The Way of Kings
Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Everything has grown or develop ways to handle those storms. Ten consecrated orders existed once, now long gone but their weapons and armour persist. The Shardblades and Shardplate of the Radiant Knights, capable of transforming men into near invincible warriors. Linchpins of wars.
This book has a three main characters, plus a few extra characters that provide context and world building. The three main characters are Kaladin – an apprentice surgeon turned soldier turned slave; Dalinar – a highprince and skilled general, fearing for his sanity; and Shallan – an unskilled girl with a love of learning, planning a daring theft.
Most of the other extra characters provide information in the interludes between parts of the book. Though Dalinar’s son Adolin sometimes features during the main parts – most often during Dalinar’s section providing context and extra information regarding the war camps that Dalinar has a role in commanding.
I’ve never minded having multiple viewpoints in a book but Sanderson in particular has a distinct skill for each character possessing a distinct personality and motivations. It’s always clear which character you are with and what section of the story is the current focus. There is a focus for whose background you are getting the most information from though. In this book the focus of back story is Kaladin. There are various chapters throughout where we learn of Kaladin’s past. How he becomes and soldier and how he ends up a slave. As ever struggling to protect the people he claims as his own. Despite the length of this book (which is divided into two no less) it was a quick read, and I was able to jump into it so very easily. Even though I didn’t want to put it down (sleep? what is sleep?) I never had any trouble reorienting where I was in the novel. As I got to the end of the second book there were small hints of information, this is an epic world-building in every sense. There are small scraps of information woven throughout that you might not notice fulling on the first reading.
You could read this book as its separate parts quite easily, the selected break point makes sense for the story and still leaves you with a completed feeling for the novel, but finishing the first part left me and an overwhelming desire to dive straight into the second part. But if you aren’t sure, or have less time then you do have that option. Overall, definitely a 5-star read for me and I’m looking forward to an eventual reread to catch small details that I missed the first time around. There are quite a few that I caught. but others that I obviously missed.
A Dance of Fate
This novel follows on from the previous book, with of course a minor time skip. The last book ended on Liobhan and Dau going to tell Liobhan’s parents about Broccs decision. We join them again at the very end of their Swan Island training, having a display bout to determine which of them finishes the training as first or second pick. A formality that goes wrong in all the worst ways when Dau is injured by freak accident. What follows is the discovery of Dau’s background and all the horrible things that lie at the heart of his past.
I dove into this book right after finishing the first, eager to see what the next story would show. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get the see the visit with Liobhan’s parents but I can’t be too sad since it means we jump straight into the meat of this book. It is another gripping tale even when the focus is more on Dau overcoming the pain of the past as opposed to completing a specific task. We also get to see more of the Otherworld as Brocc now lives there. For Brocc, it seems like he is a bit caught between how he was raised and where he now finds himself. Which is not helped by the fact that the Fae Queen is not entirely sure how to be in a relationship either. These parts of the book were not as gripping as the rest of the story but it did provide some important hints and set up some things for the ending. This books’ theme almost seems to be miscommunication. Since there are many instances where if the characters spoke up about their thoughts maybe things would go a little better. But much like in real life people don’t share those inner most thoughts like that.
Again Marillier stuns with complex characters and realistic responses to the situations. We see more of Liobhan’s stubbornness to stick out hardship, even in a role where she needs to keep her head down. Dau’s injury was well handled – I thoroughly wanted to thump him upside the head for his stubbornness. But even feeling that I also understood that I probably wouldn’t have handled suddenly being blind with any more grace. It did make me glad that I live in a day and age where medicine is a little more reliable. All the potential hate I had towards Dau in the first book was well saved for Dau’s oldest brother. All I can say is damn there were some messed up things that happened there. But again there was a surprise by the Dau’s other brother. Once again reminding me that refreshingly complex characters seem to be a standard from this author.
An outstanding read and solid 5-stars, as I’ll want to read it again. The most disappointing part was reaching the end and realising I’d have to wait for the release of the third book.
The Harp of Kings
Liobhan and Brocc are brother and sister in training to join the elite Swan Island warriors. They are selected to go on an undercover mission during their training due to their musical abilities. To find the magical Harp of Kings that has been stolen and return it so that the new King can be coronated. However, there is more going on than they realise.
