Brandon Sanderson

Legion and The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

Legion and The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

“There is rarely an obvious branching point in a person’s life.  People changed slowly, over time.  You didn’t take one step, then find yourself in a completely new location.  You first took a little step off a path to avoid some rocks.  For a while, you walked alongside the path, but then you wandered out a little way to step on softer soil.  Then you stopped paying attention as you drifted farther and farther away.  Finally, you found yourself in the wrong city, wondering why the signs on the roadway hadn’t led you better.”

 – The Emperor’s Soul

The Emperor’s Soul, a novella set in the same world as Elantris, is the second book scheduled for this month’s #yearofcosmere readalong.  I bought the edition that also contained the short story Legion and, in all honesty, I wasn’t expecting too much after my disappointing experience with Elantris.

Legion is the first Sanderson story that I have read which takes place outside of the Cosmere.  Set on Earth it is the tale of Stephen Leeds, aka Legion, who lives his life surrounded by hallucinations, or aspects, each skilled or knowledgeable in their own particular area and who tend to come in very handy when solving cases.  I won’t go into any plot details because this is a very short little story but there is an abundance of interesting themes such as science versus religion, the relationship between religion and politics, the potential ramifications of technological advances, and truth versus faith.  I actually really enjoyed this, admittedly the characters and ideas more than the story or writing, but I would love to see Sanderson expand on this in the future.

The Emperor’s Soul was such a beautiful story and, despite my expectations being so low, it absolutely blew me away.  The story follows Shai, a forger caught trying to steal the Moon Sceptre, who has only two options: face execution or undertake the impossible task of forging a new soul for the Emperor Ashraven, who has been left without conciousness after the assassination attempt which took his wife, in only 100 days.  There is a very small cast of characters and very little action, instead Sanderson focusses on Shai’s attempt to understand what made Ashraven who he was in order to rebuild him, and on the growing and shifting intimacy which develops between her and a man named Gaotona.  I read this as an homage to the complexities of the human spirit and how we are built upon each small detail of our history, Ashraven’s salvation and his destiny both lie in the study of his past, but that we are also what we perceive ourselves to be.  There is a lovely moment when Shai is able to turn a plain and cracked window into a beautiful stained glass piece only because it remembered itself as something beautiful.  I can’t recommend this novella enough.


Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson“Remember, the past need not become our future as well.

I have a tendency to feel terrible when I dislike a book, particularly when it feels like it was given thought and time and effort, but I was thoroughly disappointed with Elantris.

Elantris, the rotting fallen city of the Gods.  The gift that once saw them rise, the Shaod, has become a curse which visits unsuspecting citizens in the night without warning.  Arriving at the neighbouring city Kae, capital city of Arelon, Princess Serene of Teod is to marry Prince Raoden in hopes of solidifying their respective nations against the threat of the Fjordell Empire, but the Prince is dead and the city is in mourning.  Bereft of a husband Serene throws herself into the politics of Arelon and finds herself at odds with the Fjordell Derethi priest, Hrathen.  If Hrathen succeeds in converting the populace to Shu-Dereth, then the Fjordell Empire will finally be ready to take what little remains of the globe.

The problem with Elantris is that it is a wonderful concept but that it was just so poorly excuted.  I know that this was Sanderson’s first novel but it felt utterly lacklustre and, I hate to say it, boring.  It took me two weeks to get through this, I actually had to stop and read another book because I would rather not read than have to pick this book up.  When I read the Mistborn trilogy, I mentioned that Sanderson has a very simplistic writing style which worked really well when the characters and plot were strong enough to carry the story forward but in Elantris there was nothing to make up for the dull as dishwater prose, and the pacing was also painfully slow.  I liked that there wasn’t a heavy emphasis on the magic system and I was looking forward to the heavy emphasis on political manoeuvring, but there was nothing engaging here at all.

Serene and Raoden are terribly written characters and there is zero development, of any kind.  Raoden seemingly popped out of the womb a perfect leader who is charming, handsome, intelligent, kind, basically an all round wonderful guy and yet he still manages to be incredibly boring.  What is worse is that this description fits Raoden at both the beginning and the end of the novel, and I find it hard to believe that despite everything that happens to him he manages to have no emotional conflict and no emotional change.  At all.  As for Serene, she is just … UGH! I am losing words now.  This woman is upset because men, men she is not even attracted to, respect her opinion and trust her as a leader but are not sexually attracted to her.  I just cannot.  I know Serene is smart, fierce, talented, strong and (like Raoden) perfect because I am told that she is, however all I see her do is whine about how tall and gangly and single she is, successfully pretend to be stupid and interrupt a speech.

