Tag Archives: Sanderson

Hero of Ages

I finished the Mistborn series and as such I am compelled to review the final book. Let me start with *SPOILERS* for this and many other series I have read. (Mistborn, WoT, Harry Potter, Mithgar.)

I must say, the first two books were exceptional. I strongly recommend them for anyone interested in fantasy but bored by the overabundance of the same old thing.

It is difficult to end a series and end it well. Do you end on a positive note? Do you conclude the entire story? Do you leave it a bit open ended? Do you have the final chapter saying “Where are they now?” When J.K. Rowling was finishing book 7 she said in an interview she was tempted to kill Harry. Not because she didn’t love him or felt he needed to die, but because she knew that would *end* the series. Without him, there is no continuing.

To go ahead and spoil it, at the end of Mistborn, Brandon Sanderson proceeds to kill off the MAIN character and her husband, who is essentially the second main character. Now I am a Joss Whedon fan. I am used to losing characters. But the ending seemed… wrong. These were not the first two characters to die. In fact, several other major characters pass in the telling of the story. But all of them “felt right” meaning that when the character died you were left with a sense of resolution and completion. You missed the character, but you could see how the death was required to make other characters stronger and progress the story. Much like Dumbledore must die, otherwise Harry will never strike out on his own and become the man and wizard required to defeat Voldemort.

So why did the ending of Hero of Ages leave me bereft? Well to begin with, I read fantasy, as opposed to Non-fiction, for enjoyment and the happy endings. I like when good conquers evil and all the good guys go home, get married and have babies. It just feels nice. It is, after all, the fantasy of any hero. Kill the dragon, save the princess. But even this isn’t 100%. When I read Voyage of the Fox Rider, I was distraught at the end of the book. Aylis was dead. Or presumed dead. But then, I understood. I knew there was a slim chance, but even if she had died it was necessary for Aravan to move forward. (Fortunately, she did not die and they were reunited 8 books or 8000 years later, depending on how you look at it. Which let me tell you, was a very emotional time for me.)

Near the end, Vin, the focus of the story, is imbued with the power of Preservation, one of the two gods in the story. (Up until this point the book is beyond excellent.) She becomes a god. At this point I immediately thought, well crap. Unless she could make Elend (her husband) a god, she was already irreparably separated from him. Then it occurred to me. No! She has to give up the power! I mean, after all, this is the crux of the story. Ruin was trapped and needed to be freed. He changed the legends to say she needed to give away the power. But what if Ruin didn’t change it much? What if instead it meant she had to give the power over to a person who could use it properly? But of course! That is it. Knowing that knowledge of religion and belief was a major theme of the book, this made sense to me. She would give the power to the one character who truly understood religion, natural and otherwise, and had all of the knowledge needed to make everything right within the world, Sazed. Ah ha! and so I kept reading.

But then the unthinkable happens. Elend is beheaded. In a short, one sentence clip, this character, so vital and central, dies. With nary a whisper. Of course, I expect Vin to go revenge mode. She doesn’t. And in fact states something to the effect of “Well you just got rid of the only thing I had to fight for.” and proceeds to suicide against the strength of Ruin, killing him as well as herself. I can honestly say I stared dumbfounded at the book for at least 5 minutes. The essences of Ruin and Preservation float down, Sazed takes over, and makes everything right, using both powers. Of course the book ends with the implication that Vin and Elend have gone on, and are happy in the after life, but all that remains are a ton of minor characters.

First, if you plan on killing the main character, you had better have a backup ready and loved. In Harry Potter, Rowling had Ron and Hermoine. If Harry had died, we would all look to those two and feel better. At least they made it. Sanderson had no such backup. Who cares if the world was saved if all the characters we truly cared about are dead? Even having Vin die, with Elend you would have had someone to hang on to.

In the end, I am left with a sense of loss, failure, and the question of why. Why were these two deaths necessary to the story. I can only answer that they weren’t. Vin could have given up the power of Preservation to Sazed and become normal once again. Ruin was *still* thwarted by Elend and the Allomancers burning all of the Atium. Sazed still had the power and knowledge to restore the world and it’s ecosystem. He didn’t *need* Ruin to do that. What of Ruin? Well, considering the Atium crystals were destroyed and all the Atium burned… He is going to have to wait a few thousand years to regain the power to destroy the world. Plenty of time for Sazed to build power or to figure out a way to balance against Ruin once again. Essentially return to the status quo. But instead Sanderson takes the easy way out. It is a final win, but at that point you don’t care. It would have been better to allow for the short term win, with the survival of the characters you know and love, with the knowledge that in a thousand years, another battle will be fought.