This book pretty much grabbed me at the start and didn’t let me go until I finished the story. The overall story line was recover the king selection mcguffin to allow the Crown Prince to be formally crowned king. The details are always more involved, a crown prince who doesn’t want what’s best for his kingdom, druids who know more than they wish to tell, and a child who gave Liobhan the hints of what is really going on. The Celtic air of this novel is really engaging. The inclusion of the Fae, not in their all powerful, mess with humankind selves is woven in masterfully. A dwindling race that are fighting to keep themselves safe, their presence slowly fading from the world.
The 3 main characters are Liobhan and Brocc, as mentioned. the third is another warrior candidate on the island Dau. At the start of the book I was all set to hate Dau, and perhaps in any other novel I would have. But the sections where Dau was the PoV character gave such an insight into him that I couldn’t really dislike him. The character complexity for all the characters was something that not only surprised me but was also the reason I couldn’t put the book down while reading. Nor was it just Dau, each character was fleshed out with strengths and flaws. One of the my favourite scenes was Liobhan’s self-awareness. She has a temper, and she could recognise when that would do more harm than good to her goals was wonderfully refreshing. It would have been harder to not connect to the characters given the realistic take. The last character Brocc it was clear there is so much more to his back story as well.
The ending comes with Liobhan completing the tasks set for her, and the group ensuring that the harp of kings is found and that the king is crowned. It sounds like a very straight-forward story. But the way the characters interact are what really drives the reader. I just wanted to know what happened next. The final notes of the book were heartbreaking in the best way possible. I honestly couldn’t have given this anything other than 5-stars.
Helen Ivers has just become president of a tiny little college on the strength of her ability to fund manage and drag the college with her. In truth its a place Helen can escape to, since her life has spiraled beyond her control since her sister’s suicide. All she wants is to forget. Instead she comes face to face with a mystery in the form of two human legs shortly after her arrival. In a town where she is considered an outsider, its hard to know who to trust, especially when she can’t even trust her own mind.
It’s immediately clear that Helen is trying to escape something, and throughout the reading its clear that she is haunted by what happened to her sister. She doesn’t let that stop her from trying to do what is best for the college. Though she seems to face opposition from all sides, its clear she is used to being in a position dealing with the various egos of those around her.
I know it was supposed to be a sense of mystery with the killer, making it hard to tell who the killer was right up until the big reveal. But from roughly halfway through the book it seemed obvious to me who the killer was. There was a sense of age to the character that ruled out many potentials. And there were other clues that Helen herself missed in conversations.
The denied romance aspect was different. I haven’t really read many books that have that so well written. Normally its a token resistance then onward into a relationship. Here the tensions between Helen and Wilson is clear and stays throughout the novel. Even when Helen gives in there is a degree of withholding herself. It was a nice change to read.
It was a good read with solid psychological thriller elements. I did find the early sections from the killer’s point of view left my head reeling and that feeling of discomfort stayed with me. The later killer scenes didn’t have nearly the same feel. But the sensation of the hair standing up on the back of my neck from those earlier pervaded through my reading. Overall, I’m giving it 3 stars. It was a good read but not 100% my cup of tea. That’s more about me than the book though, if psychological thriller is your jam definitely give this one a go.
Too Damn Dumb to Think
Diana Wright with Dr. Bernie Decoke
Diana Wright’s founded a medical device manufacturing company after getting started in the work force sewing pig tissue into heart valves. She modified the orifice of the valve using engineering concepts. The book touches on the key moments through her life that were critical to forming her value and belief systems. The book itself only touches the surface of how Diana founded her company. There is a much larger focus on the self-discovery that occurs during her husbands attempts to take over her company, her self-realisation of personal preferences, and hospitilisation/rehabilitation from a sudden protracted illness. As well as how these events changed how Diana prioritised events in her life.
