Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
Series: Mistborn Trilogy #1
Publisher: Tor Fantasy, Mass Market Paperback, 643 pages

Vin is just your normal street urchin trying to survive another day, but when she catches the eye of someone who would destroy her and someone who is determined to save her, her life will be changed. After all, Vin is joining up with a crew taking on an impossible mission, they’re going to help upend the world.

I’m not sure what there is to say as a synopsis for this book at this point, everything has probably been well covered and with good reason. This book is amazing. I was so engaged, mentally and emotionally the whole time. The last 100 pages or so though took it to another level. The treatment of the Skaa is horrifying, yet there is something so uplifting about the story and the work that the main characters are doing to ultimately empower and eventually improve the lives of the Skaa. It lends a sense of reality to what is otherwise a fantasy story.

I really enjoyed the characters. As much as Kelsier’s behavior could really cause me anxiety at times, his endgame took me by surprise. The rest of the crew, Sazed, Dockson, Breeze, Ham, Marsh, even Spook all have these strong but unique personalities that made them more than just a crew that we’re reading about. And of course, we can’t forget about Vin. I mean… who doesn’t want to see a woman overcome their crappy past to jump into something new and just downright kick ass and take names from day one? Yet, Vin also has this naïvete that I think is quite critical to brining her character to life. I was constantly cheering on these characters.

The other thing I really have to give Brandon Sanderson credit for here is that I don’t think he took the obvious or easy road in all of this. Some of the plot points were just NOT what I was expecting at all. While I know now why things unfolded as they did, the process of getting from A to B definitely kept me on my toes and it was a great time. I also really enjoy the magic system here. First, there is a symmetry to it that is very pleasing to me, but it can also become so complex that it’s beautiful. It’s not like anything I’ve read before and I really did appreciate how he brought the magic to life. That said, there is also this unknown element to the magic that we start discovering along with Vin which I find to be very exciting.

All in all, Mistborn was an amazing book and the only thing I regret is waiting so damn long to read it. 5/5 stars.

The Mistborn Trilogy:
1. Mistborn
2. The Well of Ascension
3. The Hero of Ages
Era Two: 100 Years Later
4. The Alloy of Law
5. Shadows of Self
6. The Bands of Mourning
7. The Lost Metal

Deathcaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Deathcaster by Cinda Williams Chima
Series: Shattered Realms #4
Publisher: HarperTeen, Paperback, 656 pages

Alyssa ana’Raisa is struggling to find her way back home without letting the empress that has taken her know just what she is up to. Her home is at risk, her people need her, and she is determined not to let them down. Meanwhile, political intrigue abounds, both in the northern and the southern kingdoms. The question isn’t if the Gray Wolf line will succeed, but how.

Deathcaster is one hell of a conclusion to this series. There is a lot that happens throughout this book, but overall I think the execution was really well done. In a lot of ways, this series really built up a lot of political intrigue, both within the kingdoms themselves, but also between them. This book brings all of those points together as the details are uncovered in full. There was a lot that needed to happen in Deathcaster, after all there were characters all over the place and we knew they had to find their way back to each other some how. That said, I was impressed at how well the book was paced. I was just a little weary at first, but overall it did not feel rushed and I didn’t feel like there were gaping holes left.

I have to say that I feel like Lyss gets more of the time when it comes to character development than others in this series. And that’s probably fair seeing as in some ways she has the most to overcome of any of the characters in this series. Additionally, I think that in this particular book that extra time is important. She is essentially being made to make a decision that either destroys her freedom, or has the potential to destroy her home if she’s not successful in her planning. We get a lot of the struggle that her character is facing and it just feels so real. However, there are other characters that I would have enjoyed seeing more of as well.

Okay… Dragons. Let’s talk about them because I didn’t actually know when I picked up this series that there would be dragons. The way that the dragons communicate was intriguing in itself, but the way that their personalities were developed was THE BEST. It was so much fun. From watching Cas’s development, because he does develop as his own character from book one, all the way to the babies in book four… You cannot possibly not love them. I am obsessed with those dragons. I would die for those dragons. Is it a little much? Yes. Is it true? Also yes.

Does the ending of the book, or at least the overarching plot, feel a little convenient? Yes, maybe a little, but I enjoyed reading this series so much that honestly I am willing to overlook that. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Shattered Realms books and I am absolutely interested in reading Chima’s other works as well. 5/5 Stars.

