I knew little of Brandon Sanderson when it was announced that he was selected to finish the Wheel of Time series after the death of Robert Jordan. I decided to check out some of his work to get a feel for his writing before his first Wheel of Time novel was published. What I discovered was that I had been missing out on one of the best Fantasy authors writing today.
Mistborn is an excellent series and I have thoroughly enjoyed every book in the series. I am a big fan of Fantasy and I was completely drawn into Sanderson's world of Allomancers and all of the interesting things they could do right from the start. Michael Kramer does an excellent job of bringing these interesting characters to life so expect this book to grab you from the start and never let go.
Daniel Abraham and Pete Bradbury team up once again on book 4 of the series and deliver an engaging story. If you haven't read/listened to the first 3 books then there is no sense starting here.
Lord Regent Geder Palliako remains a brutal yet naïve dictator. His spurned love for Cithrin now fuels his paranoia and the rest of world suffers the consequences. Antea continues to expand and conquer neighboring nations but has spread itself so thin as to become vulnerable. The spider priests meet resistance of their own as another version of the "truth" appears in the form of the dragon Inys.
Inys reveals the details of the ancient Dragon War and the origin of the races of humanity. His knowledge exposes the lies of the spider priests for what they are and he reveals tactics of how to best fight them. Marcus, Yardem, and Kit are all alongside Inys and attempt to help the dragon orient to the realities of the new world.
Cithrin continues to reshape the bank that raised her by changing the rules of the financial game they play. She concludes that for the bank to survive she must fund the resistance to prevent Antea from achieving it's goals so she positions herself to do just that.
As you may have guessed by the title, Clara comes to the forefront in this book and house Callium becomes a focal point. Clara has lost her husband to Geder's wrath, one son to Geder's banishment and a second to the spider priesthood and she has had enough. She takes action to prevent Geder from ruining what little she has left.
This is book 4 of 5 so it goes without saying that little is wrapped up here. The story gets flushed out, the background behind the motives of the spider priests is exposed, and everything is set up for a final showdown in book 5, The Spider's War. I can't wait.
Book three continues the war against the Spider Goddess. All main POV characters are back advancing their storylines as you would expect:
Master Kit has recruited Marcus Wester and the two of them set off to slay the Spider Goddess. Of course Master Kit knows that the priests of the Spider Goddess are not spreading truth because he shares their same powers, but is he certain that he knows the actual truth? Probably.
Cithrin continues to learn the banking trade from another Magistra, this time in a different city than Porte Oliva. However, much like in her past, no matter where she goes the war comes to her and she is forced to make difficult choices.
Clara Kalliam is no longer the family matriarch and now must find her way without the support of the family that she kept together for so long. Much like Dawson before her, she considers the prospect of trying to save the nation of Antea by betraying it.
And finally, Geder Palliako remains at the center of it all. Still manipulated by the priests, he drives Antea's armies forward from victory to victory spreading "truth". As the chosen of the Goddess he brings peace to the world through war and conquest.
This is the third book in a planned 5 book story arc and it reveals that the truth is not what it seems to be, which results in many of the characters having to adapt to their ever-changing understanding of the struggle before them.
Pete Bradbury is excellent once again and if you have already listened to the first 2 books then you will feel right at home with this one.
Firefight pick up shortly after the events of Steelheart/Mitosis and David Charleston returns to unleash more bad metaphors (and similes) upon a post-apocalyptic world still struggling to survive. This time the action moves away from Newcago over to Babilar (Manhattan) where another cell of the Reckoners struggle against the High Epic Regalia.
The good news is this book is more than just another episodic fight against a High Epic. It starts to shed some light on just what Calamity is and why the Epics started to appear after it arrived. Details of Prof's history come to light and David finds himself at odds with his leader on how to best fight the Epic scourge. And as you can probably guess from the name of the book, Firefight returns to make young David question his understanding of Epics and also turn his heart into knots. David's feelings for Firefight cause him to change his understanding of the world and he begins to discover that he is more like his Father than he ever knew.
