The Riddle of the Wren by Charles de Lint (DNF)

Title: The Riddle of the Wren
Author: Charles de Lint
Date Added: August 24, 2014
Date Started: August 26, 2018
Date DNF: September 5, 2018
Reading Duration: 10 days
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult (YA)

Cover of The Riddle of the Wren by Charles de LintPages: 295
Publication Date: 1984
Publisher: Firebird
Media: Paperback (Library)

Minda Sealy is afraid of her own nightmares. Then, one night, while asleep, she meets Jan, the Lord of the Moors, who has been imprisoned by Ildran the Dream-master-the same being who traps Minda. In exchange for her promise to free him, Jan gives Minda three tokens. She sets out, leaving the safety of her old life to begin a journey from world to world, both to save Jan and to solve “the riddle of the Wren”-which is the riddle of her very self. “The Riddle of the Wren” was Charles de Lint’s first novel, and has been unavailable for years. Fans and newcomers alike will relish it.

The Riddle of the Wren is the type of old school fantasy novel I would’ve devoured in my younger, high school days.  Published in 1984, it’s exactly the thing that would’ve caught my fancy, and while I started reading Charles de Lint during that time, I cut my teeth on his later works, and this one flew under my radar.  You can definitely tell he was a fledgling author in this novel, and it turns out Riddle is his first.  Like so many books of that era, it begins with the locale’s description before it gets to the main character.  It does fascinate me how the conventions of writing change through the decades, and what was acceptable and expected then would earn an immediate rejection now.

Both the main character Minda and her best friend Janey are likable, and the trope of Missing Mom/Dickhead Dad is strong with regards to the former.  Janey’s description leads me to believe she’s a WOC, too, so score one for de Lint being inclusive even back then.  Minda’s father Hadon blames her for her mother’s death even though she didn’t die in childbirth (not…that that would make it valid either), but rather when she was between one and two.  Arguably, of course, women can still succumb to complications even after that length of time, but either way Hadon is still a jackass.  Minda has a paternal uncle who would be a much better father than her bio, but even if she did manage to escape, Hadon would just “drag her back,” and apparently Tomalin, the uncle, would let him.   While Hadon isn’t nearly as abusive to his daughter as the father in Deerskin *shudders* we do not diminish abuse by those degrees.

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The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (The Paper Magician #1) (DNF)

Title: The Paper Magician
Series: The Paper Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Date Added: June 17, 2016
Date Started: August 9, 2018
Date DNF: August 9, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult (YA)

Cover of The Paper Magician by Charlie N. HolmbergPages: 222
Publication Date: September 1, 2014
Publisher: 47North
Media: eBook/Kindle

Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined — animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner — a practitioner of dark, flesh magic — invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

I wished I’d just passed on this based on sample, but I don’t think I read enough to make the correct call.  The beginning is intriguing enough to draw you in, but as I went along the first chapter, I didn’t get much from the MC Ceony except that she’s a good student who wanted to work with metal instead of the paper craft foisted upon her.  Usually students can choose their material, but because Folding is dying out, she was assigned to that.  It’s a pretty common set up for a narrative, and while I did wonder how Holmberg might bend this ubiquitous motif in a unique way, it just didn’t hold my interest, and after rereading the blurb, I felt less of a draw to find out.

I’m not counting the author out though.  I do like her style, and I have Smoke and Summons from her Numina series on my list.

The Shadow Soul by Kaitlyn Davis (A Dance of Dragons #1) (DNF)

Title: The Shadow Soul
Series Title: A Dance of Dragons
Author: Kaitlyn Davis
Date Added: June 15, 2016
Date Started: May 14, 2018
Date DNF: May 15, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult (YA), Paranormal

The Shadow Soul coverPages: 292
Publication Date: January 22, 2014
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Media: eBook/Kindle

When Jinji’s home is destroyed, she is left with nowhere to run and no one to run to–until she meets Rhen, a prince chasing rumors that foreign enemies have landed on his shores. Masquerading as a boy, Jinji joins Rhen with vengeance in her heart. But traveling together doesn’t mean trusting one another, and both are keeping a deep secret–magic. Jinji can weave the elements to create master illusions and Rhen can pull burning flames into his flesh.

