“The Bands of Mourning” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2016)


The adventures of twinborn Waxillium Ladrian continue in The Bands of Mourning, who possess both Feruchemical and Allomantic abilities. The second book in the “second trilogy” of the Mistborn novels focuses on the legend of the “bands of mourning,” mythical metalminds once owned by the Lord Ruler that have been lost to history and time that grant the wearer ability to control all the Allomantic powers that the Lord Ruler was able to possess.

A kandra researcher – a species of creature that can live millennia by absorbing the bones of dead things (be they animal or human) and take on the form of that being – has returned to Elendel from its travels insane having lost its Allomantic spike and has clearly been attacked. But it also possesses drawings that supposedly depict the Bands of Mourning as well as writings in an unknown language. Wax is hired along with his “gang” of unusual characters including his fiancee to travel to the distant city of New Seran to investigate what happened to the kandra and possibly discover any validity to the drawings and writings.

While the previous book, Shadows of Self, kept the story relatively short and simple, The Bands of Mourning reveals more of the complex world and history that readers have come to expect with Sanderson’s epic fantasy. Sanderson mixes addictive action scenes with fascinating history, along with healthy doses of humor and hijinks, for a very entertaining read.

Originally written on March 4, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Bands of Mourning from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Shadows of Self” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2015)


Brandon Sanderson really set the stage with his Mistborn trilogy that showed readers he truly knows how to spin a complex, detailed and fascinating yarn with some great magic and action. He’s also two books into his projected 10-book Stormlight Archive epic fantasy series. So readers wouldn’t expect Sanderson to return to his Mistborn world since he has lots of other stories to tell. But then again, if you know Sanderson at all, you’ll know he never likes saying goodbye to a world he created and is always willing to return to it, just not in the same time.

Enter Alloy of Law, his standalone novel from 2011, and the first of the new trilogy, Shadows of Self, coming October 6th. He’s back in the Mistborn world a couple centuries further along in the future. If the first trilogy was set in a medieval fantasy period, the new trilogy is late 19th century with a healthy dose of the wild west. Waxillium “Wax” Ladrian has spent his time in the Roughs rounding up outlaws and as a “twinborn” is using both his Allomantic and Feruchemical abilities: he can push and pull on metals, but can also become lighter and heavier at will.

Now he’s back in the metropolis of Elendel, Lord of House Ladrian, and can see the city is in turmoil as the nobility continues to become richer and fatter off the backs of the poor and downtrodden who are becoming angry and riotous. Then everything goes to hell when a strange intruder assassinates a number of important and purportedly corrupt nobility and it seems to be a creature from an earlier time. With the help of his close friend and sort of sidekick Wayne (think Badger from Firefly) who can create speed bubbles where he can speed up time, and Marasi who is working as researcher and investigator for the police department and is sister to Wax’s wife to be, she can also slow down time in her speed bubble; they need to find out who’s behind the assassinations before anyone else gets hurt.

Sanderson has clearly had too much fun updating his “fantasy world” with things like guns, electricity and motorcars and lots of other technology reflecting our late 19th century period that are seen as an abomination by many in this world while there are those who can also perform Allomantic and Feruchemical magic. Even though the book is shorter – under 400 pages – than the books of the first trilogy, and the story isn’t quite as complex, he balances this out with some great shootout action scenes that will keep you glued to the page.

And the really great news is that the second book in the trilogy, Bands of Mourning, is coming out January 2016, just a handful of months away!

Originally written on September 17, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Shadows of Self from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Calamity” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2016)


In the final volume of the Reckoners trilogy things come to a close in an acceptable way. The group has been pushed to the brink and while they’re licking their wounds, they must face their former leader, Prof, who has now gone to the dark side of being an epic.

The Reckoners travels will take them across the country to the interesting city of Babilar (once Atlanta) that moves along and rebuilds itself constantly. There they will have a showdown with their former member and will somehow have to beat him. David believes he knows Prof’s weakness. He also has another card: Firefight aka Megan aka David’s girlfriend is proof that when an epic is pushed to the brink they don’t always turn evil; it is possible to come back.

