A good friend recommended The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I promptly purchased the Kindle version, then later splurged with some Audible credits. (This combination is particularly nice because the Kindle app and the Audible book synchronize, allowing me to progress much faster through this massive book.) I figured that anyone who was selected to complete the Wheel of Time series must be a prodigy of the fantasy genre. I also love watching “Write About Dragons” a lecture series by Brandon Sanderson.
At the end of the book, I wanted to rate it as a five star experience, because the world building really comes together and I am finally vested in most, if not all, of the characters. In short, I want to know what happens in this story world. So my primary criticism is that the WOK is a 1007 page “hook”. Now I’m hooked, but it really took a while.
That is not to say the story lacked surprise and suspense earlier on, but it seemed to take forever to get where I cared about the characters at all. This was a book I wanted to like, so I kept reading (as I am prone to do; I tend to finish books that I don’t like, it just takes me longer). Having rather ungallantly leveled all of this criticism, I must admit that some of the things I was turned off by in the beginning became my favorite parts later.
For example, I experienced almost zero connection with Szeth-son-son-Vallano, the Assassin in White. But as the story moved on, he became very interesting to me—far more so than Kaladin, the primary protagonist. My first impression of Shallan Davar was to yawn and squirm in my chair, but she really turned it around and now her interaction with Jasnah Kohlin is what might make me read the next book.
I like long books, but am I ready for a thousand pages to set me up for book three? (Help me, I am so torn! I think I love this series, but I spent about thirty hours listening to the audio book and wishing it would be over!)
Of technical note is Sandersons heavy use of adverbs and unnecessary explanations: ...Kal said softly...Kal said hesitantly...Kal yelped...Kal said, panicked...
I also grew tired of information dump disguised as dialogue. These are technical deficiencies I wouldn’t expect from a big name author like Brandon Sanderson.
And yet I read and listened to the entire, rather long novel. I plan to purchase Words of Radiance (book 2), because I just need to know what happens to Shallan, Kaladin, and the Knights Radiant. Perhaps I should try Sanderson’s Mistborn series as well?
The Forgotten Prince by Josh Hayes
This version of the Neverland stories combines all the things I love in fiction; scifi action with great characters and a bunch of surprises. I like the way Josh Hayes shows the cast of the original story in interesting new ways. Bella is my favorite, but Wendy and Pan have found themselves in roles that promise a lot of fireworks as the mystery of Neverland is explored.
The first chapter sets the tone the book. Hayes uses suspense topped with action to begin his sketch of Hook. I knew I was going to be entertained as soon as I started reading the first scene. Without going into the specifics of the plot, I can say the world building is good. The more I learn about the place where Lt. John McNeal finds himself, the more I want to discover who or what created this alternate world.
Disintegration, by Richard Thomas, is dark. Violent and sexual describe several scenes and to say that the protagonist has problems is the purest understatement. This book is best suited for readers who desire an intense experience and want to think.
Well written and thorough, the tale of decaying sanity and life in a moral wasteland eventually ends with a decision made and actions taken. To say more would lead to spoilers.
The most engaging scenes in the book are when the protagonists interacts with certain characters. Those sections in particular were very engaging.
The Quick Review of Book Architecture
I have been a fan of Stuart Horwitz since I read Blueprint Your Bestseller. BYB is a book that will change the way you think about writing. It was the first book that provided any meaningful advice on discovering and / or developing the theme of a story. BYB and Book Architecture focus on finding the strongest scenes, building the best narrative order, and uncovering what your story's “one thing” is.
Both books demonstrate techniques for physically taking apart your story and laying it out to see what goes where and what goes...away. I created a digital version of the series grid in Excel. So far I really like it. (I haven't really been allowed to play with scissors since kindergarten.)
Book Architecture is one of those books that I believe will improve my writing now, but will also continue to improve it in the future. I feel that each story I apply the Book Architecture method to will be stronger and cleaner in the end. This is not a formula. It takes work.
I received an advanced reading copy, but halfway through the book, I just bought my own because the actual Kindle version is easier to navigate than the PDF and I really liked the method. Then I pulled Blueprint Your Bestseller to the front of my Kindle carousel for easier access as well.
I really appreciated the unique approach of BA and BYB. Plot is addressed, but not directly. Structure is important, but serves the writer. Character is critical, but developed in the narative order of the story. I have studied so many books on writing that at this point, a breath of fresh air really leaves an impression.
Many followers of Mr. Horwitz's advice may tell you this is the only book you need, other than style and grammar guides. These individuals might be correct. I am still applying all the lessons that I have learned and using several other good paradigms when they seem to work. I think, however, that the better I get at this method, the less of the others I will need to use.
Happy writing and thanks for stopping by,
Who doesn't love Stephen King, or at least acknowledge his impact on popular fiction? I am a fan. Having said that, I sometimes feel like Mr. King is getting paid by the word. On any given Sunday, I can get lost in his prose that is both lyrical and visceral. In fact, I listened to rhetoric first chapter of The Talisman several times, first for enjoyment and then to study the narrative elements and story arc.