But while they struggle to hide the truth, a shadow lurks in the night. An ancient evil has reawakened, and unbeknownst to them, these two unlikely companions hold the key to its defeat. Because their meeting was not coincidence–it was fate. And their story has played out before, in a long forgotten time, an age of myth that is about to be reborn…

This is one of those books that initially seems like I’d tear through with alacrity based on the blurb, but I was extremely meh about the opening.  It’s your typical destroyed people/vengeance fare, but I didn’t garner much deep emotion from it because I didn’t invest much in the characters due to that cataclysm being present in the blurb.  Even so I liked what the author was setting up with Jinji’s story arc, an indigenous young woman whose home and culture is destroyed.  I was here for that revenge story, but then…the male character is introduced.

Rhen is unlikable for a variety of reasons.  He’s arrogant as fuck with an unearned know-it-all attitude.  Davis tells us how smart he is through his own ruminations, which may be her way of disputing it, but it just comes off as pompous.  I could forgive this slight, but I was pretty much done when he revealed he might be an unabashed rapist per the very act that introduces him.

He did however feel slightly uneasy.  It really wasn’t the girl’s fault that he had slipped into her room just before dawn.

I won’t say it’s blatant, but it gave me an icky feeling.  Pairing that with a lukewarm beginning sealed the deal.  If Rhen had been interesting or reputable, I might have continued, but I had no interest in seeing a fairly decent character like Jinji paired with what can’t even be considered a mediocre man.  Maybe he matures; maybe she “fixes” him (ugh), but she deserves better.

Final Fantasy Type-0 (DNF)

More video game reviews can be found here.

Series: Final Fantasy/Fabula Nova Crystalis
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: October 27, 2011

The cover of Final Fantasy Type-0System: PlayStation 4

Final Fantasy Type-0 (formerly Final Fantasy Agito XIII) opens on a graphically violent note.  Final Fantasy has always been known for its beautiful, chill-inducing openings, and Type-0 does not disappoint in this regard.  The beginning scenes display the horrors of war in bloody relief, utilizing the full power of the PlayStation 4.  The series has never shied away from such a topic, and in fact, all of the games center around war/rebellion in some way, but Type-0 did not mince words or sight, and it was even more harrowing considering these were children slain with neither mercy nor impunity given for youth.

The “secondary” series is Fabula Nova Crystalis, the same as Final Fantasy XIII (which I’m planning to play this year).  It translates into “new tales of the crystals” and also contains Final Fantasy XV.  The “crystal” is a ubiquitous structure throughout the series, present in all iterations though arguably more hidden in some (e.g. Final Fantasies VI, VII, & VIII).  Analogous in Type-0 with the “four lights of hope,” they’re represented by a specifically hued animal: White Tiger, Azure Dragon, Black Tortoise, and Red Phoenix.  The White Tiger’s attack on another faction nullified their crystal, which is the catalyst for the events of the game.

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The Beauty Thief by Rachael Ritchey (Twelve Realms #1) (DNF)

Title: The Beauty Thief
Series Title: Twelve Realms
Author: Rachael Ritchey
Date Added: February 5, 2016
Date Started: July 13, 2017
Date DNF: July 19, 2017
Reading Duration: 6 days
Percentage Read: 25%
Genre: Fantasy, Christian, Young Adult (YA)

Pages: 346
Publication Date: March 20, 2015
Publisher: RR Publishing
Media: eBook/Kindle

In the Twelve Realms there lives a man who covets life. He lurks in the shadows, intent upon stealing that which sustains his perpetual existence: true beauty. Princess Caityn’s loveliness reaches from what the eye sees to the very marrow of her soul. The thief’s covetous heart desires the life her beauty possesses and will stop at nothing to take it all.

I really wanted to like this.  It had characters in royal/leadership positions who were actually decent people.  The main character Princess Caityn and her brother Prince Adair were raised with the philosophy that though they were royal, their duty was to serve their country, and though the people of the kingdom might be their subjects, they would never be subjected to corrupt rule.  Caityn often visits and comforts widows in addition to reading or teaching lessons at the orphanage, and her boisterous brother Adair was once punished for playing a prank on his sister by having to work “scullery in the kitchen for a week.”  This was an excellent way to show that the king and queen not only raised their children to show compassion towards the needy, but they didn’t hold with the elitist idea that they couldn’t perform “common work.”  Nor is this attitude unique to the royals of one kingdom.  When Caityn’s fiance Prince Theiander arrives for their nuptials, his mother chastises his sister the Princess Eliya for treating a groom unkindly, especially considering he was doing not only his job, but the job of another man who’d recently fallen ill.

