Posts Tagged ‘story’

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.

The last time I wrote a character focus it was about a villain you could respect, maybe even love. This time were going to focus on a much different kind of character, one who get’s slapped around by a dwarf, one who let’s his sword be stolen by a little girl, on who hides behind his mothers skirts. This weeks Character Focus presents none other than Joffrey Baratheon.


May the Others take him.

For those of you who don’t know, Joffery Baratheon is one of the major antagonist in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series,  for those of you who haven’t read the books I need to post some quite obvious spoiler warnings

spoilers Ahead

That ought to work, now down to business. Joff is signigficantly different then most  characters and even villains that you read about these days, mostly because he’s a intolerable twat. Most writer’s resources will tell you that your villains need to be deep and likable in one way or another, Joff however stands out as being as deep as dry lake bed and only being slightly well like more the AIDs and yet the character serves his purpose quite well and while I may never like Joff, I always have some sort of emotional response to his scenes, albeit it’s mostly hate, mixed with some disgust. So how do we emulate such response from our readers regarding our dastardly villains?

Threat: somebody is going to die

Martin is well know as an author who loses little sleep from killing beloved characters, and when Joffery takes center stage that threat becomes overbearing, When ever he has scene the tension jumps dramatically simply because of the characters reputation. In the TV show Game of Thrones, Joff has Ned Stark beheaded even though his mother and all of his councilors had planned to spare him. In the Show this is done in the middle of a courtyard, but in the books it’s done in the middle of a temple so that everybody got the idea that this was to be a pardoning not an execution. Joff made short work of that and the started off on his own blody rain of death and brutality.

plotting: The best laid plans…

Outside of fits of violence the boy king can be counted on to make bad decisions,  which act as boon to enemies and torment to his family. In book series like A Song of  Ice and Fire which follows characters from every side of the central conflict, you have to juggle success and failure vary carefully, because for evert victory a pov character has counts as failure on another, let one person grow to strong and the book becomes one sided. Joffery helps balance out the successes of his compatriots who normally wouldn’t make such foolish mistakes, and forces them to work around Joffery’s madness.

Foils: Making Men out of monsters

For those of you who aren’t in the know, a dramatic foil(just foil for short) is when a pair of characters are paired together to make there traits stand out, often done in a simple fashion to make strong characters look stronger and make smart characters to look smarter. However a foil can be used for far more the exemplifying simple traits, it can be used to muffle them as well  take Joffery’s loyal hound Sandor Clegane, who spends most of his time drinking, killing, and the drinking some more. Yet in moments when he, Sansa are together, the reader has to pause and really think about whether or not Sandor is all that bad of guy. Joff has a similar affect on everybody around him, by the nature of being the most monstrously hated character in the room, everybody else looks like better person for it.

 
“I may have started a war that killed million and committed acts of genocide, but at least I never laid a hand on Sansa Stark”- Hitler

Joffery is going to go down as one of the most hated characters in the history of American fiction, he’s craven, crule, incompotent, he’s everything that writers are told to avoid, but leave it to writer like Martin to pull off such a character in such a splendid fashion, and let it be reminder to other writers out there that at the end of the day, write the characters you want to write, write the characters you need to write and don’t let any other writer tell you otherwise even if that writing leads to little incestful balls of hatred and abomination so evil that Dalek wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole.

This week’s feature story come from Mike Aguerro over at Night Mares of a writer, who asked me if I could feature a manuscript of his episode from work in progress series Icarus. The main reason I decided to feature mike is because he asked, and his asking meant I didn’t have to put down A Storm of Swords or get out of my sick bed and hunt down somebody else and read their work then get permission from them to post the work. What I’m trying to say is that I’m both sick and lazy and people who want to be featured should take advantage of my sick and lazy nature.

The secondary reason I featured Mike’s work is because I’ve not yet featured a screenplay on the site and I think screenplays can teach writers some very useful lesson that get drowned out in when try to write a novel or short story. The problem with novel writing is that it throws a lot of things at you and requires you to learn them all at once, you need to understand character Pov, setting, flow, dialogue and ect… . A screen play simplifies  at least two of those things, those being setting and pov and instead focuses you in on the dialogue of the characters to drive your story forwards. That doesn’t mean the other things aren’t important, but for us novel writers reading a manuscript let’s us focus on the dialogue and find out what works, what doesn’t and why.

So without further adieu I present you Icarus: Wayfaring Sherif

By Micheal Aguerro

___

If you enjoyed this bit of writing I urge you to jump over to Nightmare of a writer and give the rest of his works a read or listen to the podcast we share together, or if your truly bored you could read his actual blog posts.

