Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Emperor's Soul, by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor's Soul, by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson has quickly become one of my favorite authors. His magic systems are unique and consistent, unlike anything else out there. In The Emperor's Soul there are two main approaches: Bloodsealing, targeting individuals with necrologic accuracy, and Forging, rewriting the history of an object to change it's present form. Much like Mistborn, though, while the thaumaturgy is fascinating, the storyline is what makes this wonderful entertainment.

This is a short paperback—more of a novella than a novel—but thoroughly enjoyable. Shai, the main character, is a thief imprisoned by a faction that believes her Forging talent is an abomination but at the same time needs her skill to keep them in power. The setting is largely in a single cell, but Shai Forges the room in small steps, improving it so even though the characters don't physically change locations the look-and-feel is very fluid. This subtle alteration of her surroundings is an excellent demonstration of the power of Forging, and even with the constant change the payoff towards the end is still surprising. Sanderson is an excellent writer, and this is another example of why.

The Emperor's Soul is apparently set in the same world as his Elantris so that book will be added to my shelf very soon.

First Sentence:
Shai pressed her fingernail into one of the stone blocks of her prison cell.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

George Washington's Secret Six, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

This is a pretty interesting book about the Culper Spy Ring which was active in New York during the American Revolution. I didn't know much about the ring other than through pop culture references in Y: The Last Man and White Collar and quite enjoyed learning more about it, and the major impact on the war the spies brought about. The biggest (but not only) coup the ring accomplished was providing key intelligence that eventually prevented Benedict Arnold from turning West Point over to the British. Truly fascinating.

This is an easy read, with short chapters and just over 200 pages written at maybe a middle-school level. There is a lot of dialog here, capturing conversations between characters that couldn't possibly be known today, making this an odd blend of fiction and non-fiction. Overall this certainly gets a thumbs up as a basic introduction to the Culper Ring, and a good set of references in the back for digging in further.

First Sentence:
The execution of Nathan Hale on September 22, 1776, was the lowest point in a month of low points for General George Washington.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Dance with Dragons, by George R. R. Martin

A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five, by George R. R. Martin

The fifth book in the series A Song of Fire and Ice is finally out in paperback. When I spotted it I both groaned and smiled at the same time: I've been wanting to read the next installment (but not enough to visit the library, I suppose) but at the same time I knew Daenerys would be a major focus and her storyline I find plodding and unappetizing. Unfortunately, with three different expeditions headed from Westeros to find Daenerys plus her own plot I got even more than I expected. But even with all this focus on her, nothing really happens here. In fact, this is a thousand pages where in the grand scheme of things not much happens at all. A couple of Martin's trademark surprise deaths (and more hints that death isn't all that permanent in this universe) but overall very little movement in the nearly complete War of Five Kings, Winter is still coming, and House Targaryen isn't any closer to returning to the Seven Kingdoms. Arya and Ser Jaime appear briefly towards the close which buoys hope for the next volume, The Winds of Winter, but all-in-all none of the main narratives are advanced in a major fashion. Disappointing.

First Sentence:
He drank his way across the narrow sea.

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