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  #511  
Old 10-02-2019, 01:59 PM
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Originally Posted by TheGillotine View Post
Spoiler discussion of the end of WoK:

Spoiler:
The end of each Sanderson book has the twists you mention (or more accurately I think they should be called "reveals", because I don't think they are meant to undermine expectations), but the real cathartic climax for me is how the characters act in a setting that has been constructed to make their sacrifices meaningful. For Way of Kings, there are two climactic actions - Kaladin & Co. deciding to go back to save Dalinar, and Dalinar giving up his shardblade to save Kaladin & Co.

In the first, Kaladin has been allowed enormous justification to say "Screw those guys, I have a chance to save myself and my friends." But the ethos he has been building up to is all about selfless action independent of consequence. So it's not a twist or surprise that he decides to sacrifice, but it is very satisfying because of how much value has been placed on what he's risking.

In the second, Dalinar's entire arc through WoK is the conflict between his personal ethical compulsion (represented by the Way of Kings) and the ethos of the society he's a part of. And the book does a pretty good job of making us feel how hard it is to seriously break from that, represented by the concerns of his son. So when he gives up his shard blade, which represents ultimate value in Alethi society, for the freedom of a bunch of slaves, considered worthless in Alethi society, it's surprising and satisfying to see him make that breakthrough, especially given how unexpected it is to the beneficiaries of that decision. Even though it may seem like the obvious moral decision.

Both of those decisions are the climactic fruition of the primary protagonists' character development throughout the book. So the fact that you only saw the end of the book as a series of "M Night Shamalan twists", tells me you're not connecting with the characters in a way that is necessary to really reap the best aspects of the series.
This is a fair analysis. And again, I agree, it's my fault for not connecting here.

Spoiler:
"tells me you're not connecting with the characters in a way that is necessary to really reap the best aspects of the series" is spot on, imo. I feel nothing for any of these characters. If WoR starts with all of them dying, I don't know if it will affect me much. On the other hand, I was nearly in tears and physically angry over the deaths in A Song of Ice and Fire.

I know that when Kaladin goes back to save Dalinar, I was supposed to think "Wow, what an amazing sacrifice and a huge step forward." What I actually thought was closer to "Well, yeah, Kaladin has been obnoxiously perfect and righteous this whole book. Of course the guy who refused a shardblade because it had been used to kill people wasn't going to let a bunch of people get slaughtered." The second Dalinar got abandoned, I think I probably could have sketched out a rough outline of what was going to happen next.

Dalinar giving up the shardblade was a good moment, but I don't know if I learned anything from it. He owed a life debt to Kaladin, and he paid it with the only payment he had to offer that would be accepted. It felt like another instance of a perfect character acting perfectly. But he is an incredibly hard character to relate to. He's a near-superhuman warrior who talks to God and clings strictly to a moral code. His big struggle is "Should I bang this incredibly hot woman who keeps throwing herself at me?" I can't put myself in his shoes or empathize.

Every character just seems drawn with such incredibly bright lines that it is hard for me to relate. I don't know if I saw any nuance in any character. Shallan can't just be a good and diligent student, she has to have perfect photo recall. They basically ended the story as they began, so the whole thing felt plodding and predictable to me (aside, I've noticed that authors that write quick seem like they write a bit bloated). I know I was supposed to feel catharsis at the end, but I didn't, so all that I was left with was a feeling off being bombarded with reveals. If all I'm getting is just a series of reveals, then I might as well just read the Wikipedia Plot Summary.


All that complaining aside, I did get the second book, and am starting in on that. I like the world he builds, and want to see how it all fits together. I'm going to try to read it faster this time to see if that jogs a connection to the characters.
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  #512  
Old 10-02-2019, 02:09 PM
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Unfortunately in this one there are a few gags where the one of the characters does something very unrealistic, and then Sanderson describes a close detail of another character's face reacting, so try not to get too put off by it
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  #513  
Old 10-02-2019, 02:10 PM
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I don't exactly mean this as criticism, but I've been trying to think about my response to this book (with Mistborn coloring my opinion as well). Sanderson seems to excel at:

1) Creating a system of strict rules
2) Creating a brand new world with fantastical creatures

But struggles (imo) with:

1) Developing interesting, nuanced, and relatable characters
2) Pacing the plot in a concise and efficient manner

Thinking about these four things, it suddenly occurred to me "This is like all the D&D campaigns I've played in my life! It's like Sanderson is transcribing a really great session of D&D."
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Old 10-02-2019, 02:13 PM
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Unfortunately in this one there are a few gags where the one of the characters does something very unrealistic, and then Sanderson describes a close detail of another character's face reacting, so try not to get too put off by it
Ugh, that is not going to be fun.