She also has this incredible ability to open portals into a parallel world where there is no Calamity in the sky that causes all the problems. Things in this parallel world are different and the epics appear to be mostly good in nature. So David knows a world without Calamity, the ultimate epic, is a good thing. So in addition to bringing down Prof, he also needs to take care of Calamity and save the world. Just another ordinary day for him and the Reckoners.

Calamity has the same feel at times as the first two books, but is certainly a lot darker, bleaker and more intense, but then this is the final showdown and who knows who’s going to make it out alive. There is a lot of traveling around again, which can get a little boring at times for the reader. But the final payoff with the Calamity showdown is well worth it, as a surprising end is reached that leaves the reader fully satisfied.

Originally written on March 25th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Calamity from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Legion: Skin Deep” by Brandon Sanderson (Subterranean Press, 2015)


As bestselling author Brandon Sanderson takes a break from writing his epic fantasy novels, he turns to his ongoing novellas. Readers first learned of Stephen Leeds in Legion, a man who has the unique ability to create hallucinatory manifestations that only he can see who aid him in life and answer the questions he has. When he is done with them, they do not disappear but remain to aid him in his freelance work in solving mysteries and the occasional police case.

In Legion: Skin Deep Leeds is hired by Innovative Information Incorporated to recover a stolen corpse whose very DNA contains new technology and information that will change the world; whether for better or worse depends on how quickly he finds that body. In return he will be made far richer than he already is and will no longer have to worry financially.

The second installment into Legion brings a great story and more insight into this enigmatic character, as well as laying some important groundwork for where Sanderson wants to go next with his character, and revealing there is plenty more story to tell.

Originally written on November 14, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Legion: Skin Deep from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Legion: Skin Deep” by Brandon Sanderson (Subterranean Press, 2015)

Legion Skin Deep
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As bestselling author Brandon Sanderson takes a break from writing his epic fantasy novels, he turns to his ongoing novellas. Readers first learned of Stephen Leeds in Legion, a man who has the unique ability to create hallucinatory manifestations that only he can see who aid him in life and answer the questions he has. When he is done with them, they do not disappear but remain to aid him in his freelance work in solving mysteries and the occasional police case.
In Legion: Skin Deep Leeds is hired by Innovative Information Incorporated to recover a stolen corpse whose very DNA contains new technology and information that will change the world; whether for better or worse depends on how quickly he finds that body. In return he will be made far richer than he already is and will no longer have to worry financially.

The second installment into Legion brings a great story and more insight into this enigmatic character, as well as laying some important groundwork for where Sanderson wants to go next with his character, and revealing there is plenty more story to tell.

Originally written on November 14, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Legion: Skin Deep from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Legion

“Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson (Delacorte, 2013)

Steelheart
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It seems that whenever Brandon Sanderson puts his head down to write something, the resulting story is usually an incredible one that any reader will enjoy. The man is talented; it’s as simple as that. Sanderson had a second young adult novel come out in 2013, after the Rithmatist, and kicks off a new young adult series called The Reckoners with Steelheart. It’s your classic fantasy tale of superheroes, except all the superheroes in this book happen to be supervillains.

It all started with a strange comet and an even t that came to be known as the cataclysm where a certain number of the population gained superpowers and became known as Epics. David got to experience the supreme power of epics first hand when he was at a bank in Chicago, when the epic Steelheart murdered his father. Since then, ten years have passed and David, while living through hard times, has devoted every spare moment to learn what he can about the epics of the world.

He knows a couple of things: each epic possess his or her own unique power and with that power they have a key vulnerability. Some of these “weak points” he has discovered about the epics, others he is still learning. He also knows there is an underground rebel group looking to fight back against the epics one at a time. He’d love to join up with this rebel group, known as the Reckoners, but they’re very good at remaining hidden and undiscovered. But then again he’s also very good at finding things out that you’re not supposed to.

