Title: The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive #1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Epic, epic, epic fantasy
Well, yeah. This book is 1007 pages, and Sanderson has been working on it for the better part of a decade. I've read everything else he's published, and this really breaks new ground.
It's set in a world that gets rocked by storms once a week, big gnarly hurricanes and the like. The plants are all able to retracts into salt-proof husks, and the animals are mostly crustacean-esque.
The book starts with a group of knights who had some kind of special weapons that they used to police the world. They decided to leave their weapons behind and abandon their cause. 4500 years later, things haven't gotten better. (That kind of time span blows my mind...I mean 4500 years ago, Rome wasn't even a thought--so much has changed since then, I can only imagine.)
Fast-forward to the present, and you're following a few main characters: Szeth, a slave-assassin who has to follow every order given to him except any order to kill himself; Kaladin, a volunteer soldier-turned-slave who was once a surgeon's apprentice; Shallan, daughter of a king whose house is on the brink of bankruptcy; and Dalinar, uncle to the king, who keeps having strange visions of the Knights and what they did in their time.
Szeth, by far the most interesting character, appears less than half a dozen times. Kaladin gets most of the remaining screentime, which is fine because his story was really great. Dalinar's story had all the politics and history, while Shallan's story told most of the worldbuilding. As far as what happens with each of them, well, read the book.
It's hard to know what to say about it, and I see why Sanderson has a hard time summing it up. This is the kind of gourmet fantasy that you don't just recommend to someone--they have to have read long, detailed fantasy before, something to prime them for it. Sometimes I felt this book was long for length's sake only. I got to the end of a thousand pages and thought, man, this is definitely a "first-in-a-series" book. But there's so much to absorb in it, it's not what you'd sit down to read just to pass the time. You get into a book like this in order to know every detail of this fantasy world, to get lost in it. Stories like this are what people did for escapism before Blizzard invented the World of Warcraft.
All that being said, I'm not sure how I feel about it. Overall it was cool, but for what happened to the characters between the beginning and the end, it could have been shorter--or if it had to be a thousand pages, it could have advanced farther. But like I said, that's just the kind of book it is, and there's a market for it, so it doesn't need to change.
I'm interested in reading book 2 when it comes out in a couple of years. That'll be the one that determines whether I keep up with the series.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Title: Behemoth (book 2 of Leviathan)
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: Steampunk/historical fiction
Verdict: A satisfyingly good sequel.
Before I get into the Chop of this book, indulge me in my complaints. Look at this picture here and tell me what's wrong.
This is an example of a publisher looking at everyone who bought its book last year, scratching its chin and saying "How can we flip the bird to ALL the people who shilled out twenty bucks for the hardcover of this book?" You've heard me gripe about this before, and my complaint isn't going away. I'm going to throw a fit like a French two year-old who wants candy at the grocery store. These people designed a beautiful hardcover, changed it for the paperback, and then made the hardcover of the sequel match the previous paperback.
I will not ever discuss Behemoth without mentioning this problem. I don't care who's responsible for this decision or why they thought it was a good idea--until it's fixed, I will give you no peace. I know this isn't Mr. Westerfeld's fault, it's the publisher's fault. Well, I say screw you just as loud. I will not buy the hardcover. Instead, I got the audio version, narrated by Alan Cumming, who is amazing with voices. If anyone is going to be ticked about that, it should be the insanely talented Keith Thompson, who drew all of the illustrations for these books. You don't get those on the audio.
Keith, please join me in hating the publisher for this decision.
Anyway, now that I've gotten that off my chest, I'm also ticked that I didn't get a trailer for book 2 like I did with book 1.
Okay, I'm really done complaining now, because Behemoth was just as fun and entertaining as Leviathan. A very worthy sequel that ignored no problems and pulled no punches. Book 1 saw an Austrian prince, Alek, on the run from Germans who want him dead because he's a political threat. On the English side of things, a girl named Deryn joins the Royal Air Navy disguised as a boy because she misses aviation after he father's death. When Deryn gets aboard the HMS Leviathan and the ship eventually crash-lands in the Alps, Alex and his crew decide to help.
Book 1 ended with the British airship adopting Austrian technology in order to get airborne again. They had to carry a cargo of some precious eggs to the Ottoman Empire, so the mission was important.
Book 2 shows us that nothing has changed. The Brits are suspicious of their new Austrian passengers, and Alek's men are still bent on getting him into hiding until the war passes. When he escapes the Leviathan in Turkey, he joins up with a band of rebels who want to overthrow the Muslim sultan.
There is a lot more political intrigue in this one, but Westerfeld doesn't let it get boring at all. He is a very talented writer and I don't think he wastes time--all 500 pages of this are exciting, and of course there is plenty of new Clanker technology and Darwinist creations to broaden your expectations.
Overall I loved the book and I'm glad it didn't end with a glaring cliffhanger. There is plenty to be resolved in book 3, Goliath, due next year (after they take their time deciding how to screw you with that cover as well.)
Okay, I'm done. Go listen to the audio of this book. Thank me later.