has finally come. The day that many have been waiting for, for far longer than is fair (Thanks, Scholastic! Clearly the best time to drop a series is at the cliffhanger before the last book! Clearly, they’ve been taken over by Librarians, in order to keep this story under wraps). Alcatraz 5 is upon us, and Brandon’s been promising that we’ll finally see the long foretold altar scene. This is going to be a review of both the Starscape re-releases of the first four Alcatraz books, as well as a review of the fifth book in the series, though it will fail spectacularly on the latter point. The Books The new editions are nice. The covers are all much more cohesive, and not nearly as random as the Scholastic editions. It’s a little disappointing to lose the jacket art on the cover, but I think what we got instead is a reasonable trade, aside from the inconsistent embossing on book two, as seen here: But what really shines in these new editions are Hayley Lazo’s wonderful illustrations. From small glimpses into what’s happening in the stories to Bastille illustrating Alcatraz’s wild exaggerations and then snarking about them, they’re a delightful addition to an already wonderful story. I’ve read the first four books several times over the years, and these illustrations made me excited to read them again. And if you think I’m exaggerating, here are Isaac’s and Brandon’s thoughts on the upgrade. If you’ve been holding out on reading these, now’s a great time. Sure, they may be “kids books”, and you may be here for “adult fantasy”. These are a fun, light read. Yes, they’re on the more whimsical side, but they’re a wonderful side project, and I consider them to be the best Kids/YA series that Brandon has ever written. The Dark Talent Still with me? Read the first four books? (If not, shame on you. Go out, buy yourself the rest of the series [two copies of The Scrivener’s Bones and an Austen novel, as you’ll need them for the arts and crafts section of the program], and come back and finish reading this review once you’ve gotten that far, or else Alcatraz will make fun of you.) Alcatraz outshines both The Rithmatist and The Reckoners series in the last book of his autobiography. Waiting for nearly six years for this book was too long by far (thanks, Librarians!), but this book was worth the wait. The pacing is on point, and the action is bigger and better than ever. In this book, we finally get answers to questions that were posed earlier in the series (and maybe a few that haven’t), such as: Is the Breaking talent really the dark talent? How can Alcatraz wear a green jacket if he’s a fish? How do I reset my router if I’m stealing Wi-Fi from my neighbors? Who Killed Asmodeon? Is The Reckoners series tied to the Cosmere? If Alcatraz were to try really hard, could he break his way onto Scadrial? If Alcatraz is an unreliable narrator, can we trust him to be telling the truth about being on Earth, and not a cosmere planet? HOW DID ALCATRAZ END UP ON THAT ALTAR OF ENCYCLOPEDIAS?!? YOU’VE BEEN TEASING US FOR YEARS, AND IT’S NOT VERY NICE! Alcatraz warned you about that last one. By his own word, Alcatraz is: Not a good person A Liar Awesome An Idiot A Coward A Fish I, in general, wouldn’t trust a word that’s come out of his mouth since the beginning of the series. Maybe you’re more trusting than I am, though. Maybe you’ll finally get to see the altar scene, and maybe you’ll finally realize that this is an incredibly unlikely series of events to happen to a fish. Yes, this is a terrible review. I did warn you, after all. I wish I could tell you that it’s everything you’ve ever imagined, and that they all live happily ever after. But I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the fun. If you’ve read this far into the series (and amazingly, stomached this much of this crapaflapnasty review), go out and pick this one up. You’ll be surprised that Brandon can still shock you, even in a children’s book.