MacLeod Andrews is once again on top of his game as is Brandon Sanderson so fans of Steelheart can't go wrong with this one.
The Second Ship is a story that adds a twist to the standard fiction leveraging the rumors of an alien ship crash in Roswell, New Mexico in 1948. That twist here is that a second ship also crashed at the same time and remained undiscovered by the government. That second ship is eventually found by 3 high school students at the same time that the US government comes clean about the first ship. These kids keep the discovery to themselves and use the alien technology at their disposal to uncover the true motivations behind the President's promise to freely share advanced alien technology with the world.
The story is deeper and more complex than I expected but it is also written in a way that just doesn't feel realistic. It isn't the sci-fi that feels unrealistic, it is the speech and mannerisms of the 3 high school kids and their interactions with those around them, including their parents, teachers, and the FBI/NSA. For the majority of the book I found myself interested in the story and felt that it had potential but I was never totally invested. This is no fault of MacLeod Andrews who does his usual superb job on the narration and kept me engaged more than I would have been otherwise.
When the book just ended out of the blue without wrapping up the story in any way it left me unsatisfied and on the fence about continuing. Think twice before you pick this one up unless you go in with a willingness to listen to more than one book.
Daniel Abraham provides some payoff for all of the foundation work he did in Book 1. All the same characters return and Pete Bradbury once again brings them to life with another excellent narration. With the background firmly established in book one for each of the main characters their storyline all move forward in significant ways and their paths begin to cross.
Geder Palliako and his Spider Goddess zealot allies exert their power and start to bring an ancient prophecy to life while Dawson Kalliam sees through their plans and instead strives to protect Antea from losing itself. With Dawson forever ignoring the potential consequences of his actions, his wife Clara continues to have his back and focuses on ensuring the success of the family. Cithrin starts to come into her own and her odd relationship with Marcus strengthens as their plans take shape. And finally, after the reveal at the end of book 1, Master Kit realizes he is uniquely qualified to stop the events that are unfolding and he must take action.
Despite the fact that Book 1 was a slow listen at times I do not recommend skipping it as it provides essential set up material for this one. If you have already listened to it then it's an easy choice to pick up Book 2 and enjoy the payoff.
Brandon Sanderson is a masterful writer and I look forward to anything he publishes but I hesitated to jump on Steelheart because Super Hero fiction is not at the top of my favorite genre list. However, it is a Brandon Sanderson story so I could not stay away for long...
A burst in the sky known as Calamity knocks society into a post-apocalyptic world ruled by Super Villains known as Epics. The story takes place in Newcago (formerly Chicago) where an Epic known as Steelheart ruthlessly establishes his dominion over both humans and lesser Epics. Everyone knows Steelheart is invincible and even the Reckoners, a group of humans rumored to hunt and kill Epics, won't mess with him.
However, young David Charleston has a secret that he has kept hidden for the last 10 years. He has witnessed something that no other living person ever has - he has seen Steelheart bleed. He hopes to somehow use this knowledge to exact revenge on Steelheart for killing his father but he knows he will never be able to do that by himself. That is where the Reckoners come in....
In true comic book superhero fashion this story is a thrill ride full of impossible situations and long odds for the good guys. Although it isn't very deep, the story kept me interested and Sanderson's characters all have unique and interesting personalities. MacLeod Andrews is excellent and he does a great job on the character voices. Although I may have been slow to start this series, once I finished Steelheart I did not hesitate to move on to the short story Mitosis and book 2, Firefight. If you are reading this review then I would suggest it is time for you to play catch up as well.
Note: if you a fan of Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines then I would think you would enjoy this book as well and vice-versa.
