Wax and Wayne [A Review]

The Alloy of Law, Sahdows of Self, The Bands of Mourning 

by Brandon Sanderson

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   [Image courtesy of brandonsanderson.com]

 

Oh my God – this is one really entertaining ride.

Sanderson is still at his best when he’s in his Mistborn world. This is a “sequel series” that’s a mix of Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones and Batman & Robin all thrown in, together with fantasy, science fiction and the Mistborn system that I liked so much.

Ironically, the story’s protagonist, Wax (his full first name is Waxillium – what kind of name is that?), is not my favourite character, despite him being a very “human” kind of hero who struggles with his weaknesses, emotions and inner ghosts. Instead, I really like his Robin-like (as in Batman’s Robin) sidekick, Wayne, and I think his Allomancy skill in the form of speed bubbles and his ability to study and imitate other people are really cool. Of course, Sanderson’s wry sense of humour through this character helped a lot. 

The other character that I like happens to be Wax’s very ordinary and ‘powerless’ fiancee, Steris. She is the embodiment of a boring accountant-like figure who’s really a closet thrill-seeker.

As with many of Sanderson’s creations, there are parts in the story that contain conversations with God (in this case Harmony – Sazed’s incarnation after the Final Empire saga) and he has managed to pull it off without sounding religious. 

The only grouse I have is probably the fact that the plot was a tad too complicated to follow, because I was flipping the pages like mad to keep up with the action and pace of the brilliant storytelling, and neglected to follow the mysteries behind the story closely enough.

VERDICT: This is one sequel that doesn’t disappoint, so if you like the first three Mistborn books, go for it. But do note that this is not really a trilogy because there is one more book before this second Mistborn era ends.

The Paper Dolls [A Review]

The Paper Dolls, by Julia Donaldson

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

 

Both my daughter and I love this book.

Although the book was first published in 2012 (Donaldson is better known for The Gruffalo), I only discovered it when we visited the bookstore last week. And it has been our bedtime story since then.

I think it has got to do with the fact that there are pictures of interesting paper dolls on every page, and they look like children having a grand adventure. With my daughter going through her imitation phase, this is definitely a book that catches her attention.

I also like the catchy and rhythmic song sung by the paper dolls in response to every “danger” they meet. It’s so fun to read out loud that I don’t even mind repeating it a few times throughout the book.

Finally, even though the little girl who owns the paper dolls eventually loses them, Donaldson gave it a perfect ending and allowed them to live forever. I won’t spoil the story for you here. All I shall say is that it’s a beautiful story that can be shared between mothers and daughters.

VERDICT: If you are a mother with a young daughter, go get the book NOW!

For those who want to know a little about the story line, here’s an overview from bookdepository.com:

A string of paper dolls go on a fantastical adventure through the house and out into the garden. They soon escape the clutches of the toy dinosaur and the snapping jaws of the oven-glove crocodile, but then a very real pair of scissors threatens.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories [A Review]

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, by Ken Liu

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

 

I read the title story some time back and loved it. Since then, I had been meaning to get my hands on this book and never got round to it until a few days ago. I’m glad I finally did, because I like the way Ken Liu writes, and especially after two books (not his) that were kind of disappointing in the last few weeks (see my last two book reviews).

As with most collections of short stories, there are some in this book that I really like, and some that I can do without. But I think the former outnumbers the latter, despite the fact that a number of the stories are tinged with sadness and melancholy.

I like the way the writer tends to blend history and culture with science fiction so seamlessly in many of his stories. I’m most impressed by the way he has managed to present the different perspectives of East Asia and the West, and how he’s able to draw me into the stories. Perhaps it’s because I have some understanding of both cultures, being a Singaporean with Chinese roots and all, but even if you don’t, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something in there that calls to your heart. 

Interestingly, Ken Liu appeared in my reading radar after his translation of The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin was published. I was planning to read the original version of the book in Chinese, because I didn’t want my experience of the book to be influenced by a translator. But now that I’ve read Ken Liu’s own writings, I’m keen to try the translated version.

Ken Liu has also created the Dandelion Dynasty trilogy. The first two books have been published and he’s working on the third. My hands are itching to buy the first two books, but rational me is telling me to wait for the third book, because I like my series to be complete before starting on them. It’s due to be published in 2017. Let’s see if I can hold out till then.

VERDICT: This is a must-read for anyone who likes history, culture and science fiction all in one book.

Warbreaker [A Review]

Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson

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   [Image courtesy of Wikipedia]

This has to be my least favourite book by Sanderson so far.

Okay, to be fair, it was still entertaining, like most of his other books, and there were a couple of twists in there that surprised me. There was the usual humour and the witty dialogues. There was also the familiar theme of trying to imagine a world ruled by powerful Gods and attempting to explain where They and Their powers came from. But I think that was also where I got lost. The explanation was kind of weak, and as I got closer to the end, I had more questions than answers.

Well, I suppose some readers might say that’s a good thing. I mean, books should help raise the right questions instead of spoon-feeding us with answers all the time right? Use your imagination woman! Yet, I think Sanderson went overboard this time. The problem might lie with the fact that it’s a one-book story instead of a trilogy thing, so Sanderson didn’t have a lot of “space” to expand the story. Or maybe the opposite happened – not enough details were worked out, so one book was the way to go.

In any case, the premise of the book was an interesting one, where Sanderson explored how people would react to the possibility of becoming God as a Returned, but the execution was a little disappointing.

VERDICT: If you’re looking for a one-book novel from Brandon Sanderson, Elantris might be a safer bet.

For those who want to know a little about the story line, here’s an overview from bookdepository.com:

“Warbreaker” is the story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses, the God King one of them has to marry, the lesser god who doesn’t like his job, and the immortal who’s still trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago.Their world is one in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital city and where a power known as BioChromatic magic is based on an essence known as “breath” that can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people.By using “breath” and drawing upon the color in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be accomplished. It will take considerable quantities of each to resolve all the challenges facing Vivenna and Siri, princesses of Idris; Susebron the God King; Lightsong, reluctant god of bravery, and mysterious Vasher, the Warbreaker.