Shattered Realms Series:
1. Flamecaster
2. Shadowcaster
3. Stormcaster
4. Deathcaster

Stormcaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Stormcaster by Cinda Williams Chima
Series: Shattered Realms #3
Publisher: HarperTeen, Paperback, 535 pages
Content Warnings: Instances of self-harm

Evan Strangward learned to be ruthless from a young age and as a result managed to gain control of a major port and the ships that sail it. However, the empress from the north is gaining power and Evan needs to take drastic steps to stop her. Meanwhile Lyss finds herself between a rock and a hard place and needs to figure out how to best save her queendom from the formidable empress.

At this point, it’ll be surprising to hear me say that I really enjoyed this book, but as with the first two, I really enjoyed this book. Evan is a character that we had briefly seen in the previous books and I’d been curious when we would see more of his cards. Stormcaster gave us a lot of insight into his background, but it also provided a lot of development into the events that were occurring when book two ended. This series really is the definition of the saying ‘it’s a small world,’ but thats something that I really love about it. Even some of the characters in these books don’t know for sure that they are on the same side. It really builds this tension that we as the reader don’t necessarily have, but we feel through the characters.

Speaking of tension… Stormcaster is heavy on the intrigue. Every character in this book is planning or plotting something. Everyone has a goal, someone they are trying to save, or an endgame they are trying to achieve. There are even instances that those with the upper hand find that in the end they don’t actually have it. It really is quite a ride. I can also feel that with only one book left things have started to come together. I have a couple of predictions and assumptions for the fourth book, but really I’m just looking forward to reading it.

All in all, Stormcaster was another huge win for me. I can’t really fault much of anything in this series thus far and I am so hyped to see how it’s going to tie up in book four. 5/5 stars.

Shattered Realms Series:
1. Flamecaster
2. Shadowcaster
3. Stormcaster
4. Deathcaster

Shadowcaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Shadowcaster by Cinda Williams Chima
Series: Shattered Realms #2
Publisher: HarperTeen, Trade Paperback, 576 pages

Alyssa, Lyss, ana’Raisa has a lot to live up to as the heir to the Gray Wolf throne and she plans to make her mark by doing things differently to change the course of the war efforts. Meanwhile Halston, Hal, Matelon has been assigned a dangerous new assignment that will take his unit into the north where they will fight in their enemies turf. When things take a turn for the worst, Hal learns that what he’s been told to believe about northerners may not be entirely accurate.

Shadowcaster lived up to the expectations that Flamecaster set, without question. This was another total win for me. Once again the writing, the characters, the story all sucked me in. There is some overlap in the timeline with book one, however the main characters in Shadowcaster are different than Flamecaster so we are seeing some different perspectives in this one. Though we do revisit some perspectives from the first book.

What I really liked about this book is that it stood on its own even though we already knew about some of the things that happened throughout the story. We are getting more information about these events, what led up to them, and what the consequences were. There are also new kinds of magic and more about the political minefield that is being traversed which kept my attention all the way through. Some of the pieces of the overarching story line are revealed here as well, though I still have some questions about what the last two books will bring.

Admittedly, there were a couple of things that were predictable in Shadowcaster as well, but again I was too busy enjoying the story to be bothered by the predictable bits. This was a great second installment in the Shattered Realms series and I look forward to reading on. 5/5 stars.

Shattered Realms Series:
1. Flamecaster
2. Shadowcaster
3. Stormcaster
4. Deathcaster

Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima
Series: Shattered Realms #1
Publisher: HarperTeen, Trade Paperback, 560 pages

Adrian, Ash, sul’Han is a wizard with a gift for healing and his only goal is to talk his mother into letting him go to school to study early. When a rival kingdom takes to murdering people in his queendom, Ash finds himself choosing between taking lives and saving them. Meanwhile Jenna Bandelow has been told that the mark on the back of her neck will make her a target, but she’s pretty sure her role as a saboteur is more to blame. When Ash and Jenna’s path’s cross they find there is more to the world than they realized.

Flamecaster was a hell of a book. While I don’t read much YA/teen fiction these days, I have to give credit where it’s due. This book was SO good. The first 50 or so pages where a punch in the stomach, but I was so here for it. The characters, the writing, the plot, I loved all of it. What I didn’t know going into this book is that there is a series that takes place in the same world ahead of these books. That said, I fell right into this world without any trouble and having not read the prior series.

