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Review: The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)

I have a confession to make – ‘The Emperor’s Soul’ is the first of Brandon’s novels that I’ve read and finished. To my mind, the Wheel of Time novels don’t count, because he co-wrote them with Robert Jordan. Years ago I tried the ‘Elantris’ audiobook and I think I managed three or four chapters – I think that the narrator, and the way he pronounced some of the place- and character-names, confused me, because everything sounded similar, or even the same. So I stopped listening, put it aside. Thanks to ‘The Emperor’s Soul’, though, I’ll be trying Elantris again, reading Warbreaker, the Mistborn Trilogy (plus the standalone sequel), and The Way of Kings.

‘The Emperor’s Soul’ is a novella, and a quick read, but it’s an excellent example of what can be done with characters and world-building in a novella.

The central character, Shai, is a Forger – she can recreate or copy anything; just how she does this reveals the awesome magic-system that Brandon created for this tale, so I won’t elaborate on it, but she’s captured in the Emperor’s palace after replacing something she stole with a Forgery, and she’s given a choice – do an impossible job for the Heritage (ruling) Faction of the Empire, or face execution. The job? Forge the Emperor’s soul. He was grievously wounded in an assassination attempt, and the Heritage Faction needs him back to continue their rule. So Shai is locked up, threatened, and set to work.

Shai is basically a prodigy – she’s brilliant at what she does, isn’t afraid to take risks, and knows when she’s in over her head, which she realizes is exactly where she is, now. The ruling faction considers soul-Forging an abomination and she is hated and feared, not only by the various politicians that constantly question her but by the soldiers who guard her. How she works on the soul-Forging, how she manages herself under the constant questions, threats and immense pressure shows just how strong Shai is, how stubborn and tenacious and intelligent, but not only that, we get to see moments of utter terror, of her reaching limits she would never have approached on her own.

Shai’s greatest enemy, and also her greatest ally (if she can swing it that way), is the emperor’s most loyal advisor, Gaotona, and he almost steals the limelight from Shai -  he’s in a dangerous position, trying to ensure that the Heritage Faction, having to deal with the stress of his Emperor being out of commission, and having an ‘abomination’ working to restore the Emperor, and finally, having his own beliefs regarding what Shai does tested daily. He’s a great character, under a different kind of constant pressure than what Shai is, and goes through a great evolution through the tale.

We also get a revealing glimpse at the Empire and a look into its history, understanding why there are different factions vying for control of the Empire, and Shai’s history. It’s all damned impressive, considering  the length of this story.

I hope plenty of you read this, it’s an excellent example of great storytelling, memorable characters, intriguing world-building and a unique and imaginative magic-system. Definitely worth the read!

9 / 10

The Emperor's Soul

Thanks to the folks at Tachyon Publications for sending the book to me! :-) To order your copies, click the relevant links: Amazon US (paperback& ebook), Amazon UK (paperback & ebook), Tachyon Publication’s page, and Exclusive Books (paperback & ebook).

And don’t forget to check out Tachyon Publications for much, much more! And I’m sure you don’t need the link, but here’s the link to Brandon’s website. :-)

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Reviews

 

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Review: The Wheel of Time Book 13 – Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Where The Gatherin Storm was a studied read, methodically building up the storyline and the pace until the final climax, Towers of Midnight is a frenetic charge toward Tarmon Gai’don, and this could be seen as both a blessing and a curse for the novel.

I’m not doing to set the scene for you – if you are reading this review and don’t know what The Wheel of Time is, then too bad. :) I’m jumping in and offering you my opinion. And this review will have spoilers!!!

 

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First thing: The prologue was a real head-spinner for me. I alternated between amazement and shock while reading it, due to what happens.

Having Graendal escape Rand’s bailfiring of her hideaway was brilliant, I really did not see that coming, and the way she was written -with that edge of panic and utter fear- really held my attention.

The Borderland’s scene was as effective, if not more, than the Farmer’s scene in The Gathering Storm’s prologue – here we have the actual beginning of the Last Battle, and the way the characters were handled here was poignant and respectful; these men knew what they had to be about and knew what would happen to them.

