In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.
Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: the enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awaken the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.
Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand together — and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past — even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.
I read the first two books in the Stormlight Archive back-to-back in the middle of last year, and I didn’t have to wait too long, relatively speaking, for the third book to come out. But, according to Goodreads, this is a ten book series. So I’ll be over here, crying. I have the mother of all book hangovers, you guys. I need a sixth star in my rating system for books like this one. It’s everything that the first two books were, only more so. As a result, I’m sure this review is going to be all AAAAH and NEEDS MORE!, and probably not very coherent.
Bear with me.
I say it with every review of a Sanderson book, but he is an amazing builder of worlds. This series puts the epic in epic fantasy. As I said the other day, I listened to this on audiobook and the download was available in five parts. FIVE. For those playing at home, that’s fifty-five hours of listening time. (Goodreads tells me the hardcover is more than 1200 pages. The first two books clock in at over 1000 pages too.)
As well as using that space to build up a cast of characters that I love (and sometimes loathe), Sanderson also uses it to detail a word that is strange and unique in its plant and animal life. Plants retreat from predators and storms like crabs into shells. Animals are mostly shelled, as well, with gems for hearts, as are the parshmen former slaves that the blurb mentions. Occasionally, we see glimpses of familiar animals, especially horses, but also including “chickens” (a term for any feathered bird).
It’s all wonderfully detailed, and — as this is a Brandon Sanderson novel — the details are important to the story, to the whole. I can’t say more than that without spoilers, but that’s been my experience of all his fantasy books so far; I think he is perhaps being self-indulgent, but it turns out, OMG, it was all relevant. He is a genius. (Have I reached my gush quotient yet?)
In terms of the characters, familiar faces from the first two books are here. My favourites are still Shallan and Kaladin (who I still ship, not gonna lie — a weird combo for me, as I usually dismiss the brooding character as a love interest), with Dalinar coming in a close second. Wit, surprisingly, is third.
I adore Kaladin so much I drew fanart of him while listening to the book the other day. It’s below, because apparently I have no shame. Don’t laugh too hard.
In terms of the plot, this book actually ties things off really nicely, and it could have been a good finish to a trilogy if that was the way Sanderson had wanted to go. Of course, there are still dangling plot threads, some of them huge — and I’m glad I get more Stormlight Archive.
But there’s something that really came to the fore for me in this book, something that pushed it onto a whole new level. I mentioned in my review of the first book in the series, The Way of Kings, that Kaladin suffers from depression; Shallan also had issues to do with suppressed memories. It becomes apparent throughout this book that almost all the heroes are broken. I won’t name names, but various characters struggle with (among other things) alcoholism, drug addiction, sensory processing disorder, PTSD, and multiple personality disorder. And there’s no magic cure for any of these things, like you see in some books. The characters are broken and they strive and fail and succeed and are so authentically human.
I loved it.
This is the first time I’ve sat down to write one of these year in review posts where I’ve felt like my successes have been qualified. Where I haven’t felt as proud of myself as in previous years.
I finished writing, edited and self-published False Awakening, the second book in the Lucid Dreaming duology. But, since then, I haven’t managed to start my next novel, and my promo efforts have been lackluster at best.
I have done other things; I wrote and submitted a short story for an anthology (which I’m still waiting to hear back about), and this month I’ve been working on a novella I originally wrote more than ten years ago. But I had this huge period in the middle of the year where it felt like I didn’t achieve much of anything.
A lot of that was due to real-life pressures. My work has been short-staffed all year, and insanely busy since May. I edit for a living, as I’ve said before, and the idea of coming home and sitting in front of a PC after sitting in front of a PC all day was just too exhausting. As a result, I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing. Blog posts and reviews, sure, but books? Not so much.
I’ve been working on that over the last couple of months, though not with a novel (yet). Still, I will definitely have a couple of releases for you this year. Woohoo!
