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Book Reviews

Racerx1969

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Well now I'm going to have to go back and re-read these books. I have them all, but never got around to reading the last couple since they came so long after the rest. Gotta restart so I have some familiarity with the multitude of characters and plot lines.
 

Moe_Syzlak

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Well now I'm going to have to go back and re-read these books. I have them all, but never got around to reading the last couple since they came so long after the rest. Gotta restart so I have some familiarity with the multitude of characters and plot lines.
I started the series at Christmas. It’s been a fairly casual read of about 75 pages per day (1.5 hours). There’s definitely days I’ve gotten enthralled (usually at the end of books) and read more but ~75 is probably most days. I’ll end up reading the approximately 12000 pages in about 4 months. If you’ve been away from the series for a while I definitely suggest rereading the entire series.
 
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Racerx1969

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Yes, absolutely. There's so much going on--I remember enough to know I have to start back at book 1. Oh. Darn. :p

I'll get to those later though. Right now I'm chewing through the Expanse and Sharpe's series as each next book is available from the library. Those are quick reads (heck The Churn took an afternoon).
 

The Scribbling Man

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I've very nearly finished Sanderson's Way of Kings. It hasn't made me like him as a writer though...
 

Moe_Syzlak

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Although I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the previous book, it’s still very good. It advances many of the important plot lines, but still feels like what it is: the set up for the conclusion. I’ll start the final book tomorrow.
 

The Scribbling Man

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High 1.

Oh my... What a mercy it is to have finished this.
My hesitance in reading long books rarely has anything to do with the actual length - if a book is good, then the idea of being able to immerse myself in it for many pages is appealing. Unfortunately, it's incredibly rare to come across anything as lengthy as 1000 pages that actually justifies its length, and so alarm bells are normally ringing. So many fantasy books fall into this trap, and the excuse often made is "oh, it's world building" - but it's not. It's verbosity. And verbosity is only SOMETIMES tolerable (or even enjoyable) when A. The prose is good, and B. What's being conveyed is painting a bigger picture. Sanderson does not paint a bigger picture, he paints over what he's already painted - and he doesn't do it with much flair.

The prose isn't terrible, mind, but it's functional at best. It's not that it's "flowery" - it's not that kind of indulgence. The biggest problem is that it's constantly expository - nor is it useful exposition, but repetition. He gives the reader zero credit and wastes countless pages reminding them of what they already know... Again and again.

The Way of Kings is a book that twiddles its thumbs for pages on end, and then decides to drop a number of twists right at the finishing line. A clever tactic, because it might compel the reader to press on to the next volume (but I ain't falling for that... Oh no). And it's damn frustrating, because the book has legs... It's just that he cripples them.

I think Sanderson is capable of writing a good book - and who am I to say he hasn't? (This is my first) - he knows the basics of writing, he knows how to plot, his characterisation is decent and only really held back by stalling development with filler; but this isn't a good book. There is no justification for the length of The Way of Kings. Cut it in half; all depth could be retained (nay, improved upon),and everything would be made much, much tighter as a result. I can imagine the exact same story playing out - with no negative effect on character or plot - in half the number of pages AT LEAST. Heck, everything that happens in here should probably have been ticked off by the half way point, and then taken even further. There is farrrr too much of characters wondering and walking and mulling over the same scenario for the entire book. Progress is MINIMAL.

Yes, there are some nice world building elements, but nothing to yell about. Stuff to do with ettiquete and class is interesting, and the magic systems seem well thought out. Spren feel like a gimmicky joke half the time though. Drink every time any character does anything and [insert emotion here] spren appear to announce what they're feeling/experiencing. It becomes predictable and, while it's clear that Sanderson has bigger ideas in store for where he takes them, half the time they just feel like a tedious visual marker for practically anything internal.

Sanderson seems to be a nice guy. I've been following some of his lectures and they contain numerous nuggets of universally applicable writing advice. Some elements in The Way the Kings are even genuinely compelling.

Ultimately though, a *potentially* good story is ruined by indulgent filler, repetitive exposition, clunky action, cringe dialogue, redundant flashbacks, irrelevant asides... Ugh. I could go on.
 
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Moe_Syzlak

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View attachment 175

High 1.

Oh my... What a mercy it is to have finished this.
My hesitance in reading long books rarely has anything to do with the actual length - if a book is good, then the idea of being able to immerse myself in it for many pages is appealing. Unfortunately, it's incredibly rare to come across anything as lengthy as 1000 pages that actually justifies its length, and so alarm bells are normally ringing. So many fantasy books fall into this trap, and the excuse often made is "oh, it's world building" - but it's not. It's verbosity. And verbosity is only SOMETIMES tolerable (or even enjoyable) when A. The prose is good, and B. What's being conveyed is painting a bigger picture. Sanderson does not paint a bigger picture, he paints over what he's already painted - and he doesn't do it with much flair.

The prose isn't terrible, mind, but it's functional at best. It's not that it's "flowery" - it's not that kind of indulgence. The biggest problem is that it's constantly expository - nor is it useful exposition, but repetition. He gives the reader zero credit and wastes countless pages reminding them of what they already know... Again and again.

The Way of Kings is a book that twiddles its thumbs for pages on end, and then decides to drop a number of twists right at the finishing line. A clever tactic, because it might compel the reader to press on to the next volume (but I ain't falling for that... Oh no). And it's damn frustrating, because the book has legs... It's just that he cripples them.

