This edition of “Fantasy Review” is for Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer, the third part of The Stormlight Archive series. For a quick refresher of what’s happened in the previous two books, you can read a synopsis of the story so far from Tor.com. Some spoilers follow. Synopsis: After battling against the Parshendi and their new storm, Dalinar Kholin and his Alethi troops take shelter in the city of Urithiru—the ancient home of the Knights Radiant. They set up a base there to try and regroup as the Everstorm rages around the entire world. Reports show that when the Everstorm hits a location, all the Parshmen change into warform and flee. Besides the few groups of Parshmen that hurt or kill on their way out of the cities, this also leaves the nations without a working class. As life settles in Urithiru, Dalinar and his Kights—Kaladin, Shallan, and Renarin—attempt to make peace with the other nations, and beg to use the Oathgates, which would transport people and supplies across the world instantly. Very few monarchs take the bait, assuming it is a trap by the Alethi to conquer their lands. Meanwhile, Alethkar suddenly goes silent. No news comes from the city, or from Elhokar’s queen and child who still live there. Elhokar convinces Dalinar to allow him to sneak into the city with some of the Radiants and try to take it back by opening the Oathgate. In Alethkar, though, there are more than just Voidbringers and Fused. There are also some of the Unmade, ancient spren who are splinters of Odium. When Elhokar’s team runs into these creatures, it seems their mission is doomed. The group (plus or minus a few of their numbers) is transported to Shadesmar—the realm of spren—and unable to return to their own land. Pros: This world is so rich. The characters are amazingly diverse. The storytelling done here is among the best I have ever read. Brandon weaves a world that is so tangible, so fleshed out. His characters act like people, doing things that make sense to them. Each is unique, with their own cares and concerns. That’s tricky to do when you have hundreds of characters! For this part of the story, I loved Adolin the most. He’s really grown since being introduced as a shallow playboy. I was actually concerned for him at the end of Words of Radiance. When he killed Sadias, I thought Adolin would slowly go mad from the guilt. Plus, he’s got a fiancé who’s a Knight Radiant, a father who is a Knight Radiant, and a brother who is a Knight Radiant. I anticipated he’d eventually succumb to jealousy. I was so wrong, and so glad I was so wrong! Adolin is a caring, hardworking, slightly vain person who only has the good of the Alethi people in his mind. I can’t get over how much I came to care for him during this book. Also, during book two, there was a hint of something between Shallan and Kaladin. I didn’t mind the idea, as Shallan and Adolin hadn’t really formed a deep bond yet. However, in Oathbringer, when there are hints of a love triangle, I never once wanted Shallan to side with Kaladin. Adolin is too good a match for Shallan. They are very well suited. And his handling of her increased shifts between personalities shows he cares for her, no matter her current form. Near the end, there was a sort of Star Wars moment (similar to when Han tells Leia he’ll stay out of her and Luke’s way in Return of the Jedi). Like Leia, Shallan sets Adolin straight, letting him know she loved him and that her other personalities can’t dictate her decisions. Another piece I loved about this installment was Dalinar’s flashbacks. We finally got to see his wife, Evi, and what happened to cause him to lose his memories. I cried several times near the conclusion of the book, when Dalinar thinks of his lost wife, and the pain that returns with all his memories. It was heartbreaking. But, Dalinar is such an amazing character. He’s strong. He’s unyielding. He won’t break under any amount of pressure. I was also surprised how much I came to like Dalinar during this book. I felt Shallan and Kaladin were more central to the first two novels, but Dalinar really shone in this one. I think of him as the main character, the hero of the story, much more than Kaladin. Cons: This story is huge. Almost intimidatingly big. There’s a ton of information and side plots, and considering the first two novels had just as much information and side plots… there’s a lot to keep track of. While I enjoyed all of these stories so far, I can’t reread them before each release. They don’t enthrall me the way Wheel of Time did. So remembering what happened to one minor character in the first book and piecing it together with what’s happening in the third book is rather difficult. The online synopsis was very helpful with refreshing my memory, but it doesn't even come close to listing all the minor plot lines that weave through this story. Conclusion: This tale is a great addition to the whole of the series. It was the book I enjoyed most out of the three. I loved the way the characters’ lives developed (particularly Adolin and Shallan) and how they all fought together in the final battle in the novel. When Dalinar stood before Odium with his assembled Knights, my heart rate sped up. It was a powerful moment. Rating: 5 out of 5 You can purchase a copy of Oathbringer from Dragonmount's DRM-free ebook store.