I feel so conflicted about Sanderson. On one hand, I respect the fact that he is probably a master at what he does, and recognize that he is great at it. On the other hand, it just doesn't connect.

To use a perfect analogy, I feel like I'm in the ring with Mike Tyson in his prime, and he keeps throwing punches that just miss me by an inch. I know that if one lands, it's going to rock my world, and I can recognize that there is a lot of force there being wielded by the best in the world...but still, standing there untouched...

Alright, I'm starting the new book now. Wish me luck everyone! I hope to see you on the other side, excited for the rest of the series.
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  #515  
Old 10-03-2019, 11:45 AM
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Finally finished The Way of Kings. It was...fine. I'm going to continue to the next book, but if I get to the end of it and feel roughly the same, I'm not sure I'll continue. Review below, spoilered:

Spoiler:
I have a feeling I just might not "get" Sanderson. I'm going to be mostly critical of this book, but I understand why people would love these. I'm probably the one who is wrong here.

He does a couple of things that just make for a not-fun story telling experience at times, especially for longer book. Among these are the video-game moments (Kaladin fighting at The Tower) and his love of "Can you believe it was _____ the whole time!"

The first is not a big deal, but the second...I don't know, pulls me out of the story. The last 2% of TWoK was just a series of M. Night Shamalan twists (Shallan killed her father, Syl is an honorspren, Jasnah's soulcaster doesn't work, Dalinar was talking to God, the "collections" were of people getting killed, the Parshendi are Voidbringers, Szeth and Kaladin are Knights Radiant). I know it's a personal preference, but it just feels like the author patting himself on the back for being so clever. Mistborn had this, too, and I didn't care for it.

Aside from that, I found the book to be incredibly bloated. Given that, really, not a lot happened, it didn't feel like this needed to be 1000+ pages. Several chapters seemed to be, in essence, rewrites of earlier chapters, with characters basically just retreading old ground. The Wikipedia Plot Summary is four paragraphs long, and basically hits the high points.

That said, he's set up an interesting world, and I'm excited to see where it goes. I'm going to read the next book, and see where it lands, but after that I might just read the plot summaries for the rest of the series. I feel like I'll get 90% of the plot, 100% of the "twists," and saves 200 hours.
Yeah, I dunno. Sanderson may just not be for you. The entire foundation of the Cosmere is having all of these big elaborate magic systems that you are very slowly introduced to, have a very limited knowledge of... and have extreme plot significance. It's a lot of puzzles and twists by nature. As Kelsier always said, "there's always another secret."

There is a lot more to these than just plot twists, of course. There is a TON of character development and world-building. And there are even things like trauma and mental illness that I think Stormlight tackles better than the vast majority of books out there.

But for most Sanderson fans, the foreshadowing, the hiding in plain sight, the twists, the sheer technical scope of how elaborate the magical mechanics are... that's the primary draw. And it gives the books persistency, as subsequent re-reads can be just as fun, if not more fun. If that's something that's annoying to you... I don't think there is anything else we can say to change your experience.
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  #516  
Old 10-03-2019, 12:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheGillotine View Post
Spoiler discussion of the end of WoK:

Spoiler:
The end of each Sanderson book has the twists you mention (or more accurately I think they should be called "reveals", because I don't think they are meant to undermine expectations), but the real cathartic climax for me is how the characters act in a setting that has been constructed to make their sacrifices meaningful. For Way of Kings, there are two climactic actions - Kaladin & Co. deciding to go back to save Dalinar, and Dalinar giving up his shardblade to save Kaladin & Co.

In the first, Kaladin has been allowed enormous justification to say "Screw those guys, I have a chance to save myself and my friends." But the ethos he has been building up to is all about selfless action independent of consequence. So it's not a twist or surprise that he decides to sacrifice, but it is very satisfying because of how much value has been placed on what he's risking.

In the second, Dalinar's entire arc through WoK is the conflict between his personal ethical compulsion (represented by the Way of Kings) and the ethos of the society he's a part of. And the book does a pretty good job of making us feel how hard it is to seriously break from that, represented by the concerns of his son. So when he gives up his shard blade, which represents ultimate value in Alethi society, for the freedom of a bunch of slaves, considered worthless in Alethi society, it's surprising and satisfying to see him make that breakthrough, especially given how unexpected it is to the beneficiaries of that decision. Even though it may seem like the obvious moral decision.

