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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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