The most redeeming thing about this book was, without a doubt, Hrathen.  Essentially Hrathen is introduced very early on as the villain and he is the only complex character in this story.  He is a Derethi Gyorn, sent to convert the people of Arelon and, while his actions are questionable, he is motivated by the desire to save them and we get to see this internal struggle.  I wish this story was about Hrathen, I would have loved a story that detailed his conflict against what he felt to be right and what he was told was right.  I didn’t care about Serene, Raoden or any of the other, interchangeable, character but I did care about Hrathen because he felt real.  However, Sanderson manages to cheapen even this character by throwing in some stuff (sorry, I am being deliberately vague to avoid spoilers) that comes completely out of the blue.

I will admit that the last part of the book was much easier to read (or maybe I was just excited to finish) but it still lead to the most anti-climactic ending.  There were so many interesting topics and themes that could have been explored with this book, there was so much possibility with the mystery of the Elantrians, the Dor, the politics and the various religions, all of which were glossed over in favour of whatever it was Sanderson was trying to do.

Mistborn: The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn: The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson“Faith,” Spook said, “means that it doesn’t matter what happens.  You can trust that somebody is watching.  Trust that somebody will make it all right.”

Everything that I loved about The Final Empire and The Well of Ascension (reviews here and here respectively) – the wonderfully developed characters, the edge-of-your-seat action, a great magic system and some fantastic worldbuilding – can be found in The Hero of Ages, along with the perfect conclusion to the Mistborn trilogy.

(There will be spoilers for the first two books below.)

After Vin inadvertently released Ruin at the Well of Ascension, the Deepness has returned.  The Empire is still fractured from the Lord Ruler’s fall, ash falls heavy and constant around the globe, food and supplies are running scarce and the ground quakes beneath the feet of our heroes.  While the first book was heavily plot driven and did a good deal of world building, and the second concerned itself with politics and character development, the final instalment of the Mistborn Trilogy brings all of these elements together to create an exciting, heartbreaking, and satisfying end to the series.

The aspects of the story that I had been most interested in previously but which hadn’t been delved into in much detail, the Steel Inquistors and the Kandra, finally had their moment.  Through the point of view of TenSoon and Marsh we got to learn more about the mysterious and secretive Kandra society, the art ot haemalurgy and many more things that I can’t mention without spoiling anything.  I loved reading from the point of view of Marsh and Tensoon, they were wonderful characters and two of my favourites previously – especially Marsh, who I think gets overlooked a lot considering just how conflicted he is, how strong his resolve is, and how unique his situation is – so getting inside of their heads was wonderful, however it was Sazed who once again stole the show for me.  Despite the strong themes of trust and faith that have run through the entire trilogy, I didn’t expect the amount of time that would be spent on Sazed and his internal journey.  His struggles with his own faith and his desire for answers made this book for me and while I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination the questions that he asks are the same ones that I find myself grappling with at times and this part of the story was what I ended up enjoying, and identifying with, the most.

Throughout the previous books I found both Vin and Elend Venture incredibly frustrating, my opinions of them were constantly changing back and forth, and it wasn’t until I finished the series that I fully understood why that was, that they were young and unsure of who they were and what their role was within the world.  In The Hero of Ages there is no doubt that they both grow up, finally able to reconcile the different sides of themselves. Watching them slowly come to terms with their self-doubts, fears, and limitations, and then seeing how they accept all of the different facets of their beings and assemble them in order to become who they need to be was gratifying and  Sanderson does this with enviable skill.  While I have said it before it definitely warrants a repeat  – this man excels at writing characters.

While both this book and the Mistborn trilogy follow a fairly standard fantasy structure and story, it ended up being much more than what I was expecting.  There is so much more that I could say about this book and about this series (and I won’t because I am wary of spoiling anything) but I will say that you should buy it, read it and enjoy it because I had a great time and Brandon Sanderson is wonderfully skilled at emotional manipulation.

Mistborn: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson“I write these words in steel, for anything not set in metal cannot be trusted.”

I have no idea where to begin with this book, and it will be impossible to discuss it without giving spoilers for the first book, so I will just say that I absolutely adored it and I will try to keep my thoughts as concise as possible.  While The Final Empire (you can read my review here) was an action packed introduction to the story, themes, main players and setting of the trilogy, in The Well of Ascension Sanderson focusses less on driving the plot forward and instead spends his time fleshing out the characters and the world he had set up, resulting in the best book I have read so far this year.

The Well of Ascension picks up one year after the events of The Final Empire, the Lord Ruler is dead and Vin, Elend Venture and the Survivor’s crew are attempting to rebuild the world from the ashes.  This book really centres on the politics of the new empire, how the world has suffered without the tyrannical, yet ultimately stabilising, influence of the Lord Ruler and as the political landscape shifts we watch as the men of power flourish or flounder in the new environment.

The character development in this book is fantastic and in my opinion this is Sanderson’s biggest strength, with this trilogy containing some of my favourite characters ever.  The growth of crew members that weren’t of such a big focus previously, most noticeably Breeze and Clubs who have some very touching moments, and the addition of some new faces was wonderfully done (I am giving nothing away here as I do not want to spoil anything) and I would also be remiss if I didn’t quickly mention Straff Venture, he makes a great antagonist and I thoroughly enjoyed disliking him.

