Half a King by Joe Abercrombie – Book Review

Book Review

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

originalThe work of Joe Abercrombie holds a special place in my reading heart. The Blade Itself was the first book I ever picked up “blind” from the bookstore. I was new-ish to the fantasy book landscape, I had recently devoured a trilogy recommended by a friend and I was eager for new blood. I’ve been a huge Abercrombie fan ever since and have devoured each of his new adventures in the First Law setting. But you won’t find any bald magi or meddling banks here, no Eaters, no drunk, swash-buckling mercenaries. After a trilogy and three stand-alone titles Abercrombie is taking us to a new world in in a new market.

Prince Yarvi is the youngest son of the King of Gettland. Born with a disfigured hand he is seen as worthless by his father and instead has chosen to lead the life of a minister, a warrior of the mind rather than muscle. But the murder of his older brother and father puts Yarvi in the last place he thinks he should be (the throne). He eventually comes into his own group of strangers and with their help discovers his true place in life on the Shattered Sea.

Admittedly, the plots of Abercrombie’s books are typical fantasy blended with other genres (quest, western, revenge, soldier at war, for example). Half a King isn’t anything drastically new. It’s a bildungsroman/coming-of-age tale where a young protagonist rises into a role that was far beyond his reach when the book starts.

Even the setting is pretty standard Viking-fare and is exactly what you might picture. Although special mention goes to the history and religion, which are more interesting than any storm-tossed sea or Viking longboat. There is a welcome break as our prince reaches the desolate, arctic north and was forced to trudge in hip-deep snow. It’s just unfortunate that it came so late in the book.

But there is something more important than plot or setting.

Abercrombie shines in his portrayal of real, honest characters. Prince Yarvi will rightfully be taking his place amongst the expertly crafted characters of his First Law books. From the onset you feel for this young boy with a crippled hand, as he is unable to live up to the warrior-dominant culture. Each step is filled with mounting hardships as he goes on a personal journey and I couldn’t help but root for him at each turn and feel the pain of his burden along the way.

But that isn’t what Joe Abercrombie is known for, although it should be. Instead, he’s widely regarded as being a writer of “grimdark.” That is, he’s unafraid to showcase a world of “grittiness” and “realism.” Violence and sex are as common as normal dialogue in these novels (George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is another example) and Abercrombie never shied away from showcasing the seedier side of his world.

Thankfully he tones it down for Half a King, a novel geared toward the Young Adult market. It’s still a brutal world and there is plenty of action to go around, it’s just not as blatant or gruesome. This played closer to my own tastes as I can only take so much doom and gloom in my entertainment before it gets ridiculous.

Half a King captures our attention with Prince Yarvi from the onset. But it is a good quarter of the book before the plot kicks into gear enough to really grab interest. Once it does, it sinks those teeth in and refuses to let go until you finish the book. It’s a breath of fresh air from an author who made his mark in a single world and I’m looking forward to venturing back onto the Shattered Sea with the next installment.

Book Synopsis:

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.” 
 
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.
 
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.
 
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?
 
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

Forsworn by Brian McClellan – Novella Review

Forsworn by Brian McClellan
Book Review

Forsworn-1.5-mbFor $0.99 Brian McClellan has been practically giving away short stories set in the same world as his Powder Mage Trilogy. Now, he has a new story up on his website, a novella this time for $2.99. Forsworn has the quality of story, depth of characters, and an increased page count that makes it all well worth it. Do yourself a favor and dive back into the world of powder mages, sorcerers, and gunpowder firearms. I promise, you won’t regret it.

This novella focuses on Erika ja Leora and a young girl named Norinne, both Powder Mages living in Kez, where such sorcery is punishable by death. While I keep yearning for a Tamas, Taniel, or Ka-poel story, McClellan is smart to keep such characters as cameos only. These short bits of writing are a wonderful exploration of new characters and the occasional reaction to the main characters is more powerful than any one story focused on Tamas or the others.

Once again, McClellan manages to write a wonderfully described world in the time of gunpowder and muskets. While the bulk of this book is set in a noble’s estate and in a carriage, it’s written in a way that feels more cinematic than many writers out there today. I could clearly picture the small practice yard used for fencing or the carriage making it’s way along a mountainside pass covered in snow. It was all realized with masterful writing that reaffirmed my initial opinion after reading Promise of Blood nearly a year ago – Brian McClellan is a writer of great visual skill.

