The Book's Lover

The Book's Lover
Damiano Cali

Monday, December 9, 2013

George the Camel and "The Way of Kings"

Hello again!

Vacation was AMAZING.  A week in Rome and a week in Morocco.  I got to ride a camel, and yes, I named him George.  It was awesome.  And then I had to come home to real life again.  

I have not been posting since I returned.  It is not because I have abandoned you, O Gentle Readers, but because re-adjusting to post-traveling reality has been more challenging than I originally thought. I have been caught up in:
1) Posting pictures online so everyone can see George & Seabiscuit.
2) Catching up at work (you would think I’d been gone a year).
3) Finishing the remodel of my bathroom (begun before vacation).  It’s bee-you-tee-ful!
4) Prepping for the holidays.  The parents left for a 2-week jaunt to see the grandparents and left me to finish decorating the homestead solo. 
5) A seriously-overloaded DVR.  Who knew 2 weeks of missed TV would take a month to catch up on?  Plus, lame Christmas movies!!
6) Going to see Enders’s Game & Catching Fire & "Day of the Doctor."
7) Finishing Way of Kings.  See below.

So let's talk about the important things.   Books, movies, and my camel George.  Yes, Gentle Readers, meeting cranky, grumpy George in the furry camel flesh has only made me love him more.  *snuggle*

I got very little reading done.  THAT, above all, is the hallmark of a good vacation!   I mostly ended up packing the books I had earmarked:

I think I'm taking Walter Moers' Alchemist's Apprentice,  Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings (it's the size of a George R.R. Martin, and makes me feel secure), The Artist, the Philosopher & the Warrior (about da Vinci, Cesare Borgia, and Machiavelli), and Crowley's Little, Big. But that will all change tomorrow, when I pack my carry-on.

Alchemists's Apprentice didn't make the suitcase.  Nor did Little, BigA few last-minute substitutions were loser books that got left in various airports.  The Artist, the Philosopher & the Warrior was quite good nonfiction, and is now on Sister Dear's to-read pile.  The Way of Kings was the only one to come home with me.  Because it's SO. VERY. LONG. that I couldn't finish it in time.  And then I slept the whole way home, and carted it around in my purse for a month to finish it.

The Way of Kings is 1114 pages of "Really Very Good."  And then there are 139 pages of "Oh Dear God, That's Fabulous."  The ending is SUPERB.  From the final battle scene to the various ways in which the plot points come to semi-resolution (it is the first of a series, after all), the last hundred pages or so are really incredible.  Enough to make me want to re-read it.  But I shall simply wait until March of this year, when Words of Radiance comes out.  (Except I just read that it's going to be a 10-book series.  Oh, hell.)

But anyway.  "The Stormlight Archive" series begins with The Way of Kings.  There are three main narrators, with other incidental voices chiming in to mix it up.  
1) Kaladin: Trained surgeon, gifted soldier, disgraced slave.  
2) Shallan: Scholar with a desperate secret and a hidden talent or two.
3) Dalinar: Greatest warrior of his time, plagued by visions and longing for peace.
Naturally, all of them learn that the truths of today are rooted in the mythic past, which the audience discovers as the characters unearth it.  

As with all Sanderson, the world-building is excellent.  I did find the book overwhelming sometimes, however.  Oftentimes writers ground worlds with a few recognizable traits to give their readers a solid footing.  Sanderson seems to think that idea is for wimps: there is nothing recognizable here.  The peoples, while all humanoid, all have slightly unusual skin colorings and physical features, making them tricky to keep separate.  The weather follows unusual patterns and the flora and fauna are so unique as to make them difficult to picture.  None of these things are problems in and of themselves, but it takes quite a while for a reader to get her footing.  

Once that footing is found, however, Sanderson delivers.  The backstory and the myths in The Stormlight Archives are impressive.  It reminds me a bit of Tolkien (don't get your knickers in a twist, Gentle Readers!  Lemme 'splain!) in that you really want to read the myths and legends everyone talks about.  This series may need a Silmarillion.  I want to read the stories of the Knights Radiant.  I want to read the original MS of The Way of Kings.  I want, I want. 

With tomes this large and complex, I like a quick reference in the back of the book to remind me of which character belongs to which plot thread.  Or at least to which ethnicity they belong.  The one appendix in the back of the book was largely unhelpful, and the map in the front was more decorative than useful.  There were some illustrations in front of the chapters which were wonderful, however.  These excerpts from scholar Shallan's notebooks give great insights into the world Sanderson builds, and include the character's sketches, notes, and questions.  They give real texture to the oddball plants and animals that Sanderson has spent so much time including in his world.  Unfortunately, the sketches sometimes appear hundreds of pages after the reader has first encountered mention of a particular plant or animal.  But the idea is fabulous.  More illustrations, please! 

As much as I liked it (and I did, very much), my main issue is the language:
1) Most of the world's languages, names, etc, sound as if they are from the same linguistic roots, even if they are on opposite sides of the world.  I know this sounds beyond geeky, but it's helpful if one race's names don't sound just like another's.  It's confusing.
2) Sanderson falls into the common mistake of adding extra syllables or punctuation to make words "exotic."  You can make unusual words without adding apostrophes and 27 syllables to everything...  (Sorry.  Personal bugbear from early authorship crisis.)

But it's pretty awesome, and I'm willing to forgive him a few hiccups here and there.  Sanderson is a great builder of new worlds, and if that means that I need some time to sink into his new places, I'm willing to give him some time.  Besides, when Words of Radiance rolls out, I'll still mostly remember how it all works... and then for the third book--in three years--it will be time to re-read the whole shebang!

No comments:

Post a Comment