I will admit that I had to start this one a few times to get going. The opening chapters jump around from character to character and right when you start to get your bearings in this complex world a new chapter starts and you are lost again. This is all compounded by the fact that you are exposed to the history of the world along with the present and a myriad of different races of humanity. It is a lot to absorb all at the same time and it is easy to lose track when you don't know what is important and what is not. I am going to guess many listeners do not make it through the first third of this book so be sure you don't start this one when you are distracted.
Things do settle down after a while and the characters start to come together in the storyline but even then it isn't the most interesting tale. Laden with banking contracts and political maneuvering the story slogs on slowly - mostly setting things up for the second book. The very ending ties back to the very beginning and ties off one of the lose ends but I still found myself ambivalent toward most of the characters when it was over. The spider goddess and the powers of her priests do make things interesting but for the most part there is little magic in use throughout the story.
Book 2 is when I really started to care about some of the characters and what was happening to them. If you don't plan to give this series at least 2 books to form an opinion then I would recommend that you save yourself the trouble and go for a different fantasy series. Things definitely get more interesting in book 2.
Pete Bradbury does a good job on the narration and is the narrator for the first 4 books in the series which is all that is available as I write this. (The series is supposed to include a 5th book as well.)
Something is not right in Wayward Pines, Idaho - that much is obvious from the start. After that Blake Crouch slowly reveals just how wrong things are as you experience the story from the perspective of Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke. Ethan is not the type to let things go and the more he peels back the onion the more bizarre things get.
If your listening experience is like mine then you will formulate and discard many theories as you listen until the big reveal finally comes. The reveal itself was a surprise but it wasn't completely fulfilling as some of the explanation given didn't resonate well with me. In order to avoid spoilers I really can't say more about it other than the author does explain it all and doesn't leave you hanging.
This story is like one long Twilight Zone episode so if you like that type of fiction then give it a go otherwise this is not for you.
Book 3 of the Old Man's War series unites the main characters from the first 2 books, John Perry and Jane Sagan, and jumps ahead to their retirement on the peaceful colony of Huckleberry. Of course their relaxed existence is disrupted as interstellar politics and conspiracies take over and they find themselves facing one impossible challenge after another. The Conclave plot line picks up steam and the stakes get ever larger as the story goes on. All of this makes for an interesting enough premise but in the end Scalzi's execution and Dufris' narration just didn't keep me immersed this time around.
A myriad of small plot devices add up as the book goes on and very few of the characters act realistically. John and Jane uncover clues that things are amiss but just go along for the ride putting themselves and their adopted daughter Zoe at great risk. The aliens speak using standard 21st century colloquialisms and General Gau, the Leader of the 420 alien race Conclave, puts himself at risk to personally visit colony planets to speak with the leaders before destroying them. The list goes on throughout the book and the final plot twist at the end was the least believable of the bunch.
I didn't dislike this book but it did leave me uninspired to immediately continue with the series. When I do resume it will likely be with book 5 and not book 4, Zoe's Tale, which is a re-telling of the story from Zoe's perspective. Although the story was ultimately entertaining, once was enough for me.
My experience with the Riyria books started with Theft of Swords and proceeded forward in publishing order, which means I finished the Riyria Revelations series before starting on the prequel stories of the Riyria Chronicles. I believe such a path increased my enjoyment of The Rose and the Thorn simply because of the knowledge I have regarding a lot of the main characters. Arista, Gwen, Reuben Hilfred, and even Percy Braga are fleshed out in this book and I really enjoyed learning more about them. This is a prequel story done right.
Unlike the Crown Tower, the time Royce and Hadrian have a more established relationship which allows Michael J Sullivan to really bring to life the world around them. This approach combined with a compelling story line makes this book as good as the latter works of The Riyria Revelation series. It also reveals the root causes for certain events that will happen much later in the series so MJS is working his magic in both directions making both Chronological and Publishing viable listening orders.
Either way you can't go wrong with this book. Tim Gerard Reynolds is well established as the voice of the Riyria characters and he does not disappoint. Note that if you pick this one up then there is no need for you to also grab The Viscount and the Witch as that is fully contained as a chapter within this book.
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