Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
I gave up on the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series by Volume 5 so never got to Brandon Sanderson’s concluding contributions to that series. My first books by Sanderson were those of the Mistborn Trilogy. I was totally captivated by the story and its writing. I avoided The Way of Kings because of its Audible 2 credit price but finally caved because I had lusted so long for something so good as Mistborn. I should not have delayed. The Way of Kings was well worth the price and promises to be one of the best ever series by Sanderson or any SF/Fantasy author. This is Book 1 of the Stormlight Archive.
Coming in at over 45 hours on audiobook or over 1000 pages in print, for some TWoK might seem too lengthy. Personally, for me, it ended all too soon. The book was totally gripping and absorbing. I could not put it down. The writing contains wit and charm, adventure and philosophy, comedy and pathos. It’s all there, a wide range of human thought and emotion. While constructed of multiple arcs, the writing is completely straight forward, accessible and easy to follow.
I became totally invested in each character and cared for everyone of the good guys and even some of the bad ones. One of the most interesting characters, one named Szeth, is a peace-loving believer in nonviolence but is also an ultimate, ninja-like assassin who hates to but is forced to kill and cries each time that he does. How’s that for a crazy mixed-up contradiction. Frankly, I think that Szeth is a metaphor for many of us and our behavior. But among my favorite and central characters were a peasant, apprentice surgeon named Kaladin and a spren named Syl with whom Kal has a rather magical and symbiotic relationship.
Spren appear throughout the book. They were for me various types of conscious energy or spirit-like entities that were part of or associated with almost everything on the planet including specific kinds of thoughts and emotions, wellness and sickness, life and death. They particularly seem to appear when “change” happens and it is at least at this point in the series difficult to know if they are responsible for, contribute to or are just present when changes in anything from one’s health to the weather occur.
Speaking of the weather, the environment and particularly the atmosphere of the planet and how the geology, flora and fauna have evolved within the influence of extreme weather is integral to the storyline. The book describes and develops half a dozen interesting and well defined fictional races. Wars exist on the planet among them over the power and dominance brought by the magical weapons known as Shardblades and Shardplates. And, while war is one of the central themes of the book, descriptions of battles and war do not dominate the narrative.
What came across most movingly, uniquely clear and beautifully written were the two human qualities of love and compassion. I do not think that those two attributes have ever been more deftly portrayed than it is in this book. Some of my other favorite SF/Fantasy writers including Dan Simmons and Peter F. Hamilton while brilliant in almost every other respect, fail to adequately communicate those two essential qualities of our nature. Other authors talk about it, their characters go through the motions and maybe say the words but I just do not always “feel the love” in their writings like I do in reading this book. The humanity and heroism portrayed by some of the characters in TWoK were strikingly remarkable. It is another one of those attributes of Sanderson’s writing that makes everything more real and capable of eliciting emotions within the reader.
Magic abounds in the book and all of it seems to make sense if ever magic can be made sense of. It was once said that any technology sufficiently advanced will appear as magic and this is that kind magic, magic that can almost be but not quite understood. There is plenty of adventure and excitement contained within the pages and Kate Reading and particularly Michael Kramer bring it all to life. Yes, this is the same duo that narrated the Wheel of Time saga. Their talent was well highlighted there but I believe even more so in The Way of Kings.
This was one great book and the only downside is that Sanderson is so prolific with his other literary pursuits that the sequel to this one is long overdue and the Audible rendition even longer than that.
This was one extraordinary book, one that I could not stop reading / listening to.
While this husband and wife team have been writing and receiving awards for books since 1994, their works are, for the most part, in the Ukrainian and Russian languages. Written in 1997, The Scar is apparently the first to be translated into English and has only come to Western shores this year. While this is the middle book of a trilogy, unlike other trilogies, this installment stands quite well on its own though I hope that the remaining installments become available in English. I cannot wait to read them. These are masterful writers.
While not one for spoilers, I will only say that this is a book of the fantasy genre that, while there is sorcery and sword-fighting, none of it is gratuitous. While there is a great deal about love, there is not too much romance. For my liking, all of these were good attributes. The book is about great courage and great cowardice, self-discovery and redemption. This is a wonderfully rich and vivid story about our humanity, our psychology and the nature of both. For me, perhaps the most powerful aspect of the book had to do with the power of forgiveness. This is story-telling at its best.
When beginning to listen to this book, I was already engaged (but not engrossed) in listening to one and reading another literary work of fiction. I was becoming drained by the complexity and work that I had to put into both. The Scar’s simplicity allowed me to just relax and enjoy one of the more remarkable books I have read/listened to. While simple in its parable-, morality play-like nature, it still had the depth and richness of quintessential Russian literature. The characters are richly and completely drawn. The plot is riveting, surprising and unpredictable to the end. The prose, perhaps owing to the translation by Elinor Huntington, is engrossing, lyrical and poetically beautiful.
The narration by Jonathan Davis did justice to the book. Sometimes narrators are so good that they draw one’s focus away from the book and toward the performer. For the most part, that was not the case with this selection. The narrator disappeared and the book revealed itself in all of its beauty. I will say this, though, there are passages in which the narrator’s voice became possibly a bit too stentorian. That was a distraction for me but the passages were few and far between. I think that it was a personal thing and I will not dock him for it. He did a superb job.
Rating this book is difficult for me. Thinking out loud, I would like to give it 5 stars but I gave that number to The Brothers Karamazov. 4 stars might suggest that the book was less than stellar. I would like to rate it within the context of the rest of the trilogy because of some unmentioned comments but two-thirds of that are unavailable. So, in the interest of enticing you to rather than dissuading you from reading this masterpiece, my fine reader of reviews, 5 Stars it is. You will not be disappointed.
I believe the best way to describe what was for me the essence of Tigana is to quote a passage from the afterward of the book by the author Guy Gavriel Kay:
“... there's a play called 'Translations', by Brian Friel. It is basically an extended, passionate debate between a village priest in Ireland and the leader of an English survey team that has been traversing the countryside, mapping it carefully and - more importantly - changing the names of places, from Gaelic to English. Both men are aware of what is at stake: when you want to subjugate a people - to erase their sense of themselves as separate and distinctive - one place to start (and it is sometimes enough) is with their language and names. Names link to history, and we need a sense of our history to define ourselves. When Maoist China decreed that history began with their own Long March and introduced an education system to back that up, thereby eradicating thousands of years of the past (or trying to), they knew exactly what they were doing.
It is hardly an accident that separatist movements so often involve attempts to reclaim a lost language. In Provence highway signs give place names in both French and the almost-lost Provençal tongue. The independence movement in Wales has incorporated attempts to reclaim their language as one of public discourse (a reaction to the English refusal to allow it to be used in schools or even schoolyards once upon a not-so-long-ago time). In Quebec, the often bitter struggle between Separatists and those who wish to remain a province of Canada finds a battleground in language all the time. Tigana was an attempt to use magic to explore these themes: erasing a people from the record of history by stripping them of their name.”
This is what Tigana was mostly about. I did not at first make the connection between the author’s work and the land of “The Troubles.” I knew the Maoist adulteration of history but never understood the Quebec struggle over language. After Tigana, I think that I have a better feel for all those times and places.
It seems this year I have read more than a few books on the subject of memory. This was not by design; it just sort of happened. The books were all quite different and on various aspects of memory. If not the best, Tigana was at least the one I enjoyed the most. In a number of others, it is made quite clear academically that memory defines, maybe for the most part, who we are. However, in none of these others is that more beautifully illustrated than in Tigana.
The book was narrated by Simon Vance. What more can I say.