Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Having survived Sadeas betrayal through the unexpected aid of the bridge four crew Dalinar steps up his efforts to unite the High Princes, knowing that an unfathomable danger is just around the corner. Kaladin the leader of bridge four finds himself assigned as head of  Dalinar's bodyguard. While he doesn't entirely trust him, due to his social station, he knows that bridge four's only hope is for Dalinar to remain alive. Meanwhile Shallan finds herself in grave danger. The ship is attacked by assassins leaving Jasnah dead and Shallan as possibly the sole survivor. She needs to continue her journey to the shattered plains, knowing the very fate of the world could lie in her completing Jasnah's mission.

There is a lot right with Sanderson's second installment in the Storm Light archives series. This very well might be Sanderson's finest piece of world-building combining a vivid-landscape  with a long history and various peoples. These are explored in greater depth than the first volume.

Dalinar, Kaladin and Shallan remain the three main protagonists and the pay off in particular from Kaladin and Shallan as they mature throughout the book is very rewarding. I also enjoyed the exploration in the complex motivations of side characters and groups.

In no uncertain terms this is a large novel. Yet at no point did I find myself experiencing any lag as the plots developed, a sign of exceptional pacing.

There is also an unexpected depth to some of the subplots, as complex issues such as racism are explored in a very mature way.

Sadly Sanderson's biggest struggle remains his attempts to improve the humor in his writing.  There are number of examples where this felt forced and made some of the character's almost 'cartoony' at times. Having said that there were moments when he did get it right, some of the interactions between Pattern and Shallan being the best examples. The only other negative comment I have is the choice of using some words in dialogue which do not gel with the setting and do lead to moments where I lost my immersion in the story.

Overall the second installment of this series is combination of excellent world-building, character development and pacing. Minor issues in forced humor provides a slight distraction at times. 8.5/10.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: Thornlost by Melanie Rawn

After finally winning a place on the summer circuit the members of Touchstone find themselves in a seemingly secure position. In addition to their success on stage they have gained a valuable ally within the royal family. However all is not as calm below the surface. Mieka's marriage is marred by an act of domestic violence that has Cade concerned that they are taking the first steps into one of the horrible visions of the future. The Archduke and his pet group Black Lightening have their own agenda for Touchstone as well.

The centerpiece of the series remains the complex relationship between Cade and Mieka which continues to steal the show. However I found the support characters developed to a very satisfying degree in this installment as well.

The sheer complex historical and social structure of Rawn's creation is highlighted extremely well with Touchstone's role in the movement for women's rights and the hints of the Black lightening stirring up long dormant racial tensions.

This series and this novel in particular are perfect examples of putting character development and interaction at the forefront of a story providing a base for building the plot around. I definitely found the story had a tighter focus than the last installment which I am extremely pleased about.

Overall this is certainly the strongest installment in this series to date 8.75/10.