As a side note to anyone who’s following and wondering why most post schedule is off…. again, I’ve been sick in bed for the past week and have just gotten to my computer as of today to write something. hopefully something resembling a post schedule will resume next Monday with another character focus.

I’m thinking of dropping some of my writing onto the site, just wanted some feed back from you guys

I’m a little behind so this week I’m linking in our latest podcast episode which actually doesn’t have a whole lot of me, but does get a whole lot of craft time at the end of it. I do need to throw an nsfw tag on here for the amount of swearing mike manages to do in a hours time

http://aroundthetrunk.blogspot.com/2012/09/episode-four-episode-four-redudant.html

Intro:

Tyler talks about short story idea he had.

FTL

Tyler and I discuss the FTL:Faster than light, a new steam game that came out this week. It’s only nine bucks. Go buy it.

Stuff about the Podcast while we wait for Chris

We talk about the new intros, the cover art, and Max Scoville’s Free Ipad Miley Cyrus Nudes.

Idle Banter

River World by Phillip Jose Farmer !Spoilers!

Chris finally shows up
We talk stories across different mediums and Tyler recommends Rising Stars and then proceeds to spoil it pretty thoroughly, so check it out.

I talk about a comic Idea I was playing with and move into a discussion about writing in comics as a medium.

Then we talk Movies, TV, HBO

Part Two

Tyler leaves, we continues talking game of thrones and move into a discussion of chapter formats.
We then talk about characters, their motivations and backgrounds informing their dialog and
actions without resorting to exposition dumping.

We also talk about Microsoft one note for a bit. We then get back to characters and give some our examples from our own writing.

We talk about stories and arcs and a bunch of writing craft related things. There is a discussion of easter eggs, and the difference between theft and homage. Narration in other mediums, Burn Notice
and actors playing characters. We then finish up with a light discussion of Doctor Who Companions.

Can’t seem to keep a schedule if my life were on the line this past couple of weeks, but without further adieu allow me to present the first chapter of The Legacy of Blaze: The Nightmare by Glenn Rosado. I picked Rosado’s work because of his ability to create an atmosphere that draws you in and then bring in characters that turn you on your head. Aspiring novelist and writers can pick up on how Rosado uses rising and falling suspension through his characters and setting to keep the readers interested. A note to writers, if you have the tension ramped up to eleven all the time then the audience will eventually grow accustomed to it, by switching it up you give the reader reason believe that when you do dial it up to eleven, that the impending doom you dropped down on your protagonist is truly impendingly doomful.

The Legacy of Blaze: The Nightmare

By: Glenn Rosado

The building was a shadow in the distance. Seth Blaze walked around the building where he was met by a rusty fence, he jumped, grabbed the steel frame at the top, taking care not to grab one of the metal wires sticking out with his arm as he went over, and splashed into a puddle.

He immediately noticed the back door had been left ajar. They couldn’t have found out, he said to himself. He always took extra care in making sure that he wasn’t followed.

Seth moved to the door, his green eyes reflected off the small-rectangular-glass window with the help of the flickering light overhead. He made sure not to make a noise, as if the loud splash wouldn’t have given him away already. If it had, whoever was inside, would have surely made themselves visible by now, he thought. He planted his back against the door while using his left arm to slowly open it, he peeked through, and as he made his way inside…

WACK.

Seth was met with a hand across his face that could have shattered a glass window clean, his eyes shut from the force, all he could see were puffy stars floating around, and somehow, amidst the ringing in his ears, hears a voice echo: “So you think you can just run away from everything?”

Rita Higgins, came into view once the room stopped spinning. Seth might have been pretty good at Kung-Fu, but Rita had always had a knack of showing him up ever since they were little. She stood there with her long blonde hair, hands on her hips and a look that should have burnt a hole through his skull. He could have sworn he saw her eyes turn from blue to red just for an instant. The truth was, Seth had always had a bit of a crush on her ever since they were younger. But it never materialized into anything mushy. Whenever he did something foolish, she would always be there to keep him in line, and for some odd reason that was the one trait that he admired from her more than anything else.

“You,” Seth started, rubbing his cheek back into feeling, “followed me here?”

“I decided to follow you from your apartment the other day,” she snapped back. “I thought I would surprise you when you showed up today, to the abandoned warehouse, in the middle of nowhere!” a bit of smoke poured out of her ears just then. The nightmares had been getting so vivid that it had been draining him mentally. He didn’t want her to see him in this state because he wouldn’t hear the end of it if she or Darius knew. So he tried his best to hide it by letting out a sarcastic laugh that only seemed to anger Rita even more. “You surprised me all right.”