The only thing I can conclude is that he wanted the story to be done with. No hope of returning or falling back on the series. We have all seen the fantasy author who writes one or two good books then proceeds to write way past the point the story can sustain. But is that a good reason to slaughter your main characters? I say no. Even with the short term win, we know all those characters will die of old age. We know that when the battle is fought in the future, that will be with different people. And even so, with one minor change, don’t allow the Atium crystals to regrow, you can prevent that to begin with! To this possible explanation I say, get some self control and be done with it!

Now I am wildly concerned about the end of Wheel of Time. Please, please please let RJ have written a list of who survives, who dies, and why. Otherwise we may see the mass slaughter of dozens of characters we love.

The Gathering Storm: My thoughts

I finished The Gathering Storm on Thursday and after a few days of reflection I wanted to express my feelings and thoughts on the book. First off, there are going to be spoilers. If you haven’t finished, stop reading this and go finish first. Second, I liked it. Truly there is no replacement for RJ, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think someone, specifically Brandon Sanderson, can do it well.

I dove into the book with enthusiasm and excitement. I am willing to admit this may have colored my view, but I can honestly say the opening scene brought tears to my eyes. It didn’t have anything to do with the main characters. It didn’t have anything to do with minor characters, but it was poignant. These common people had every reason to ignore the events, or even run away from them. But instead they turned and faced the fight that was coming. This is the theme of Book 12 that echoes in every chapter and every character. They all stop running. They all stop scheming. They feel the weight of the Last Battle baring down on them. They turn and face their destiny and do what they must.

For the first time in several books the story spends a majority of its time on Rand. Many have complained that Rand was “too dark” in this book. I must disagree. This is the first book I have felt Rand was finally beginning to show the true strain and stress that he feels, both in his heart and on his soul. For the first time in this series I felt like the Dark One might win. Not through outright battle, but because Rand was crossing the point where his “the ends justifies the means” would lead to his fall from grace. Ishmael was not called the Betrayer of Hope for a reason. And in this book Rand has lost hope. Why does his tavern power no longer balance the bad with good? Because Rand himself no longer balances his belief that the battle is good with the evil that chases him. He no longer sees the good in the world. I have a strong suspicion in the next book we will see Rand capitulating more. Bowing to Tuon, Egwene, Cadsuane, Elyane… He has finally come to the same conclusion Egwene did while she was being punished by Silviana. Her own pain and suffering is laughable when compared to the pain and suffering of the world. Who cares is she is beaten three times a day? Everyone should be far more concerned that the Last Battle is coming and taking time out to quibble over punishments or who is higher rank than who is just absurd. If it took the Lews Therin side of him realizing that Ilyena might not be dead yet in this age and he needs to protect her, then I say it is about time. It seems so obvious to us that Min, Elayne, and Aviendha are the “three who are one” of Ilyena.

A goodly portion of the rest of the book revolves around Egwene and the White Tower. Talk about exciting! With each page Egwene strips power away from Elaida and convinces the Ajahs to support her. One of my favorite, mildly over looked points, was the fact that each Ajah attempts to convince Egwene to join them (excepting Red and Blue, for obvious reasons), once she is raised to Aes Sedai. What a stroke of genius! The Amyrlin should be of all Ajahs and yet none. Egwene was never a part of an Ajah, and yet, they all view her as one of them. Add this to the other events, including her Dream being so shocking proven true, and the use of Verin Sedai’s work. I will never forget that chapter beginning with Egwene considering the stilling and execution of the Black Sisters in the Rebel Camp. What a blow to deal the shadow at this late hour! What an event! With so few words, Sanderson slams home the truth that no darkfriends will be allowed to survive. Suddenly the Rebel Aes Sedai are sure of two things. They can at least trust all of them are not dark friends and that there are yet dark friends in the tower. This gives them power and strength. They are all on the same side and have removed the worms eating at their core.

