Review: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Rhythm of War
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: TOR
Genres: Fantasy
Length: 1232 pages
My Rating: ★★★★★
5/5 stars

Summary

“After forming a coalition of human resistance against the enemy invasion, Dalinar Kholin and his Knights Radiant have spent a year fighting a protracted, brutal war. Neither side has gained an advantage, and the threat of a betrayal by Dalinar’s crafty ally Taravangian looms over every strategic move.

Now, as new technological discoveries by Navani Kholin’s scholars begin to change the face of the war, the enemy prepares a bold and dangerous operation. The arms race that follows will challenge the very core of the Radiant ideals, and potentially reveal the secrets of the ancient tower that was once the heart of their strength.

At the same time that Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with his changing role within the Knights Radiant, his Windrunners face their own problem: As more and more deadly enemy Fused awaken to wage war, no more honorspren are willing to bond with humans to increase the number of Radiants. Adolin and Shallan must lead the coalition’s envoy to the honorspren stronghold of Lasting Integrity and either convince the spren to join the cause against the evil god Odium, or personally face the storm of failure.”

Review

If you have not read the first three stormlight archive books, don’t you dare keep reading. Everyone deserves the magic of reading the Stormlight Archive for the first time spoiler-free and spinning with crackpot theories about where Brandon Sanderson is leading you. But if you have, then please: read on.

First of all, the book itself is gorgeous. I got a signed copy from Barnes and Noble. The dust jacket has a beautiful full-color map of Roshar, and the end sheets have full-color art of the heralds! I wish I could frame all of it. It’s amazing. 

As for the book itself, it pulls no punches in a myriad of ways. I’m going to break it down by  highlighting characters or arcs that especially shone in this book: 

  1. Navani
    1. Right from the very first viewpoint with Navani, it tore at my heart. Rhythm of War felt like the first books that highlighted her thoughts and emotions. In doing so, it completely changed my mind about her. I used to think she was kind of one dimensional. Rhythm of War completely changes that. I adored watching Navani come into her own! I will not speak a lot on her arc because there are many spoilers; however, I will say she continually blew me away. I cannot wait to see the impact she has on future books. Navani Kholin is a certified badass. 
  2. Adolin
    1. Adolin Has firmly cemented himself as a steady glue for all of the other characters around him. He is a source of positivity; I love watching him interact with both Shallan and Kaladin. He was in the shadesmar storyline, and I like that because Shallan was stressing me out this book. He provided a breath of fresh air and a distinct viewpoint on the crazy things around them. He is opening up to an exciting storyline because of the unique bond he shares with Maya the deadeyes.
  3. Kaladin
    1. Kaladin chapters were challenging for me to read. They were a great representation of the impacts of PTSD and depression. Some of the steps Kaladin takes to help others and do what he does best were 10 out of 10; I absolutely loved it. However, it does hurt to see a character I care about so much going through so much internal pain and not seeing their own value. His growth in this book looked quite different from previous Kaladin viewpoints but led to some great pay off watching him grow and learn to accept all the different sides of himself.
  4. Shallan
    1. Shallan’s chapters had me biting my nails. She is going through a lot. If you remember from the previous book, she was starting to fear a formless thing in her mind. Her existing triad of personalities are intriguing and scary at the same time – there’s a push and pull to their coexistence that keeps me on edge. I can’t personally speak to how accurate the representation of Dissassociative Identity Disorder is. However, I felt like she was an accessible character that I could understand even though I couldn’t relate. I’ve heard many great things from people who do suffer from DID about how Brandon handled Shallan’s experiences. 

Review: Burn This City by Brenda Poppy

Title: Burn This City
Author: Brenda Poppy
Publisher: Glass Fish Publishing
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 303 pages
My Rating: ★★★.5
3.5/5 stars

Summary

Kasis is an uninhabitable planet, yet there they were – inhabiting. It’s no wonder that prolonged colonization produced…side effects. Or gifts. But with a militarized government that persecutes people for being different, using such a gift could mean certain death.

Auburn Alendra is one of the gifted. Her power allows her to hear into the deepest corners of the polluted city, gathering secrets and using them to her advantage. When one of those secrets threatens her very existence – along with thousands of others throughout the city – Auburn must do everything it takes to fight back.

Along with a resistance force known as the Lunaria, “Burn” races against the clock to infiltrate the government’s Peace Force in search of answers and discover a way to avoid all-out warfare. Join Burn on a thrilling adventure as she navigates the perils of a scarred dystopian landscape and discovers the true cost of survival.