The worldbuilding and history is setup in bits and pieces, as the novella length allows. The idea of powder mages being branded and the first look at the air rifles used in the books is a wonderful addition that makes the world feel real. This is tied directly into McClellan’s ability to stage and foreshadow his writing with a grace that isn’t seen as often as it should be amongst new writers. One particular bit of worldbuilidng concerning families who discover their children have the skill to be powder mages sent shivers down my spine later in the book, as I feared the worst. The fact that as I was reading the epilogue I was so emotionally invested as to shout at my ereader should be a marker for the author’s accomplished skills.

With the news that The Crimson Campaign, book two in the Powder Mage Trilogy, was pushed back to a new May release date, it’s comforting to see McClellan publish these short stories and novellas to keep us held over. It’s a brilliant marketing technique. The cheap price will give new initiates a chance to explore the world and Brian’s writing without feeling too guilty if they don’t like it. Fans of the first book are able to explore the world and the characters in more depth while they wait for the new book.

It’s a technique I hope more authors will take note of and adopt. Especially those authors, who shall not be named, who take 1+ years between books.

I haven’t had a chance to reread Promise of Blood since it came out last January. But these short stories have kept the world of Powder Mages and Privileged in my imagination. Be sure to pick up Forsworn and get immersed once more into the world of muskets and magic that Brian has so painstakingly created.

You can pick up Forsworn for your E-Reader of choice at his shop here.

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Summary:

Erika ja Leora is a powder mage in northern Kez, a place where that particular sorcery is punishable by death. She is only protected by her family name and her position as heir to a duchy.

When she decides to help a young commoner—a powder mage marked for death, fugitive from the law—she puts her life and family reputation at risk and sets off to deliver her new ward to the safety of Adro while playing cat and mouse with the king’s own mage hunters and their captain, Duke Nikslaus.

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

Book Review
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Brian Staveley’s debut novel The Emperor’s Blades is being promoted as 2014’s biggest debut fantasy novel. It’s a book that will stir the imaginations of all readers and make them stand up and notice this new author. These are big words to be swinging around in January, but after spending enough time with the book I’m calling it. Move over Sanderson, Rothfuss, Brett, and Weeks. We’ve got a new name in epic fantasy, and he’s leaving a big mark with The Emperor’s Blades.

The story follows three siblings that deal with the ramifications of the murder of their father, the emperor. Kaden, the heir, has been at a remote monastery in the mountains for eight years. His sister, Adare, has been promoted to Minister of Finance upon her father’s death and now must navigate the political currents of Annur if she hopes to bring justice to the man that murdered her father. And then there’s Valyn. He is a cadet of the Kettral, masterful killers who fly massive birds into battle. With news of their father’s death he has to finish his training and rush to help his brother Kaden, lest he be murdered as well.

The brothers get the most page time while Adare is sprinkled through every now and again. Ultimately, this was the best move Staveley could have made. While Adare’s storyline is important, crucial even, it lacks enough driving force to warrant any more time than she was given. (A point that is going to be remedied in the sequel according to Staveley)

The real titan of the book is Valyn. His struggles on the islands the Kettral use for a base are the most engaging and thrilling to read. Immediately, danger surrounds Valyn, both from his teammates and from a rumored plot to kill the entire royal line. The entire Kettral storyline is told with such a clear and concise eye to the hard life of a cadet that you can’t stop. It’s exciting, it’s bloody, it’s deadly, and overall Valyn is the most human – a character I can picture myself getting a drink with at the bar (my hallmark for a well-written character).

Meanwhile, Kaden is in the mountains, oblivious to the happenings of the civilized world. His new teacher prefers to put Kaden through inventive and painful exercises to hone his mind and enter into a trance-like state of no emotion “the vaniate”. The monks and Kaden give us the worldbuilding in big meaty bites. The storyline of the heir is built for those that like to read about the gods and how they’re worshipped or an ancient evil that may be resurfacing.

The magic of the world is limited. It’s regarded with not only hate but also a primal disgust that leaves those caught to be able to use magic, “leeches,” executed immediately. That is unless the Kettral recruits them. Valyn’s interactions with fellow leech cadets paints a picture for the reader on how the magic works in this world. Namely, each leech draws from a specific well – iron, solar power, emotions, water, animals, the possibilities are endless – and manipulates the world with that power, relative to how much of their well is nearby they can draw from. It’s an interesting system with, more importantly, an interesting limitation.