Vin’s journey and her struggle to fit into her burgeoning roles as a Mistborn, the Survivor’s Heir, Elend’s lover, and as a young woman trying to find her own identity, felt very real and it was rewarding to watch her grow into herself.  However it was Sazed, Marsh and the Kandra, OreSeur, who absolutely made this book so wonderful for me, and all for very different reasons.  I find the Steel Inquisitors so interesting in general (and I am desperate to find out more!) and as a character Marsh is something of an enigma, he actually appears very little in this book, but he still managed to make a huge impression in spite of, or perhaps because of, his very noticeable absence.  OreSeur, with his sarcasm and sassy back chat has been the most interesting character to watch grow.  As with the Inquisitors, the Kandra are a very secretive bunch and Sanderson definitely teases us with small, but important, snippets of information which are revealed as the relationship between OreSeur and Vin develops.

Sanderson expanded on the different point of views that we got in this novel and Sazed is, without a shadow of a doubt, the star of this book for me.  He is a scholar and combined with his introspective nature his observations allow us insight into events and people that we wouldn’t otherwise get as he has a skill for gently peeling away their outer layers, and there are some affecting moments between Sazed and Clubs, who I will admit I had mostly overlooked previously.  While most of the other crew members are very much focussed on the here and now, Sazed is delving into the past through his studies into the prophesies in order to find answers for the future and it allows him more time to question his changing role.  While the others are forced to change through action without much time for thought, by comparison we can see Sazed question more deeply his role and who he is; as a Keeper and a Terrisman his role was more clearly defined, through a quiet and constant lifelong resistance, by the presence of the Lord Ruler than that of the rest of the main cast.  Throughout the first two books he has become a comfort to those around him, his faith and knowledge making him a strong support for the rest of the characters and I am interested to see how his role will be developed in the final book, as I was left with the impression that events have led him to further question his place, along with the beliefs that he previously revered.  There are many other things I would like to mention about Sazed here but I do not want to spoil anything that happens in this book, so I will just say that in The Final Empire I loved his character but it was during the course of The Well of Ascension I fell in love with him.

As with The Final Empire I had a wonderful time with this book and I cannot recommend it highly enough, it is rare to find the second book of a trilogy surpass the first but that was definitely my experience and I hope this trend follows with the final instalment.

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

“Plots behind plots, plans behind plans.  There was always another secret”

 I  wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting from this book, or the Mistborn series in general.  While everything that I have heard has been incredibly positive, I wasn’t 100% convinced because I usually find that when a book or author is talked about with such hype, as Sanderson is in the Booktube community, that disappointment is sure to follow.  On top of that there were certain aspects that didn’t appeal to me, in particular the magic system, Allomancy, which sounded slightly absurd no matter who was explaining it.  I mean, swallowing metals and then “burning” them to enhance physical and mental capabilities just sounds … silly, right?  Yet, it works.  The way Sanderson describes the mechanics makes it believable and watching it in action is wonderful, exciting and fun, which is exactly how I would describe the experience I had reading this book.  The Final Empire is the first book in the #YearofCosmere read-a-long and the first work by Brandon Sanderson that I have read.  It will definitely not be the last.

Set in a world where ash continuously falls from the sky, where heavy mists roll in at night forcing most to hide indoors in fear, and where the Dark Lord has been in power for over a thousand years, The Final Empire follows Vin, a sixteen year old girl who has grown up on the streets of Luthadel amongst beggars and thieves.  The population has been split into two main sections: the noblemen, descendants of the Dark Lord’s supporters who are allowed to posess the gift of allomancy, and the Skaa who are slaves, property who are worked or beaten to death, raped and starved.  Vin and her newly acquired crew walk a fine line between the two as they risk their lives to fulfil their plan to overthrow the Lord Ruler.

Sanderson’s writing style is very simple but that works well for this story. I felt that I was being shown the world through the characters as they inhabited it instead of being told through unnecessary description or the flowery prose that I tend to see so often in high fantasy.  It felt like a natural unfolding and I found that I had incredibly vivid images of characters and places despite not being told too much about them.  Someone in the Goodreads #YearofCosmere group pointed out that Sanderson likes to write scenes, almost building a set and lingering there as opposed to jumping around frequently and I found this technique wonderfully effective for pulling me into the world.  On top of that his action sequences are some of the best that I have read and I often had to slow myself down when all I wanted to do was rush ahead, getting more and more caught up in the action.

However, it was the characters that made this book for me and Sanderson has a knack for revealing just enough information to get you hooked and then leaving you wanting more.  Each character is revealed slowly to us as Vin gets to know them and I was left with the sense that there was so much left to be told, that each person had their own complete history and a wealth of experiences behind them.  Not to mention that they were likeable.  I genuinely enjoyed spending my time with Vin, Kelsier and their crew, which is something I find rare in books these days.

All in all, a great read and I am really looking forward to reading the next book of the series at the beginning of March.