Padan Fain’s section really made me happy – he is definitely one of the most terrible characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and his scene stayed with me up to the end of the book. To be honest, I didn’t even think about why he didn’t reappear (or maybe he did, and I missed it, like I missed something else), because the rest of the book had gripped me utterly and completely, but now I’m wondering if he won’t burst into the spotlight again at Rand’s meeting with Egwene (which is sure to open A Memory of Light)…

Lan’s scene was the weakest, in my opinion; as soon as I read it I knew where it was going, and that made his denials more and more irritating. The man wants to travel into lost Malkier and take on the Shadow on his *own*? Dude, you can’t even channel! Anyway…

Rand’s chapters were absolutely incredible, even though they were few. He was, once again, my favourite character. Here we’ve got a guy -who has to save the damn universe- having gone through being reviled, feared, manipulated, wounded, contending with the crazy (and mostly irritating) women in his life, and practically losing his mind, passes through all these trials and becomes who he was meant to be – calm, self-assured, conscious of the mistakes he has made (Cadsuane), determined, and still able to feel love and gratitude. The scene with Egwene in the White Tower sent tsunamis of thrills down my spine – it’s never been more evident to me just how far Rand has come as a character than in that scene. Hell, I was thinking, “What the hell are you doing, are you insane?” and he goes and completely controls the situation, showing the Aes Sedai that he is the Dragon Reborn once and for all. I cheered and cheered and cheered when he walked out of there and kept on saying to myself, “Dude, you absolutely ROCK.” The rest of scenes were consistently awesome – taking charge, trying to give attention to what he had overlooked, moving towards his destiny. Sounds lame when I put it that way, I know, but this movement was never really apparent for me in the previous novels (say, from Winter’s Heart onwards). I’m going to be cheering him all the way to the blood on the rocks. :)

Egwene, on the other hand, irritated me as never before. It didn’t have anything to do with Brandon’s writing of her, though; she irritated me because a) of keeping Gawyn on a bloody string the whole time (seriously, WTF), and b) not trusting in the bloody Dragon Reborn to know what he’s doing. I did get chills when she (finally) bonded Gawyn, and I was very happy for them. :)

Gawn, Morgase, Galad: Galad was excellent, easily one of the best characters in the book – he went through more characterization in one book than in all the preceding novels and it didn’t seem rushed or forced to me at all. Perhaps that’s because I didn’t really give his threads much notice -fine, the dude sees everything in black and white, let’s move along already- but I really enjoyed him working through the evidence of Perrin’s crimes, having to deal with Bornhald and Byar (shaking my head at these two, that’s all I’ll give to them), and then coming to trust Perrin.

Gawyn and Morgase, on the other hand, irritate the living hell out of me. They are, without a doubt, two of the most selfish characters I’ve ever come across. Morgase is such a bad mother that she would rather be a serving woman than even try to get in contact with her children (and I’m sorry, the whole argument of “Elayn can’t have me interfering while she’s on the Lion Throne” is a load of crap. How many times did she even worry about her children? Not bloody enough. Bad, bad mother. Thinking more about being a cougar than letting her own children know that she’s alive. Gawyn… Fine. Thinking that someone killed my mother and then knowing that I’d have to put up with him because he has to save the universe is one thing; but always thinking about killing him? Did he not get the memo or something? Rand is the Dragon Reborn – your little worries just do not matter. Anyway, rant over. For now. (He’d better do something useful in A Memory of Light – or die falling down a toilet; either wouldn’t really matter to me).

Mat: he definitely was the old Mat we all love, so big kudos to Brandon there. The whole “I can look at her, only look, because I’m married now” thing got a bit old after a while, but Mat was joking, fearless, utterly without regard for what anyone thought, and downright fun. The ending of the gholam thread was cool (also, finally) and the movement towards the Tower of Gengei was great, although I have to admit that the actual rescuing of Moiraine was wayyy too anti-climactic for my tastes. Yes, it was awesome going back to the Snakes and the Foxes, and the (finally) reveal of Jain Farstrider was one of those awesome-soundtrack-in-the-background moments, but on the whole I think it was the weakest climax in the book. Having Moiraine back is going to be crazy-good for A Memory of Light, but her and Thom just falling into each other’s eyes (yes, I knew it was coming, how obvious it was) was just too damned quick. It was, without a doubt, one of the most unlikely love stories in the entire series and it was officially revealed so quickly that I was left wondering, “Are you serious?” We finally have Mat giving up ‘half the light of the world’, though, and that makes me think that if Moiraine dies before Rand opens the Bore, the world is stuffed no matter what Rand does. She is obviously incredibly central to sealing away the Dark One.

Now I come to what were my favourite threads in the novel: Perrin and Aviendha.

Aviendha gave us what I consider to be the most intense and thoughtful thread of the entire series. Not only did she actually begin to wonder what was left for the Aiel as a people, but she kicked tradition on its ass by taking the greatest risk any female channeler has ever taken by breaking the rules. The scenes of her living through Rand’s descendants was, in my opinion, utter and terrible brilliance. I never thought that we would get a glimpse of the future after the sealing of the Bore, and to get that glimpse while also meeting Rand’s (many) children… DAMNED COOL. She now has this massive weight, the weight of her entire nation, on her shoulders, and I absolutely cannot wait to see how she not only deals with her realizations through A Memory of Light, but does this fighting in the Last Battle. Definitely one of my most-anticipated threads for the final volume.

