Posts Tagged ‘Brandons Sanderson’

Any of you remember that Brandon Sanderson guy, the man who completed Robert Jordan’s “wheel of Time” as well as being a award winning author in his own right(Also I reviewed his other book last Tuesday). You may also find it interesting that he’s been diving into writing short stories of late.

Which is what we’re talking about today, Brandon Sanderson’s “The Emperor’s Soul”


A book about magical Asians. 

Synopsis

“The Emperor’s Soul” primarily follows the story of  Shai, which is short for something entirely to long for me to care about typing out. The story starts with Shai having been caught and sent to prison for trying to steal ancient relics and replace them with forgeries. The gimmick being that these forgeries aren’t naturally reproduced but instead created with magical seals that rewrite the history of an object turning into something else.

It’s then revealed to Shai that she can be pardoned for her crimes if she can use the same magic that can recreate art to recreate the soul of the Emperor who had recently been attacked and nearly killed by assassins. The catch being that Shai only has 98 days to complete her task before the Emperor is presumed dead and her along with him.

If that seems complicated, it’s because it is. Don’t worry about it to much though Sanderson pulls you into the mess that he’s shoved his characters in rather gently.

Review

One of the things I’m beginning to note about Sanderson is that he’s one of the better character writers out there. His dialogue between his protagonists, his antagonist and the characters that sit in between is some of the best I’ve ever read. Which is incredibly important for this book considering Sanderson locks most of the major characters in the same room together for the majority of the Story.


Who need sweeping landscapes when you can have walls.

Shai and her mentor/antagonist go round and round trying to figure each other out and never truly coming to grips with the other while the other less effective antagonist try to manipulate Shai often to a comical effect as they underestimate Shai who is setting her own logical traps. The book only starts to come up short when it runs it’s action scenes which mess with pacing of the books and feel out of place watching what so far has been a game of chess turn into a game of street fighter.


Ryu to G7, King me!

However to Sanderson’s credit the he builds up to the action scene well and while it’s a major change in the style of the story it’s not something that hits you out of nowhere and is sparsed with some nice dialogues and internal monologues  to break up the action. On top of that Sanderson fills the world with a compelling magic system as well as effective world building which makes all of the story flow easily without pulling you out of the story everytime the concept of foraging a man’s soul comes up.

Bottom Line

The books is fast paced, short and a blast to read, and considering you buy this in E-book format which can be put on your phone or other mobile device you can finish the book in a day easily. In short this short book is good, go buy it.

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This week we’re reviewing a fantasy western about a butler turned god and a lawman turned noble. Also known as Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law.


Because cowboys and demi-gods didn’t have the same ring.

Synopsis

    The Alloy of law is an off shoot of Sanderson’s Mistborn series and is set about 300 years after Hero of Ages. The Alloy of Law tells the Story of Waxillium Ladrian, better know as Wax. Wax is what is referred to in-universe as Twin Born, meaning that through a combination of superpowers he inherited from his parents genes he can alter his weight and push most metal with his mind. Wax starts the story as a lawman searching for a serial killer and through a singularly unfortunate event turns in his badge and moves to the big city to take over the estate of his deceased relative whom left everything to Wax. The story then goes through his struggle to try and manage his new life as the head of a noble house as well as putting his life as a lawman behind him. Of course things don’t go as planned and Wax is forced into a new mystery that involves metal, women and magic.


Like this but with more magical acrobatics.

Review

Characters

I’ve mentioned before that I believe that Sanderson is one of the best character writers in the business today, and The Alloy of Law attests to that assertion, Sanderson fills his novella with a plethora of interesting characters. Wax being this weird combination of city born noble turned lawman leads to people in the rough calling him either refined or a dandy, while people in the city look at him as mysterious cowboy or an unsophisticated brute. His partner is a wise cracking reformed criminal who can speed up time and talk his way out of most situations, whilst the female lead is a nerd with a bit of kickass and dash genius thrown in for good measure. With The central antagonist being a immortal charismatic ex-lawman.