Ash and Jenna were great main characters and I found myself cheering them on, but the way this is written I also found myself cheering on some of the secondary characters as well. They have such personality and overcome such triumph that it’s hard not to support them (or cheer when the villains get what’s coming to them).

There were a couple of things that were a bit predictable throughout this book, but honestly I did not even care because I was too busy enjoying the story and the characters. There is magic, and political intrigue, and rebels…. I mean, what’s not to love? There was even a little surprise I wasn’t expecting towards the end.

Overall, this was a major win for me. The biggest compliment I can pay this book is that when I finished it, I was at the bookstore buying book two less than an hour later so I could read on. 5/5 stars.

Shattered Realms Series:
1. Flamecaster
2. Shadowcaster
3. Stormcaster
4. Deathcaster

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
Series: The Scholomance #2
Publisher: Del Rey Books, Hardcover, 388 pages

Galadriel is used to the Scholomance having it out for her, but in her senior year it’s worse than ever. She can’t seem to get through a single day without something trying to kill her. It’s really making her plans to buckle down and figure out how to survive through graduation pretty difficult to achieve. Maybe the answer lies in going a completely unexpected route…

I still love this series, so so much. This book was very enjoyable to read and I just love to see what is coming next. I knew that something crazy was going to happen, but I did not quite expect this to take the turn it ended up taking and I am so curious to see if there is going to be some fallout from that in the next one, or what… where are we going from here?

One of my favorite parts of book one was seeing the friendship between El, Aadhya, and Liu develop throughout the story, and we get a lot more of that in book two along with the addition of Chloe into their friend group. Seeing these girls learn from each other and work together as they try to figure out the best way to survive was wonderful, and quite humorous at times. Additionally, we also get some information about tensions among different wizard enclaves throughout the world that give us a better idea of why things happened the way they did in this book, but I think it will also be important in the next one. Plus the school… it’s basically a character in its own right. How the students interact with the school and vice versa becomes really intriguing in this book.

Admittedly, I don’t think this was quite as amazing as book one across the board, but there is more of that sarcastic, dark academia feel as the first book had. The writing also kept me wanting to pick this book up and read which did keep me entertained and interested in the world, story, and characters. I really appreciate the way that everything seems to be coming together in the world as a whole. I cannot wait for book three to come out (and I can’t wait to reread these first two ahead of that release!). 5/5 stars.

The Scholomance Series:
1. A Deadly Education
2. The Last Graduate
3. The Golden Enclaves (Expected publication 9/27/22)

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
Series: The Scholomance #1
Publisher: Del Ray, Paperaback, 313 pages

Galadriel is just trying to survive until graduation, she’s not interested in worshipping at the heels of Orion Lake, savior of all at the Scholomance, whether they want it or not. If she wanted she could level the school and everyone in it, she does not need his protection. This year though, things don’t seem to be going quite to plan. And that means dealing with Orion Lake saving her life, more than once.

This book is everything. Everything I never knew I was looking for, but am so so glad to have found. I don’t quite know how to describe this, but the best I can come up with in relative terms is if all of Harry Potter took place in the maze from the Triwizard Tournatment, but 1000 times deadlier and more interesting magic. It’s amazing. The school is this living thing almost, there aren’t teachers guiding you, the school itself is guiding you, but if you don’t pay attention the school is going to screw you over. There are also tons of magical creatures, but most of them are going to try to kill you. In fact, chances are good that you’re NOT going to make it to graduation without the help of your classmates looking out for you and even then it gets questionable. I also love how the magic works in this book. Everything has a cost, and if you cheat – well, that has a cost too.

Galadriel, or El for short, our main character is so refreshing. She’s not perfect, and she isn’t going to try to be for anyone. She’s certainly not going to go out of her way to be nice to you if she doesn’t feel like it. She’s just so human, for a wizard that could pretty easily kill anything and anyone in her path. I loved watching the bond between El, Aadhya, and Liu grow throughout the whole story and look forward to seeing their bond grow more in the next book (hopefully!).

The writing, the pacing, everything that was happening was great. The book doesn’t take itself too seriously, except for when it needs to. There is this great sarcasm, which I’m ALWAYS here for. The author also brings this world to life through her descriptions of how magic, or the school, or creatures can exist.