And then finally Perrin: Up to this book I couldn’t stand him. Many people think of Rand as the uber-Emo, but Perrin took that crown and cried over it long before Rand even vibrated in that direction. I’m re-reading the series (finished Lords of Chaos again not too long ago), and the march towards Malden may just be a thread that I will completely skip – that way I’ll not have to lurch through Perrin and Morgase again. BUT. In this book, Perrin was excellent. He finally goes up against Slayer (wonder what he’ll be doing in the Last Battle – methinks Lan will have a fine old time with him), embraces who he is, kicks ass in the Wolf Dream, and gives us the first (and incredible) forging-a-weapon-with-the-Power scene. I had gooseflesh that entire scene. And when I saw this cover I had gooseflesh all over again. Perrin became not only the best general (my opinion) in that world, but also one of my favourite characters again. RJ, Brandon, you redeemed him for me. THANK YOU. And not only was Perrin redeemed, he was also central to some of the best WoT scenes I’ve ever read – witnessing Rand on Dragonmount (I wouldn’t want to be there, at that time, even if I could channel), and (my absolute favourite scene ever) standing with Egwene and nullifying BALEFIRE. :)

So, while Towers of Midnight really and truly kicked ass because of the events throughout the book, it also (and here you might think I’m weird) sucked:

The pacing of the book was a bit off – way too much jumping around. Rodel’s thread needed to happen more often – taking as long as it did between scenes sucked away any interest I had in seeing one of the best generals in the world do his thing. I’ve mentioned the climax – I think Mat’s thread would have worked better if it ended before Perrin’s. And the mistakes – when Tam leaves Perrin, Perrin lets him even though he doesn’t know why; but later on, Perrin suddenly knows why Tam left. WTF? Also (and this is my biggest problem), did the copy editors not do their jobs? This book was absolutely riddled with typos – so much so that every mistake was like a blow to the head. Come on, people; you don’t slip up like this on what will prove to be one of the biggest titles in the history of fantasy. You just don’t. But you did. Please, no typos in A Memory of Light. That would be a crime of massive proportions. :(

My second-biggest problem – the (non) reveal of Asmodean’s killer. Come on. RJ and Brandon: you leave us wondering and hanging and waiting for the reveal and then stick it in the damned glossary?! Not cool. But surprising as hell, I’ll give you guys that.

All in all, Towers of Midnight was an excellent book, marred (but not excessively so) by pacing issues, the mistake regarding Tam, and a massive amount of typos. It brought some cool threads to a close, nicely paving the way for the final volume, and even began what will probably turn out to be some very cool threads that may just carry over until after the sealing of the Bore. Event-wise it’s the best Wheel of Time book I’ve read, that’s for sure. :) I’m gonna go ahead and say this – I think we can expect the same jumping around through events with A Memory of Light; and that scares me a bit. There’s just so much that still needs to happen, not even considering about Caemlyn being attacked. I do look forward to it, though, and will once again drop everything I’m reading to dive into it when it’s released. Towers of Midnight has left me in absolutely no doubt that the Last battle has started, Rand is ready to do what he was born to do, and that we’re in for one hell of a wild ride with A Memory of Light.

8 / 10

If you don’t yet have your copy, what the hell’s up with that? ;) Seriously, order your copies here for Amazon US and here for Amazon UK; those in South Africa can just click the link (the book’s cover) to the right and order from Exclusive Books. Head on over to Brandon’s site here, and don’t forget to check out the best Wheel of Time site on the internet – Dragonmount.

Tor.com have also created Wheel of Time-centric portals, run by Jennifer Liang; damned good person to be in charge of them. :-) Wheel of Time on Facebook; Wheel of Time on Twitter.

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2011 in Reviews

 

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Discussing Wheel of Time and Brandon Sanderson on Zoopy TV

I’ve just found out that the vid doesn’t exist anymore. :( Sorry about that, folks.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2011 in Announcements

 

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Totally Tor: Twelve Days and Twelve Doctors!

Hey Everyone! :-)

The story I sneak-peeked for you in the last Totally Tor post, The Trains that Climb the Winter Tree, has gone live over at Tor.com, so go ahead and read the tale in its entirety – you know you want to… ;-)

And thanks to Irene Gallo, I’ve got some news for you about an awesome celebration of Dr Who – just click on the logo below to get all the details, and don’t forget to mark your calendars!

I’ll be winding down soon as we move towards the year; look out for a guest-review of Jasper Fforde‘s Shades of Grey and hopefully a final-2010 review of the Jordan-Sanderson epic, Towers of Midnight. :-)

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2010 in Totally Tor

 

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Book Trailers Galore!

Hey guys and girls, I thought I’d show you some of the cool book trailers I’ve had a chance to see – I’m sure you’ll forgive me for forcing you to use up some of your bandwidth, eh? ;-)


Read my review here.