  4. A little over a year ago, Brandon made the surprising announcement that he had not only written the sequel to The Alloy of Law, Shadows of Self, but the sequel to that as well. The Bands of Mourning, as the sixth Mistborn book, has a lot to live up to. Not only with these characters, but with the world itself, there's a lot of history to contend with. Luckily, Bands soared above the hopes I had for it. It's quickly become my favorite Wax and Wayne era novel, and, for me at least, it's neck and neck with some of the Era 1 trilogy. Bands picks up about six months after Shadows of Self concludes, the aftereffects of which are still being felt. Wax has had his worldview shaken and is still reeling from the emotional blow of Shadows' climax. So when a kandra arrives, seeking his help to find the Bands of Mourning, the fabled metalminds of the Lord Ruler--rumored to give any who possess them his powers--Wax is disinclined to agree. That is, of course, until a more personal motivation comes to light. The Set, and Wax's uncle Edwarn, are back and there's no telling what they are up to now... Part of what sets Bands apart from Alloy and Shadows is the setting. We leave Elendel behind, and while Bands still has the distinctive thriller pacing of its predecessors, you can definitely see hints of a more epic scope as we explore more of the wider world. Turns out there is a lot more going on than the people of Elendel would like to admit. Bands is also a distinctly different kind of story. Alloy was very much a Western, it may not have been set in the Roughs proper, but it was steeped in the feel of it. Shadows, on the other hand, was more of a true thriller, a cat-and-mouse mystery. At its core it's a personal story. Bands though... Bands is like an Indiana Jones story set on Scadrial. There's a certain extravagance of plot and of situations beyond mere mortal men (and women). The characters have also come a long way. Wax, Wayne, and Marasi are not the same people that we met back in Alloy, they have grown and changed, and in some cases made some pretty tough choices. Bands continues that. The book is full of moments of character growth and realizations about themselves and their companions. These are some of the most powerful moments in the book. It goes to show that while Brandon is known as the "worldbuilding guy," he's a master of character as well. The stand out character is Steris, by far. This is definitely the book where she comes into her own; she's not just a side character any more. I feel she helps bring a certain amount of levity to the book in a way that is distinct from Wayne's humor. You cannot help but smile at her sincerity and earnestness in the face of the almost larger than life world of Wax, Wayne, and Marasi. She may not have powers, but she's far from useless. Over the past few months I've seen more and more people show an appreciation for her, but if you are still on the fence, I think she might win you over in Bands. I'll even wager that she'll become a fan favorite going forward. If I had to describe The Bands of Mourning in one (two?) word(s) it would be "mind-blowing". Looking back at it now I still cannot believe that Brandon was able to pull off everything that he did. Especially that he was able to do it without the book feeling rushed. Don't get me wrong, Bands still has the Brandon Avalanche that we all know and have grown to love, but the build-up to it is much more subtle. I was already well into the avalanche by the time I realized it had even begun. It is hard, even, to pinpoint the beginning of the avalanche, as the pacing is handled so smoothly. There are moments where you have to stop and go "Wait a minute, is that... It is! Oh my Harmony, I can't believe it!" Then at other times you think you know exactly what is going on only to have things take a hard right into sheer, unbridled insanity, but it's incredible nevertheless, in a way you would never have dreamed possible. And it's like this over and over again. It's a wild ride, and at times it will leave you breathless, but in the end you'll be hanging on every word, right until the very last. To be honest it's hard to think of my least favorite part of the book. I do have a few minor complaints but they are tiny, nit-picky things, such as a scene near the beginning that drags on rather longer than was really necessary, but in the long run they did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. Really the worst thing about Bands is that it spoiled us! We only had to wait three months for its release (after Shadows) and unfortunately it's going to be significantly longer than that before we can get our hands on the next book. During last month's State of the Sanderson, Brandon put the current estimate for the release of The Lost Metal-- the final Wax and Wayne novel--at late 2018. Luckily that's not as long as the wait between Alloy and Shadows, but it is not an insignificant amount of time. I have hard time holding that against the book, as even though the wait won't be as short, or as easy, as we might wish for, there is still plenty to keep us busy in the meantime. And I don't know if I'm quite ready to move on from these characters, especially after the experience that is this book, so perhaps the wait is a blessing in disguise. It will undoubtedly give us time to sort through everything (and believe me when I say there is plenty to work through). This is one adventure you do not want to miss. Early copy provided by Dragonsteel Entertainment. Posted with their permission. The Bands of Mourning comes out on January 26th, 2016.