I think Sanderson is capable of writing a good book - and who am I to say he hasn't? (This is my first) - he knows the basics of writing, he knows how to plot, his characterisation is decent and only really held back by stalling development with filler; but this isn't a good book. There is no justification for the length of The Way of Kings. Cut it in half; all depth could be retained (nay, improved upon),and everything would be made much, much tighter as a result. I can imagine the exact same story playing out - with no negative effect on character or plot - in half the number of pages AT LEAST. Heck, everything that happens in here should probably have been ticked off by the half way point, and then taken even further. There is farrrr too much of characters wondering and walking and mulling over the same scenario for the entire book. Progress is MINIMAL.

Yes, there are some nice world building elements, but nothing to yell about. Stuff to do with ettiquete and class is interesting, and the magic systems seem well thought out. Spren feel like a gimmicky joke half the time though. Drink every time any character does anything and [insert emotion here] spren appear to announce what they're feeling/experiencing. It becomes predictable and, while it's clear that Sanderson has bigger ideas in store for where he takes them, half the time they just feel like a tedious visual marker for practically anything internal.

Sanderson seems to be a nice guy. I've been following some of his lectures and they contain numerous nuggets of universally applicable writing advice. Some elements in The Way the Kings are even genuinely compelling.

Ultimately though, a *potentially* good story is ruined by indulgent filler, repetitive exposition, clunky action, cringe dialogue, redundant flashbacks, irrelevant asides... Ugh. I could go on.
Yeah, you probably wouldn’t like Wheel of Time. 🤣 I don’t know how Sanderson’s style on his own differs from what he does to finish WoT, but the whole series is exposition heavy. As I’ve said in previous reviews in the series, I often enjoy it more than most it seems. But there are often lengthy middle sections in these books that just go on way too long. I’m planning on writing up my thoughts for the whole series sometime next week once I’ve completed the series, but I think you’ll find i echo some of your sentiments.
 

jrWHAG42

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I've had two different teachers recommend the works of Brandon Sanderson. Those Stormlight Archive books seem interesting enough, but I'm a terribly slow reader, and I'm just generally bad at getting through books. With these books being over a thousand pages each, I can't make that commitment at the moment. Anyways, this is the first I've heard anyone talk about these books outside of school, which I found interesting for some reason. I appreciate your review, now I care less about checking out these books than I previously did.
 

The Scribbling Man

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I've had two different teachers recommend the works of Brandon Sanderson. Those Stormlight Archive books seem interesting enough, but I'm a terribly slow reader, and I'm just generally bad at getting through books. With these books being over a thousand pages each, I can't make that commitment at the moment. Anyways, this is the first I've heard anyone talk about these books outside of school, which I found interesting for some reason. I appreciate your review, now I care less about checking out these books than I previously did.

It's worth saying that I'm in the minority. If you are into your epic fantasy, then a lot of epic fantasy fans seem to love it. I wouldn't want to put you off something that's right up your street.

If, however, you are not a big fantasy reader and you struggle to get through books generally, then I'd probably recommend getting as far away from this book as possible.
 

Malthus

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It's worth saying that I'm in the minority.
I feel similarly about Sanderson's work. I have enjoyed his books for their concepts far more than their execution.
Yeah, you probably wouldn’t like Wheel of Time.
Interestingly while Sanderson holds little interest for me I adore The Wheel of Time. Mind you I seem to be one of the rarer fans who enjoys the slower middle books just as much as the others.

To both of you I recommend Tad Williams. I'm revising his Memory Sorrow and Thorn series at the moment and it's a wonderful series of books fill with just enough tropes and fresh ideas to feel both nostalgic and original.
 

The Scribbling Man

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I feel similarly about Sanderson's work. I have enjoyed his books for their concepts far more than their execution.

Interestingly while Sanderson holds little interest for me I adore The Wheel of Time. Mind you I seem to be one of the rarer fans who enjoys the slower middle books just as much as the others.

To both of you I recommend Tad Williams. I'm revising his Memory Sorrow and Thorn series at the moment and it's a wonderful series of books fill with just enough tropes and fresh ideas to feel both nostalgic and original.
Tad Williams is on my radar. I tend to buy from 2nd hand bookstores, and it just depends what I spot on the shelf. He's always around, but I never see the first entry in a series.
 

Moe_Syzlak

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I feel similarly about Sanderson's work. I have enjoyed his books for their concepts far more than their execution.

Interestingly while Sanderson holds little interest for me I adore The Wheel of Time. Mind you I seem to be one of the rarer fans who enjoys the slower middle books just as much as the others.

To both of you I recommend Tad Williams. I'm revising his Memory Sorrow and Thorn series at the moment and it's a wonderful series of books fill with just enough tropes and fresh ideas to feel both nostalgic and original.
If you look back through my reviews you’ll see I found the “slog section” of books 8-10 to be pretty good, particularly Winter’s Heart. I did think Crossroads of Twilight the weakest book, but just barely over Crown of Swords. I’ve been reading these pretty quickly so I think slower sections don’t bother me as much because they’re over pretty quickly when reading 100 pages per day. As I said above, once I’ve completed the series, I’ll compose my thoughts on the series as a whole. I’ve enjoyed it more than I thought I would but it definitely hasn’t made me a convert to the genre.
 
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Moe_Syzlak

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The final book in the series was appropriately epic. All of the many main characters get a chance to shine. The battles are interesting and unexpected. I am often bored by battle scenes in both books and films but this has a battle that is roughly 300 pages long and it held my interest. The end felt right, if not that perfect sort of ending that makes you shout “YES!” It’s definitely among the best books of the series.

I’ll post my thoughts on the series as a whole soon. My issues with this book are my issues with the series as a whole, so I’ll save that for later.
 
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