Order from Amazon US and Amazon UK.


Pre-Order from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

And the biggie…

Pre-Order from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2010 in Book Trailer

 

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Review: The Wheel of Time Book 12 – The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

This review was originally posted over at Realms & Galaxies: Celebrating SFF on the 14th of December 2009.

So, I finally managed to get a copy and read it. Practically a month and a half after it was published worldwide, but I did get it. And here are my thoughts:

I will admit that I was a bit worried about the book after I read the first chapter posted at Tor.com; I immediately picked up that this wasn’t Jordan, and my instinct was to be a bit put out and disappointed. Until, that is, I realized the most important thing – this was Robert Jordan’s book, but he did not write it. Some of you might be thinking, Huh? That’s obvious! But think about this a little. Is any negative response towards the book justified, when taking into consideration that Robert Jordan was unable to write this book? If you were looking for a book written by Robert Jordan, there are plenty to choose from, including some westerns, but The Gathering Storm is not one of those books. Robert Jordan did not write this book! I’m just trying to make you few who might hate this book understand that. It is his book, but he did not write it because he, very sadly, died. Brandon Sanderson worked off notes, worked with Harriet and Mr Jordan’s assistants, to write this book. So it is Robert Jordan’s book, and it most definitely is a worthy Wheel of Time book. :-)

Okay, to my thoughts:

The prologue, in which a farmer we have never met before decides to pack up and move towards the building storm -to do his part in the battle that is coming- was an incredible piece! This section, more than any other, really brought home to me how close Tar’mon Gaidon is, and sets the tone for The Gathering Storm as well as The Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light. In my opinion, the best of all previous Wheel of Time prologues!

And then you read further… Rand takes center-stage, and this Rand is dark and brooding and, worryingly, terrifying. I really came to like Rand, to commiserate and sympathize with him, but this Rand… This Rand was not the Rand I knew. I’m not saying that Brandon didn’t capture him, that Brandon totally destroyed the character – I’m saying that, in a way, I didn’t want this to be the rand I knew and liked. Like Min and Cadsuane, I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that pressure -and who has more immense pressure on him than the Dragon Reborn- changes a person; rand could not be the same person he was when we met him on the Quarry Road. He had to become harder and darker and ruthless. And when I understood this, I was able to read on – wincingly, and on the edge of my seat.

Falling deeper into the book is was a joy – not only did Brandon manage to capture the characters -even Aviendah- perfectly, but his understanding of the world and the story came through gloriously. You can tell that Brandon really has a deep and abiding love of the world and characters created by RJ, and a deep respect, too. I never once got the feeling that characters were reacting in ways that were at odds with how RJ wrote them, something that must have been incredibly difficult to do. I mean, not only was (and he still is, I believe)he under immense pressure from fans, the general Fantasy community, Tor, etc but he also had to handle characters and events that have been with us since 1992! A tall order, but something that Brandon accomplished in grand style, in my opinion. :-)

Moving to the events of the book, there are plenty of major surprises! Rand, as I said before, is terrible – by terrible I mean he’s the kind of opponent I would cross oceans to escape! Now, more than any time before, he has embraced being the Dragon Reborn, and what he does in this book will knock your socks off! One event, in particular, will have the Forsaken s******g their pants, that’s for sure! Brandon (via RJ’s notes) sets the pace and keeps to it, charging the story through glimpses of the Forsaken, a very important and fateful day in the life of Tuon, Mat entering a creepy village, one of Egwene’s Dreams coming true, and more events involving Rand. I was left breathless on many occasions, my girlfriend glancing at me and frowning most of the time because of me cheering or gasping or shaking my head or swearing, and on occasion, even laughing! There are some truly hilarious moments in the book, and not just in chapters devoted to Mat. :-)

In my opinion, Brandon succeeds at respecting and, in some ways, enhancing The Wheel of Time, as well as pushing events onwards towards the Final Battle. This book is definitely a worthy successor to the legacy and brilliance of Robert Jordan and I wouldn’t mind at all if Brandon was asked to do the two other prequels that RJ planned to do or the Outrigger novel.

All in all, while this may not be the book we were waiting for -because RJ wasn’t able to write it- this is definitely a must-read for all Wheel of Time fans and without a doubt one of the best books in the series. Not only did I enjoy it immensely, it also left me with the need to go back and read the rest of the books – not for re-reading purposes, not because I want to refresh myself on events and character arcs, but because I want to relive meeting the characters, watching the events unfold and learning about the world and its history. After The Gathering Storm, I love The Wheel of Time all the more!

My verdict: Very entertaining, exciting and a worthy addition to The Wheel of Time – 9 / 10!

