Book Reviews: August 2018

I only finished two things in August, although I did have a couple books going on my Kindle. The Way of Kings just took so much focus that others fell by the wayside. Spoilers for The Way of Kings are marked in the review below.

  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare

  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson


Macbeth by William Shakespeare

I read Macbeth in preparation for seeing the play in DC at the beginning of September. Romeo and Juliet aside, Macbeth seems to be the most well known of Shakespeare's tragedies (at least in my experience). Personally, I enjoy this one more than R&J. The scenes with the witches are my favorites, and Lady Macbeth's ruthlessness at the beginning of the play is chilling. The moments of doubt and regret between the Lady and Macbeth, while few and far between, were enough to humanize them even as I cheerfully rooted for their downfall.

Moral of the story: Don't get ambitious and kill people.

Best quotes:

"I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell."
-Macbeth, Act II, Scene I

"Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble."
&
"By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes."
-The Witches, Act IV Scene I
(I confess this is a favorite because of the Harry Potter frog choir.)

Rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings is the first book in his 10 book series The Stormlight Archives (SA). Roshar is divided up into dozens of nations that war with themselves, each other, and survive the planet's violent highstorms.

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The following paragraphs are a spoiler free overview of the book. I've marked where the spoilers begin and end, because you know I have to fangirl a bit.

Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before destination.

This saying had significance in TWoK, but it’s also a good reminder of how to read the book - "Journey before destination." This isn’t a book you read in one sitting. Enjoy each chapter and don't rush to the end, because the beauty is in the details and character development. The surprises at the end will still be waiting for you.

Only three books of SA have been released so far and at Sanderson's current pace, this series will probably take another 20 years to complete. But you know what? I'm okay with that in spite of the emotional cliffhanger-based trauma I am sure to suffer. Sanderson writes constantly, puts out at least one book a year, and he's only in his 40's. I'm not worried. *cough GRRM get it together cough*

The main Sanderson critique I see in reviews is that his writing can be a bit simplistic or even cheesy at times. I touched on that in my Mistborn reviews; I didn't mind his writing there because the world building wowed me. In my opinion Sanderson greatly improves on this with each book so I had no problems with the writing in TWoK. Well, almost no problems - Shallan was irritating with her attempts to be witty, but that's all. And in 1,200 pages (I read the paperback) that's nothing. But overall, the world building and depth given to Kaladin was amazing and made me sure that this will become one of my all-time favorite series.

SPOILERS BEGIN HERE!

I'm going to share my thoughts by character, in order of my personal favorites.

Up first, Kaladin. Surprise surprise. Kaladin is the only one who gets backstory in TWoK, while the other characters are set in the present. He was an incredible leader and his doubts and occasional bouts with depression were very sobering. He's flawed, and he hurts, but he's so inspiring. One of my favorite fantasy tropes is when characters get a little sidekick: Harry and Dobby, Lyra and her daemon, the Stark kids and their direwolves. LOVE it. Kaladin and Syl are right up my alley, and I liked how she would come and go as she pleased and was growing into her newfound consciousness as Kaladin became a leader yet again.

Bridge Four for life, I need that on a t-shirt.

Second, Dalinar. He was actually my favorite for much of the book but then Kaladin edged him out. The first moment where I said "Damn, I love this character" was when he called his Shardblade in the fight with the chasmfiend. CHILLS. I had CHILL from that countdown. I also loved that moment at the end when Kaladin basically ordered him around and Dalinar, even in his battle shock, was like "bro who are you?" lol.

Third! Jasnah! She's not one of the main four characters described on the back of the book but I loved her. I appreciated that Sanderson made her a believable atheist character. She stuck to her guns in all aspects but knew when to admit she was wrong with Shallan. Her research will be key going forward and I hope she gets some backstory in the next book. Is it too early to ship Jasnah and Kaladin?

I enjoyed Szeth and Shallan but they weren’t top three. At the beginning I was meh about Shallan, but that scene where she starts seeing spren genuinely creeped me out a bit. And then the hint that she has a Shard!! And the reveal about her dad!! Eep. I didn't expect it, but I'm genuinely curious about her now. Szeth, on the other hand, I felt pity for the whole book and wanted to know more. I did not see the reveal about his master coming, but I wasn't surprised to hear of his next assignment. I'm sure that that impending confrontation will break my heart. *dies of anticipation*

SPOILERS END.

For Sanderson and fantasy fans, this is a must read. If you haven't read Sanderson and want to, I'd recommend trying his Mistborn series first, it's a little more YA but his characteristic world building is still there and it’s shorter. Plus, Mistborn also takes places in the Cosmere.

Rating: 5 of 5 Emerald Spheres