“Where have you been?” she said with a look on her face that would melt an ice cream cone in the middle of winter. “Me and Darius have been worried sick. Every time we try visiting you, your uncle always says you’re not in. Why have you been dodging us lately?”

Seth had seen that look a hundred times before. One time when they were younger, six or seven maybe– when Father was around and there was no Empire–he had gone climbing the big oak tree that was planted in his front yard, alone. Attempting to beat her highest point. He put in a considerable amount of effort to find the right branches to latch onto, but he eventually beat it. The problem was that with all of his mind and energy focused on getting past her mark, he had not readily thought of a plan on how he was going to get down. It took him awhile to finally start climbing down, and as he got closer to the ground, one of the branches snapped and he went falling down, breaking his leg in the process. Father had arrived home from work when he found him with his back against the trunk of the old tree, holding his leg. When Rita came to see him later that day, she gave him a look he would not soon forget. A look that said: “That will teach you to go climbing without me.” That same look was being used on him as a weapon, like a child giving her parents the puppy face look to get what she wanted. Rita was trying to get what she wanted– an answer.

“I’ve been really busy, that’s all.” He said trying not to look her in the eye. She knew better though. “I can see that,” she said, looking around the abandoned warehouse. “So this is all the equipment from the school your dad used to train us in?”

“Yup,” he said, “he somehow got it all to this warehouse before… he vanished.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” she said. “You know you can come to us for anything.”

Seth made his way over to one of the heavy bags against the wall. “I wanted to be alone for a while.”

“We were close to your father as well, you know.”

“I know,” he said as he started to jab the bag. “Well, school is going to start back up in a week; you’re at least coming back for that right?” Seth did his best to hide a smile. “Of course,” he replied, “wouldn’t miss it for the world.” But that was a lie of course. Truth was he wasn’t looking forward to it at all. We’re all just going to be working the mines in a couple of years, he said to himself, biting his tongue, so why bother? But Seth knew that he couldn’t win, not against Rita, not when it dealt with issues such as this. “Why don’t you tell me what’s really bothering you?”

Seth stopped punching the bag all of a sudden and looked her in the eyes, “You would laugh at me if I told you.” She locked eyes with him for a moment, which indicated to Seth that she wasn’t much for playing games, and then said, “Try me.”

Seth stared at her for a minute before giving in, finally, spilling out the nightmare he’d been having every day, for the better part of a year, at the hour before dawn; and how it was always the same: ominous dark figures coming into his room to take him away to some dungeon in the middle of nowhere. He found himself somewhat relieved to have all of that weight off his shoulders, but Rita just stood there gazing at him for a second–then let out a hysterical laugh. “Shh,” he said, reminding her of the repercussions if someone were to find out that he had been using this building for his own personal gym. “We aren’t supposed to be here, remember?”

“Oops, sorry,” she said, cupping her hands over her mouth as if her laughs somehow had a mind of their own. “So is that the big problem, a nightmare?”

“See– I knew you would laugh,” Seth snapped while turning back to punish the bag, leaving little dents from his knuckles plastered all over the rubber, “and then you wonder why I’ve been in solitude for the last month.”

“Ok, I’m sorry I can see why that would be a problem. Now it all makes sense. Have you tried seeing someone about it?”

“And have them laugh at me like you just did? No, thanks.”

“Not if you see a–” she paused, “what do you call those doctors that put you to sleep?”

“A hypnotherapist?” he shot back. “Do you know how much they cost? You would have to work three shifts in the mines just to afford one session.”

“Well, then we could try and see if we can dig up any medical books that have some sort of instructions we could use. So we can find out the meaning of the dream and hopefully put an end to them.”

“Where are we going to find that?” he asked. “You know there haven’t been any libraries around since before the purge.”

She walked over to Seth and stopped in front of the bag, before saying, “Leave that part up to me.” Then she cocked her hand back and rocked the bag with a punch.
___

If you enjoyed this snipped of Rosado’s work then take a moment to read the rest of this chapter and the two other chapters that been posted on his blog also named Legacy of Blaze. don’t forget to stop by tomorrow as The Acrhetype releases a new series of articles called Character Focus  which will take a moment to look at characters from all over fiction and find out what makes them great, grand or grotesque. Starting with this years hit masked, back breaking villain.