To order your copies, click here for US, here for the UK, and for those in SA, click here to order from Exclusive Books.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2010 in Reviews

 

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Want to read The Gathering Storm – Chapter 1?

:-) Well then, you’ll have to head on over to Dragonmount, read the post (including all the other cool info they’ve got) and then go to where you can read the first chapter. :-) Oh yes, its title is ‘Tears from Steel’. :-)

I’ve read it, and it’s awesome. Brandon is doing an incredible job!

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2009 in Announcements

 

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An Interview with Brandon Sanderson

Thanks to Brandon for taking time out of one of the most important projects in Epic Fantasy’s publishing history to answer a few of my questions! :-) I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did! :-)

Brandon Sanderson

Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Brandon, and welcome to the South African SFF scene! First off, will you please tell us a bit about yourself? Where you grew up, what started you reading, and why you started writing?

I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was a big reader as a child, then fell away for a while. In third and fourth grade, my favorite series was the Three Investigators books, a mystery series. As I grew older, the books that other people gave me to read were realistic fiction–books that bored me out of my skull, so my reading habits dribbled off. By junior high I wasn’t reading anything new, until I had a wonderful English teacher who told me I couldn’t keep doing book reports on novels that were four grades below my reading level. Instead, she gave me her copy of Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly. I had no idea books like that existed–it engaged my imagination like no other book ever had. At that point I started reading every fantasy book I could get my hands on, including Eye of the World when it came out in paperback. I was hooked, and there was no going back. I even started writing some myself–on my website in the library section there’s a short story I wrote in high school for a writing contest at a local SF convention. It’s really not very good, but it took first place in the student division, and at the awards ceremony was one of the first times I can remember thinking, “Wow, maybe I can do this.”

My mother, however, thought I should study something more concrete and said I could keep writing on the side. I started college as a biochemistry major, but when I took two years off to serve a mission for my church I realized I didn’t miss chemistry at all and just wanted to write. On my off days I worked on what eventually became my first novel, and when I got back to school I changed my major to English and determined to become a professional author.

You have amassed a well-loved body of work, attaching your name to epic fantasy even before being approached to finish A Memory of Light; will you please tell us about your work, and why a reader who has never read your work should buy and read a copy of Elantris, the Mistborn series or Warbreaker?

I love epic fantasy, but I’m of the generation who grew up reading Robert Jordan and Tad Williams and are now trying to say, what else can we do with the genre? I want to write books that feel like the great epic fantasies of the past that you’ve read, but don’t use the same, familiar stories. In Mistborn, for example, the idea was to turn the standard fantasy story on its head–what if the prophesied hero failed and the Dark Lord took over and has ruled the known world for the last thousand years? My books are also known for their spectacular, interesting magic systems that are very rule based and almost a science unto themselves. But of course none of that matters without characters whose motivations you can understand and who you can care about as a reader. In Elantris I have three very different main viewpoint characters, and readers are fairly evenly divided on who’s their favorite–in writing as in anything else, it’s impossible to please everyone all the time, but I’m happy that my books have shown so many different people a character they can relate to and root for.

Between writing Mistborn 2 and Mistborn 3, I wanted to try something new, and my series of humorous middle-grade novels beginning with Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians was the result. I love epic fantasy, and don’t intend to ever stop writing it. However, sometimes we all need a diversion toward something more lighthearted. If you want to get a taste of what my writing is like, because Alcatraz is so different from my other books I recommend that unless you’re between the ages of ten and thirteen you start with the first Mistborn book–or Elantris or Warbreaker. Mistborn is a good entry point for people who like trilogies and series (and the writing is better in Mistborn than in Elantris; I can see how much I have improved over the years). The other two are good entry points for people who prefer standalones–and Warbreaker is available for free on my website (as well as coming out in hardcover in North America from Tor next month), so it may be the most convenient starting point of all.

You’ve been using the Internet as an excellent tool for marketing your work and getting readers a behind-the-scenes seat on being an author; what led to you taking that path?

There are some authors out there who are really good at sitting down and blogging about themselves or whatever’s on their mind and building a following of likeminded people, but I actually find that a bit of a struggle. Perhaps writing fiction kind of sucks away all of the “writing juices” from me, leaving me unmotivated to write anything promotional. Or perhaps it’s because I’m really a recluse at heart. I want people to read my fiction, but I don’t necessarily care if they know about the man behind the screen. He’s not important–only the story matters. So while I do manage to do some of the normal blogging things–talking about my life and the creative process–I also see my website and blog as an opportunity to give back to the fans. In the publishing world, a lot of time passes between one book’s release and the next’s, and I hope that giving my readers something to read regularly while they’re waiting is a good way to keep my books in their mind. If someone who reads a book by me puts my name into a search engine, I want something interesting to show up–I think of a lot of my website content in terms of the bonus content you get on a special edition DVD. The biggest example of this is the chapter-by-chapter annotations I post regularly–think of them as the director’s commentary track that you can listen to while you watch a movie, usually on the second or third watching of a movie you like. You can read a chapter or section of the book, then read my companion discussion of that particular section. The annotations alone add a lot of text to the reading experience–the annotations for Mistborn 3: The Hero of Ages that I’ll start posting soon total 40,000 words, which is long enough to be called a novel in its own right (though my novels themselves are quite a bit longer than that). Also like on a DVD, you can find deleted scenes and alternate endings on my website–earlier drafts that I had to discard but which the readers might find interesting. And I do like to let people know the status of the projects I’m currently working on, with handy progress bars in one corner of the page.