The writing isn’t perfect. There were a few odd word choices here and there and Adare’s storyline, while the right length for this particular instance, was a bit muddled. As if Staveley knew exactly where/what Kaden and Valyn would do and was 70% sure about Adare. It just wasn’t as immersive as the other two (which is okay considering how much page-time she ultimately received.) But I would challenge anyone to pick up the debut book of their favorite author, whoever he/she may be, and not find the same type of issues. Staveley has found something incredible with The Emperor’s Blades and when the sequel hits the shelves I have absolute faith it will be that much better. This is epic fantasy for the new age and frankly, I’m loving what I’m seeing.

The first 7 chapters are up on tor.com for FREE – or you can find a download for you ereader of choice, so I’d highly recommend checking those out. Unless of course you just want to go ahead and put your pre-order in for the January 14 release. Either way, this isn’t one you’re going to want to miss.

 

A Dance of Blades by David Dalglish – Book Review

A Dance of Blades by David Dalglish

Book Review

Dalglish_ADanceOfBlades_TPWhen I reviewed book one, Dance of Cloaks, I compared it to Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy, which seemed to be an obvious source of inspiration for Dalglish. As Night Angel developed it shifted from a story of smaller forces to one of an epic scale.

Dance of Blades instead functions much the same as the first of the series– assassins, plotting-through-marriage, and revelations of identity, without enough to be different beside the setup for book three.

Don’t get me wrong; the story is still fun and filled with action and intrigue to keep you hooked. The relationship between reader and characters is so strong that they practically beg you to keep turning the page and say “Just one more.”

It’s been five years since Thren’s failed attack on the Trifect. Haern has fully assumed the mantle of the Watcher, a killer of thieves that prowls the streets of Veldaren signing his name in the blood of his victims. Alyssa and Zusa have continued working together, Alyssa raising her child Nathaniel and Zusa her most loyal guard. Veliana has installed a puppet leader of the Ash Guild, but she finds her control of him is slipping just as a mysterious masked man named Deathmask comes looking to join.

Perhaps the greatest addition to the cast was Ghost, a mercenary from a land away. An ebony-skinned man who paints his face white (the source of his moniker), Ghost is a complex character that serves as the avatar of the theme of identity. While he is introduced as nothing more than a skilled killer, his is the character that gets the most development and reader attachment as his motives and origins become clear. Ghost’s reasoning behind adopting a new name and hiding his true visage with paint is strong for it’s complexity and made me stop to ponder the question of identity, a theme that initially began with Aaron/Haern in book one.

The biggest detracting point lay with Alyssa Gemcroft. It’s been five years since the plotting of book one where she was engaged to a man who didn’t love her and only wanted her title. Book two, unfortunately, is much of the same, only using her son has a chess piece instead of Alyssa’s affections. With a character that has inherited such tremendous wealth and is an acting leader of one of the Trifect families, Alyssa has amazing potential to be a powerful female lead in a male-dominated society. Put her past these surface-value conflicts that has more to do with winning her hand or controlling her through her feelings as a mother and give us a character to be proud of.

Dance of Blade neither dramatically succeeds nor fails. The plot, characterization, and events of this book echo too strongly with the first book to be considered anything more than a continuation of the first book’s plot. The first two books give the impression of a larger book that was divided, something that could have worked if not for the time gap and other hallmarks that divided the two.

I’m excited to continue with this multi-book epic and see what happens next. As much as I pushed against it, the “more of the same” structure hasn’t sullied the characters or series, if taken at face value. As a standalone title Dance of Blades would work fantastically, I’m just more hesitant at how well it manages as a second book.

Book three, Dance of Mirrors, is next and I’m eager and hopeful to see where Dalglish takes us this time. With any luck there will be a new threat to challenge our hero and favored characters that takes us away from the now well-worn path.

 

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson – Book Review

Elantris
by Brandon Sanderson

Book Review

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Elantris is a story told in thirds. Three characters, three goals, three stories.

Raoden was the prince, until he was struck by the reod (a magical transformation that makes your hair fall out, grays the skin and makes every injury stick, the pain never fading). He’s immediately befriended by another Elantrian,Galladon. Together, under Raoden’s insistence, they work to restore some of Elantris’ former glory by giving its zombie-like inhabitants a purpose.

Sarene is the princess of a neighboring nation Teod and Raoden’s bride-to-be. With Raoden’s “death” the marriage contract stipulates the marriage holds. Her storyline revolves around stabilizing the government and disrupting the plans of our last point-of-view.

