“Arcanum Unbounded” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2016)


If you’re any sort of epic fantasy fan, then by now you know full well who bestselling author Brandon Sanderson is. You may know him as the author who finished the long-spanning Wheel of Time series by the late Robert Jordan; or the creator of the fantastic Mistborn series; or perhaps you know him as the great mind behind his ongoing epic Stormlight Archive series. As a young adult reader, you may have also discovered him through some of his YA titles like The Rithmatist or the Reckoners trilogy, or perhaps even his Alcatraz series.

In case you haven’t realized, the guy can write. What you may not know is that all his books and stories are intrinsically linked together in his Cosmere universe. I know. Woah! Just when you think the guy can’t astound you more, he does. Sanderson has mentioned and hinted at this over the years of his climbing to stardom and bestseller status, and now readers get their first full insight into this galaxy of wonders, and of course, it’s a heavy tome weighing in at 672 pages, in Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection.

The book collects a good amount of Sanderson’s short fiction. Of course, one can’t really consider these short stories, because when it comes to writing, the word means little to Sanderson unless he’s referring to a character’s stature. Each novella and novelette features an introduction by one of Sanderson’s knowledgeable characters about what they know about this particular planet and system and how this affects those who live on the world or worlds within it.

The collection features nine tales, including an Elantris novella, a Mistborn story and novella that brings back an old beloved character. It features the first chapter for what became the script to his graphic novel, White Sands, as well as a sample of the great artwork. Included is also his novelette “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” which first appeared in the George R. R. Martin’s and Gardner Dozois’ anthology Dangerous Women, which features one of the strongest and most impressive female protagonists ever, and is one of Sanderson’s best stories. Period. Arcanum Unbounded also has a very nice and very long novella from his Stormlight Archive called “Edgedancer.” The book showcases impressive artwork of the planets and star systems, and is of course beautifully designed and executed, as is any high-class work from Tor books.

Originally written on January 4, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Warbreaker” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2009)

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While just about everyone is hanging around and waiting for The Gathering Storm (due out November 3rd), first in the concluding books of the Wheel of Time series being written by Brandon Sanderson; readers might like to try out one of Sanderson’s first books that has been available for free as an ebook on his website for some time.  It is more in line with his first book, Elantris, than his fantastic Mistborn trilogy, Wheel of Time and Sanderson fans will find plenty to occupy themselves in Warbreaker.

Sanderson delivers another unique magic system all about color and breaths.  Breaths can be bought and ingested, and with each increasing number of breaths, one has more power to do things like bring inanimate objects to life and even create a zombie-type being from the dead.  There is the royal house where all royalty possess many breaths and show this in their ability to glow and whose hair changes color to fit their moods and emotions.  Then there is the land of the gods and those gods who have returned from the dead.  Warbreaker is a complex world that has a lot of detail to offer the reader which, while not one of Sanderson’s best works, nevertheless will delight fans and entertain them until November rolls around.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on May 25th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Brandon Sanderson check out BookBanter Episode 2.

“Wizard’s First Rule” by Terry Goodkind (Tor, 1994)

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While Goodkind’s first book in his now complete 11-book Sword of Truth series begins with an eerie thorn bush that sends its thorns burrowing beneath your skin as if they were alive,  immediately grabbing the reader’s attention and interest, Wizard’s First Rule is a classic first epic fantasy novel that sets the stage for a good series.

Richard Cypher is your classic, innocent, ordinary  guy who has grown up in a simple family with a relatively simple life.  His mother died when he was younger, but his father has supported him and his brother since then.  Early on, the reader learns that his father died mysteriously, to the point where he may have been murdered.  Then he meets a woman, Kahlan, fleeing for her life from  four men who he helps her to kill.  The woman is very beautiful and Richard is immediately smitten with her.  When Kahlan meets Richard’s good old friend, Zedd, there is a strange connection between them, as if they know who and what each of them are.

It is then that the story begins to unfold.  Zedd is a powerful wizard who has been in hiding for some time.  Kahlan is what is known as a Confessor, a woman with the ability to “touch” someone and make them become obsessed with the Confessor and will do whatever they are told.  And then the decision is made by Zedd that Richard Cypher is to be the Seeker and bearer of the mighty Sword of Truth.  There is an evil man in the far east, Darken Rahl, who is taking over, killing many, and looking to control all the known world.  It is up to Richard, with the help of Kahlan and Zedd, too stop him.

From this description, Wizard’s First Rule seems like any ordinary fantasy series, where Richard is a Frodo-type or a Rand-type from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.  And yet there is a startling harshness to this series, it is a gruesome world, there is sex and lust, unlike that of Jordan’s or Tolkien’s worlds.  It shocks the reader, but keeps them reading, wanting to know what will happen next.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on December 12th 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“The Wheel of Time” Series by Robert Jordan (Tor, 1990)

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I tried. I gave it over two years of my life and I still couldn’t keep going till the end. Of course, the real end will probably be book fifteen or twenty or, heaven forbid, twenty-five and up. I’m talking about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Currently there are eleven books in the series, the latest, Knife of Dreams, came out last October. The first book, Eye of the World, started out really well and I felt like I’d discovered a great new epic fantasy series similar to that of Lord of the Rings. The first book proved this and I thought it was great; I was also very excited at the notion of there being so many books in the series, with the story still incomplete. The second book, The Great Hunt, while not as mind-mashingly great as the first book, was still a great read, as was the third, The Dragon Reborn, where we find out that the main character is the guy prophesied to save the world, essentially. Eight books from there and the big showdown still hasn’t come, while Jordan has continued to drag out into the hundreds and thousands of pages scenes, descriptions, and characters bickering at each other about the same thing while repetitively employing their annoying habits, to the point where I feel like I’m reading a children’s nursery rhyme.

Then there’s the whole deal with the main character, Rand, having his undeniable love for three of the women characters, which he is okay with, and which they are okay with, apparently, and are quite willing to share him amongst themselves. I may have kept sloughing through the series better if there’d been a lot less purple prose and books four to ten had been condensed into say books four to six, which would’ve made more sense and made the stories move along better. Around book five I began spotting the routine the books go through: a few hundred pages of sitting around talking, explaining and regurgitating what’s happened in the past books, bitching at each other; then about four hundred pages of people painstakingly crawling from a starting point to a destination (and bear in mind that these people can “travel” through vortexes real fast), and then the last hundred pages is a big action scene. At book seven, Crown of Thorns, halfway through, I decided I’d wasted enough time on Mr. Jordan and his wordiness, so I employed a slow speed-reading method which got me through them a lot faster. In about three days I reached the end of book nine and decided I’d had it and it just wasn’t worth any more of my time. At this point I’d been able to summarize each book into three or four sentences, and I’d decided that if I can do that, maybe it’s just not worth it and I should put my reading time to something more important that I’d enjoy reading more.

So here I am Mr. Jordan, signing off on your series that held so much promise and crashed and burned like a planet falling into a dead star. Oh, and you know what, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. There are other people I know who’ve given up earlier than me, and others who’ve not even bothered to start because they know it’s going to end bad.

On the plus side, I get to sell all my Robert Jordan books and make money off him!

Sayonara.

Originally written on February 27th, 2006 ©Alex C. Telander.