The only problem I had with the Characters, was with Wax, the protagonist. Wax spends most of the story swung between extremes of being noble and being lawman, which is one of the major conflicts in the books first act. The problem is that after every other chapter Wax seems to become a different person, after one chapter he becomes a metallurgist seemingly out of nowhere. Sanderson went big with multiple POVs in a novella, sometimes even multiple within a chapter. Unfortunately this left Wax feeling a little disjointed in a few scenes. The nice thing to note is that these scenes are short and don’t cause to much of a stumbling block for the reader.

Setting

For those of you new to Scadrial, the fictional land that the Mistborn series takes place in you’ll be happy to know that you won’t have to read the rest of the books to understand whats what. Thanks to some spoilers that I won’t reveal happening in The Hero of Ages.

Scadrial now features a new wild western styled “roughs” as well as some lush green plains and a large skyscraper buildings in a city called Elendel. Sanderson does a good job introducing these new environments and over the course of whats is a very short book, makes the world feel very large.

Sanderson’s series has always featured unique fantasy environment and The Alloy of Law hold true to that, replacing kingdoms and empires with republics and industrialization making for a rather different kind of story then most fantasy reader’s are used to while keeping the feel that Mistborn fan’s enjoyed. The only problem that came up was that the setting seemed to be a step down, from the Scadrial of Original Mistborn Trilogy. Luthadel was just as much Character as Vin or the Lord Ruler, it was a living breathing organism playing the parts of both the antagonist and the protagonist. The same could be said for all of the locations of in Sanderson’s earlier books albeit a bit less prominently. Elendel and the roughs are great locations, but that’s all they are.

Though it might be fair to lay blame at the constrictions of the novella, a story of this size just doesn’t get to have the feeling of a large sweeping world and  be a world with great depth. Perhaps with future novels and novellas Sanderson will bring back that feeling of a deep, evolving magical world.


Not that kind of magic.

Plot

The plot is a hard thing to review without giving out to many spoilers, I can however safely say that the plot of this novella is engaging and fun to read, With the main plot being rather straight forward, the romantic subplot being welcome even if it’s not great and with a couple of twists thrown in for good measure. On top of that the main arc for the protagonist Wax is well thought out and excellently executed. Overall Sanderson has crafted and enjoyable story to follow. Also two guys fight on top of a train.


Like this, but with 20% more magic.

Accessibility

One thing that any offshoot needs to be able to handle is accessibility, not every one who reads The Alloy of law is going to have read MistBorn series. That being said, Sanderson dumps new readers right into his world, explaining things as they come to the readers attention. It was actually interesting to read after heaving read the previous series, it’s obvious that Sanderson is expecting new readers with this book and he helping pull them in as well as inform them. His exposition works well and never hurts the pacing or the dialogue. What I did notice is that this book makes several references to it’s predecessors, and while I can’t say for sure but, I’d imagine that it would seem out of place for these random things to keep popping up that would seem to have little relevance to the actual story. However for those who have read it’s nice to see that the worlds hasn’t forgotten the events of the last three hundred years entirely.

Bottom line

Sanderson has built an enjoyable novel with strong pacing , unique concepts, well thought out characters set in an expansive world with and an entertaining story that promises future installments. The downsides is that the novella has a packed a lot of history into it’self which will be alien to any new readers as well as having a main character who doesn’t truly feel solid instead bouncing between multiple personalities(Though I’m sure many will argue thats is the point of Wax’s character). Returning readers will be glad to see that world Sanderson left it not one that simply lived happily ever after, instead they be able to see the Scadrial is dynamic, ever changing, generating new stories and always having another secret.

With the paperback and the E-book squaring out at $8 USD, the story is well worth the price of admission and advise anyone who enjoys a good fantasy book to give it a try.

Ever wake up in the morning and think, “Man I hate people.”  If so you’re well on your way to being a Jerk, if you’ve actually worked up the vitriol to actually tell people you hate then; and I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you are a jerk. Other symptoms to watch for include but are not limited to:

Anger
Snark
Greed
Arrogance
Lack of patience
Aggressive or passive aggressive behavior
And a general disregard for the safety and feelings of others(not to be confused with apathy towards others though it may apply as well)

What’s that? My foot up your ass you say, well okay.

The Jerk is an interesting and old character easily older then Shakespeare whom has several prominent Jerks in his works . The Jerk has survived through the generations as other characters and tropes faded into the ages, the question is, Why? Why do we love these people in media when every time you meet one in real life you have to  hold your self back from pushing them into oncoming traffic. Though truth be told there are plenty of discussions and pseudo philosophical debates as to why people like watching these characters, so instead let’s look at how to make our fictional Jerks awesome.