Hrathen is a Derethi high priest and arrives in Arelon at the same time as Sarene. He has a mission to convert the country to the Derethi religion, Shu Dereth. If he doesn’t succeed in three months, the armies of his home will invade and eradicate the “heathens.” The most interesting of the bunch, Hrathen could’ve easily been nothing more than a fanatic; instead he is a layered character that is ruled by logic. Hrathen questions his own religion throughout and still genuinely wants to convert the people, believing it is the right thing to do.

While Raoden is busy restoring hope in the citizens of Elantris, Sarene and Hrathen are dancing a political battle. The chess match between the two of them is fun to watch and comprises the bulk of the novel as they each strive to outmaneuver the other. Personally, the scenes inside Elantris with Raoden were more enjoyable and I was usually in a rush to get to the next chapter in Elantris.

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Elantris is Sanderson’s first published novels and it’s apparent in his writing. It lacks the subtlety of later books and instead relies on ham-handedly pointing out information that will become crucial to the plot in a couple short chapters.

For example, Sarene’s uncle Kiin had a falling out with her father, the King of Teod and the two refuse to speak about the other. Kiin is introduced as a renown sailer and traveler, and with mentions of a fierce pirate named Dreok Crushthroat that tried to usurp the Teoish throne as well as an intimidating battle-axe above Kiin’s mantle, it doesn’t take a genius to piece together an end-of-the-book reveal.

Elantris is wonderfully crafted, with unique worldbuilding, resonant characters and a climactic finish that has you pumping your fist in excitement. The failings it does have are nothing more than hallmarks of a debut novel that should not be held against such a great book.

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish – Book Review

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

Book Review

(*Small Spoilers – Reader BEWARE*)

9780356502786More than anything else A Dance of Cloaks is novel that takes clear inspiration from authors such as Peter V. Brett and Brent Weeks and crafts a story that, like The Warded Man or The Way of Shadows, focuses on deep, personal character development.

While there is an array of characters that are the focus, it’s Aaron Felhorn who stands at the center. The youngest son to the master assassin and head of the Spider Guild, Thren Felhorn, Aaron has been trained since the age of 8 to be the perfect heir. He’s been forbidden two things: love and religion. Instead he’s been taught absolute obedience to his father, including murdering his older brother in cold blood early on in the book.
The plot focuses on Thren’s plans to unify the assassin guilds through force and end a war between the guilds and the Trifect, three families of great wealth and power (the Gemcrofts, Conningtons, and Keenans).

Meanwhile, Alyssa Gemcroft, heir to the Gemcroft’s, has to outmaneuver her betrothed, who cares only for her name and wealth. Joining her are the Faceless, three women that have been punished for their sins and wield shadow magic from their god Karak in order to help absolve them and perform the commands of their priests.

Dalglish handles the themes of religion with a deft hand, using an old fallback of a “dark” god against a “light” god. Karak, the “dark” god, is more prevalent in the series, we do get a glimpse at the workings of the priests of the god Ashhur towards the end. It’s an interesting plot point that will hopefully feature more prominently in forthcoming volumes, even if it’s just to see more dark paladins doing battle – which included some of the most interesting uses of the magic system and direct fight scenes in the book.

Through Kayla, Aaron discovers infatuation and love, and through an elderly tutor, Robert Haern, he eventually finds religion. These ideologies infect Thren’s perfect heir and soon Aaron begins questioning everything his life has meant until this point. These feelings boil over after he chooses to protect a priest’s daughter and betray his father by not assassinating her.

It’s at this point that the book really shines as Aaron’s internal struggle between remaining loyal and obedient to his father and what he believes to be right and fair fight for dominance in his psyche.

Following a life-altering moment Aaron dons a mask, a move that’s used to hide his identity from other’s in the guild as well as to help him mentally differentiate between another identity. Aaron’s use of a mask and alternate identity is evocative of an almost superhero alter-ego and it’ll be curious to see how this will play out in following books as Aaron forges a place for himself rather than the one his father had planned.

Following in the steps of other authors, notably G.R.R. Martin, from whom Dalglish has said he was inspired, A Dance of Cloaks does feature a number of characters and POVs that keep you bouncing from character to character when all you want to read is more on Aaron and Thren. While this switching does need a touch more work to be as seamless and engaging as possible, Dalglish does an admirable job and the pacing remains excellent throughout.