You also run the Writing Excuses podcast with Howard Tayler and Dan Wells; did the idea start with you, or was it the brainchild of a get-together? And why do you think it has become so popular?

A couple years ago, I realized that there’s a whole lot of writing talent hanging around my area. I also realized that my brother is getting a degree that focuses heavily on web marketing, and that he had just taken a podcasting class. These two ideas started battling to the death in the arena of my mind, until they merged into the weekly podcast known as Writing Excuses. Dan Wells and I have been friends since college, and before we were published we went to conventions together to hit up editors. (His first published book, horror novel I Am Not a Serial Killer, recently came out in the UK.) Howard I met more recently, but I’d long been a fan of his Schlock Mercenary webcomic (schlockmercenary.com). I felt that our combination of writing styles and backgrounds would make an interesting mix for the podcast, and Dan and Howard were enthusiastic. As for why the podcast has become popular, I think our slogan has a lot to do with it–“Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.” Our goal is to be quick, informative, and conversational–and, if possible, occasionally amusing. That has clearly struck a chord with our listeners.

The Gathering Storm

Moving on to the Wheel of Time, I’m sure you can remember exactly where and when you were when you first laid eyes on The Eye of the World; what, in your opinion, makes the Wheel of Time series so popular?

I do remember exactly where and when I first laid eyes on The Eye of the World. It was right after the paperback came out, and I was at the local comic store where I bought all my fantasy books. While browsing the new paperback shelf, I saw this huge fantasy novel there. I can almost feel that moment, standing and holding the book in my hands, listening to someone play an antiquated upright of Cadash in the background. I think the cover of Eye is the best Darryl Sweet has ever done–one of the best in fantasy. I loved the cover. The feel of the troop marching along, Lan and Moiraine proud and face forward. . . . The cover screamed epic. I bought the book and loved it. I still think Eye is one of the greatest fantasy books ever written. It signifies an era, the culmination of the epic quest genre which had been brewing since Tolkien initiated it in the ’60s. The Wheel of Time dominated my reading during the ’90s, influencing heavily my first few attempts at my own fantasy novels. I think it did that to pretty much all of us; even many of the most literarily snobbish of fantasy readers were youths when I was, and read Eye of the World when I did. Robert Jordan showed us what it was to have vision and scope in a fantasy series–he did a wonderful job giving his readers a sense of immensity to his story, while at the same time focusing on the specific lives of his characters. He did an excellent job of creating a large set of empathetic characters and keeping them straight in the reader’s mind. He’s a model writer for walking the line between familiarity (the “farmboy saves the world from an evil overlord” story) and originality (his use of magic, his political worldbuilding). The descriptiveness of his writing is great. And the prologue to Eye of the World is hands-down one of the most interesting introductions to any series. All those factors have won readers over and cemented the Wheel of Time as one of the most popular fantasy series of all time. Nobody in the adult fantasy market today has left more of an impact on more people’s lives than Robert Jordan.

It must have been surreal when you found out you were going to finish a series you loved and work from the notes of an author you (and many others, myself included) admire so much; does it still feel as if you’re dreaming, sometimes? Is there still that little voice telling you you’re going to wake up soon?

I still feel a little stunned at times. It’s odd. It’s been a year and a half, but from time to time I still stop and think, “Wait, how in the world did this happen? Out of all of the people who could have been chosen, did this really happen to me?” I kind of feel like Sam, carrying Frodo the last few paces up the mountain. I’m finishing the Master’s work for him, since he is unable to. I’m just glad I could be here to help for the last stretch when I was needed.

How has finishing (and it’s not completely done yet, guys and girls) A Memory of Light changed your life? Are you still the same Brandon Sanderson you were before A Memory of Light?