Review

Burn This City did not go the trajectory I had anticipated, and it was all the better for it. All too often in dystopian or science fiction reads there’s an imbalance between an intricately designed setting and some rushed together characters or plot but that was not the case here. In fact, by the end, most of the questions I had revolved around the world itself! I felt like I understood the characters, their motives, and their relationships quite well in the ending. The concept of powers in the world was really interesting, and I like the balance it provided through the idea that more exposure to pollution equates to more individuals with powers, effectively balancing the privileges that those in less polluted areas have. This book was also excellent with foreshadowing – there were things laid out so clearly in the very beginning that I hadn’t even realized tied together until the end reveals. This is a good light read and I’m intrigued to see where book two goes! 

What I especially liked was how unique the gifts in this book were, so I’m going to highlight three of those

  • Burn (Auburn)
    • Auburn has enhanced hearing, to the point that she can hear people several city blocks away. Despite living most of her life with this gift there’s still room for her to explore it. We get to see that growth during that book and the payoff from the growth is great to see. 
  • Scar (Scarlett)
    • Scarlett is kind of a cyborg, in a way? She was born partly metal, which I try not to think of the science behind too deeply because in practice it is freaking cool. She’s like a mechanical savant, fixing and inventing anything she can. 
  • Coal 
    • Can impersonate anyone, but they’re not a shapeshifter. It vaguely reminds me of how Lightweaving from the Stormlight Archive novels works. 

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Thank you so much to the author, Brenda Poppy, for a copy of Burn This City! It’s out today if you’d like to grab a copy.

Fun Friday: How I’m Preparing for my First NaNoWriMo

 

Obviously, it is October at the time of my posting this. National Novel Writing Month (otherwise referred to as NaNoWriMo) is not until November. If you’re wondering why the heck I’m writing about my experience before I experience it… congrats! You’re in the exact same shoes I was in a few weeks ago. But I’ll get to that point.

When I graduated from college a few months ago, I set a few goals for myself. I’d always loved writing but hadn’t quite had the time to write for fun. In my final semester I took a creative writing class that reignited my love of it. What it did not reignite, though, was my motivation and the ideas I’d once overflowed with. Creativity is a muscle just like anything else. Unfortunately, it was a muscle I hadn’t flexed it in years. It was initially quite difficult for me to justify writing with no clear goal. That class challenged my boundaries and I wanted to do more – so I set myself to writing more! I took baby steps. First, I started reading more. That’s all documented on my bookstagram (@Paiges_next_pages) and also here on my website! Though I read a fair amount prior, I read more mindfully now. I ask myself why something made a story more or less enjoyable. My Fun Friday posts are also a practice in giving myself a prompt, instead of writing to what somebody tells me. That all, though, was very light prep. I felt like I’d stretched for my marathon… but at the start of October, I realized I still didn’t know the route I’d be running.

And thus, I learned that the best practice for NaNoWriMo success was the work done in Preptober. Frankly, my prep is highly likely to fail miserably. I have never charted a book out before. The longest story I’ve written for a class was about forty pages. I absolutely do not expect that, at this time next month, I’ll have anything even remotely resembling a publishable novel. 

But what I do expect is to learn a lot. 

I expect to learn what I should’ve been doing this past month that I overlooked.

I expect to learn more about my own time management methods.

I expect to learn what I did this month that helped my life go more smoothly. 

Most importantly, I’m hoping to cement into my brain something I have learned but never quite managed to internalize. It is so, so much better to have something flawed and clunky to edit than to have never written anything at all. 

So, what have I done for prep this month?

First I had to get an idea. Maybe I’ll decide I hate it and make a game-time change, but for right now I plan on writing something to get myself in the Christmas mood! A fluffy romance that’ll give me plenty of opportunities to watch Christmas and rom-com movies for research. 

The next step, which has been the main focus of my month, was trying out a new planning style! For classes, I flew by the seat of my pants. The issue is that that made me slow and hasn’t worked well for longer pieces. I get too distracted and end up down a Wikipedia hole every time. Instead, I’ve written out the skeleton of what scenes I absolutely want to happen. I’ll focus on writing those first, and if I finish all of them (Ha. I can dream) then I’ll circle back around and write the connections – whatever it takes to reasonably get from one scene to the next and explain any background I missed. 

Again, this is an experiment. I might fail miserably. I am actually very likely to fail miserably at the actual goal of 50k words. But if you think I’m going to fail miserably with this method… maybe wait to let me know until after I learn that lesson for myself? 

Have a great weekend and Happy Halloween! 

