Words of Radiance

Time to do a bit of catching up on reviews for books.  It’s an odd thing for me, usually I try to have a review up within a day or two after I finish a book, and definitely before I finish reading the next book on my stack, but over the past couple of weeks I’ve gotten backed up.  I’ve actually finished 4 books that I haven’t written a review for (although three are very short).  Well, this book is the first of those that I’ve yet to talk about, and the rest will be posted in the coming days.

Book StatsWords of Radiance

1080 pages

Fantasy

Second book in The Stormlight Archive, sequel to The Way of Kings

Setting

This book is set in the same world as The Way of Kings, although we’re shown a few more parts of the world, both through the Interludes throughout the book as well as in watching Shallan’s travels as she goes to the Shattered Plains.  As with the first book, everything involving the setting is very richly described and well thought out, without being obtrusive and overshadowing the characters and plot.

Characters

There are a few new viewpoint characters in this book, but we’re primarily focused upon the same characters from The Way of Kings.  In particular, while the first book focused on Kaladin, this book focuses more on Shallan, and several of the chapters are flashbacks showing her backstory.  I enjoy all of the characters in the series, but I particularly liked Dalinar in this book.  More than any other character he grew in the first book, and it really shows with his resolve in this book.

Plot

This book continues where The Way of Kings left off, with Shallan and Jasnah trying to get to the Shattered Plains to warn the Highprinces there of the possible threat of the Parshmen.  We’re also shown more of Kaladin and Bridge 4 as they adjust to being bodyguards rather than menial slaves, as well as the continued war for vengeance on the Shattered Plains.

Enjoyment

I’m was vague with the plot section, because it continues from the first book, and I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything in that book for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.  I enjoyed the book, I loved the story that was set up in the first novel, and I love reading the continuation of it here.  But I did have a couple of minor issues with it.  The first is Shallan’s backstory, it was interesting to read, but I don’t think that it really answered some of the questions that I had about her past.  In some ways I think that it would have been better had we started with the most recent flashback, and then moved further back in time the way that the movie Memento does (side note, if you haven’t watched this movie, go watch it right now, yes, even before reading the rest of my post).  I say this because the most important event of her backstory (in my mind at least) took place earlier than even the first chapter about her backstory.  But we’re not shown it, so Shallan is constantly referring to an event that we never really see, I think having her flashback chapters going backward in the timeline would have worked just as well to tell her story, while doing a better job of building tension within the story and leading to a much better punch towards the end of the novel.

The other main issue that I had with the book was the last section.  Like The Way of Kings, this book is broken up into 5 larger sections, with Interludes in between.  This is going to sound very odd when talking about a book that’s 1080 pages long, but the ending felt rushed.  With tWoK the larger story was mostly wrapped up at the end of section 4, with section 5 serving as a large trailer for what was going to happen in book 2.  In this book, it felt like there was a mad rush to get everything that needed to happen in this book in place done.  I thought that a couple of important details in the last section were glossed over too quickly.  And one of ideas that (I think) will be a central point of book three was set up in about 2 or 3 paragraphs towards the end of the book.

I think that both of my quibbles with the book are things that will be forgotten once the rest of the series is complete, especially since there is such a deep world and story set up by these first two books.  I’m still in love with the characters and world, and that is more than enough to get me to buy the third book on the day it comes out, just like I have with the first two.

Overall Grade

This is a step back from the first book, but even a step back from The Way of Kings is a great book that is well worth reading, especially if you enjoy Fantasy.

8/10

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Coyote Blue

Since picking up Lamb and A Dirty Job a couple of years ago, I’ve been a big fan of Christopher Moore’s writing.  I’ve said before that I think it’s far too easy to dismiss Moore as nothing more than a humorist, when he is a very skilled author who does a lot of interesting things in all of his books.  This book is no exception.

Book StatsCoyote Blue

294 pages

Drama, Satire

Characters

The characters in this book are all interesting, but not terribly deep.  The book focuses on Sam Hunter, a full blooded Crow indian who left his reservation when he was 15 due to a “deadly misunderstanding with the law” (words from the back of the book).  Since then he’s become an insurance salesman, and because of this he’s become very adept at hiding who he is, to the point where he really doesn’t know who he is, only who he is pretending to be.

Setting

Modern day (well, modern day when it was written, the book was published back in 1994) California primarily, but also located partly in other states.

Plot

There’s a problem in trying to talk about the plot of this book, it’s a little hard to discuss without spoilers, especially since the first 1/3 of the book is largely about setting up the story and the mythology that Moore uses for the rest of the book.  I typically don’t try to talk about events that take place more than the first third of the way through the book, so I won’t get into too much of the plot here.  But one of the things about this book is that it’s less about the plot and more about the meaning behind it.

Enjoyment

One of the books that I read before I started this blog was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.  I’ve said before that I’m not a huge fan of Gaiman’s work, but a whole lot of other people are.  One of the most thoughtful reviews of American Gods that I’ve ever heard was that the book was really about what it’s like to be a god from a foreign country living in America today.  I think that this book does a better job of explaining that problem than Gaiman’s, while at the same time telling a better overall story.

Sam has his normal life interrupted by the ancient Crow god Coyote, and Moore does a perfect job of showing how different the world today is from the world that Coyote knew.  Moore also does a good job of showing that the gods of old largely survive based upon the the stories that are told about them, and he explains this by visiting another god later in the book who is largely dead to the world because his stories are never told.

At the same time, we’re shown the story of how Sam lives his life basically going through the motions, and never really thinking about what he really wants, only thinking about what he needs to do to get by.  So while Coyote’s part of the story is talking about the loss of old religions, Sam’s is about the alienation that we feel from each other in our daily lives.  Sam’s story also talks about how easily our simple little lives can get thrown out of whack by a seemingly innocuous meeting.

Overall Grade

Not quite as funny as some of Moore’s other work, but a very well written and thoughtful book.

8/10