Long time Wheel of Time commentator, Leigh Butler, has released her top five scenes within the series. With a rekindled reading of The Wheel of Time currently underway at Tor.com, Leigh seems eager to get back on her soap box and sing the praises of this wonderful collection of books. Warning! Spoilers follow! In her full article, Leigh argues why each one is especially significant to the plot, the characters, and the entertainment of the readers. Do you agree or disagree with Leigh's picks? One of my personal favorites is when Mat finds out Tuon is really the Daughter of the Nine Moons (which didn't even make the list of honorable mentions). Don't forget to check out Tor.com's Reading the Wheel of Time, which chronicles Kelsey Jefferson Barrett's initial journey into our beloved series.
This “Fantasy Review” is for The Stone Sky, the third and final book in The Broken Earth series, by N.K. Jemisin. Synopsis: Essun is still determined to find her daughter, Nessun. The comm of Castrima Under—where Essun currently dwells—has been damaged by their war with Rennaris. The people must find a new place to ride out the Fifth Season. Due to Essun’s annihilation of the Rennarin people, the comm decides to travel the far distance to the now-abandoned city. Essun’s still plans to grab the moon when its orbit circles close, but there is still time before she must leave her place within the com. Nessun, meanwhile, begins her trek to the other side of the world, with Shaffa and the Stone Eater, Steel, as companions. Steel can transport them through the earth, but Nassun fears the Stone Eater may “accidently” lose Shaffa on the journey. This means a longer way is necessary, going to an ancient station capable of taking them through the earth’s core. But at the earth’s center is something far more frightening than Steel’s mode of transportation. Mixed in with these two accounts is a flashback into Hoa’s past, where the events that lead to the war with Father Earth are finally revealed. Pros: I loved the addition of Hoa’s storyline. It was terrible seeing the beginning of orogenes and the atrocities the ancient society did in order to maintain peace and balance. The choices Hoa and his kind made are understandable, and parallel the conflict within Essun and Nassun. Essun wishes to save the earth by grabbing the moon. Nassun, based on Shaffa’s pessimistic—or maybe weary—view of the world, wishes for it, and Father Earth, to die. I was also pleasantly pleased by the actual ending, the last chapter. SPOILER: I thought the perfect match for Essun was Innon and Alabaster; the three of them together made a wonderful family. However, seeing her paired with Hoa was heartwarming. Essun’s life was so horrible and filled with so much tragedy, it was uplifting to see she wound up with a happy ending. Cons: Once we got the reunion between mother and daughter, the character motivations were understandable, but rather annoying. The reader has the benefit of seeing the character’s thoughts, so I was frustrated when the two were unable to communicate their desires to the other. Like I said, understandable considering all that had happened between them, but at the same time, I wanted to shake them both and make them talk it out! Alas, too much had transpired, too much harm had been done—to both of them. Conclusion: This was a fantastic final. Satisfying and rather hopeful for a brighter future. I’d been doubting whether this would have a happy ending or not. And it surprisingly does. Or maybe—to coin a phrase from the romance genre—a Happy For Now. I loved everything about this series, the characters, the world, the magic. It was emotional the whole way through, tugging on my heartstrings over and over and over. I was very sad when it ended. I could read so much more in this world. Perhaps Jemisin will revisit the world a thousand years in the future—like Brandon Sanderson’s ideas for Mistborn. Rating: 4 out of 5 For more from N. K. Jemisin, you can check out her website.
Earlier today, Barnes & Noble released a detailed analysis of many components that make up The Wheel of Time series. The article focuses on wordcount, and how that applies to several areas of the novels, including character's gender, character's nationality, character's occupation, as well as words per book, and words averaged per chapter. It's a bit overwhelming to look at it in number form, but author Kevin Klein does a fantastic job of explaining what each graph represents, and what we can infer from viewing them all together. If you're in the mood for some deep thinking—or you happen to be in the White or Brown Ajahs—check out Klein's article!
Later this month, Tor.com will be kicking off a new column devoted to reading The Wheel of Time, aptly named "Reading the Wheel of Time." This weekly article will be headed by Kelsey Jefferson Barrett. Barrett, though steeped in sci-fi and fantasy, has yet to embark on a journey through The Wheel of Time series. He will be looking at it all through a new lens and with fresh perspective. Barrett's first steps through Randland will debut Tuesday, February 20th. To celebrate this, and encourage everyone to read along, Tor.com is giving away free ebook copies of The Eye of the World to Tor's Ebook Club members! The free copies can only be redeemed February 13th, 14th, and 15th! Be sure to act quickly so you don't get left behind! Wheel of Time fans rallied behind Leigh Butler and her reread on Tor.com, and I'm sure Barrett will do an equally amazing job of seeing the depth and complexities that make up Robert Jordan's universe. I'm excited to gaze upon its wonder for the first time--even if only by association.
