Monday, October 14, 2013

Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart is the most enjoyable book I've read this year and it is Sanderson's best stand alone book he has to date (Elantris, The Rithmatist, Warbreaker). That's right I said it. Look, don't get me wrong, I don't think it's Sanderson's best book, the most intriguing, the best magic system or most unique. Simply, it reads so smoothly, there is nothing complicated and it is non-stop action. It will probably be the first Sanderson book I'll recommend to others from here on out.

 One day "Calamity", an explosion in the sky, granted superpowers to men and women at random known as Epics. Without any warning, these Epics take over parts of the country (USA). Epics kill those who resist (or looks at them funny) and subjugates everyone else. The most powerful of them all, Steelheart, reigns supreme in Newcago.

Not bending the knee are The Reckoners. A group of  "humans" who will not abide by the atrocities that these Epics have wrought. They hide, plan and kill off the Epics that they can. See, every Epic has a weakness. Some can be killed normally yet some seem impervious to harm until you find their "kryptonite". 

The story follows David, an ordinary teenage boy who is obsessive compulsive about Epics. When David was 8, he saw the murder of his father by the Epic known as Steelheart. Steelheart is invincible. Bullets, explosions, fire...nothing! can harm him. Yet the moments before David's father died, Steelheart was grazed by a bullet that David's father had fired. He has a weakness...but what caused that weakness?

As I said, this is the most enjoyable book I've read this year. While teaching, I don't have a lot of time to read yet I read this in a few days. The story moves along at an extreme pace, there is no dull chapter and you are constantly guessing what Steelheart's weakness could be. I knew it was Sanderson, so it wouldn't be anything obvious as the man has a knack for surprise. The subtle twists of Epics having weaknesses is great. I hate Superman (the character) because he's invincible and by making Epics having weakness really balances them out.

Although the story in the book only spans a month or two, you do see David's character grow. He starts off obsessed and starts to realize there are other parts of life worth enjoying as well. Seriously...after my ramblings how could you not go out and get Steelheart?

Check out Laurentius' review as well if you are not convinced! Oh and we have two copies of Steelheart to giveaway, so you can make up your own mind! ^_^

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Hachette NZ for providing an ARC of Steelheart to be reviewed and for giving us a copy to giveaway!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist, is a compelling piece of Young Adult fantasy that delivers the whole way through. Sanderson hits all the right notes when it comes to all the usual YA themes; coming of age, the meaning of true friendship, loyalty, perseverance, and even a didactic against bullying. As expected in a Sanderson novel, the magic system is completely unique. The basic idea is that specially gifted individuals can write complex diagrams which control chalk drawings (called “chalklings”). At times the magic system is overly complicated, but it’s original and by the end of the book it all comes together quite masterfully.

The characters are a fun bunch to read about – every one of them is unique with their distinct personalities and idiosyncrasies. Sanderson does a good job here and the characters keep you fully entertained. I especially liked the contrast between Melody, a Rithmatist student who doesn’t take her studies seriously, and Joel, who lacks Rithmatist powers. The story centers on Joel, the son of a lowly chalk-maker.

Due to some special circumstances, Joel attends one of the top schools in the country; however, what interests him are not the mundane studies, but rather the Rithmatic classes – special classes that the magically gifted attend. As a non-rithmatist, Joel is unable to pursue Rithmatic studies, except for occasionally sneaking into Rithmatic classes.

The setting is a bit Harry Potter-esque – a magic school of sorts. You’ll definitely see some of the similarities to Harry Potter as you progress through the story. Think of Joel as a sort of Harry Potter, but a Harry Potter who can’t actually perform magic and can only watch in envy as his peers do. Joel being extremely bright but not magically talented adds an interesting dynamic to the story. Sanderson uses this to create an absolutely brilliant ending. The story, setting, and magic system also reminded me a bit of The Name of The Wind – especially the part where Kvothe attends magic school and studies a rigidly structured magic with specific rules.

The world is pretty similar to our world near the turn of the century with magical elements added to it. It almost feels a bit like 20th century England with parts of Lord of the Rings added into the geography. Overall, The Rithmatist is a fantastic book that will guarantee to keep both adults and kids entertained. My only complaint is we will have to wait another year to continue the story. Review by Ben.

Notes from me (Jon!): I have to agree with Ben on every point here. I think this book is really fun to read, it has a great ending (I called it!) and never did I feel cheated. One of the strengths Sanderson has is being able to pull his readers into his world. To make the unbelievable just a little bit believable. You'll want to cheer for the good guys and boo at the bad guys. A great pick up if you haven't read it already. Sanderson has hinted that this is going to be a two part series.