This is the first year since I started doing the Goodreads and Australian Women Writers challenges that I haven’t quite met me goals. For the Goodreads one, I set a goal of 40 and read 31. And for the Australian Women Writers challenge, I set a goal of 15 and read 11. At least I got close in both, right? (Right?)
A lot of the blame here goes to Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. When I set my Goodreads goal, I didn’t anticipate discovering (and adoring) this series, and each of these books is over 1000 pages. That’s three regular novels for one Stormlight one. I’m currently listening to the audiobook of the third one in the series, and the download is available in five parts. FIVE. If I hadn’t been reading them, I would have nailed my goal, for sure! 😉
Goodreads produced a handy summary, an extract of which is below. If you’re desperate to stalk my reading (and why wouldn’t you be?!), you can find the rest of the blog post here.
My 2017 reads
In light of all this, my writing resolutions for 2018 are very straightforward:
- Do better.
- Forgive myself at times I don’t do better.
I figure that’s pretty comprehensive!
What about you? How did you do with your reading (and, if applicable, writing) in 2017? Tell me your triumphs, or commiserate with me on your woes. ❤
Evie Shepard’s nightmare begins when she finds herself buried alive, with no idea how she got that way. As she struggles to remember what happened to her, she begins to notice changes about herself. Her senses are heightened, her movements are quicker, she is incredibly strong….her heartbeat has stopped. It’s then she makes a disturbing discovery. She wasn’t buried alive. She was murdered.
Somehow she has come back…
And she wants revenge.
I was going through my Kindle last month and discovered this ebook, which I acquired back in 2013 and had never quite gotten around to reading. (For the record, this isn’t the longest a book has languished on my TBR pile. There are books there that have moved house with me. More than once.) It was published by a small press that subsequently tanked under dubious circumstances, though it has since been self-published. The version I’m reviewing is the small press version, so please note that there may be some differences between the currently available version and the one that I have.
Awakenings is an urban fantasy whose subtype isn’t vampires or werewolves but an undead creature called a vengador (which is Spanish for “avenger”). These are creatures that get supernatural speed and strength, as well as electricity powers, but who are driven to kill their murderers, even knowing that doing so will end their own existence. I enjoyed reading about a different type of supernatural beastie.
There were a lot of things I really loved about Awakenings; the writing is generally very good (with a few copy edits that may be gone in the current version), and the story is action-packed, full of explosions, car chases and fight scenes. All good stuff. And I enjoyed both Evie (as she struggles with her loss of humanity) and one of the other female characters, Amie, who is a Russian super-soldier and hacker with a penchant for explosives. I’d totally read a book about Amie; she stole every scene she was in. I adored her.
The villains of the piece were murderous Russian slave traders, which stretched credibility a bit, at least for me. I think that Awakenings is meant to be set in a darker version of the USA (rather than in a parallel world that is roughly the same), but I never really got the real sense of that difference, and the villains seemed Bond-like and almost cartoonish in their evil ways.
But the main thing that made this a 3.5 star read for me rather than a four star read was the unnecessary romance. I just didn’t feel any chemistry between Evie and Ethan. Also, she was seventeen and he was … older. I don’t know how old, exactly, but he’d been married and widowed, and had a PI business. I’m assuming at least late 20s. I don’t mind an age gap between characters who are romantically involved, but when one of them isn’t even a legal adult yet (even if they are an undead with superpowers), it just feels a little off to me. It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t get onboard with the Bella/Edward relationship in Twilight.
Still, I like that the book doesn’t have a sugar-coated, happily ever after ending, and the action scenes were compelling. I’d recommend Awakenings for anyone after a fun summer (or winter) holiday read.
Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place.
Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.
This novella is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read. Or listened to on audiobook, at any rate. It’s set in the world of The Name of the Wind, and focuses on Auri, an enchanting side character from the main story. In fact, it focuses on her to the point where she’s almost the sole character.
After a fashion.