David Dalglish is one of those few authors who chose to self-publish his novels and has since gotten a book deal due to the success of his series. The first four books in the series have already been digitally published and now Orbit will release each book in consecutive months, the sequels to A Dance of Cloakscoming in November and December. A move that’s reminiscent of another series from Orbit, Brent Weeks Night Angel Trilogy, which were released in October, November, and December of 2008.

Dalglish is well on his way to join the ranks of Peter V. Brett and Brent Weeks as influential authors in a new generation of fantasy. Who knows, maybe in another few years The Shadowdance Trilogy will be the inspiration of a new author looking to breakout.

Perfect Shadow by Brent Weeks – Book Review

Perfect Shadow By Brent Weeks

PerfectShadow_cvr300dpiPerfect Shadow is a look into the 700-year-old immortal wetboy we grew to love and admire from Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy, Acaelus Thorne, a man soon to be remade into Durzo Blint. This novella gives us a glimpse at the man before he became bitter and disillusioned by the mission given to him by his friend, his king, Jorsin Alkestes all those centuries ago.

This book was released long after Night Angel Trilogy first appeared and features spoilers for those books. It’s debatable whether those spoilers are enough to deter you from reading this before Way of Shadows, but it’s enough to merit a mention and as such proceed with caution: Here, there be spoilers.

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Durzo Blint is a man that has lived many lives over many centuries. Often he would be a hero, other times, a simple man trying to live a normal, quiet life. He fellin love and had many wives, sometimes even children. It’s not the callus love of loneliness but rather a true kind of love that is probably the reason he’s still alive nearly seven centuries later.

Its the brutal death of the pregnant wife and young daughter that drives Gaelan Starfire away from his farm and eventually to Cenaria to meet Gwinvere Kirena, the Mistress of Pleasure.

In Cenaria he trains with Scarred Wrable in the ways of the wetboy, eventually killing the other wetboys employees by the Sa’Kage and installing “Momma K” as the new head of the criminal empire. Sharp-eyed readers will see subtle allusions to characters and places from the Night Angel Trilogy – including the butcher Hu Gibbett.

It’s a solid novella that isn’t constrained by telling its multiple narratives in chronological order, instead trusting the reader to be able to follow along.

“I’ve turned my back on my king. Fire pursues me, but emptiness can’t be threatened. Emptiness holds nothing dear. Emptiness knows no fear.”

Concurrently with the thread line involving Durzo Blint’s introduction to the world of the Sa’Kage of Cenaria and the wetboys that inhabit it we get a chance to see Durzo swindle a man from the Society of the Second Sun in order to steal his ka’kari, the red, and its subsequent banishment into the heart of Mt. Tenji, a soon-to-be re-active volcano. It’s at this moment that we also get a glimpse into the far past, the moment Jorsin Alkestes used Curoch to seal the krul around Black Burrow and burn every living thing for miles around.

It’s a poignant look filled with deep, philosophical thoughts concerning the origins and the man we’ve grown to know intimately in the time of the original trilogy and a stark reminder that immortality can weigh heavily on the soul.

“One shadow was different. One shadow stood, defiant, one fist raised, edges perfect, outline crisp – Acaelus’s shadow. The others were dim, washed out. Bleached by a flood of light that had continued even after the men who had cast them were burned away. But through all the fire, one man had stood.”

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Book Synopsis:

shortfiction2“I got a bit of prophecy,” the old assassin said. “Not enough to be useful, you know. Just glimpses. My wife dead, things like that to keep me up late at night. I had this vision that I was going to be killed by forty men, all at once. But now that you’re here, I see they’re all you. Durzo Blint.”

Durzo Blint? Gaelan had never even heard the name.

***

Gaelan Starfire is a farmer, happy to be a husband and a father; a careful, quiet, simple man. He’s also an immortal, peerless in the arts of war. Over the centuries, he’s worn many faces to hide his gift, but he is a man ill-fit for obscurity, and all too often he’s become a hero, his very names passing into legend: Acaelus Thorne, Yric the Black, Hrothan Steelbender, Tal Drakkan, Rebus Nimble. But when Gaelan must take a job hunting down the world’s finest assassins for the beautiful courtesan-and-crimelord Gwinvere Kirena, what he finds may destroy everything he’s ever believed in.

Brandon Sanderson – Author Interview

Hello! Most of you probably know the name Brandon Sanderson, a New York Times Bestselling Author, author of over a dozen stories, as well as the man chosen to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga. I had a chance to interview Brandon right before the release of his latest novel, Steelheart. I hope you all enjoy what he has to say!