This edition of “Fantasy Review” is for The Obelisk Gate, the second novel in N. K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth series. This book was also awarded the Hugo for Best Novel in 2017. It’s easy to see why. Synopsis: Reunited with Alabaster, Essun once again becomes the learner. He has plans—and since he is turning into a rock—it’s up to Essun to finish them. They try to make the best of things in their new comm, Castrima, but when the world is breaking down, no place is safe. Not only do they need to contend with a dwindling food supply due to the ash-filled sky, but wild animals mutate during a Season, and their evolved abilities can be devastating. When Alabaster finally reveals his mission of catching the moon, Essun wonders if she can accomplish such a fete. Meanwhile, Jija and Nassun travel for a year to reach the safety—and a promised cure for orogeny—in Found Moon. There, Nassun is put in the charge of three Guardians—all of whom have panicked and given their bodies over to the voices inside their heads. The leader of the bunch is Schaffa and he takes a particular liking to Nassun and eventually makes the connection of her being the daughter of Syenite. While Jija wants Nassun to cure herself of orogeny, her desire to help Schaffa pushes her powers to new and startling depths. Pros: These characters are amazing! So developed, captivating, realistic. It’s easy to understand Essun’s choices and her point of view of the world. Her struggles—trying to piece together the life of Syenite, which Alabaster represents, and her life as a mother, which Lerna represents—resonate with raw emotions. This was another book that made me cry. The evolution of the magic system is one of the main driving forces in this novel. With Alabaster’s help, Essun is able to sense something that is not orogeny. It’s described as silver, and it is dubbed as “magic.” With magic and orogeny, Essun’s task to grab the moon may be in reach. Nassun takes more prominence. Her powers grow incredibly fast once she’s under the care and guidance of the Guardians. It’s hard to get a good read on Schaffa’s character. He’s been portrayed as nothing but evil since book one, and Nassun’s favorable opinion of him makes me think he may be redeemed. Or perhaps he’s able to con Nassun easier than he could Syenite. And though Alabaster is not very active in this storyline, he is still my favorite character. Though I also grew to like Hoa—the stone eater who has claimed Essun. The end of the first novel revealed him as the narrator, and knowing that it’s his perspective gave a lot more insight to his character. I’m really interested in the link between orogenes and the stone eaters. It seems like an Aes Sedai/Warder type relationship, but it does have hints of something more sinister. Cons: The pace slowed down a lot from the first book. In The Fifth Season, it covered three different timelines spread out over 30 years. So for this novel to have the scope of only one year, it seemed like not many things were happening at once. Not necessarily a bad thing, a slow pace does not mean a boring book. But for me, personally, it didn’t feel as sweeping and encompassing as the previous novel. Conclusion: I am amazed at the writing of the these novels, the tone and voice, the growth of characters, the details of the world. This one slowed down a bit, but I’m still loving the journey. I’m hoping the concluding novel, The Stone Sky, gives me the epic finale I’m waiting for. Rating: 4 out of 5 For more from N. K. Jemisin, you can check out her website.
This edition of “Fantasy Review” is for The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin. This story was the winner of the 2016 Hugo for Best Novel. And it was a fantastic read! Slight spoilers follow. Synopsis: The earth is in fluctuation. Father Earth hates the humans who inhabit him, and he is constantly spewing his molten blood to their surface homes. Periods where his anger is most fierce are called Seasons, and ash clouds block out the sky for decades, if not centuries. Essun doesn’t even notice when the Season starts because she is lost in grief over the death of her son. He was murdered by Jija, his father, her husband. Jija discovered the child was an orogene—a person given less-than-human status who is able to control the shifts and energy within the earth—a skill inherited from Essun. She sets out to track Jija down and make him pay for the murder of her youngest child. Damaya is a girl who recently discovered she was an orogene. A Guardian—members who keep the orogenes’ magic in check—is sent to bring her back to the Fulcrum to learn to control her powers. The Guardian is not there protect her, but to protect the rest of humanity from her. She struggles to find her place in life and in the Fulcrum. Syenite is a four-ringer orogene. She is chosen for a mission, and is forced to take Alabaster—a ten-ringer—along. The Fulcrum pairs them with instructions to mate. The child of Alabaster is sure to be powerful, so he is often used in breeding. The two are an unlikely couple, but along the way they bond over trials and tribulation. But Alabaster’s more than a little mad, and he might drag Syenite into insanity with him. Pros: The synopsis is long and detailed because the story and its characters are so detailed. The richness of this tale cannot be explained with words. It is emotion, deep and sometimes unsettling. The world is cruel and the characters seem to suffer more than their fair share of the despair. But they all persevere. It is a theme through the novel: no matter how often Father Earth sends ash clouds, the