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Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner (Nightshade Chronicles #1) (DNF)

Title: Nightshade City.
Series Title: Nightshade Chronicles
Author: Hilary Wagner
Date Added: May 17, 2016
Date Started: June 23, 2017
Date DNF: June 30, 2017
Reading Duration: 7 days
Percentage Read: 28%
Genre: Fantasy, Mid-Grade/Young Adult (YA),

Nightshade City

Pages: 260
Publication Date: October 1, 2010
Publisher: Holiday House
Media: Hardback/Library

Shares Paradigms With: Redwall, Watership Down (both linked in the blurb below)

Deep beneath Trillium City, a modern metropolis, lies the Catacombs, a kingdom of rats of extraordinary intelligence and ability. The once peaceful and democratic colony has become a harsh dictatorship ruled by the High Minister Kildeer and his henchman, Billycan, who runs the Kill Army and collects weekly Stipend from the terrified subjects. The two of them rule with iron fists. With most of the adult rats wiped out in Killdeer’s Bloody Coup and the subsequent great flood, orphaned young male rats are forced into the army and the females into servitude or worse. But change is coming. . . .

Two orphan brothers, Vincent and Victor Nightshade, sons of a hero killed in the Bloody Coup, manage to escape from the Kill Army and meet up with Juniper Belancourt, leader of a rebel group seeking to overthrow their oppressors and restore peace and democracy in a new city. The brothers are quickly caught up in Juniper’s cause: “We survive by cover of night. We live in the shadows, waiting for our redemption! Our name must symbolize our burning spirit. . . . Tonight and forever, we are Nightshade City!”

Juniper’s plans are complicated by many factors. His lovely young niece Clover has been picked by Killdeer to be his next Chosen One, so the rebels and their allies the Earthworms must work fast to save her. Can the rebels locate their enemies’ War Room? Can Juniper’s former love, now holding a position in Killdeer’s Ministry, be trusted? Will the rebels be able to execute their plans without the aid of a young Topsider (human)? And how will Vincent and Victor fare in battle will they honor their father’s legacy of courage?

NIGHTSHADE CITY is rich with memorable characters: Vincent, who comes of age in this time of change; his worshipful younger brother, Victor; beautiful, intelligent Clover; Mother Gallo, a canny survivor who discovers her lost love only to risk losing him again; the charismatic Juniper, a kind and courageous leader whose vision carries the rebels into great danger; Killdeer, a decadent narcissist with surprising depth; and Billycan, a truly demented former lab rat, brilliant, vicious, and Juniper’s sworn enemy.

This enthralling animal fantasy, in the classic tradition of Redwall and Watership Down, encompasses timeless themes of honor and loyalty, family ties and lost love, alliances and betrayals. Readers will respond enthusiastically to this surefire page-turner, set in a brilliantly imagined world filled with easy-to-root-for heroes and villains they’ll love to hate.

This story was touted as sharing paradigms with both Redwall and Watership Down, two of my favorite series/novels of animal centered fantasy/fiction.  In Hilary Wagner’s work, they are anthropomorphic like the former and are forced to fight against a totalitarian regime like the latter.  Unlike Brian Jacques’ long running series though, the rats of Nightshade City have a human factor to contend with, and the fact that the protagonists are rats differentiates it from Redwall even more.  Mr. Jacques has an extremely strict system where certain species fall (and there’s a great deal I can say about that in terms to how it compares to social class, but that’s a subject for another post), and rats are almost always villainous except in a few cases, which are quite noteworthy.

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The State of the Writer: 8/6/17

<–The State of the Writer: 7/30/17          The State of the Writer: 8/13/17–>

A weekly post updated every Sunday discussing my current writing projects and where I stand with them.  This will include any and all work(s) in progress (WIP) be they creative writing, essays/analyses, or reviews of any type.

Project: Story
The Broken Rose
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Current Word Count: 266,754
Prior Word Count: 266,907
Word Difference: -153
Status: Prepping to post Chapter 10
Progress: Preliminary review

Editing Date Started: May 14, 2017
Editing Date Finished: August 6, 2017
Editing Duration: 84 days

After 84 days, I’m finally finished the edit of this chapter…at least I hope I am.  I completed the fourth edit this afternoon/evening right before drafting and posting this, but I still want to do a breeze through to check the pacing, because I’m still not entirely sure about that.  This…was a tough chapter to edit, and it’s really funny how the length of a chapter has little to do with the difficulty.  I’m sure there were longer chapters prior to this that didn’t take nearly as long, as I’m almost certain this was the longest editing duration so far.  The cover image is already prepped with words and all, so the next scheduled editing session should consist of that pacing check, and once I’m satisfied that none of you will be too bored with it, I’ll post Chapter 10.