That self-discovery has Diana forging and growing beyond the company that she built and changing her mindset following being hospitalised to pursue exactly what she wants both personally and professionally. I do admire her stubbornness to protect her kids, it comes out that she has separated from her husband to prevent them being hurt by a parental figure as she was. The commitment she demonstrates to asking herself the hard questions even when it hurts was incredible to read. It served as a reminder that just because something feels wonderful in intervals does not mean it’s what you need. And that even people that love you may be more in love with the idea of loving you than the reality of making it work.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read, to see how another person learnt and grew through hardship. There were moments where you could feel the heartbreak and pain. It easy to say as an outsider that of course someone should give up on something that causes so much confusion or walk away from someone who wouldn’t just commit. That said it takes amazing courage and strength to be the one to decide. Particularly as people can only control what they fell. You can never control how another person is going to response to anything. Accepting that can be one of the hardest lessons but reading Diana’s journey was heart wrenching but satisfying in the closure from her experiences.
Young adult novel with a unique take on small super-powers so to speak. One day indestructible marble-like spheres appeared the world over. When used in paired colours they would improve the person using, or burning, them, make them slightly better than they were before. Resistance to the common cold, become taller, better looking, be faster, stronger, increased ambidexterity, and higher IQ as examples. A total of 43 colours, each with a unique ability, and differing rarity based on availability. David “Sully” Sullivan, a teenager who started the second wave of spheres prior to the boo.
Sully is a sphere dealer, in addition to typical teenager, to make extra money to help his mother pay rent. He meets Hunter, a girl who knows sphere hunting more than anything else. They team up to find and sell spheres. Kicking off a discovery of where the spheres came from and why the spheres ended scattered across earth. The story overall has a solid hook that grabs you in the first few pages and doesn’t let go until you finish the book. It’s a smooth, easy, and satisfying read as an adult. The twist at the end of where the spheres came from was nicely handled. Possible explanations are mentioned through narrative, though none quite hits the mark in terms of reality.
Through Sully, we get a clear picture of what colour spheres provide scattered through the book with each mention. I was a bit frustrated that there was no complete list at the end of the book for easy reference. But the main colours and abilities were easy enough to follow. I’d definitely be curious why certain colours were mentioned and not others. Also why the two new types of sphere discovered in the book had the colours they had. That is largely idle curiosity and not really a requirement.
Overall it’s an great read as a young adult novel, it hits the all the notes it needs to really give a satisfying read. But the twist at the end means some of the mystery is lost for a re-read. That doesn’t stop it from being a very enjoyable way to pass an afternoon.
David knows Epics, guns, and that he sucks at metaphors. He wants to take down one Epic in particular, Steelheart. Now that the Reckoners are in town he has a shot, if he can convince them he’s right.
Interesting flip on super-powers on earth. The maxim power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely comes to mind. An event known as Calamity results in super-powered humans, without any humanity. These people, called Epics, do as they please regardless, when they please. Combining a twist on superheros as villians with a manufactured dystopian future. David is a fact-smart but people-dumb protagonist who’s point of view we follow through the completion of David’s vendetta against the Epic, Steelheart.
On the surface the story is straight-forward battle against the big bad, revenge for lost family, and freeing people from tyrannical rule. It goes deeper than this given the underlying theme of what happens when you create a power vacuum by removing a semi-benevolent dictator. Which Steelheart is if only because he considers all ordinary people his property to do with as he wishes, after all you cannot rule without subjects. There are also themes of choice, revenge, the belief of good vs evil, tall-tales, and a lively argument on the pros and cons of rifles vs handguns. Beyond that there are excellent characters in David and the Reckoner team. Each bringing a different viewpoint on the situation and the plans they develop to topple Steelheart. Creating enough conflict that it is not just a clear system of kill and move on for the Reckoners. And everything is planned out to the nth degree.
I’ll say this for the story as a whole it keeps you guessing up to the end on if the Reckoners will be successful. The ending was a shock but also made a weird level of sense, having been in Davids point of view from start to finish allows us to follow the logic of his realisations as well. The final twist shows the 3 McGuffins that allow the Reckoners to be even the slightest bit successful at assassinating Epics are more than they seem. Makes for a nice twist at the end without compromising the enjoyment of rereading the book later.
A few loose ends for the story, but expected ones since this is the first book of a series.
Great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday. And I will come back to read it again in the future, since this is where my happy lives. And, given it was the first of many Sanderson novels I read, as an introduction to Sanderson’s writing style I’d highly recommend.