Skills

In most fiction you’ll find the Jerk with a group of friends/peers/cohorts, and the first question that come to mind is why do they put up with the abuse that’s leveled at them from the Jerk. One  reason why people continue to stick around the Jerk is that he’s good at what he does, so good in fact that people are willing to or have to put up with the jerk to get things done. The most recent case of this is that come to mind House from the show… well you know. House is a jerk to everyone withing ten feet of him but the patients put up with because he can save their lives, his peers put up with him because he can see things that they miss and his boss puts up with him because of the unparalleled level of success he has. People deal with House because he’s skilled if not the most skilled at what he does, and readers and watchers can admire a jerk for his prowess even if they wouldn’t want to stand next to him on any given day of the week.

It’s never lupus

Humor

Humor is one of the best ways to endear a Jerk to his audience, shows like Big Bang Theory rely on the comedic affect of their Jerk to make him interesting. Sheldon Cooper may be just as brilliant as House but his brilliance has no ties to his group of friends outside of how much it annoys them, in fact most of the time the group tries to stay as far away from Sheldon as possible. No Sheldon’s a great character and great Jerk because of his lack of understanding or concern for human emotions. These lead to situations that while you wouldn’t personally want to be apart of, you can still take a moment to laugh at them. Just remember to have reason to keep your jerk in contact with the rest of the characters in your fiction, you don’t want your audience asking themselves why this guy is hanging around, or why the rest of the guys are hanging around him. Big Bang Theory tethers Sheldon and Leonard together by making them roommates, while Leonard could leave Sheldon he’d have to give up his home to do so, similar plot devices can be used to make your fiction more reasonable. The end goal here is to make your Jerk entertaining, whether that means wacky hi-jinks ensue or that he seems to be the only sane man left in the group, either you make the audience laugh with him or laugh at him.

morals

Most people like Jerks that turn out to be decent human beings, at least for a moment or so. The major point of making your Jerk secretly nice or at least not as jerkish, is that it adds character depth, it shows us and possibly the other characters in your fiction that there’s more here then what meets the eye. Brandon Sanderson does this particularly well with two notable major characters in his Mist Born series, the first is a thief that has the magic ability to manipulate peoples emotions, the Jerk uses his magic not only to steal things but also to manipulate his friends, colleges, servants and passersby to do as he wishes or collect things he’s to lazy to get himself. Being a manipulative Jerk is a core part of his personality, but it’s reveal in later parts of the series that he doesn’t just manipulate people to get what he wants, he manipulates people to calm them down in a tense situation, or to relax away a friends fear before they get on stage to talk, Sanderson shows his Jerk going out of his way to discretely make peoples live better. And while you don’t get to hear his thoughts on why he does this, you get to hear the thoughts of the other lead characters which act a surrogate for the audience allowing them to feel similar emotions towards the Jerk, Making an annoying individual into a much more likable character.

Interests

The most important thing about you Jerk is that he has to be interesting, much like any character in any piece of fiction, one of the worst sin your jerk can commit is being boring. A Jerk has an interesting position because he already sits outside of how people act in there day to day lives, he says and does things with no fear of social backlash.Not only that the Jerk can say and do the things that the rest of your characters can’t or won’t, he can point out the holes in your heroes plans and call your damsel in distress out on her love triangle non-sense and generally lampshape much of the drama that’s going on. Particularly savvy Jerks can see the what looks like a standard plot point and act to avoid it, or manipulate it for his own benefit, though if he’s not skilled he’s the one who can say “I told you so.” Your Jerk is most likely going to be an amalgam of the things stated much like any character worth his font, and it goes without saying that all the things you do make interesting, unique and believable character also applies to your Jerk, your jerk doesn’t have to be skilled jerk, he doesn’t have to be a funny jerk, he doesn’t have to be a jerk with a heart of gold, but he can’t just be a jerk jerk. Because at that point the character isn’t only boring, he’s also annoying and most folks already have enough annoying people they want to punch in the face in their day to day, don’t add your jerk to that list.

imageI’ve had enough of your disingenuiness assertions