  5. Shadows of Self is the latest Mistborn novel and the sequel to The Alloy of Law, which came out all the way back in 2011. It's been a crazy long time. There's been plenty of Brandon Sanderson to read since then, but my first love is Mistborn, so I've yearned for this for... well, four years. Fortunately, it's fantastic. If you liked The Alloy of Law--particularly the idea of an urban fantasy thriller set in the Mistborn world--you'll love Shadows of Self. This time, Wax and Wayne continue their hunt for the Set, the shadowy organization seen in The Alloy of Law. Then, the murder of a huge portion of Elendel's criminal elite--including the governor's brother--pushes Wax onto the case, where he discovers that the person responsible is insanely dangerous. They need to find out what this person's plans are, before Elendel collapses in on itself. It's hard for me to talk about Shadows without comparing it to The Alloy of Law. Alloy was a pretty good urban/western fantasy thriller. Not fantastic, but the nostalgia of the Mistborn world made it quite good. For a standalone, though, the ending was unfulfilling. Alloy demanded a sequel, and now that we finally get it, it is so very satisfying. Shadows is quite similar to Alloy in style. They are both set in Elendel, both have a particular "case" to focus them, and are urban fantasy novels. For this reason I often compare these books to the Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher, the gold standard of urban fantasy. Shadows takes the good elements of Alloy and makes them better, while cutting out some of the flaws that Alloy has. The result is a novel that is as awesome as Dresden books. I don't think it's hard to see why Shadows turned out better than Alloy, and it comes down to what Brandon does best: planning. Alloy was a short story that turned into a novel and it showed. In the time between writing Alloy and Shadows, Brandon fully planned out what he’s going to do with this time period. No longer are the Wax and Wayne novels only a bridge between the fantasy Mistborn trilogy and the 1980s Mistborn trilogy. With this extra planning, the Alloy era has become important to the world of Scadrial. While Shadows is still about the length of Alloy of Law (making it about half of the length of the books in the original trilogy), there’s a feeling of a grand design that Alloy didn’t really have, while maintaining the fast pace that Alloy set. Brandon knows with razor-sharp focus what this era of novels are supposed to be doing in the grand scheme of everything now. And boy, Shadows does it so well. I've always been a reader who loves a tightly crafted plot. It's one of the reasons I love Brandon’s novels. Well, Shadows not only has a tighter plot, but also a more interesting one than Alloy. The worldbuilding of Scadrial is important to events, and for you cosmere buffs, there will be plenty for you to love here. And Shadows' villain is terrifying for so many reasons that make Miles Dagouter look tame by comparison. One thing with Alloy and Shadows is that, like many other of Brandon's novels, there are multiple viewpoints. A lot of urban fantasy is written in a single first person viewpoints--like Dresden--and I felt that in Alloy, though it was fun to be in multiple characters' heads, it didn't make that book incredible. Not so with Shadows. Multiple viewpoints really enhances the book, and raises the overall tension. This tension is key, because it raises Shadows from being just another case file to something... more. Something legitimately awesome. Surprisingly, one way Shadows raises the tension is through politics. Sometimes Brandon goes way too in-depth of political intrigue, like with Elantris. Considering how bad politics can be in a story (cough, Star Wars prequels, cough), you realize how well Shadows does it. The political intrigue truly heightens the threat level. It's never distracting, and is always important. Elendel is in serious danger, so it makes sense that it is so essential to the plot. As much as I love plot, the soul of stories are the characters, and all the characters you love from Alloy have progressed in reasonable ways, with new levels of depth. Wax and his relationships advance in unexpected, but interesting, fashions. Wayne, hilarious as always, has a ton of depth that I did not expect. Marasi also really comes into her own. And speaking of Marasi, I've often seen people who dislike either Marasi or Steris. After Shadows, I've loved both. You really do need to read Alloy before Shadows, as there is critical character depth you'd miss without it, but Shadows is such a good sequel. It's crazy to think that before Words of Radiance, Brandon had only written one other epic fantasy sequel in his own worlds: The Well of Ascension. In my opinion, that’s the weakest book of the original trilogy, and Brandon's learned so much about writing sequels since then. Brandon takes the best of the series' predecessors and makes the sequels even better than one could hope. Shadows is faster paced, better plotted, and its worldbuilding more important and grander than Alloy. The characters advance in great ways, and the multiple viewpoints enhance this book substantially. Really, Shadows of Self perfects the formula of Alloy in every way, and is a truly wonderful novel because of it. Score: 17 metals out of 16. Note: Brandon actually used to call the original trilogy and the 1980s trilogy as the "first Mistborn trilogy" and "second Mistborn trilogy," with a third science fiction trilogy. Alloy didn't really have a place. Now, the different time periods are called eras, so the first trilogy is Era 1, and Alloy and Shadows are Era 2, with Era 3 and 4 set to be published in the future. Early copy provided by Dragonsteel Entertainment. Posted with their permission. Shadows of Self comes out on October 6th, 2015.
