One of the positives of being a uni student now is the amazing time on my hands to read books. Okay sure I have to do all the university texts and so forth but when travelling an hour to and from campus and in between lectures a remarkable amount of time is free to read. Well it certainly beats having to attend school where there was no time to read.
How does that all relate? Oh simply on the odd coincidence that I managed to finish the last two hundred pages across the three hours I had free travelling and waiting for lectures/tutorials. And I was staggered when I finally finished book one of the Stormlight Archive. This could very well be one of the best epic fantasy series ever written.
Let me break it down.The Plot
This was superb. Revolving around three different main characters Sanderson plotted a whole course for his novel that I didn't see right at the beginning. Full of wonderful twists, turns, plots and sudden realisations Sanderson does a fine job of keeping his readers interested. I particularly loved how he would drop in a sudden bomb at the end of a chapter that left me going: "Hang on what! You mean Saldeas actually... You mean the visions are actually..." It was that kind of plot. I also loved the way in which Sanderson slowly provides a view into the background behind each of the character's motives. I feel that they were much more fleshed out in terms of providing me as a reader with a sense of how each character's morality worked than A Game of Thrones which I was unable to get into. That's not a cheap shot at A Game of Thrones which many have enjoyed but rather an indication that I really liked how Sanderson wrote his world.The Worldbuilding
As in Mistborn the world is highly fleshed out. But this world is even deeper than the world of Mistborn. Religion again has its place alongside discussions of philosophy and morality. There are various native plants, creatures and people discussed which all fit neatly into a grand mythology of the Heralds and the Voidbringers. If you're looking for a Tolkienesque world with a grand level of attention to details then look at this for starters.
The creatures introduced by Sanderson were fascinating. You had the chasmfiends, the Parshendii and parshmen, the chull, the axehounds and the sky eels for starters. Each of which were nicely depicted through images in the book. In fact the elaborate artwork was something else to behold for a book. The most intriguing creatures however were the spren. These are spirits which appear in different forms and flock to various events. For example windspren fly on the breeze, firespren appear around fires, painspren are attracted to pain, rotspren are attracted to rot and so on.The Magic
You have the supernatural featuring strongly as in all of Sanderson's books to date. There are three types of main magic mentioned along with another which is hinted at. The fourth I won't delve into as it is simply called Old Magic and may feature more in later novels. I'll put a spoiler here as I provide some details which some readers may find spoiling.
In Sanderson's world gems are powerful because they alone can collect the radiant energy of highstorms. This stormlight causes them to glow brightly. Some have the ability - like the Radiants of old - to absorb the stormlight from gems and use this to perform various lashings. These lashings bind objects together, prove gravitational pulls and change gravity. The stormlight also heals and strengthens the user
Soulcasting again uses gems to change objects into other objects. For instance stone can become fog, blood can become ice, fire can become wood and so forth. The magic is done through the use of powerful objects called fabrials. Apart from that you can find out about the soulcasting more through reading.
Shardplate and Shardblades
These are weapons which turn men into unstoppable warriors. The plate strengthens a man and increases his speed and agility. The shardblade slices through any object and when it touches flesh it passes through deadening the soul. Basically if it touches your spine you will burn to death. Shardblades disappear when dropped and can be summoned by their wielder in ten heartbeats. While reading the book I kept imagining how awesome a film version would be to hear the heartbeats as the sword is summoned - and because of how much action envelopes the book. The Characterisation
I loved the characters of this world. They each had a strong and properly explained moral centre to their being that was observable from the start. Some may become annoyed at the lack of sexuality in the book but I disagree with it being absent. In fact I think Sanderson deserves credit for fitting a clever touch of romance during a massive war where most of the women are away from the front-lines. Oh and there is that time with the crazy priest dude and Shallan.
Because what the book is about is not romance or action or war although those elements are visible. This is in essence a book about the characters and how they struggle through conflict, how they wrestle with turmoil and danger and in the end triumph. This is a book about overcoming the odds. The best kind of book in my eyes. Of course naturally each character must be brought low to rise again and you feel pity for their failing. But then when they rise you cheer for their victory.So what now?
Well obviously I suggest you go read the novel if you love fantasy in its epic glory. This is a grand novel and world that for me was addictive. I'm left desiring more despite the thousand pages I've just finished. And that's a good sign of an awesome book for me. If I loved it enough to hungrily devour it. Because what I can see is that Sanderson is just a good storyteller telling good stories. And no book of his I've yet read has been worth less than five. (There's always Warbreaker but I'm an optimist). Anyway do I need to present another reason for you to enjoy this book?
I'm going to put this out here right now since it is the middle of the year and say this is probably my favourite book read all year. I loved it that much. Second and third places go to The Hero of Ages and Warbreaker and then you can have Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell followed by 1984 and Brave New World.
This provides apprehensions about the upcoming books in this series. I hope they are as grand if not better than this opening novel.