Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson 5 stars

68428Title: Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn book 1)

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Publication date:  January 1, 2006

Genre: Adult High Fantasy

Synopsis: In the Final Empire ash rains from the sky, and strange mists rule the night. All is it has been for the last thousand years of the Lord Ruler’s reign. Many have tried and failed to overthrow his oppressive regime in which the majority of the population are kept as slaves. Most think hope was lost long ago, but Keliser thinks hope remains.

Keliser is legendary as the only slave to escape the Pits of Hathsin alive. After a two year leave Keliser returns to the capital where he was a once leader in the criminal underground gathering together the most skilled criminals in the empire’s capital telling them he’s planning the biggest heist since the Final Empire began: to assassinate the immortal Lord Ruler.

Joining the criminal crew is Vin, a teenage girl who has just made a shocking discovery. Vin learned she is no ordinary street urchin of the slave class, but a Mistborn. Mistborn are the most powerful type of Allomancers, individuals who gain extraordinary abilities through metals. Vin must learn Allomancy and involve herself in noble politics. Together Vin, Keliser, and the others might just be able to accomplish the impossible and free their people from slavery.

Review: I’ve read Brandon Sanderson books before and heard the hype around this one, so I was expecting a great read and was not disappointed. This book was sitting on my shelf for about a year before I finally sat down and read it. It’s just that the cover of my edition (not the one shown) was off-putting, and the text was small. For some reason I’d managed to convince myself the book was longer than it is. Something also told me to wait for summer before starting any more relatively long books. In the end this was probably a good idea.

Once I started this book I found it difficult to put down. Anyone and anything interrupting my reading did not find me in a pleasant mood, but those who saw me between sittings constantly noted that I seemed unusually happy. They were right, this book made me extremely happy. I know that is an odd thing to say about a book following a rebellion, but it’s true. My emotions had nothing to do with the content of this novel, but everything to do with the fact that it was extremely well executed.

While I was instantly captivated from the prologue onward I began the story thinking that the plot was somewhat predictable, and somewhat disappointed in this regard because so many people rave about the plot. It was not until the second half of the novel that I began to see what these people were talking about. Brandon Sanderson managed to make a plot that could have seemed cliche feel fresh.

There is not much I can say without spoilers, but I have read so many books where the characters have a plan and everything works out as they thought. Even from my own experience I can tell you there are far too many variables in life for everything to go as expected, and Sanderson understands this.

Rather than the fact that some plans don’t work making the characters seem unprepared or incompetent it brought out their strengths and flaws which in turn made them seem much more human. This is because when plans failed the characters had to find a way to work around the setback or even use it to their advantage.

Sanderson did a great job slowly integrating his amazing world building and magic system in the plot. Even though we spend quite a bit of time with Vin as she has lessons in Allomancy I very rarely felt like there was the slightest bit of info-dumping. Even when I was starting to worry a section was heading in the direction of info-dumping Allomancy is so interesting that I probably wouldn’t have cared all that much if parts of the narrative had gone in that direction.

So much of fantasy relies on the same sets of magic systems often heavily influenced by Tolkien or some form of mythology (often certain mythologies in particular). While Allomancy still feels similar to other fantasy magic systems in some ways, it is different enough to be refreshing and interesting.

The writing in this book is very straightforward and easy to read. There are no flowery prose here. While I’m not the biggest fan of flowery writing, some readers might find this novel’s writing to be clunky at times. This wasn’t really a problem for me, but as I was reading it was something I thought others might have a problem with.

While I read this roughly 600 page book in two days I acknowledge that it is relatively long. While I read this book in two days others might find it to be somewhat of a time commitment. However, once I got into the book I was not bothered by the length at all. In fact I almost wish the last few chapters had gone into greater detail, but I suppose if they had there would be no need for a sequel.

The ending feels complete, but there are still some plot threads left for the sequel which I can’t wait to start. In fact, by the time this review is posted I may well have started The Well of Ascension.

What readers should know: While this is an adult fantasy novel it has a relatively low level of content that could be deemed “inappropriate.” The language is cleaner than most young adult novels I’ve read with very little cursing.

As this is a fantasy novel some amount of violence is expected. While there are fight scenes and characters who die blood filled deaths none of this is described in detail.

Rape is mentioned and alluded to on several occasions, particularly in the prologue during which a young slave girl is taken to be raped and then killed by her master narrowly avoiding this fate. Nothing is described in detail as the prologue is from the point of view of a character not even present at this encounter.