It’s far from completely done! The first part of the three, The Gathering Storm, is turned in and in production, and I’m only about halfway through the second part’s rough draft. There’s a lot of writing left to go. But working on the Wheel of Time has forced me to grow immensely as a writer. Back when I sold Elantris to Tor, they were interested in following that with the book I was working on at the time, called The Way of Kings. But I felt my career and writing skills weren’t yet in the right place to pull off the ten-volume epic fantasy series that I wanted that book to lead into, so I wrote the Mistborn trilogy instead. Now, after working on the Wheel of Time for over a year, I finally feel ready to dive in and do a revision of Way of Kings. If I can effectively use all I’ve learned, I might be able to make the book become what I want it to be.

How has it been working so closely with Harriet? Granted, you are in different States, but you know what I mean. :-)

Harriet is a world class editor–she really is great at what she does. I’ve had several opportunities to meet with her in person–she, and Mr. Jordan’s staff, are awesome. His two assistants, Maria and Alan, are continuity experts and went through my completed manuscript pages fact checking and giving feedback on general issues as well. I had worried that having three editors on this project would make it more difficult to work on, but so far it’s simply been a big help. There is so much going on in this book and this world that having the extra sets of eyes is very helpful.

I’ve really enjoyed the process. At the beginning, after I read all the notes and explained to the team my feelings on the various outlines for the different characters, Harriet pretty much let me call the shots when it came to the actual drafting of the novel. As an editor, she works best when I provide material to her, then she works her magic to turn it from good to excellent. When I turned manuscript pages in, and she came back to me with line edits–where she goes through and tweaks the language of the book–it quickly became obvious what a pro she is and how much she loves this series. It’s truly an honor to work with her.

The Gathering Storm US

Not only are you finishing A Memory of Light, you’re also writing your own work; how on earth to you balance and juggle everything? I s’pose it helps to be a full-time writer. :-) andWhat is your day like while working on A Memory of Light? Do you work according to a schedule? Are there enough hours in the day? :-)

Let me combine the answers for these two questions. You may not be surprised to hear that I have many more ideas for books than I have time to work on them. There are several first drafts or partial drafts of novels that I’ve written that need serious revision before they ever see the light of day, but I have to prioritize according to the urgency of the project and the deadlines I’m working under. Part two of A Memory of Light (the working title is Shifting Winds, but this will ultimately change) will be getting the largest share of my attention during the next year. I also have to finish the fourth Alcatraz book in the next few months–Scholastic will probably start breathing down my neck around July or August, but my goal is to write it when I have a rough draft done for Shifting Winds. I often work on two books at once–writing new material for one book and editing another. Writing and editing take different types of attention, and I can usually only write new material for four to six hours a day, but I can revise all day long–maybe this is the difference between mental heavy lifting and mental long-distance running. I recently hired an assistant to handle a lot of the non-writing tasks associated with being self-employed; this should free up another couple hours each day during which I can work on revising Way of Kings as I mentioned above. I generally put in an eight-hour workday, then call it quits if other things are happening. From 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. is family time, and then if nothing pressing is going on I head back to work after dinner and after my son is in bed. It works for me–most of the time, the fifty or sixty hours a week I spend writing are quite fun. As my wife says, writing is my job and my hobby. I’d generally rather be working on one of my books than sitting in front of the television.

With Red Eagle Entertainment doing the live-action movie and the various games of the Wheel of Time, why do you think many fans have had such a strong reaction against this? I know I’d like to shout, “If Harriet’s okay with it, leave it alone!”

Maybe they’ll get made. Maybe they won’t turn out so well, like some other recent fantasy book adaptations. Or maybe we’ll get lucky, and they’ll get a director who understands the books and can bring out the same feel of the novels while still adapting them in a way that suits the film medium. The thing is, you never know which of those you’re going to get until you try. Now that I’ve met with representatives of Red Eagle, I’m much more comfortable with them working on the project. They really impressed me with their sincere desire to do the series justice.

We know you can’t say anything specific or even in general about what takes place in A Memory of Light, but you have to be able to answer this one, at least – does Bela save the day? :-)

I’m afraid Bela’s future exploits are still under wraps, but I have already revealed that it was Bela (with the assistance of Narg) who killed Asmodean.

Finally, Michael A. Stackpole once commented on whether or not the world of the Wheel of Time should be expanded by having other writers writing the stories of, let’s say, Artur Hawkwing’s rise to power or how the Seanchan tamed Seanchan, and so letting Robert Jordan’s world expand and grow – good idea or bad idea?