Auri has a peculiar character trait in that she personifies the objects around her. She sees them as having names and moods and desires of their own, and believes her role is to make all the objects happy, to make the world “proper true”. As a result, there are objects in this novella, such as the light she carries around or a brass gear that she finds, that I was downright fond of by the end. And Auri, who cuts a very lonely figure, is never really alone.
As for the plot, well … there isn’t one. Not in the traditional sense. This novella is seven days in Auri’s life, as she prepares for a visit by Kvothe (though he is never named directly). She goes exploring, she searches for a gift to give him, she makes soap.
That’s it, in terms of the plot.
What the novella does do, and in a breathtakingly beautiful way, is explore the reality of someone who is entirely, utterly broken. Auri used to be a student at the University, and occasionally her educated vocabulary breaks through and gives a tantalising glimpse of the person she used to be. It’s never completely clear how many of her beliefs about the world around her are objectively true in Rothfuss’s world and how many are manifestations of her mental illness — and, at the end of the day, I’m not sure it matters. This story is from Auri’s point of view, and Auri believes these things with all of her being (while acknowledging in her darker moments that she herself isn’t “proper true”), so, as a reader, they were real for me too.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things isn’t a story in the traditional sense. It’s a set piece, a piece of art. The writing is gorgeous, like poetry. As a writer myself, I was humbled.
Rothfuss says in his foreword that, “If you haven’t read my other books, you don’t want to start here.” I can see why he said that, because this story isn’t typical of his style, and I guess he doesn’t want people reading this, being baffled, and not going back to the rest of his books. But, by the same token, you don’t need to have read his other books to appreciate the beauty of The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys beautiful writing and the exploration of the mind of a strange, wonderful character. (Or for those who want to learn how to make soap!)
Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.
I can’t remember how Leviathan crossed my path. I think it might have been a sale on Audible? Regardless, I read some of the reviews and decided — despite my usual distaste for war fiction — to give Scott Westerfeld’s steampunk YA alternative history a go. The audiobook is narrated by Scottish actor Alan Cumming, whose accent gives the perfect voice to Deryn, an awesomely competent young adult heroine who shines as a new recruit in the British Air Service. But he also does an excellent Austrian accent for Alek, and his various British accents are also great.
Before I more talk about the characters, I have to mention Westerfield’s alternative world. Germany and Austria are “clankers”, countries that have embraced steampunk-type technology: oil-guzzling, smoke-blowing machines of various fantastical designs. Great Britain, Russia and a few other countries that are mentioned in passing are “Darwinists” who, instead of using technology, use genetically modified “fabricated” creatures in the same sorts of roles. (PETA would not approve of any of the Darwinist creations, and perhaps especially the Leviathan air ship, which is a huge whale modified to host bacteria that produce hydrogen so it can float, carrying humans underneath and within it. I shared Alek’s grossed out reaction to that last part.)
Anyway, moving on: when Deryn gets whisked away on a rogue Huxley (a hydrogen-breathing floating squid — I’ll let that sink in) and is rescued by the Leviathan, she is drawn into a government diplomatic mission to Istanbul (not Constantinople *snigger*), to try and stop the Ottoman Empire from taking sides in the war.
The fact that Deryn is secretly a girl isn’t the focus of the story, by any means, which was a relief. For the most part, she is a member of the crew, invested in her ship’s wellbeing and surviving one disaster after the next. Because this is young adult and it’d be a rare book indeed that didn’t have some romance, she also slowly develops a crush on Alek that she doesn’t know what to do with.
I also enjoyed Alek’s point of view chapters. He spends the first little while being incredibly naive and somewhat foolish, but under the circumstances that was entirely believable and relatable. Over the course of the story, with the guidance of his cunning fencing master, Count Volger, and patient master mechanic, Master Clopp, Alek comes out of his over-protected shell and starts to make his own decisions — often ones that Volger doesn’t like.
