Brandon Sanderson: Mistborn; The Well of Ascension
I don’t like reading series until they’re finished because I want to know that I can read all of the books in a row. This is mostly due to my lousy memory; when I get to book 3, I don’t want to have to either reread books 1 and 2 or muddle through not remembering who anyone is. I was trying to save the Mistborn trilogy until the last book comes out in mass market paperback on April 28, but I recently had a cross-country flight and the first volume looked like a good airplane book.
And it was; I read half of it on the plane, and when I arrived at my destination I bought the second one at a bookstore just to make sure I wouldn’t run out on my flight back. I’ve now finished the second book and unfortunately have to wait a couple of weeks until I can read the third.
So what’s so good about them? Well, they’re not great literature or anything, but they’re crafted really well. The plot, the world, the rate at which information about the world is doled out, and even the character development (for the main two characters, at least) are handled expertly. They’re great page-turners, and the fact that I want yet more pages after turning 1400 of them so far is pretty compelling evidence.
The writing is perfectly competent, and I don’t really mean that as a slight. Sanderson is more of a draftsman than a painter, and he realizes what his strengths are. He doesn’t try to be that poetic or to write particularly virtuosically; he just describes what happens and trusts that that will be sufficient, and it is. It was honestly kind of nice to read prose that is optimized for clarity.
Especially after reading Black God’s Kiss and noting from afar the recent “racefail” explosion, it was interesting to me that the main character is a teenage girl (which, obviously, Sanderson is not), and as far as I can tell is drawn very well and sympathetically, not as either a girly girl or a boy in skirts. He specifically thanks a woman in his acknowledgments for help in building her character, and it seems to have helped.
Another cool thing about Sanderson is that he has been putting up extensive annotations to his book on his website, similar to what I’ve been doing intermittently here with my songs, detailing the reasons for the decisions he made or pointing out things that he thought did or didn’t work. It’s illuminating and a nice use of the modern ability to communicate outside of the historically normal channels.
The third and final book gets 4.5 stars on Amazon so at least I can be pretty sure that it is not a precipitous drop in quality from the first two. You can be sure it will show up here shortly after it shows up in stores.