Sanderson takes a great concept of the superhero, makes up a bunch of them, then turns it on its head and makes them all evil. But whether he is writing fantasy or science fiction, the magic abilities of his characters always have limits in some way, just as the superheroes we know so well, like Superman or Spiderman, or the many others. Whether you’re a kid, or an adult who’s a kid at heart, you’ll love Steelheart.

Originally written on April 12, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Steelheart from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Dangerous Women” by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Tor, 2013)

Dangerous Women
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While George R. R. Martin may be taking his time with his next book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, he definitely has an ability for finding some great talented storytellers when working with the master editor and anthologist, Gardner Dozois. Dangerous Women is one of those books that you’re very thankful for being a giant tome, as you look forward to finishing the thrilling story you’re currently reading, so you can see how it ends, as well as discovering what the next story is going to be like.

A number of big fantasy name authors make the contents list in this collection, as well as a number of other mainstream authors you may not have read before. Each of them write about heroines or female villains or powerful stories with moving female characters, from the likes of Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Carrie Vaughan and S. M. Stirling, as well as a new novella from George R. R. Martin set within his fantasy world.  Not all the stories are fantasy or horror or science fiction, such as with Carrie Vaughan’s riveting story about female fighter pilots.

The beauty of a collection like this is that the reader has a chance to discover a number of new authors they never planned on reading, or maybe have wanted to try. Also, since the book is called Dangerous Women, it does respectfully feature more stories written by women authors, as it should. Ultimately, it’s a collection that features wall-to-wall female characters everywhere, which sadly cannot be said for most books published these days.

Originally written on April 16, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Dangerous Women from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Words of Radiance, Book Two of the Stormlight Archive” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2014)

Words of Radiance
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It is known as the sophomore slump, where the second book is not as good and simply doesn’t live up to the hype and success of the previous, first book. Generally this applies to a debut author book and its successor, and obviously Words of Radiance is not Brandon Sanderson’s second book (technically it’s his 11th adult novel), it is nevertheless the second book in his Stormlight Archive planned 10-book epic series. This is the series Sanderson has wanted to write since he was a teenager, and since he had well over a decade to work on the first book, it’s now been four years since the release of The Way of Kings, putting a lot of pressure on him in much less time to deliver just as good of a book with the successor.

It seems Brandon didn’t get the memo about the sophomore slump, or if he did, he just laughed at it and threw it away. Words of Radiance is a work of brilliance that is actually better than The Way of Kings in a number of ways.

Firstly, the book is almost a hundred pages longer, putting it at 1088 pages, so what’s not to like about that? The work and dedication the great fantasy publisher, Tor, put into this book is simply stunning. They built on what they did with The Way of Kings, providing a great landscape scene featuring one of the main characters, Shallan, in full resplendent color detail on the inside beginning pages and a full-color captivating map on the ending pages. Throughout the book are wonderful sketches and illustrations linked with the story, as well as ornate chapter headings. And to cap it all off, there is another beautiful wrap-around dust jacket cover by the great Michael Whelan.

And that’s just the physical book. Let’s move on to the story and writing.

The second book of a series, whether it’s a trilogy or a 10-book bonanza, has a lot to prove and impress upon the reader. The first book captivated and hooked them as the reader learned of everything for the first time. The second book has to maintain the reader’s interest with a world and characters they are already familiar with, and kick it up a notch, by introducing new material as well as expanding the complex world. Sanderson does exactly this and more, leaving the reader by the end of the book gasping at its impressive execution, but also comprehending how this can be a 10-book series. It is not that the reader can easily see what is going to happen over the remaining eight books, but through what is introduced and developed in the second book, they can see this furthering and continuing throughout the rest of the series.