FYI this week’s picture is exactly how I see their height differential.  Hell, she could possibly be standing on her toes and still be that petite.  It’s a minor pet peeve, but I can’t imagine the Great General being short, and I know I’ve probably beaten this horse long dead, but this was my main disappointment with my commissioned picture.

Quote: “Little flower, this world belongs to you, and your life will be wonderful.”

Project: Book Reviews
Title: Various
Status: Upcoming

I posted the review for An Ember in the Ashes yesterday evening so I’m down one review, but I also just finished the Zelda manga I was reading, so there’s another.  I’m just going to look at my book reviews as yet another endless task *shrug* I am going to review Never Never in one post not three, so that cuts it down a bit.

  1. Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner (DNF)
  2. Talon by Julie Kagawa
  3. Saga: Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples
  4. Stone & Iris by Jonathan Ballagh
  5. Gaslight Hades by Grace Draven
  6. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
  7. Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
  8. The Beauty Thief by Rachael Ritchey (DNF)
  9. The Poetic Edda by Anonymous
  10. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Volume 1 by Katie Cook & Andy Price
  11. Never Never by Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher
  12. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
  13. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess by Akira Himekawa

Project: Game Review
Title: SOMA
Developer:  Frictional Games
Let’s Player: ChristopherOdd
Prior Word Count: 551
Current Word Count: 1071
Word Difference: +520
Status: Drafting

I made it to the “game proper” in my Story part (you’ll understand what that means when you read it), and like most of my reviews, a ton of revelations came flooding my way as I’m working on it.  There are a lot of things that don’t add up, and while they could be errors on the developers’ part, SOMA seems too well done for all of the inconsistencies to be due to that alone.  I’m starting to wonder if my first thought about it was correct, even though it’s never confirmed and could definitely be argued.  It’s similar to the plot of the Futurama episode “Obsoletely Fabulous,” where Bender receives an upgrade.  While obviously the show plays itself for laughs, there’s a definite “Reality is what you make of it” motif in the mix.

What are you currently working on?  Is it a creative writing project, essay, review, or something else?  Have you just started something new or are you wrapping up a long term project?

<–The State of the Writer: 7/30/17          The State of the Writer: 8/13/17–>



Elijah Dart: Angel of Death by Jonathan L. Ferrera (DNF)

Title: Elijah Dart: Angel of Death
Author: Jonathan L. Ferrara
Illustrator: Aaron Ferrara
Date Added: November 2, 2015
Date Started: June 19, 2017
Date DNF: June 28, 2017
Reading Duration: 9 days
Percentage Read: 58%
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal/Supernatural, LGBTQ, Mid-Grade

Pages: 128
Publication Date: May 29, 2014
Publisher: Self-Published
Media: eBook/Kindle

Before his fourteenth birthday, ordinary Elijah Dart would have never gone snooping around in a graveyard, joined an old ghost for tea, or battled Hellhounds with a scythe. If only he hadn’t followed the Reapers through the graveyard on All Hallows Eve, he would have never been in training to take his father’s place as the next Angel of Death.

This novel is by the author of The Ghost of Buxton Manor, and it contains the same sweet charm.  It’s an earlier work, and there are some editing issues in terms of grammar, punctuation, and a few sentence structure foibles.

The story is cute.  Elijah is kind of a precious, cinnamon bun, so there’s an adorable incongruence with him being the new Grim Reaper/Angel of Death, which is the role he’ll eventually take over from his father in a sort of morbid passing down of the family business.  The Darts have their own personal cemetery (not suspicious AT ALL), and a groundskeeper/butler who reminds me of Dampé from Ocarina of Time.  Elijah stumbles upon a reaper reunion (which I’m pretty sure I could make into a triple entendre if I thought about it hard enough) in said graveyard prior to finding this out on his birthday, which also happens to be Halloween.  Things escalate or rather descend from there.

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Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter (DNF)

Title: Vassa in the Night
Author: Sarah Porter
Date Added: October 15, 2016
Date Started: January 25, 2017
Date DNF: February 8, 2017

Pages: 296
Publication Date:
September 20, 2016
Progress: 20%

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…

The fact I didn’t finish this book proves that I don’t like every story with a dead mother paradigm.  God. Damn.  That sounds super cynical, but usually that’s my kryptonite for sympathizing with a character, and it usually holds my interest throughout any tale.