Wizards don’t have faith in magic. We believe in magic, the way mundanes believe in cars.

page 191

It’s these tidbits that bring everything to life and kept me reading. There was no point during my read, which took all of two evenings after work because I was so enjoying this, that I wanted to put the book down. Even if there was something I didn’t like, I don’t know if I could dock points off this book. I truly enjoyed this book with all of my being and cannot wait to read book two. I cannot recommend this book enough. 5/5 stars.

The Scholomance Series:
1. A Deadly Education
2. The Last Graduate
3. The Golden Enclaves (Expected publication September 27, 2022)

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time #2
Publisher: Tor, Premium Mass Market Paperback, 736 pages

The Wheel of Time continues in this second installment with Rand and and the other villagers from Emond’s field continuing on their journey to ensure that the Light wins.

The Great Hunt was a very enjoyable second installment in The Wheel of Time series. We can see Jordan start to weave new elements into the story and expand on things he had introduced in book one. While there is still some question of what is to come and there is plenty of time for things to change even more, it is nice to see some of the pieces come together. Even when it’s not quite what I expected. After all, we get our first real taste of how Jordan is willing to incorporate twists and tug on your heartstrings in this book.

Rand, Rand, Rand. Through most of this book I really wanted to have a conversation with Rand that he probably wouldn’t have liked too much, but honestly dude. Yes his life is going to be much more than sheep farming, but by this point he’s had time to realize that. It just really chafes seeing some of the ways he acts, when other times he’s so confident and just doing it. I’d like to believe with the events at the end of the book that we are past that because he is obviously capable of handling whatever comes his way, but realistically, time will tell. I’m getting some interesting vibes from Egwene and some of the other characters following this book and I’m wondering just where these path’s are going to end up leading in the future books.

The Great Hunt had the same pacing issues towards the end as the first book did, but I didn’t feel as lost this time. There was just a ton of things happening in a rush the last 50 or so pages. It dangles the carrot to get you to want to read on, but it is frustrating too because we are rushing through these critical events and we don’t get to see any of the true impact until we read on, which I guess is the point, but dammit maybe I don’t want to have to rush through all of these big reveals. Besides the pacing of the end though I really did enjoy the story and how it unfolded. Jordan’s writing really does keep me turning the pages. He’s so heavy on the details so you can get a lot out of the read and it makes everything come alive that much more.

All in all, I really did enjoy The Great Hunt and I’m looking forward to continuing the series. There is a lot that is starting to happen and lots of hints and teasers being dropped and I can’t wait to see what comes next. I am totally invested in this series. 4/5 stars.

The World of Time Series:
1. The Eye of the World
2. The Great Hunt
3. The Dragon Reborn
4. The Shadow Rising
5. The Fires of Heaven
6. Lord of Chaos
7. A Crown of Swords
8. The Path of Daggers
9. Winter’s Heart
10. Crossroads of Twilight
11. Knife of Dreams
12. The Gathering Storm
13. Towers of Midnight
14. A Memory of Light

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time #1
Publisher: Tor, Premium Mass Market Paperback, 846 pages

Rand al’Thor is a sheepfarmer from the Two Rivers and that’s all he’s ever planned to be. Likewise his friends Perrin Aybara and Matrim Cauthon never expected to find themselves too far from home. Egwene has always yearned for an adventure and Nynaeve is not going to let these kids get themselves into trouble if she can help it, but an unexpected attack the night before a Spring Festival changes everything and these friends find themselves on an unlikely journey.

I went into the first book of The Wheel of Time series knowing very little about it aside from the fact that is it very loved by many and has quite the reputation. With that in mind I think going in not knowing anything and with minimal expectations was best because I was able to take everything in as the characters did and really grow into the story with them. It made this a very very enjoyable read, not perfect, but I was always happy to pick the book up – with the exception of the one event that made me boycott it for a day.

Perrin is by far my favorite character, though I do think all of the main characters definitely bring something to the story. I’m particularly intrigued by Egwene and Nynaeve. Egwene is formidable and we could tell from the first time we meet her as a little girl. Nynaeve is another strong female character, but we don’t know as much about her and I’m very curious to see how she grows throughout the series. Their roles and who they are is quite fitting for all of the events that are unraveling. I also find that the way it‘s written, always from the point of view of Two Rivers characters ensures that we as the reader are learning about the events unfolding at the same pace as the characters in the book. We don‘t know what they don‘t know and it added something to the experience for me. That‘s not to say that I don‘t still have questions, because whooooo boy do I have questions.