Readers of The Way of Kings knew that with the development of the two strong characters in Kaladin and Shallan, they would one day be getting together, and Sanderson skillfully weaves his plot to make this happen. He has also changed the dynamic of the story from the final events of the first book, with Shallan becoming her own leader and a powerful person in her own right, while Kaladin is no longer a slave but a darkeyes of stature, which is unique in itself, along with his special abilities earning him the moniker Kaladin Stormblessed. As Sanderson often does with his magic system after introducing it in the first book, he pushes it to new revelatory levels in Words of Radiance, expanding its complexity and depth, while dumbfounding and impressing the reader with its sheer awesomeness.

As with The Way of Kings, Sanderson uses interludes at poignant, cliffhanger parts of the book, whisking the reader across his invented world to new lands and new characters. Some have been met before in the first book, others are new and fascinating to behold. He reveals a different world, a different people, a different culture, and a completely different way of life in these new characters as compared to those involved in the main story. As well as being entertained and interested, the reader is also wondering how these characters will relate to the main, central characters they have been reading about for hundreds of pages, and if perhaps they may eventually meet. Many fantasy authors employ elaborate maps featuring varied lands and seas and islands, but few ever actually explore their world fully and use its created complexity. It seems in The Stormlight Archive, Sanderson intends to do this, and thoroughly with a planned arsenal of 10 books to do it in.

By the end of Words of Radiance the reader is of course left wanting more, wanting that third book right away, even though it will very likely be another three or four years before it is published. Though if there is one thing Brandon Sanderson has proven to his many readers and fans countless times over, it is that he works hard and long, and delivers a book to the reader’s hands as fast as he possibly can. So one may end up being surprised as to when the third book in The Stormlight Archive will be out. But the ending of the book shouldn’t just leave the reader wanting more, but also leaving them feeling satiated; satisfied with the story they have read that has reached a completion of sorts, which is really what a book of this epic scale should do, since its successor won’t be available for some years to come.

So then, can you read Words of Radiance on its own without reading The Way of Kings?  Technically yes, some of the events of the previous book are referenced and made clear, but everything will make a tremendous amount more sense if you read the first book in the series before starting on this second one. Does the story warrant 1088 pages, or could it stand to have been edited down somewhat? With The Way of Kings, it could’ve stood to have been edited down fifty or so pages, but with Words of Radiance, I have been hooked on every chapter and it hasn’t really slowed down for me at any point.

Ultimately, it is a beautiful book, a work of art in many ways that is a great length and a worthy addition to the epic fantasy lexicon that will look just great on your bookshelf when you’re done. It is so satisfying to know that great books like Words of Radiance are being made and will continue to be made.

Now go get yourself a copy of Words of Radiance and lose yourself in the land of Roshar.

Originally written on March 3, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Words of Radiance from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

You might also like . . .

The Way of Kings  Mistborn: The Final Empire
Elantris  The Rithmatist

  • CLICK HERE for an audio interview with Brandon Sanderson from 2008.
  • CLICK HERE for an audio interview with Brandon Sanderson from 2010.

Brandon Sanderson @ Copperfield’s Books San Rafael 03/06/14

Time for some special news. After some back and forth with Tor, the agreement has been reached, and on March 6th at 12:30 pm Brandon Sanderson will be doing a reading and signing at my store, Copperfield’s Books San Rafael, located at 850 4th st. in San Rafael. You can find more info about the store here.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet with and interview Brandon Sanderson twice in the past. I first got to know him when he dropped off a copy of Elantris at my old Borders store in Davis for me and my co-supervisor, knowing we were fantasy fans, with a message essentially saying: “Here’s my book, catch you next time.”

I did my first interview with him at my old Borders store in Roseville, when he was doing a reading for Hero of  Ages. We had a good time and I could tell then that Sanderson is one of those authors who as much as he loves to write, will always give time to connect with his readers. You can listen to the first interview here.