The following is a transcription from audio Mr. Sanderson recorded specifically for this post.

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  • Brandon-Sanderson-author-photo-776x1024Welcome Brandon Sanderson! I’m very excited for this chance to send along some interview questions and can’t wait to hear what you have to say. So, diving right into it, what is the biggest factor in your output of writing and how do you manage to keep track of so many works as well as the bits of inspiration that don’t have a home in a particular series yet?

I use a personal wiki and my own bizarre mental methodology. Here’s something else about the way I work: new projects excite me. In fact, I’m often dangling the new project in front of myself as incentive to finish my current project. It’s part of what I like about my job, always being able to do something new. It keeps me productive as a writer.

  • You’ve had a large amount of success for your novels, so much so that a lot of your work has had the option of being produced in other mediums. A potential Mistborn movie, an option for a television series based on Legion (both of which are up in the air still I believe?) and the Mistborn: Birthright video game developed by Little Orbit. How do you think these other mediums could help and/or hurt the overall narrative flow of these worlds you’ve crafted?

That’s a good question I’ve also wondered about. The larger your continuity gets, the more difficult these things are. At the same time, I think it’s worth it because there are certain types of stories you can explore in these other mediums that you can’t explore as well in a novel. It’s something I definitely want to dabble in, but I worry about the continuity becoming unwieldy.

  • Speaking of the Mistborn video game, you agreed to the deal on the condition that you would be able to write the script for the game. How has that process differed from your work on your novels and has it sparked any interest in writing for other mediums, such as video games, television, etc., more often?

We’ve been working with the developer, and they haven’t gotten to the point where it’s time for me to write the script yet. The process might be different. It might not be. I’ve noticed a lot of writers will script the video game and then immediately write the novel. I want to tell this story within the medium of video games, so my goal will not be to write the video game and then write the novelization of the video game. We’ll see if that happens or not, though.

  • Having a part in completing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series must have propelled your craft considerably given the complexity of the series and the importance of getting it right. Not to mention the attention from fans everywhere that have been waiting for the conclusion of this series since it debuted in 1990. Now that The Wheel of Time is finished do you feel caught in Robert Jordan’s, and the entire series, shadow?

I mention this a little bit in a video I recorded for Google Play. But no, I haven’t felt caught in his shadow so far, though I don’t b9e6d7fb4bd5ab5cfab43160935e0ecbreally mind if I am. Even if I’d never been involved with finishing The Wheel of Time, I’d still be caught in Robert Jordan’s shadow because he was the dominant writer in the field during the era when I was learning and growing as a writer and becoming the novelist I am today. It’s less a matter of being caught and more a matter of standing on his shoulders, especially now that I was able to work on his project.

I wrote in my eulogy of Robert Jordan how in my writing I’ve sometimes chosen to react against The Wheel of Time just because I felt that The Wheel of Time had done what it did so well. I’ll probably continue to do that, but it’s not a matter of escaping his shadow. I just want to tell stories. It’s not an ego thing for me. I get to write the stories. People read them and seem to like them. That’s awesome! I don’t really worry about the rest.

  • Your writing includes the big cosmere-related novels as well as shorter pieces of work to break it up during the year. The Emperor’s Soul was one such project, which recently won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novella. These shorter pieces are a great way to break things up and as you’ve said recharge your creative batteries. Other than Steelheart which is releasing soon, what is the next shorter piece you’re working on?

The next shorter piece I’m working on is a short novelette or novella called Sixth of the Dusk, which is a writing exercise I’m doing with the Writing Excuses team for my podcast. We all brainstormed with one another on-air last year, and then I wrote a story based on that. Then we workshopped it on-air, and that episode should go up fairly soon. Then I’ll do a last revision of it and put it up for people to buy, though I’m not sure yet when that will happen. I screen-captured myself writing the story, so I’ll probably post that video for free. That’s a fun sort of experiment to let aspiring writers see the process of brainstorming, the first draft, and the last draft.

The next thing that’s being released is my novella in George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s Dangerous Women anthology. I’m very proud of this story, called Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell. Getting invited to one of George and Gardner’s anthologies is a huge honor. They pick dream teams for every one of their anthologies, so getting asked was awesome. As for novels, the next major project of mine is Words of Radiance, coming out in March.