Fun Friday: Comparing book covers from different countries

Happy Friday! A quick reading update – this week, I finished Legendborn by Tracey Deonn and just started To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini. I also read an ARC of Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro a while ago which released this week, so I’ll be trying to post a review of that soon! Now if you will, take a moment to consider Middle Earth, the land Tolkien created long ago. Majestic spaces, stunning sites, and merry hobbits living in the Shire. All things considered, the cover of The Hobbit shown below seems quite fitting. I have a similar edition, it’s quite stunning and vibrant in person.

In what I admit was over 22 years of being dumb I never really considered the idea that other covers of The Hobbit might not paint the same picture of majestic natural beauty. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon an original Dutch cover of The Hobbit online, covered in fun hobbits that look nothing like I’d imagined! Below, you can drag and compare the two covers. If I was judging a book by its cover, I’d be imagining two entirely different types of book. I think I quite like the Dutch edition though, as it adds a different spirit to the book. This got me thinking: what other books do I love that might sell a different story based on the cover?

  • Scythe by Neal Shusterman
    Scythe is one of my favorite futuristic YA books. It raises a lot of great moral questions without feeling overly heavy or like it’s trying too hard. It flows quite naturally, and the cover represents. that to me. Yes, this book focuses on a lot of death, but it’s not an overly dark book. Shown first is the original United States cover – it’s bright, has a futuristic font, and feels quite mysterious. Shown in the middle is the german edition, published by FISCHER Sauerländer. It’s a lot more eery, though maintains the element of mystery and clearly shows the scythe. On the far right is the Indonesian paperback edition published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama. This one goes fully eery, with a full moon lighting a ghostly scythe’s path. The building surrounding the figure are worn down and cast in shadows, contrasting starkly with the scythe’s glowing white robes. It may be because I’m used to the United States edition, but I think it’s still my preference.
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
    Another of my all-time favorite reads is The Starless Sea. It came out quite recently actually and has a gorgeous cover that feels vintage and new at the same time, with symbolism from the book drawn in black and gold detailing. And yet, each other country I looked at doesn’t have the black and gold color scheme! On the far left is the US edition, with gold keys twined with gray ribbon resting on a black background. The three editions next to it are respectively the Waterstones edition sold in the UK, the Italian edition, and the Canadian edition. Each maintains a semblance of the gold tones present in the US edition, however all three have shades of blue instead of black. The Waterstones edition’s gorgeous gold bee painted over the marbled blue background is, frankly, amazing. I want it so badly now. The Italian edition feels like a vintage journal with the symmetrical design of keys and filigree, and the Canadian edition’s keyhole door revealing a ship at sea stands out from the rest for portraying a scene instead of symbols. Ultimately, though, I am obsessed with that Waterstones edition more than anything. It’s the type of cover that would make me buy the book without reading a description.
  • The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
    The US cover of the wedding date gives me classic romance vibes, with the couple shown in drawn profile and the classic red, black, and white color scheme. Even the handwritten font with little swirls screams rom com – but the international counterparts don’t have that same vibe. The middle edition, published by Hachette UK, takes the cover in a lot more of a contemporary romance direction. Between the San Francisco skyline, the pink sunset fading to purple, and the cutesy flower garland bordering the edges I can’t help but get a much more cool modern feel. Plus, they used that same ‘casual’ calligraphy that’s become a trademark of modern weddings! The Croatian edition on the far right, meanwhile, doesn’t really strike home with me. The chess pieces imply a game, and I don’t think that fits the way the relationship in the book grows. If I’d seen this edition on the shelf I might not have picked it up… but then again, I’m not the target market. I’m not Croatian.
  • Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin
    The edition of Serpent & Dove on the left seems to be cover for all English language editions, and even some foreign language editions. I can see why – the dark feathery background, covered in that metallic gold snake and title, are all over Instagram. It’s a gorgeous book, and even prettier in person on the glossy dustjacket. I figured the alternative covers of Serpent & Dove wouldn’t capture me as much, but dang I do love this Spanish language edition. The title is changed to basically Witch Killer, and has that gothic purple design highlighting two red daggers and a three eyed raven. The small sigils peppered around the cover are a nice final touch. Though it’s a lot less slick than the US cover, there’s something I really adore about the Spanish edition. It feels like a real witch’s grimoire!

Which ones were your favorite? Let me know! Overall, I think I liked US Scythe, Waterstones The Starless Sea, US The Wedding Date, and Spanish language Serpent & Dove.

Have a great weekend & stay safe!