The second chance I got the opportunity to interview him was with the release of Towers of Midnight, where the crowd was insane and he was only doing a signing and no reading. I only got to do a quick fifteen-minute interview with him and didn’t know Harriet McDougal (Robert Jordan’s wife) would also be there. You can hear this interview here.

And now Sanderson will be coming to my store for a reading and signing on his book tour for the release of the second book in the Stormlight Archive, after The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance.

So free up your schedule and come on by and see the wonderful store we have and meet one of the best fantasy writers writing today. And you can see rest of his book tour here.

“The Rithmatist” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2013)

The Rithmatist
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To spend a day in the mind of Brandon Sanderson would be a truly awesome adventure. It’s good that he’s such a hard-working writer and brings out multiple books a year, so readers get to enjoy his complex and fascinating story ideas. He does it again in The Rithmatist, creating a unique world, with an incredible magic system, some compelling characters, and a story that quickly becomes a favorite.

This is not the United States you are familiar with; this is a different world. There is the United Isles, consisting of a massive collection of many islands, each named with their own peoples and ways; some names are familiar like Texas, Wyoming and Montana; others are enticingly alien, such as the Californian Archipelago, Crockett, Georgiabama, Canadia, and New France. On a number of these islands are Rithmatic Academies, where Rithmatists train and are taught to become skilled warriors to join the battle, and defend against The Tower on the island of Nebrask. Our story takes place on the island of New Britannia, at the Armedius Academy.

More than anything in his life, Joel would like to be a Rithmatist, but during his inception ceremony, things didn’t go right and he wasn’t given the Rithmatic power. Rithmatists are those who have the power to give life to chalk shapes, and chalk drawings known as chalkings. A Rithmatist’s first line of defense against enemy chalkings is a perfect circle drawn around them which the chalkings will attack, but the more perfect the circle is, the stronger defense the Rithmatist has. If a portion of the circle isn’t perfectly curved, it is a weakness that the chalkings soon tear through it. There are many circles of defense that can be drawn to aid and protect a Rithmatist, named after their creator.

As for chalkings, they can be just about anything the Rithmatist can conceive of: a spearman, a tiger, a unicorn, a monster; the more detailed and complex the chalking is, the stronger it will be. They answer to simple commands, usually movement, a direction, and to attack. And when a Rithmatist is in a duel, which is an important part of training at the academies, it becomes a complicated trial of choosing the right defense that will protect the Rithmatist, but also give him or her a strong offense with chalkings.

The first chalkings began many millennia ago, it is thought from cave drawings, but then there were the wild chalkings, of unknown creation, that attack, harm and kill anyone, be they Rithmatist or ordinary human. The United Isles was a scary place back then, but now these wild chalkings have been kept secured within The Tower, but it’s necessary to have a formidable army of Rithmatists to keep up the defenses to hold these chalkings back. This is the most important role of the Rithmatist.

But getting back to Joel, he isn’t a Rithmatist. He spends his days at the academy, doing his regular classes at a mediocre level and wanting to learn as much about the world of Rithmatists as he possibly can. His father was a chalkmaker who had supposedly discovered a new form of defense, but this information was lost when he died, and whenever Joel asks his mother about it, she ignores him and continues her job of janitor at the academy.

The problem is that students have started disappearing, important Rithmatists from rich families, and nobody knows who is doing it and whether they’re even still alive. A single professor is chosen to solve this mystery, working with the police, and Joel is helping as he’s the professor’s assistant for the summer. This is his chance to learn more about Rithmatics and to hopefully help these kidnapped students.

The Rithmatist is one of those great stories that just sucks you in and never lets go. Together with the unique topography and fascinating magic system in a quasi-steampunk world using steam and other unusual forms to make everything run smoothly. It is a believe world, one in which the reader may be happy to live in, but also fear that distant island of Nebrask where The Tower stands, as the many wild chalkings attack and claw at the weakening defenses, looking to break through and kill everyone.

Originally written on June 12, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Rithmatist from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Evil Librarians  Scrivener's Bones  Knights of Crystallia