Both of those decisions are the climactic fruition of the primary protagonists' character development throughout the book. So the fact that you only saw the end of the book as a series of "M Night Shamalan twists", tells me you're not connecting with the characters in a way that is necessary to really reap the best aspects of the series.


The next books throw various wrenches and complications into the fairly straightforward ethical messages of the first book. But some of the arcs in the second book in particular are kind of frustrating and the main plot doesn't progress much compared to the third one. It's a lot of set up and development for Shallan. Szeth and Taravangian also start to figure more prominently.
Very well said.
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  #517  
Old 10-03-2019, 12:14 PM
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Spoiler:

But [Dalinar] is an incredibly hard character to relate to. He's a near-superhuman warrior who talks to God and clings strictly to a moral code. His big struggle is "Should I bang this incredibly hot woman who keeps throwing herself at me?" I can't put myself in his shoes or empathize.


This is amazing. Being that you've only read WoK, I can totally get where you are coming from, but... just...
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  #518  
Old 10-03-2019, 12:14 PM
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I never read Mistborn: Secret History. Any good? I haven't read the original series since the last book came out (10 years?) so my memory would not be fresh on any detailed events. Would I need to do a re-read before reading secret history?
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Old 10-03-2019, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by pete5383 View Post
Sanderson seems to excel at:

1) Creating a system of strict rules
2) Creating a brand new world with fantastical creatures

But struggles (imo) with:

3) Developing interesting, nuanced, and relatable characters
4) Pacing the plot in a concise and efficient manner
NOTE: I changed the numbers in your quote so I could reference them easier.

This is an interesting break down to me.

I do kind of agree with (3), but probably not for the same reasons as you do. I feel like Brandon has a tendency to go all or nothing with a character. You have characters like Kaladin, Shallan, or Vin who are very fleshed out with internal struggle and conflict and resolution and theme, and then you have characters like Ham, Rock, or Sadeas who are almost trope-like in their stoicism. However, I very much WOULD say that the former group ARE interesting, nuanced, and relatable.

Having read a lot of discussions on Kaladin, for example, people tend to either love him (he's been through a lot, they can relate to his negative self-image, they see him as conquering these internal struggles and still being able to do the right thing, so he becomes a model of how to overcome things like depression or PTSD) or hate him (he's mopey, he dwells on the past and his own problems, he'd be able to do so much more if he just accepted what he had and shed his baggage).

To me, that's kind of the hallmark of a well-written character. No character can be relatable to everyone, but when a character garners such a strong reaction from multiple perspectives... that's nuanced and realistic.

I will also say that Brandon does a pretty good job of not writing the same character twice, which can be a pretty big pitfall of authors juggling so many characters. I know you haven't read Elantris yet, but suffice to say, Raoden and Sarene fit into pretty firm tropes. However, having written those characters and moved on, those trope-types aren't duplicated the same way anywhere else. And because of the sources of conflict in Elantris, those tropes aren't distracting. He has, in my opinion, a remarkable ability to balance internal and external conflict, and allows the less-emphasized source of conflict absorb a little bit of stereotype without it affecting the overall feeling or story.




As far as (4) goes... honestly I think that one is really hard to say. Having attempted writing in the past, pacing is, by far, the hardest part of storytelling. There is this paradox inherent to pacing where, if you pace something out too perfectly, it feels completely contrived. Stories naturally have ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys, and that contrast allows the story to gain momentum or take a breath when it needs it. Maintaining the same pace all the way through a book - especially a book such as Stormlight - would either be excessively boring or excessively draining.

Good pacing is all about using those ebbs and flows at the right time to push or pull the story where it needs to go. But, it becomes exceedingly difficult when different readers perceive different events as having a different relevance to the plot. If, for instance, you just don't care about Kaladin, then an extremely relevant-to-Kaladin event that pushes the entire story-arc forward may feel out of place or off to you. Which, based on your comments, sounds like at least a part of the reasoning behind why you felt the pacing was poor.
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Old 10-03-2019, 01:14 PM
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I never read Mistborn: Secret History. Any good? I haven't read the original series since the last book came out (10 years?) so my memory would not be fresh on any detailed events. Would I need to do a re-read before reading secret history?
I would recommend a re-read. SE all but requires an intimate knowledge of what is going on in the original trilogy.

Also, I'd recommend reading Allow of Law, Shadows of Self, and Bands of Mourning before you read it, as there are implications there.

Also also, I would just recommend a re-read in general, because these books are awesome and they get better every time you read them.
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