There is a lot of action in this book, but the large-scale action sequences that I find boring in most war books aren’t present here. The chapters stay very tightly focused on either Deryn or Alek, so while there might be other things going on in a battle, we only see what they see. This approach — and the novelty of conducting a war using modified hawks and bats instead of small planes — kept me engrossed where other war fiction loses me.
My only real gripe with the story is that the ending seemed rather abrupt. But luckily, I bought the first two books in the trilogy at the same time, so as I write this I’m already halfway through the sequel. Yay!
On Thursday I was at Aussie Owned, sharing some gorgeous Aussie YA bookstagram photos! Check it out.
This month at Aussie Owned and Read, our theme is For the Love of Words. I love all kinds of books — ebooks for the convenience (mostly), audiobooks for the hands-free alternative, and paperbacks for, as much as anything, the experience. I’d been increasing my collection of the first two types, but in the last […]
The YA event of the year. Bestsellers. Award-winners. Superstars. This anthology has them all. With brilliantly entertaining short stories from beloved young adult authors Amie Kaufman, Melissa Keil, Will Kostakis, Ellie Marney, Jaclyn Moriarty, Michael Pryor, Alice Pung, Gabrielle Tozer, Lili Wilkinson and Danielle Binks, this all-new collection will show the world exactly how much there is to love about Aussie YA.
I love the #LoveOzYa movement, as — like the Australian Women Writers Challenge — it’s a great way to raise awareness of Aussie homegrown fiction. The fact that they turned it into an anthology that involved some of my favourite Aussie writers is even better.
If you love YA, get this anthology, whether you’re Australian or not. You won’t regret it.
One Small Step by Amie Kaufman
This is a gorgeous (and rather tense) romance between female best friends on Mars. I’d love to read more about these characters. Make it so, Amie!
I Can See the Ending by Will Kostakis
This one’s an urban fantasy about a teen psychic who can see the future but can’t change it (and struggling with the sense of futility that generates). It was quite clever, and as sweet as it was poignant.
In a Heartbeat by Alice Pung
This is a contemporary about teen pregnancy. It was really well done, though probably not my favourite of the contemporaries.
First Casualty by Michael Pryor
This sci-fi was my least favourite in the anthology. It was well-written and had a ragtag Firefly vibe about it that I was digging till the main story got started and it turned into a transparent dig at one of Australia’s previous conservative government. I don’t have a problem with that, per se (I’m hardly conservative!), but the lack of subtlety detracted from the story for me.
Sundays by Melissa Keil
Melissa Keil is my favourite contemporary YA author because of the way she handles misfits and nerds, and this story really delivers. It’s set over one evening at a wild, drunken party.
Missing Persons by Ellie Marney
This story is a prelude to the Every trilogy (which is a mystery/thriller inspired by Sherlock Holmes), and describes how Rachel Watts meets James Mycroft and Mai Ng. The squee factor will be higher if you have read the trilogy … which I have, so squeee!
Oona Underground by Lili Wilkinson
This is another gorgeous romance about a teen girl in love with her female best friend, but is quite different to One Small Step. It’s magic realism with a bit of a Neverwhere vibe. I’d definitely read more about this world (though I didn’t love Oona as much as I probably should have).
The Feeling from Over Here by Gabrielle Tozer
This is a contemporary set on a coach ride between Canberra and Melbourne, with some use of flashbacks and a lot of desperate texting. It primarily explores school bullying, and the voice is wonderful. One of my favourites!
Last Night at the Mount Solemn Observatory by Danielle Binks
This is another poignant story about a teen girl coming to grips with her older brother’s decision to travel the world after graduation. The two kids are called Bowie and King, which is rather unfortunate, but King is deaf, and the description of the sign language is really fascinating.
Competition Entry #349 by Jaclyn Moriarty
This story was a lot of fun, and competes with The Feeling From Over Here for the most voice. It’s modern day(ish), but with time travel and an amazingly scatterbrained main character. It’s great!