  6. (This special prerelease, spoiler-free review is specifically approved by Team Sanderson.) It's safe to say that Words of Radiance has the most pre-release hype of any of Brandon's solo works to-date. And it makes sense. The Way of Kings was Brandon's best work at the time, and so everyone is wondering, will Words of Radiance live up to the high bar set by book one? This is a sequel that has a ton riding on it. After all, despite the first book's length, there's still so much more of Roshar to explore. There's so many places that The Stormlight Archive can go from here, that it has been hard to predict what would happen in this book, much less a few books down the line. Words of Radiance could fall on its face. So, does it live up to the hype? Storms yes it does. "Of course you'd like the book," you immediately say. "You're a 17th Sharder, you'll love anything Brandon writes." I'd say this is somewhat true. None of us would be here if we didn't like what Brandon's done, but when you are a hyper fan, you set these books up to a high standard. You can see flaws that no one else sees, simply because you are so invested. For a while, I worried that Words of Radiance would end up like The Well of Ascension, which I have some problems with to say the least. I loved Well's ending (which made it entirely worthwhile), but rereading it is a slog for me. Well of Ascension was Brandon's first true sequel, and it shows a bit. Obviously, Brandon has grown a vast deal from almost a decade ago when that book came out, but it was still a worry. Sequels are not easy, to say the least, but it looks like finishing up The Wheel of Time really honed Brandon’s sequel chops. I also worried because--and this may sound like absolute heresy to many of you--I didn't immediately love The Way of Kings when it came out. I've come to love it after rereading it, but the first time I read it, well, while the Battle of the Tower was awesome, I had expected Part Five to be more. In all the Mistborn books the final part of the book contained even more awesomeness, but Way of Kings's final part was admittedly more of an extended prologue to the rest of the series. It took me a while to adjust to The Way of Kings and learn to love on its own merits instead of comparing it to Mistborn, which is a very different type of novel. I say this to convince you that no, we don't believe Brandon Windruns on water. So when I say Words of Radiance is absolutely phenomenal, an amazing achievement, and my favorite Brandon book to date, I'm not being a hyperbolic fan. It really is that good. It takes everything that was great about The Way of Kings and takes it up at least five notches--maybe ten or fifteen notches, even, depending on how you measure your notches. No matter which way you slice this massive tome with a Shardblade (in which case, can I have your Blade? Actually, that might be a bad idea), Words of Radiance is incredible. And when I say that everything is taken up a level, I'm again not being hyperbolic. Did you enjoy the interludes in book one? They are better and more plot important now. The epigraphs here are similarly more awesome and terrifying. The interior art? When you hold the book in your hands and see the gorgeous Shallan endpapers, you'll fall in love. Dan Dos Santos (artist extraordinaire, who did the beautiful US Warbreaker cover) does some art work and it is oh so excellent. You might think that Words of Radiance, being longer than The Way of Kings, would be a chore to get through, but you couldn't be more wrong. The plotting is so much better here. You'll be amazed by how much actually happens in this book. Every part of the book is focused and tight, and it has incredible, thrilling moments all along the way. Do you want to see more magic? Oh, we see more. Words of Radiance expands on the world and characters in such a natural way that you'll be thinking, "of course this is how it should have been. There was no other way." Brandon weaves together character development, tight plotting, and the world and magic of Roshar in a way that I can only describe as masterful. Brandon reveals so much in Words of Radiance. Things