Rating: This is a great read, and one that I highly recommend. The Final Empire is perfect for someone trying to get introduced to high fantasy as a genre as it is fast paced and captivating from the beginning. People who want to get into Brandon Sanderson should consider either starting with this novel if they’re into high fantasy or Steelheart if they’re looking for a shorter read. Steelheart is a young adult novel involving superheros.

five blue jays

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Series Review: Penryn and the End of Days

158638321784911218500665Titles: Angelfall, World After, End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days Trilogy)

*Note: I have posted a separate review of the first book, Angelfall. To view my review of book one click here.*

Author: Susan Ee

Publication dates: 2011-2015

Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic Urban Fantasy

Synopsis: When angels come to Earth the people in the World Before thought it meant something to celebrate.

They were wrong.

The angels brought with them the apocalypse, and they still haven’t told the world what they want or why they’re here.

Penryn is a human teenager trapped in the middle of this chaos. All she wants is to keep her family safe and together. This proves complicated when her sister, Paige, is kidnapped by angels.

Penryn is left with only a wounded angel named Raffe to help her find Paige. Penryn keeps telling herself her goal is simply to keep her family together, but she has the potential to accomplish so much more.

Review: As mentioned in my review of book one, this series is extremely addicting. I read End of Days during my final exams because I just couldn’t wait any longer. It was practically painful to pry myself away from the book and remind myself I needed to get to bed at a decent hour. Book one remains my favorite in the series.

In World After Penryn and Raffe spend too much time apart. As much as I love Penryn, who is a strong character on her own, it’s really her relationship with Raffe that brings this series to a whole other level from any paranormal romance novels I’ve read. This is not to say this book is a paranormal romance novel. While this argument could be made there is so much more to the Angelfall trilogy than the romance.

Throughout the series the two main characters, Penryn in particular, is constantly reminded of the fact that she and Raffe are on different sides of what she sees as a war between their species. I appreciated that Penryn never forgot Raffe was an angel which shows the difference between her and many young adult heroines who would drop anything, including their allegiance to humanity, for their love interests. (I don’t think this has happened yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised. If anyone can think of a YA heroine who abandoned humanity for her boyfriend I’d love to hear about it in the comments.)

While my favorite part of World After was the thrilling last several chapters, my favorite part of End of Days was the first two thirds. The ending of the series, while still good, felt rushed. This is especially true of where the story finally ended up. These are relatively short books, and I felt that with a few more chapters or maybe even one more chapter the author could have left me feeling satisfied. Instead everything at the end happened extremely quickly, and I never felt closer for certain events I never heard the end of that seem like plot holes to me.

What Readers Should Know: This series is set in a post-apocalyptic version of our world. As a result, government structure has collapsed and human behaviors that would not be acceptable to modern society have become the norm.

This series features some gory death scenes. (How graphic depends on how imaginative you are.) Cannibalism plays a rather predominate role. Although neither of the main characters partake, some of the aftermath is described in detail.

Rating: This is a great series overall, and I would recommend it to others. It was engaging with great character dynamics. Angelfall gets a 5/5 while World After, and End of Days both get 4/5. That gives the series a 4.5/5 overall.

4.5 blue jays

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas 4.5 Stars

16096824Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publication date:  May 5, 2015

Genre: New Adult High Fantasy

Synopsis:.Killing the wolf in the woods was nothing personal. The wolf merely got in the way of Feyre’s hunt for a deer to feed her starving family. When a beastly faerie shows up at Feyre’s home demanding retribution for the life she has taken it becomes clear the wolf Feyre killed was not a wolf but a faerie in wolf form. The creature agrees to spare Feyre’s life if she will come with him to live on his estate for the rest of her life.

Faeries once ruled the entire world keeping humans as slaves. Now Feyre is about to return to the part of the world where the creatures’ rule never lost hold. There everything Feyre thought she knew about faeries and especially her captor, Tamlin, will be challenged.

Review: I went into this book expecting it to be a lot like Throne of Glass. Both series involve faeries, and I had a hard time reconciling how the author would have two fictional worlds containing fae with significantly different world-building in each, but Maas managed it.

It’s not only the world that felt significantly different. While Celaenna and Feyre share some characteristics like their physical abilities and willingness to fight for what they believe is right they have very different personalities and back-stories.

Feyre only wants to keep her family fed and safe in spite of the fact that they treat her like dirt and constantly criticize Feyre. They didn’t even seem to care that Feyre was practically the only reason they’d managed to survive this long. What really bothered me about the situation is that Feyre was the youngest child. I don’t think I would have been nearly so annoyed had she been the oldest who in our society is often expected to take on an almost parental role when parents die. The sisters needed to come to terms with the fact that their wealth was gone and was likely not coming back.

Maas spends a lot of time building a sense of mystery around the faerie lands. Feyre and the other humans in the novel have clearly defined notions of what the fae are like. It has been centuries since the humans were freed from the faeries’ slavery, and in that time period many misconceptions about them have emerged in addition to false rumors circulated by the fae during their rule to keep the humans subservient.

What sets this book apart from other Beauty and the Beast retellings aside from the great character development were the politics. Faerie finds herself caught up more and more into the faerie politics as the story progresses and she begins to learn about how these affect even the human world. While for the most part I enjoyed this political element some of Tamlin’s actions still didn’t make sense to me even after the political elements became entirely clear. I hope these will be more fully explained in the sequel.

The middle of the book slows down to allow time for Feyre to sort out what elements she has been told about Fae are true, and allow time for character development. With the exception of Feyre’s family the characters were well developed, and there was more to most of them than first appeared. (Tamlin, Lucien, and Rhysand in particular.)

This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and so some plot elements were predictable, but there were enough differences between this retelling and the original faerie tale that some plot elements remained unclear.

The pacing at the end of the story picks up again to become much more action paced. This book reads like a standalone, but with so much left to explore and some minor plot threads left incomplete I’m glad this is a series.

What readers should know: When I heard this novel was being marketed as new adult I was expecting some detailed romantic interactions. While there was talk of sex and even scenes involving it this element of the plot was not nearly as detailed or prominent as I was expecting given my experience with New Adult which, granted, is not very extensive.

Since this was a Sarah J. Maas book I was also expecting a fair amount of violence. While there certainly was some violence especially in the form of torture late in the book (Tamlin always treated Feyre with respect, even in the beginning), this was nothing compared to what I expected after reading the Throne of Glass series.

Rating: This was an excellent book overall. However, I felt the pacing in the middle was a little too slow, and even after learning the full details of the faerie politics in the book some of Tamlin’s actions didn’t entirely make sense to me. I highly recommend this book to fans of Beauty and the Beast, faerie book series like The Iron Fay and Splintered, or Throne of Glass. 

4.5 blue jays

Reading Wrap-up: April 2015

I didn’t read as much this month as I normally do because I spent so much time in April participating in Camp NaNoWrimo. Then at the end of the month I got incredibly busy. Camp NaNoWriMo went well and I ended April having written 32,716 words which is over 10,000 words more than the 20K goal I started with.

Instinct by Sherrilyn KenyonShort Synopsis: The sixth book in a series about a boy who discovers a world of dark hunters and demons he never knew existed but is suddenly out to get him for reasons not revealed until later in the series.

Thoughts: This book was the shortest in the series too far, and I feel it was too short. The author didn’t go into her usual depth with character interactions and events. Everything felt rushed. None the less, this was still a fun read, and I find the fact that Sherrilyn Kenyon manages to write so many books in the same fictional universe (around 30 and counting) is extremely impressive. Especially when a fore mentioned books contain only minor inconsistencies. Someone I know who has read most of the Dark Hunter Universe books pointed the inconsistencies out to me. I never noticed.

4 blue jays

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeShort Synopsis: Dorian Gray makes a wish on a painting to be young and beautiful forever while the painting ages. Unfortunately, Dorian’s wish is at the cost of his soul.

Thoughts: I don’t usually rate classics, but I really enjoyed this one. It is much easier to read than most classics, and I enjoyed the overall plot. I also read this book at the perfect time because around the day I finished it I found a large picture of myself had arrived at my house.

five blue jays

 

Fire in the Woods by Jennifer M. EatonShort Synopsis: A teenage girl living on a military camp finds her “dream boy” in the woods the night after a mysterious plane crash.

Thoughts: This novel involves aliens. I read it as research for my current writing project which also involves space aliens. It is very much a paranormal romance novel with aliens and there were many times it had me rolling my eyes and needing to suspend my disbelief, but I appreciated that the romance progresses slower in this novel than most of similar varieties I’ve read. This book was also well paced and therefore hard to put down.

3.5 blue jays

The Young Elites by Marie LuShort Synopsis: Teenagers who survived a plague get super-powers.

Thoughts: I’ve noticed Marie Lu likes to write about plagues. This book felt like it followed a formula, and there were aspects I really liked, and others that didn’t work for me. I’m very conflicted in my feelings towards this book, but will probably read the sequel.

 

3 blue jays

 

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