The deaths of two Forsaken are handled almost carelessly. The use of the True Source during one of these all but ensures that the Dark One really doesn’t care if his Chosen are lost. He can get new Chosen, perhaps ones that aren’t as arrogant or foolish. The strength of the writing for the scene where Semirhage is broken… I could *feel* the shame and embarrassment Semirhage felt. Mother’s warned their children using her name for thousands of years and here, an upstart nobody with a tenth of the power, turned her over a knee and spanked her like a child, in front of a child! In an instant Semirhage lost all her power to Cadsuane. Imagine being known as the Aes Sedai who punished one of the Forsaken! As if her legend needed more ammunition.

While reading the book, I had several moments where a character would say or do something (usually say something) and I would laugh aloud. The snarky response or odd comment bringing the humor to the fore. In these moments I truly felt the difference between RJ and BS. RJ always kept a sense of decorum for his characters. They were never snarky or sarcastic, even when they had right to be, or should be. His dialog always came off as strong or angry. I was jarred from the story by this uncharacteristic depth to our beloved characters, but oddly, it wasn’t followed by the feeling that they *shouldn’t* be this way, but rather that they hadn’t before!

My second complaint is the omission of several characters. I realize that this is directly contradictory to my happiness with focus on Rand and Egwene, but to omit Lan, Elayne, and Birgitte entirely, not to mention secondary characters like Taim, Loial, Galad, and the other Forsaken? I can only hope this means they have stronger parts in the next book. I will wait until then to truely decide if this was a negative for this book.

Finally, and this is truly my complaint, some things were too “neat.” I know, I shouldn’t complain too loudly. We were given answers to so many questions. Is Verin Black or Brown? What is with the “too young” Sitters? What will happen with Siuan and Gaerth? What about Gawyn? Literally dozens of conspiracy theories and sub plots were resolved in this book. But many of them were neat, clean, concise and practically tied with a bow. As if the author frequented theory boards and thus knew exactly every point that needed to be addressed to resolve them without quibble or qualm. Which is likely. And while I am pleased to be right on all accounts that I argued… I sometimes wonder… is this the “truth” as RJ saw it?

At the end of the day, I do not care. Having an answer printed in black and white is good enough to let me sleep at night, not always wondering what could have been. Minor issues aside, I am pleased with the book, and with Brandon Sanderson’s writing as a whole. Long Live the Dragon.

Channeling His Spirit

September 16, 2007, Robert Jordan passed away from a terminal illness. I had to pick up the phone and call my mother and tell her Robert Jordan had died. It was one of the saddest phone calls I have ever had to make. I felt sad and bereft. I spent the next week moping about and crying at odd times when I looked at the bookshelves in my apartment. My husband was horribly confused.

You see, I had never even met Robert Jordan.

He is most well known for his exceptionally long running and long winded series The Wheel of Time. At the time of his death, he was working on the twelfth and final book, A Memory of Light. For the next few months I lived with the knowledge that one of my favorite authors had died, without completing his series. A series I had read from beginning to end over 10 times from 2001 to the present. 8429 pages worth of fantasy at its best. I even had multiple World of Warcraft characters named after obscure characters in his books.

Harriet, Jordan’s wife, promised his fans she would find someone to take the reams of notes and all of the information he dictated before he died and have the series completed. But how could she find someone who could possibly hope to fill Jordan’s shoes? In December of 2007 it was announced she had chosen Brandon Sanderson to complete the series. At first I was heartsick. I had never even heard of Brandon Sanderson. I went and purchased his first novel, Elantris. After completing the book, in a single sitting I might add, I no longer felt worried. If he pulled off Book 12 at the same quality of Elantris, it would be good enough to handle, if just to know what happened.

Last Tuesday, The Gathering Storm was published. This is the first part of the final book, which had grown too large to print in a single volume. I acquired it immediately and sat down to read, apprehensive of how it would feel.

Now, 600+ pages into the book, I am certain that not only was Brandon Sanderson the right choice, he is perhaps the perfect choice. In 600+ pages I have only had a few small moments where something was worded a certain way, or character dialogue was written in such a manner that it felt “different” from Jordan. Not bad different, that is to say, most of the time I noticed it was after laughing out loud at the quick witted response of a character and thinking, they have never done that before. But for the majority, it still feels like Jordan is holding the pen. Maybe with a different editor, but still him. Brandon Sanderson said he wouldn’t try to write in Jordan’s style, but rather would write in his own voice and tell Jordan’s story, but to this I say he mostly failed. Either that or he is channeling Jordan’s spirit. In which case I say thank you, both to Sanderson for being so diligent and exceptional, and Jordan for letting him.