I think the concept of anyone else working on the Wheel of Time was very painful for Robert Jordan. But in the last months before his death, he became determined–even insistent–that the series be completed after he passed away–and that means the part of the story that he had outlined to appear in the final book, now split into three due to length. He also previously had ideas for two more prequels and the outrigger novels set after the series’ end, but those were not a priority in his last few months. At this point we’re not sure Robert Jordan would have wanted those books to be written in his absence, and no one involved in finishing the series now feels the same urgency about them. I know that a lot of fans want to see those books eventually, but I ask that you please respect Harriet’s ability to decide their fate. If Harriet feels that he would not have wanted them done or that there aren’t enough notes or materials to complete the books in a way that would have made him proud, then the books should not be written. As for other books in the Wheel of Time universe that Robert Jordan did not have any plans to write or to arrange to be written, that’s not something I contemplate. When an author creates a world so rich that readers want an unending supply of books set in that world, that’s just a testament to the author’s skill as a storyteller–it doesn’t mean that having people write an unending supply of books in that world is a good idea. Stories have beginnings, middles, and endings for a reason, and ignoring that is detrimental to the integrity of the story. Robert Jordan had a vision for the Wheel of Time, and it’s important to be faithful to that vision. We’d rather leave his legacy as it stands than have bad books attached to his name.

Thanks, Brandon, for finding the time to answer these questions! :-) We wish you nothing but the best, all the time you need to write, and more spots on the New York Times Bestseller list! :-)

Thank you! It’s been my pleasure.

Check out Brandon’s site for wayyy more info and behind-the-scenes stuff!

Mistborn

To order Brandon’s Mistborn novels, check out this link! :-)

Elantris

To order Elantris, click this link!

Warbreaker

To pre-order Warbreaker, click this link!

Also, check out Writing Excuses here, Dan Wells’ website here, and Howard Tayler’s website here!

Be EPIC! :-)

 
26 Comments

Posted by on May 15, 2009 in Interviews

 

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Feast your Eyes!

Thanks to Adam Whitehead (and the awesome Google Reader), I have this for you:

a-memory-of-light-uk

I couldn’t agree more with Adam; this is THE BEST Wheel of Time cover ever! :-) Ohhhh mannnn!

 
7 Comments

Posted by on May 4, 2009 in Announcements

 

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News, news, news! And more!

Wow, another day goes by and there’s plenty more to tell you all about! :-)

First off, do you want to try your hand at creating your own Fantasy (or SF, for that matter) book cover? I followed a link from The Old Bat’s Belfry to this site, read the instructions, and created my own book cover! :-) Okay, granted, it’s a bit crappy (butterflies for sails?) but it still looks cool, and the title, together with the cover, really does make the book look intriguing. :-) Anyway, here’s my effort:

The Power of Lodon

The Power of Lodon

The author’s name? That’s my pen-name when I write the literary stuff. ;-)

Here are the instructions:

CREATE YOUR DEBUT FANTASY BOOK COVER
1 – Go to “Behind the Name”. Hit “Generate a Name!” or click http://www.behindthename.com/random/
The first name you get is your author name.
2 – Go to “Fantasy Novel Title Generator”
or click http://nine.frenchboys.net/novel.php
This is the title of your book.
3 – Go to Photobucket and click on “surreal art” or click http://photobucket.com/images/surreal%20art/
Add the two numbers of your age together (ex. 2 + 7 = 9). Go to that page of results. The fourth picture, no matter what it is, is your cover.
4 – Use photoshop, Picnik, or similar to put it all together.
5 – Post it to your site along with this text.

Pretty easy, I have to admit, and quick, too! :-)

Okay, next up: Wheel of Time News!

There is a widget available (which I cannot put on the blog) counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until A Memory of Light hits the shelves – in November. Now, now, don’t get too excited yet! Brandon Sanderson is working on rewrites for Harriet at the moment (for those who’s been living on another planet, Harriet is Robert Jordan’s widow and his long-time editor) and hopes to have them done by April (if I’m not mistaken); coupled with that, Brandon has time and again stated that this book will be a big, thick book, and that even his projected wordcount might get tossed out the window as he progresses. The book might even be split (I know, I’d like to devour it and finish it, too, without having to wait for part two, but hey, it’s not up to us), and the first part may hit shelves in November. Either way, I think the November date is a bit premature, considering the project and what Brandon has already said about working on it.

But if it does hit shelves in November, either Part One or the full book, you can be sure of one thing – in November, forget any other book hitting the shelves at the same time – The Wheel of Time will be the biggest news of the year! :-)

Check out the announcement from Dragonmount here.

And now, back to Star Wars! :-)

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil – I saw the announcement here, followed the link to the official site, and saw this:

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil

I’m so glad they’ve decided to go back to the cover-style of the first book, Path of Destruction! I’m sorry, but the cover of Rule of Two was a major let-down. This looks great! :-)

And then, this:

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi Omen front

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi Omen front

This is the front cover, and now, here’s the back:

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi Omen back

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi Omen back

I haven’t warmed up entirely yet to the new style of cover art, but it’s starting to look really cool – who is that on the cover, I wonder? ;-) Here’s the announcement on the official site, and if you want them, spoilers for Omen! :-)

Okay, that’s it for now, I guess. :-)

Be Fantastic!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 5, 2009 in Announcements

 

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