Mini-reviews: ‘Words of Radiance’ by Brandon Sanderson and ‘Summer Falls’ by James Goss

Expected by his enemies to die the miserable death of a military slave, Kaladin survived to be given command of the royal bodyguards, a controversial first for a low-status “darkeyes.” Now he must protect the king and Dalinar from every common peril as well as the distinctly uncommon threat of the Assassin, all while secretly struggling to master remarkable new powers that are somehow linked to his honorspren, Syl.

The Assassin, Szeth, is active again, murdering rulers all over the world of Roshar, using his baffling powers to thwart every bodyguard and elude all pursuers. Among his prime targets is Highprince Dalinar, widely considered the power behind the Alethi throne. His leading role in the war would seem reason enough, but the Assassin’s master has much deeper motives.

Brilliant but troubled Shallan strives along a parallel path. Despite being broken in ways she refuses to acknowledge, she bears a terrible burden: to somehow prevent the return of the legendary Voidbringers and the civilization-ending Desolation that will follow. The secrets she needs can be found at the Shattered Plains, but just arriving there proves more difficult than she could have imagined.

Meanwhile, at the heart of the Shattered Plains, the Parshendi are making an epochal decision. Hard pressed by years of Alethi attacks, their numbers ever shrinking, they are convinced by their war leader, Eshonai, to risk everything on a desperate gamble with the very supernatural forces they once fled. The possible consequences for Parshendi and humans alike, indeed, for Roshar itself, are as dangerous as they are incalculable.

I only just reviewed The Way of Kings (the first book in this series) last month, and a lot of what I said about that book is true for this one too. Hence the mini-review; I think the blurb will be longer than the new things I have to say. :p

Brandon Sanderson: still a world-building god.

My overall impression of Words of Radiance is that the pace feels a little faster than the first book did, but maybe that’s because I’d already been sucked into the story and the descriptions of the world’s little details didn’t bother me so much. Even the interludes were clearly more directly relevant than they seemed in the first book (though they were relevant then, too; as I said in my last review, Sanderson is the master of literary sleight of hand).

I adore Shallan and Kaladin and ship them super-hard — which is awkward (no spoilers). Both of them experience a fair bit of character growth; Shallan needs to face up to her past, while Kaladin needs to overcome his. I adore them. Dalinar is still all noble and awesome, and my other favourite character is Jasnah, Shallan’s mentor. She is an atheist who defies all of the religiously derived expectations of her as a princess and a woman (the world has some unique cultural expectations of both men and women — only women are allowed to read, for example, making them the clerks, scientists and scholars, while only men can fight). She’s basically the best.

The book has intrigue, attempted assassinations, an interesting magic system, visions, a looming Big Bad, characters you love to hate, characters you kinda hate but feel sorry for, and loads more.

The only tragedy is that this is the first time I’ve started on a Sanderson series that wasn’t already complete. The third book doesn’t come out until November. So I’ll be sitting over here.

Waiting.


In the seaside village of Watchcombe, young Kate is determined to make the most of her last week of summer holiday. But when she discovers a mysterious painting entitled ‘The Lord of Winter’ in a charity shop, it leads her on an adventure she never could have planned. Kate soon realises the old seacape, painted long ago by an eccentric local artist, is actually a puzzle. And with the help of some bizarre new acquaintances – including a museum curator’s magical cat, a miserable neighbour, and a lonely boy – she plans on solving it.

And then, one morning Kate wakes up to a world changed forever. For the Lord of Winter is coming – and Kate has a very important decision to make.

This is a fun little novella that is about the length and complexity of a middle grade book. It is published under the pen name Amelia Williams, which fans of Doctor Who will know is the name companion Amy Pond writes under after she is consigned to the past (and out of the Doctor’s life) in series seven. After finishing the tome Words of Radiance, I was in the mood for something short and light.

Kate is a lot like Amy was — she’s strong, decisive, and doesn’t much like the company of silly people. She befriends a man she names Barnabus, the curator of a museum next door to her house. Barnabus is clearly based on Amy’s Doctor, but he doesn’t take over the story, leaving Kate with the agency to investigate and resolve the plot. The plot itself is fairly traditional Doctor Who fare: an alien masquerading as a supernatural force, clearly inspired by Amy’s experiences with the Doctor. It’s a little bit Lovecraftian without being overt horror, which I quite enjoyed, and is entirely suitable for children.

I love the double-layered fiction in this: that it’s written by a fictional character about another fictional character. Amy’s hand being so clear behind the story shows the talent of the real human that wrote it, James Goss. My only regret is that I accidentally bought the stand-alone novella rather than the collection of three (which has almost the same title).

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