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  • Your work in the cosmere as well as the introduction of a big multi-volume epic, the Stormlight Archive, is a tremendous undertaking of time and effort. Have you ever been worried that you may have bitten off more than you can chew, that is either in its structure and length or for health and personal reasons, such as Robert Jordan who unfortunately passed away before the conclusion of The Wheel of Time?

No, I don’t really. I say that with a smile because I’m an epic fantasy writer. I dream big! Sure, every runner before they start their first marathon probably wonders, “Am I actually going to be able to finish this thing?” But at the same time, this is what I’ve dreamed of doing for my entire career, so I don’t think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I hope the fans will stick around with me for it, but Steven Erikson proved that you could do a ten-book series in a reasonable amount of time. He’s kind of a model and example for the rest of us in getting his large Malazan series finished, and he did a great job of it. So, he proves it can be done. I just have to step up and get to work.

  • The majority of your body of work rests in the fantasy genre and has given you an appropriate amount of success based on the incredible work you’ve done so far. You have dabbled in the realm of science fiction, including your short story “Firstborn”, and you have plans to extend the Mistborn universe into science fiction with a third trilogy, after a trilogy set in modern times. Do you have any plans, even in the distant future, for a standalone or series set entirely in the realm of science fiction, a space opera or something similar?

Yes, I’m definitely going to do some science fiction and space opera. I’m holding off on doing any longer works right now because the longer books I want to write are actually in worlds connected to my fantasy series. There are several of those I want to do. I will eventually get to them, but it’s going to take a little bit of time before I’m in the right place to do these stories. There are some great space operas in the cosmere that I want to tell.

  • The “Sanderson Laws” have become rather popular amongst the fantasy community. Have you given any consideration into expanding and crafting more “laws” to help aspiring genre writers design their settings?

Yes. I’ve actually got three or four that I’m working on. Keep in mind, I call them “Sanderson’s Laws” because these are my laws to myself. They are the ways I approach writing magic systems. They are not rules you need to follow, but reading them might help you understand at least how one person approaches magic systems. Sanderson’s Third Law should go up sometime this week.

  • 91WYnaA6QNL._SL1500_Steelheart is your latest published work. It’s a young adult novel that features a hero that is normal, without any extraordinary powers. Joel, the protagonist of The Rithmatist was also unable to use the magic of that world. What are the benefits of writing a story from the viewpoint of someone removed from such an important part of the setting and why did you choose to do this?

Basically this is me reacting against myself. The biggest benefit for me is that I get to try something different. Whenever I notice a theme—something I feel like I’m doing a little too often—I will say, “How can I approach this from a different perspective and try a different type of story?” I did this for two very different reasons in those two books.

In The Rithmatist it helps cement Joel as an outsider. It helps that feeling of distance. He desperately wants to be in, but through a quirk of birth, he is not in, and that’s part of the story. For David in Steelheart, it’s less about being an outsider and more about the story being more interesting for me because it’s about a normal person fighting back against basically a supervillain, and what you do when you don’t have the power to bring someone like that down. That makes an interesting conflict for me. So I’m approaching it from two different directions, but it is me trying to explore something that I haven’t done as much.

  • Thank you for giving me this chance to interview you and before we go is there anything else you might like to say or add?

Thank you very much for the interview. I hope people look into Steelheart. I’ve been posting a lot of cool stuff about it, specifically about the tour. So if you don’t mind throwing in a link to the Steelhunt to let people know what I’m doing, I would appreciate it.

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We’d like to thank Mr. Sanderson again for taking the time to talk with us. His lastest novel, Steelheart, is out now. You can learn more about it on his website or you can follow him on Twitter.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – Book Review

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
An ‘Epic’ Review

In a world filled only with supervillains and no superheroes it’s up to the average citizen to rise up and administer justice. That’s the basic premise of Brandon Sanderson’s latest novel, Steelheart. His penchant for interesting worldbuilding and cinematic writing has paid off yet again.

Steelheart is a story about an average teenager named David. David has to live in a new world, a world that has been burdened with the rise of superpowered individuals. But there are no superheroes in this world, only villains. It’s David’s goal to join the Reckoners, a group of average citizens that banded together to assassinate “Epics,” the term for those with powers. David has seen Steelheart bleed, an experience that was supposed to be impossible. He wants to use that knowledge to join the Reckoners and get revenge for the death of his father.

“The only thing you can see up there is Calamity, which looks kind of like a bright red star or comet. Calamity began to shine one year before men started turning into Epics… Of course, nobody knows why the Epics started appearing, or what their connection is to Calamity either.”