The Eye of the World is definitely heavy on the details, but it never felt slow going to me. Everything was always moving and it didn‘t ever get bogged down by the detail. That said, I also happen to be a reader who enjoys getting into the nitty gritty of a story, so this was just really up my alley. I did want more detail in regards to this concept of the wheel of time, how the past ages will influence current events (because it feels like they will), and how and why magic works the way it does. Of course, being book one of fourteen, I imagine this was by design. However there are a lot of things that Jordan introduces us to, but then really only teases us with minute detail. Which is both tantalizing and frustrating.

I do have a couple of gripes with this book though. First, there is one scene in particular that was very out of the blue – no context, no warning, nothing – and I‘m not sure why it was done. Is Robert Jordan dropping a hint for a future book? If so, why this way? It makes zero sense and it pulled me out of the story for a minute. Second, the ending. I‘m not mad at how the book ended, but I am mad at how abruptly the book ended. The pacing of the last thirty or so pages in particular was SO rushed. Having just invested time in the 780 pages leading up to it, I can say I would have kept reading if it was a little longer. So it was tough to get all of these WHOA! moments and then realize there is no more book.

All in all though, I really did enjoy The Eye of the World and I will happily read on in the series. I am so intrigued about how the politics and the lives of all of these Two Rivers folk, and the various parts and pieces are going to come together over the next thirteen installments. 4/5 stars.

The World of Time Series:
1. The Eye of the World
2. The Great Hunt
3. The Dragon Reborn
4. The Shadow Rising
5. The Fires of Heaven
6. Lord of Chaos
7. A Crown of Swords
8. The Path of Daggers
9. Winter’s Heart
10. Crossroads of Twilight
11. Knife of Dreams
12. The Gathering Storm
13. Towers of Midnight
14. A Memory of Light

Book Review: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

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Series: The Sixth World #1
Source: Purchased hardcopy

When most of the world flooded, we entered into the sixth world, the next world of existence according to the Diné, or the Navajo. This entry into a new world gave life back to gods and monsters that were previously only legend.

Maggie is one of the lucky ones to survive the Big Water and now she makes her living as a monster hunter using the gifts of her ancestors in Dinétah. However, something new is happening and she cannot take it on alone. Enter Kai, he is a bit showy for Maggie’s tastes, but she cannot deny that his methods are effective. So the two make an unlikely pairing to take on legend.

Recently I found myself looking for a book to read because I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for and I found this on my shelves. Honestly, I don’t actually remember buying it, but I picked it up and ended up reading it pretty quickly. It turned out to be a very enjoyable book to read – so I was happy to find it.

I loved the characters in Trail of Lightning. I am all about a kick-ass lead female so Maggie in particular was a great main character to follow. However, it’s not all fun and games for her, she actually has this very dark past that has led her down the path she is currently on and I really enjoyed following those threads. Kai and Tah were both so much fun in their own ways. I just want to hang out with Tah for an afternoon and listen to his stories because I bet he would have the best stories. Kai on the other hand is a bit more dynamic and I’m very curious how he’s going to develop throughout the series. Between them and all of the other characters – looking at you Coyote! – there was a lot of personality packed into this little book.

Aside from the characters, the thing that I enjoyed the most is definitely the inclusion of Navajo mythology. Native American tribes truly have some of the most beautiful and interesting stories and cultures (though I am admittedly biased to think so due to my own Native American heritage). While I’m not very familiar with Navajo myths, I just loved how Roanhorse built a dystopian world around these existing stories of the Navajo. I also like how she handled the clan powers. The idea of having access to the gifts of your ancestors like enhanced speed and strength, expedited healing, and so on was balanced by the fact that there are costs to using them.

Basically, Trail of Lightning was a very interesting read. While the writing felt a bit simple, it did not impact my enjoyment of the characters, world, or story. My only other qualms about this book is that there were a couple of questions that I feel we did not get answers to, but potentially if I read book two, which I will be doing, I will get those answers. All in all, quite enjoyable. 4/5 Stars.