human race has not died off yet. But, the story seems to suggest maybe they should. Out of all the characters, I loved Alabaster the most. I could see a bit of Rand in him—driven slightly mad by the infinite power he can wield. He cracked under the strain of his life, but kept living in spite of it all. He and Syenite together were wonderful and engrossing. Though never a true romantic pairing, there is a sense of love between them—transcending the bond forged from forced lovers. Their time together was the most enjoyable to read. Syenite herself was just as capable as Alabaster, but not nearly as wounded from the ways of the Fulcrum. Much of that may have stemmed from her powers—she’s nowhere near as powerful as him. One scene in particular with them made my heart ache with its loveliness. My emotions were stirred so deeply, I thought of this scene for days. But I won’t say more, in fear of too many spoilers. The stories of Essun and Damaya were both interesting. The pain in Essun after the loss of her son was so vivid. And Damaya, packed up and shipped off to a place she would lose her status as human, was equally pitying. I couldn’t get enough of this world and these characters. Cons: The format. I’ve made statements about this in regard to other books. It think this is my old-fashioned look on genre fiction. The standard is 3rd person omnipotent, past tense. Those are the rules. I think this works because when dealing with such fantastical ideas and worlds, clear and concise language solidifies it in the mind of the reader. But, this is all personal preference. It had no bearing on the enjoyment of the story. The weird—or maybe “not common” is a better description—format in this novel comes at you from two fronts. First, the writing is done in present tense. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but something that readers might not be used to. And the other front? All the chapters from Essun’s perspective are written in 2nd person point of view. The reader is given the persona of Essun, letting them experience the world more clearly through her eyes. The other characters remain in 3rd person. Does this format work? Yes, it does. It’s sort of explained why this format is used, as well. I will be honest and admit it threw me off at first. However, the characters, plot, and setting quickly grabbed me back and steadied me. After I got used to this way of looking at the story, it was not a hindrance at all. And that is the only con I can even come close to saying. This novel was brilliant and near perfect in its execution. Conclusion: I was awed by this story. The worldbuilding was incredible, the characters three dimensional with flaws and faults, their exploits riveting. It’s very easy to see why it was awarded the Hugo. The day I completed this novel, I began reading the second in the series. Rating: 5 out of 5 For more from N. K. Jemisin, you can check out her website.
Frederick "Ted" Field, an Executive Producer with Sony, may be making some announcements about the potential Wheel of Time television series in the near future. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Field's sudden luck with the successful Jumani: Welcome to the Jungle film late last year may help with developments for The Wheel of Time show. They state that Field has several big announcements coming soon, and "[o]ne of those announcements will be a television series for Wheel of Time, a fantasy series based on the work of Robert Jordan that has been compared to Game of Thrones. This franchise has been the subject of much mystery and speculation. When FXX rushed the production of a pilot and aired it at the odd hour of 1:30 am, all sorts of discussion proceeded on message boards and in the news media on whether the gambit was an attempt by one production company to hold onto rights. That led to a slander lawsuit, which was later settled. Now, Field is prepared to announce a future for Wheel of Time." Adam Whitehead laments that while Sony holds the rights, they haven't found a network to air the show, and Narg the Trolloc has an up-to-date list about who might be able to host the series once the planning stage is complete. Hopefully we'll hear something soon. We're all very anxious for any developments that lead Rand, Mat, Perrin, and all the others, closer to our TV screens.
Wheel of Time Spoilers is a newish podcast (the first episode aired April 2017), so it might be under the radar for many Wheel of Time fans. The hosts, Seth and Patrick, began with personal stories of how they first started reading the series, then moved onto background information about the world of the Wheel (ie: the Age of Legends, the Breaking), then jumped into a chronological reread/discussion of The Eye of the World. They are currently on The Great Hunt, but the latest episode is a diversion from their norm; they invited Jason Denzel to talk with them. Besides sharing stories about Dragonmount's origins, Jason discusses his fan-turned-friend relationship with Robert Jordan, all in a nearly two-hour episode packed full of everything you need to know if you call yourself a Wheel of Time fan. Fans of Jason's own writing will rejoice too, because there are lots of details about his journey to being a published author. He talks about how Mystic evolved from an intended screenplay to a full-fledged trilogy, and shares his experiences on working with Tor. Wheel of Time Spoilers is very focused on interacting with fans of the series. You can join their Discord channel, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, or even get special content by becoming a Patreon patron.