Vassa in the Night is based on the Russian fairy tale “Vassalisa the Beautiful,” a story I’ve never read, but I surmise it’s their version of Cinderella.  I’m still interested in reading the original source even if an offshoot didn’t hold my attention.  What drew me to it in the first place was the emphasis on the personification of “night,” and the prologue seems to promise that this will be a prevalent plot point.  I love when abstract concepts are incarnated into entities with (free) will, but the snippet at the beginning was probably supposed to tide the reader over until later.

I think Vassa fell flat for me because I was expecting a story more like Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, and instead I got an urban fantasy (as opposed to a Helprin’s novel, which is more magical realism).  UF is probably my least favorite subsection of the fantasy genre.  I just don’t have much interest in reading about established, mundane cities regardless if you slather a veneer of magic over their grime, and holy shit…I just realized that FFVII could arguably be considered (among other things) an urban fantasy especially considering Midgar is supposed to be an analogue of New York, so I’m totally talking out of my ass.  Let me attempt to mitigate.

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The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn #2) (DNF)


This is an unfinished book review as I did not complete the book in question.  Sometimes a story doesn’t hold my interest enough or there’s a a fatal flaw in the writing that makes it impossible for me to read; however, I feel that I should still put up my impressions of the story and explain why I was unable to make it through.  These reviews will vary in length depending on how much of the novel I was able to complete.

Mistborn Series

 <–The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)

Title: The Well of Ascension
Series Title: Mistborn
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Date Added: September 4, 2013
Date Completed: Unknown
Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 796
Publication Date: August 21, 2007
Media Type: Paperback

They did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a healthy new society in the ashes of an empire.

They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.

Spoilers for The Final Empire (Mistrborn #1) in the review.

In Sanderson’s second installation Elend Venture is the current king of Luthadel with Vin as his personal Mistborn bodyguard, but the young monarch holds a very precarious position as his father, Straff Venture, is camped outside his city’s gates with an army bent on conquest.  This fact is compounded when another army (that of Lord Cett) shows up, and of course there are still assassins trying for Elend’s life.  On top of this, Vin discovers a mysterious Watcher during her nightly patrols who tests the limits of her Mistborn abilities.

Sanderson again tells far more than he shows in this series.  The most blatant instance of this comes when Elend meets with Dockson, one of the late Kelsier’s original crewmen, and afterword the author insists that Dockson doesn’t like Elend, but at no point in the prior exchange was there any sign of animosity between these two individuals.  Their conversation was polite and there was nothing in the narrative or dialogue tags to show what Dockson felt.  We don’t find this out until afterward where Sanderson tells us that it’s so, and has Elend bemoaning the fact.

I also found reason to dislike Vin in this novel among other things.  She has inherited OreSeur the kandra, a creature that can take the shape of people (and later animals) that it consumes.  Vin is still upset that the kandra essentially ate Kelsier after he died in order to impersonate him for a time, even though this was Kelsier’s plan all along.  Her treatment of OreSeur both bothers me and seems out of character with someone who has been trodden on and abused her entire life.  Kandra follow a contract that allows them to live in human society, and are therefore forced to obey their human master/mistress by this with few exceptions.

I really tried to get through it this novel  I wanted my fascination with the Deepness to cut through my ever growing ennui and fuel a desire to find out what the hell that was.  I fought to maintain my interest despite the stodgy dialogue and constant telling instead of showing.  I attempted to latch on to some of the attempted intrigue with Zane who *spoiler* ends up not only being the elusive Watcher, but also Straff Venture’s bastard Mistborn son who constantly hears “God’s” voice telling him to kill everyone he meets especially his father. *end spoiler*  I tried to care about this stuff, but it all just seemed so forced and trite.  No one really had a strongly discernible personality, and I gave up and resorted to reading the Mistborn wiki to find out how both this and the third one ended.  Having done that I’m even happier that I didn’t waste my time in finishing because I’m less than impressed.

The first novel was okay.  The idea was new and fantastic: what would happen if the villain won?  Brilliance pulled off in a not so stellar way, but I was still able to slog through it.  This one has the two armies besieging our protagonists, but it just doesn’t hold a candle to a ragtag bunch of thieves and spies trying to overthrow god (which, let’s face it is essentially the plot of every Final Fantasy), and Sanderson’s writing just wasn’t compelling enough to hold me to this story without those dire odds.  Maybe this one just begins slower because it’s mostly about politics, but even reading about the end had me shrugging my shoulders.

I may still give Elantris a try at some point, and Warbreaker is already on my TBR list.

2 stars.

 <–The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)