91WYnaA6QNL._SL1500_There have been attempts over the years to write a prose story based on superhumans, normally the domain of comic books. It’s a subject that misses more often than it hits with authors spending too much time trying to replicate the comic into prose, ignoring the fact that for those stories the art is an essential piece to the narrative.

Sanderson, perhaps due to his experience writing prose, has not fallen into the same trap. Steelheart is a novel that recognizes its content and doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. This may have something to do with Sanderson’s proclivity to create balanced and well-thought magic systems. Or perhaps it’s due to the non-superpowered David and the Reckoners. Without powers it frees the main POV to not be bogged down in the typical pitfalls authors encounter when trying to replicate the artistic descriptions in prose.

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It’s a phrase you may be familiar with and it is at the heart of Calamity and the superpowered individuals that now roam the world. David’s father was a man that believed with the arrival of supervillains the heroes couldn’t be far behind. He was a man that hoped for a brighter tomorrow. But the idea that the only evil individuals are granted powers, or perhaps that powers make those individuals evil, is at the heart of the book. It is a secret that is never fully answered and one we’ll have to wait till the sequels to discover.

The book takes place in Newcago, or more specifically Chicago that has been transformed. The ruler of Chicago,

Steelheart, possesses a power that allows him to send out a wave of transformation energy that turned everything in the city to solid steel, including a portion of the lake.

“When the Great Transfersion caused the better part of the Old City to be turned into solid steel, that included the soil and rock, dozens – maybe hundreds – of feet down into the ground. During the early years of his reign, Steelheart pretended to be benevolent – if ruthless – dictator. His Diggers had cut out several levels of under-streets, complete with buildings, and people flowed to Newcago for work.”

Stelheart

As in other books set in an alternate-world Earth, Sanderson has managed to take a standard setting and give it a fantastical element. He keeps the familiarity of the setting but changes enough to make it a new and interesting place for the readers to discover. Tunnels had to be built under the city to provide housing in steel encrusted buildings and electricity is still somewhat an issue as everything shorted out when the transformation struck.

Sanderson’s return to the YA market is filled with his signature worldbuilding and a fast-paced, high action cinematic style that is easy to lose yourself in. Already Sanderson can’t get enough of his reimagined America and a sequel is well on its way for a 2014 release. Pick up Steelheart now and get caught up before the sequel, Firefight, releases.

A City Stained Red by Sam Sykes – Cover Reveal

A City Stained Red by Sam Sykes
Cover Reveal

Sam Sykes is a man with a unique sense of humor and personality. Anyone who follows the author on twitter knows this first hand, whether it’s through his pictures of capybaras, his pugs, or his interactions with other authors. But don’t let this fool you, Sam Sykes is an extraordinary author whose prose ranks high in the fantasy genre, especially amongst the sword and sorcery subgenres. His Aeon’s Gate Trilogy – Tome of the Undergates, Black Halo, Skybound Sea – is well-thought out and thrilling story that is honestly just a fun read.

But Sykes is not a man to sit idly by on one successful trilogy. No. He’s been hard at work on a new trilogy, Bring Down Heaven. He’s kept most of the details rather scant for the new series, that is until the cover reveal of the first book The City Stained Red, which debuted on the Gollancz blog  this past September.

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The City Stained Red is the first chapter in my new trilogy, Bring Down Heaven. Set against the city of Cier’Djaal, economic powerhouse of the world whose horse-sized spiders produce the silk that every nation craves, it is a tale of collapse.

It is the story of how the morals of a society collapse before pragmatism, revolutionary cultists crowing the name of their god in hell as they throw themselves at the organized dynasty of assassins and thieves that have run the city since it began.

It is the story of how the ideas of harmony collapse before ideas of independence, with several races, human and monstrous, set upon a tiny spit of land and given just so many resources to share it and seeing how long it takes for one of them to pick up a knife.

It is the story of how gods collapse before mortals, when god cannot save a man languishing in the shadow of his wealthy neighbors and he finds himself putting aside prayer and picking up a blade.

It is the story of how things change between six people when they find themselves standing at the center of a field full of corpses and wondering just how the hell it happened that they can’t let go of the sword in their hands.

Maybe that explains it.

But that isn’t all. If you head over to the Gollancz page that debuted the cover you can treat yourselves to 3 pages of beautiful comic book artwork that may help you understand the series a little better. If not, you can at least enjoy the ninjas, apemen, and whatever that demon thing is on page 3.