Thought I’d jump in this evening with another review. Tonight’s book is Clariel by esteemed fantasy author Garth Nix. A little background- this is a prequel to The Old Kingdom series, which Nix wrote the central trilogy for back in the 90s and 2000s. As one who was extremely taken with the core books of The Old Kingdom back at the time, it was fun to go back and revisit the series like this, particularly with a relatively obscure character from the series’ lore.
Clariel is a girl born into an influential bloodline, with relations in both the royalty and the Abhorsens- those who keep the dead down. As a naturally reclusive girl, she desires nothing more than to flee the capital and live alone in the forest, but events forever conspire to keep her deep in the city where powerful entities maneouver her like a chess piece. Of course, a person can only be manipulated for so long before they snap.
The book makes for a thrilling read, particularly the final act. Expect thick politics, magic, and of course spirits from beyond this realm of reality- it is an The Old Kingdom book after all. The audiobook for this one was rather good as well, with Graeme Malcolm reading.
It’s been a while since I did one of these- but I thought I would jump back into the frey with another of Brandon Sanderson’s projects; Warbreaker. This book has a special place with me, owing to the unusual manner in which it was written. Sanderson wrote and edited this book publicly- that is, regularly uploading drafts for all to see here on the internet- and eventually released the book as a free download when it was done. It was a stroke of genius; and an important inspiration for the Civilization Battle Royale Novel I’ve been working on. I loved how open the process was. It’s not something that suits every book of course- I wouldn’t dream of writing a Dragon Creek book in that manner- but still, I find it amazing.
Onto the book itself. The story is another of his powerful high fantasy epics. Siri, a princess of a tiny alpine nation is forced into an arranged marriage with the God-King of Hallandren, a powerful nation with armies of undead soldiers. Unless she can muster political means to stave off invasion, her home will be overrun by the armies of Hallandren in a long and bloody war. The book hinges around its rich magic system- with wealthy magicians using the souls of the poor as an energy source- and a large cast of colourful characters. It’s definitely worth checking out; and it is up for free on Sanderson’s website.
Where to begin? There are no beginnings nor endings to the Wheel of Time. Summarising this was never going to be easy, but here we go. In Tolkien-esque fashion, history fades to myth, myth fades to legend- but because time is circular in the Wheel of Time, legend fades to prophecy because the age that gave birth to it will one day come again.
Our civilization will continue to advance as the wheel rolls on, our civilization one day discovering magic and entering into a period known as “The Age of Legends”, with unprecedented prosperity and peace for mankind. Ultimately the Age of Legends will end in catastrophe, with mankind discovering an imprisoned source of energy known as “The True Power”, breaking the seal on the prison and ultimately releasing the Dark One and his power into the world. In the ensuing war, mankind became scattered and divided, the very continents thrown apart and civilization left in ruin. The Dark One was ultimately cast back into his prison by a man known as the Dragon, but at terrible cost.
The survivors of this conflict were reduced to swords and hand tools- but retained a limited knowledge of magic. These last people attempt to rebuild the world with what little they have and their fragments of the lost knowledge from the age before- while knowing that one day the Dragon will be reborn, the Dark One’s prison will give way, and the world will be plunged into chaos once again.
For those of you who have yet to read the Wheel of Time, my my. The series started with the release of The Eye of the World in 1990, and rapidly evolved into one of the most detailed fantasy worlds in all of literature. The author Robert Jordan tragically passed away in 2007, leaving extensive notes for the final installments which would be completed by Brandon Sanderson. With the posthumous conclusion of A Memory of Light in 2013, the epic cycle was completed, and dear god is it a good read. One of the best series I have ever read, and a strong recommendation to any fantasy lovers out there.
So, I recently finished reading The Way of Kings (2010) and Words of Radiance (2014), the first two books of what will be a much longer series when completed. The Stormlight Archive is an epic fantasy series from prolific author Brandon Sanderson, a writer I admire somewhat for his detailed magic systems and mechanics.
Much of the books deal with a war taking place on the Shattered Plains, a huge battlefield crisscrossed with huge stone chasms. With armies marching from plateau to plateau over bridges, it leads to some really interesting tactics coming into the fore. Throw into the mix a small number of weapons known as shardblades- capable of cutting through anything, even the soul- and we have a potent cocktail of warfare.
Stormlight is a rich, detailed world, with plenty of factions, political wrangling and military action. I almost consider this series to be Sanderson’s answer to The Wheel of Time, that 80-million-copies epic of Robert Jordan. Sanderson completed the series after Jordan’s untimely passing, based on the notes of the late author- and I feel that Sanderson’s already potent skill has grown for doing so. Here we have a lengthy series so thoroughly fleshed out that it’s in danger of rearing up and attacking the reader- well worth a look into.
I’ll be doing a few more of these review sections as we move forwards, so as always, keep your eyes peeled. Not literally though. Put the peeler down. PUT IT DOWN.