This is not my first Talisman rodeo. I listened to the audiobook some time ago and both read and listened the sequel to Black House. Revisiting the Territories and the excellent Stephen King characters was time we'll spent. "Right here and now, Wolf."
Speedy Parker is another of my favorites and the protagonist, Jack Sawyer, is compelling as well. The villains are villains. The horror is portrayed with suffice gratuitous detail for most fans of the genre.
Mr. King writes in the omniscient viewpoint, which gives him supreme cosmic (narrative) power. Gotta love it. I also blame him for my early floundering in regards to point of view. He makes it look easy. The rest of us mere mortals probably should stear clear of omniscient point of view. #justsaying
If you haven't read The Talisman, I highly recommend it.
Lords of the North, book three in the Saxon series by Bernard Cornwell was full of vintage Cornwellian storytelling devices. Notably, the protagonist, Uhtred of Bembanburg makes a series of plot complicating bad choices, always involving his pride and murder. At first, I was delighted to find some respite from the really unlikable characteristics of Uhtred. The first part of the book focuses on more of the reasons I like Uhtred; his strength, loyalty, outspokenness, and his continuing quest to reclaim his home.
Now that was exciting. As much as I enjoyed the first two books, I have been chomping at the bit to see Uhtred face his treacherous uncle and reclaim Bembanburg.
But then he committed one of his other frequent failings. He embraced stupidity and was cast into slavery for his lack of foresight. Nothing about the slavery ordeal or the eventual (rather long) action sequence at the end of the book was original. It was however, well written and the narrator, Tom Sellwood, did a really good job.
I would give this a 4.5 star rating, instead of a 5 like the first two books in the Saxon series. I ranked The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman high because the were very powerful and emotionally engaging even when I wanted to turn away from the protagonist. Lords of the North was easier to listen to, but not as good on a technical level.
Next month, when I have some new audiobook credits to spend, I will be looking forward to Sword Song. That will be about halfway through the Saxon series and I will decide if I plan to continue to the end. I kind of think so, but lately I have realized there is only so much time and if a book or book series isn't awesome, I am inclined to shop around.
The Pale Horseman (book two in the Saxon series by Bernard Cornwell) continues the bloody life chronicles of Uhtred of Bebbanburg.
Uhtred is a complex protagonist. He has many traits that are common to heroes in other books: strength, bravery, a vicious brand of loyalty, and a sense of justice that should make him easy to appreciate. Yet he is not always likeable. In fact, I would say I dislike him more often than not--and yet I continue to listen to the story.
The Pale Horsemen starts with Uhtred foolishly drawing his sword on his rival, Ealdorman Odda the Younger, during a religious ceremony, thus offending King Alfred and violating the king's laws. Uhtred is not dumb. He should know better, but his "monstrous pride," as Cornwell describes it, constantly gets Uhtred in trouble. By the end of chapter one, he has committed an unjustifiable murder (both by modern standards and the laws of the time) and put himself and his household in danger of retribution. Why did he commit such a crime? Because he was pissed of and full of, you guessed it, pride.
This is good for moving the plot and keeping "tension on every page," as Donald Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, advocates. It is not good for my feelings about the protagonist. I'd like for someone to take Uhtred in hand and teach him some humanity. Yes, he is essentially a Viking and their moral code at the time of the story is different than mine. Yes, he is true to his character and possesses many positive traits.
I still struggle with the heartless brutality of Uhtred. It is kind of a love-hate relationship with this character that drives me to read on. So in the grand scheme of things, Bernard Cornwell has again proved himself a master writer.
By the end of the novel there is an impressive payoff. Why describe the story arch and character development as a payoff? That makes it sound shady, doesn’t it?
Bernard Cornwell developed all of the characters in this book honestly, except for some of the cookie cutter priests--minor characters without much spine or depth. But I digress.
Uhtred, Son of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, is a twenty-year-old saxon raised from the age of ten by Danes (called Vikings when they are raiding from the sea). He’s seen his father die and fought in the shield wall. Over the years, his survival has depended on his own strength and cunning. He is proud, violent, and a pagan like the Danes who raised him. The tender years of his youth were spent looting churches and killing priests.
Why wouldn’t he be a total barbarian? (I’ve always liked barbarians in stories, but Bernard Cornwell has a talent for showing how brutal life was in the 9th century, regardless of who you were or what God / gods you worshiped.)
By the end of The Pale Horseman Uhtred earned much more of my compassion and made me want to see more of his journey. I cared about the people he cared about, admired his strength and courage, and began to hope he will reclaim his ancestral home of Bebbanburg.
Readers who enjoy George R. R. Martin (The Game of Thrones) or Ken Follet (The Pillars of Earth) won’t go wrong picking up a copy of The Pale Horseman.
Jonathan Keeble does an absolutely brilliant job of narrating the audiobook version. Very highly recommended. In fact, I may see if Keeble has ever read the phone book or the dictionary, because I’d probably listen to them if he did.
Every book, movie, and product needs a review. Right?