I expected to have to wait at least two or three more books to find out are explained in full by the end of the book, which leaves me to wonder "If he’s giving us this information now, what is he holding back?" Not only is the story great, it also has some of the most beautiful writing I've read--I teared up more than once, and that's rare for me--and it also has some of the most haunting writing I've ever read. And it manages to be hilarious, too (let me say that two characters meet in a rather unexpected way and leave it at that). It pulls at your emotions the entire way. It's relentless like that. You can tell how much he has grown as a writer in the years since he wrote The Way of Kings. And then, that ending. That ending. Guys, I'm not trying to deliberately hype it up for you, but you haven't seen anything yet. I had thought of giving you a summary with the spoilers heavily redacted, as in: "Then REDACTED REDACTED with REDACTED, because why not?" But I decided even that was too spoilery. All you really need to know is that there were four separate moments where I screamed "REDACT YEAH!" (insert your favorite storming swear here) in my empty apartment. Note, this was at Very Late O'Clock. So, to my poor neighbors, I would say that I'm sorry, but when you read it, you will understand the awesomeness. It was totally justified for me to scream and wake you up in the middle of the night. Pinky swear. And when the storm passes, after you think days, weeks, and months after you finish as you try to sleep "Wow, that was incredible" (I did this five times that I'm aware of), does Words of Radiance still hold up to a less hyped up mind? It really does, and there's so much depth in the book to dissect. There's also a deeper reason for why it has stuck with me. I love The Stormlight Archive for a lot of reasons, like its deep world and extensive magic. I'm a sucker for that, as many of you on 17th Shard are. But there's something more. As a genre, fantasy, with George R. R. Martin and others, has been trending towards darker, more "realistic" worlds. Stormlight Archive is not that. One criticism I hear about Brandon's works is that his characters aren't gritty or real enough. Well, you know what? I like heroes being heroes. Brandon writes about heroes. When you think about it, that's what the Knights Radiant and the Stormlight Archive are all about. What does it mean to truly be a hero? Having people try and struggle to do the right thing is fascinating, and allows for opportunities where you literally scream with joy (as I did) and just stand up and cheer. I'm so glad Brandon bucks that dark fantasy trend and gives me something to love. Wrap Up Words of Radiance is truly an achievement. It expands on its predecessor, fulfilling the promises it sets up, and manages to surpass it. There is no question about it: this is my favorite Brandon Sanderson novel. When I read The Way of Kings, I had thought that while it was (at the time) Brandon's best written novel, it wasn't my favorite, but that The Stormlight Archive series absolutely had the potential to be Brandon's best series. Well, that was entirely right. There's no doubt about it. Out of five stars, this book is ten heartbeats, with a 2:1 stars to heartbeats ratio. If you adored The Way of Kings, you will be blown away by Words of Radiance. Even if book one didn't thrill you, however, I can't see how you won't be enthralled by this volume. It really is that good. You'll be sold on the entire series with this. Fire and hammer forge a sword; time and neglect rust it away. And the same is true for The Stormlight Archive. Yes, we have seen the time and maybe even felt some neglect, but what Brandon was out of sight doing tempered his skill as a writer, and this book is the reward. The Knights Radiant will stand again, and this book is proof that they will stand for a long time. Thanks to Josh for his contribution to this review. Words of Radiance comes out in the US on March 4th, 2014, and in other territories on March 6th, 2014. Talk about the book in our Words of Radiance board.
  7. I'm not trying to deliberately hype you guys but it's really good: