Brandon Sanderson - Shastrix Books

Brandon Sanderson

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23rd January 2019

I honestly don’t know how Brandon Sanderson can create so many amazing different worlds. This one is a new series - a science fiction tale that’s marketed as Young Adult but is frankly as suitable for any adult as any of his other works. It’s the tale of a colony defending itself against alien attack, and a teenager who wants to be a pilot in defiance of those around her.

It took me a couple of chapters to get into the swing of the novel - but from then I was completely hooked. There’s so much going on with all the distinct and complex characters - who are gradually unpicked throughout - the intrigue and mystery of the various threads of the plot, the action and adventure, the science fiction principles and world building, and the odd little teases that there’s something else going on under the surface.

It’s like a cross between Sanderson’s Rithmatist (another excellent tale about a child at a school they aren’t wanted at) and Ernest Cline’s Armada, and I absolutely loved it and am so glad that there are going to be three more books in the series.

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Lies of the Beholder

Lies of the Beholder

13th January 2019

The third and final novella in the Legion series sees our main character beset by problems when one of his aspects - hallucinations that represent part of his own mental faculties - goes missing, and he’s forced to face another absent person from his history.

It’s been quite a while since I read the first two books in the trilogy, so my memory of the story so far was patchy, but I was soon back into the swing of things and gripped to what ends up being quite a complex narrative, which must have required an extensive set of notes to keep track of while writing, despite the short length.

I’m not sure though that it entirely works - I think the first book was the best in the series, and it feels a little bit like the latter pair were follow-ups that exist for closure rather than because there was a story waiting to be told. Regardless, it’s incredibly impressive how dedicated and disciplined Sanderson must be to keep up the levels of output he does, and I’m very grateful for all I get to read - one day I might even catch up!

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15th December 2018

This standalone novella from Brandon Sanderson has a similar feel to his Reckoners series, despite the content being very different. It’s an incredibly complex short tale, focussing on two police officers who investigate crimes in Snapshot - a way of seeing back in time, enabling them to investigate crimes before or as they are happening - with some caveats.

It’s a great idea, with some reminiscences of Philip K Dick, and the story is told well with intriguing main characters and a compelling set of twists, turns and reveals. Somewhat outside my preferred reading from Sanderson, which is his epic fantasies, but totally worth reading.

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The Way of Kings (part two)

The Way of Kings (part two)

2nd January 2018

The second half of The Way of Kings, the opening book of Brandon Sanderson’s epic series, feels very much like the second half of a book (which of course it is). This means that it's fast-paced, with a lot going on, and next to no introduction. It's like getting to the unputdownable part of a book from page one.

It continues the stories of three main characters, interwoven as their civilisation takes part in a massive war. One is the warlord, another a slave, and the third a con artist, but none of them quite fit into the roles that life has cast them in.

The book over both volumes is split into five sections, and different sections focus on different selections of the main characters. This is a tad frustrating in places because the reader is left for a considerable number of chapters to find out what’s happening to one of your favourites. But that’s hardly a terrible thing.

I absolutely adored this half of the book and am desperate to pick up the next one in the series.

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Buy book: UK
The Way of Kings (part one)

The Way of Kings (part one)

19th July 2017

After many years of waiting on my bookcase, I have finally picked up this first book in the Stormlight Archive series, by one of my favourite authors. I’ve only been putting it off while I read through pretty much the entire rest of his output, as this series is one that is ongoing and I didn’t want to feel I would have too long to wait for additional entries.

My paperback copies of The Way of Kings are split into two volumes, and as with previous novels where this has been the case, I’ve chosen only to read the first half, then take a break and read some other things before returning to part two.

I found the story a little harder than expected to get into - it feels a little more formal and grandiose than some of Sanderson’s other work, and I’m not sure if this is a deliberate style choice (likely, as he does like to plan these things) or a side effect of this being his masterpiece and him subconsciously changing the style). The reader is dropped in quite quickly to several different characters and understanding and becoming used to them takes a while.

Once in though, this is another great book. The characters are rich, deep and rewarding. Their backgrounds and personalities varied and fascinating, with hints of more to be revealed, and it doesn’t take long to fall in love with them and want to follow their stories forever.

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Buy book: UK
Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians

Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians

8th October 2016

First review - 17 October 2012

In the first of Alcatraz's adventures, the thirteen-year-old boy receives an unlikely birthday present and is thrust into a world he never knew existed, in which he has special powers with which to battle the evil librarians who vie to control the world.

The style is unique, with the first-person narrative taking a very informal tone, and constantly talking directly to the reader in an irreverent manner. Each chapter begins with what seems like an irrelevant rant, which becomes quite amusing as you learn to expect it.

The plot is quite random and in places felt a little slow, though as I was reading much of it aloud this may have affected my experience of the pace. The magic system is, as usual for Sanderson's writing, detailed and well-thought out, and this along with the sense of humour make the book.

Sanderson proves his flexibility in writing a series for children and once again I find myself wishing that today's kids' books were available when I was younger.

Second review - 8 October 2016

I had planned to re-read the first three Alcatraz stories and finally finish the fourth before book five was published this summer, but messed up the timing and didn't even get back through this, the first. Partly I suspect because my copy of the four books are in a single huge volume that I haven't fancied carrying about in my rucksack.

My memory of the story was somewhat sketchy, and didn't really come back as I was reading, and I didn't feel that the story gripped me sufficiently for it to plant itself fully in my mind again this time. Alcatraz is a young teenager who one day meets his grandfather and discovers that the world is much bigger than he thought and that he is living in a massive librarian-controlled conspiracy.

The plot is straightforward and filled with twists that seem inspired by Douglas Adams, but I don't think that's where Sanderson excels, and to me, reading as an adult, it just seems chaotic and silly. The tone of voice adopted by the narrator comes across as irritating rather than amusing, and it didn't drive me to keep reading.

That said, Sanderson's actual expertise does shine through the gaps - he's an amazing world builder and has once again created a system of magic/fantasy which is compelling and perhaps the most amusing element in the whole of the story. There are hints that the world is much deeper than we've seen so far, and that this will be developed in later stories.

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Buy book: UK
White Sand volume one

White Sand volume one

, &

19th August 2016

I must begin with a caveat - I am not a great reader of graphic novels (aka comic books). In fact, this is probably the first one I've read or bought. I purchased this volume though because it's a story by Brandon Sanderson, and is the start of one of the many threads of his stories that are set in the same universe.

So it took me a little while to get used to reason this format. My instinct is to focus on the words - and only to glance at the pictures to get an idea of the key pieces of action. This is an approach developed by years of reading the likes of the Beano as a child, where the drawing served as a vehicle for the joke. That approach really doesn't honour the amount of effort that must go into creating a book like this and I had to force myself to slow down and take in the art.

While the artwork is incredible and must have taken forever, it has a slightly sketchy feel to it which felt a bit unfinished and rough. I found this a little off putting as it made me feel I was looking at storyboards rather than the finished item.

The story is another brilliant Sanderson, filled with unexpected twists, hints of secrets yet to be revealed, and yet another amazingly complex magic system and cultures which hell this book barely scratches the surface of. My only criticism I suppose is that as this is just 'Volume One' it ends rather abruptly and isn't as long a story as I would have liked. On the other hand, that will make it much easier to re-read when the next volume is published, unlike Sanderson's usual epics.

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Other reviewed books

Secret History
The Bands of Mourning
Shadows of Self
Legion: Skin Deep
The Emperor's Soul
The Rithmatist
A Memory of Light
Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia
Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones
The Alloy of Law
The Hero of Ages
The Well of Ascension
The Final Empire
Towers of Midnight
The Gathering Storm

Unreviewed books

Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
Alcatraz vs. The Dark Talent
Arcanum Unbounded
White Sand volume two
Words of Radiance

Top books

  1. Skyward
  2. The Gathering Storm
  3. A Memory of Light
  4. The Way of Kings (part two)
  5. The Alloy of Law
  6. Firefight
  7. Warbreaker