This page keeps reviews and my notes about books equally. For fiction books you can expect major spoilers, so please stop here if this concerns you.
Mistborn: Secret History - Brandon Sanderson
He was… what had Fuzz said? A Cognitive Shadow? A force of mind, holding his spirit together, preventing it from diffusing.
– Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn: Secret History
Secret History is a companion story to the Mistborn saga and should be read right after the First Era (after Hero of Ages). It tells the story of Kelsier after him getting killed by Lord Ruler. Originally it was published as a standalone ebook, but now it’s a part of Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection.
Brandon Sanderson said that he doesn’t like ressurections. Neither do I. Kelsier’s revival had been plotted though long before he was killed so it feels natural. Sort of. I mean, everyone and their mothers had expected it. And yet the way it was carried out… Kelsier simply being stubborn and refusing to go away? Meh. The rulse were bent and I hate when authors do it. It’s cheating. I sincerly believe that Brandon could come up with something better.
But that’s the problem of the whole book, not only Kelsier’s ressurection: it feels forced. We follow Kelsier all the time and his interactions with other entities are inferior to what we’re accustomed to from the other works of Sanderson. Encounters are short, unrewarding1 and rather irrelevant. Brandon managed to use 40.0002 words to do a recap of first 3 Mistborn books and describe Kelsier running between places. Not very great.
However, Secret History defends itself by giving us some answers about cosmere and how it works. We learn about 3 cosmere Realms, the nature of death and some other technicalities. And we learn the new motives of Kelsier: he wants to return to Physical Realm.
Due to these it is a must-read for deeply Invested (hehe) cosmere geeks who absorb all the smallest pieces of lore, do 2-3 re-reads, read all the wobs and discuss their theories on Reddit. To all the others – ordinary people who simply like a good story – I feel it’s an easy pass.
Warbreaker - Brandon Sanderson
Warbreaker, together with Elantris, live in the shadows of their bigger cosmere brothers, Stormlight Archive and Mistborn. Quite unfair, at least for Warbreaker3.
Its scope isn’t as big as Stormlight or even Mistborn. 90% of the story happens in a single city, T’Telir, the capital of kingdom of Halladren. People of Halladren worship Returned - a kind of ressurected humans with a single, super powerful BioChromatic Breath, a form of Investiture present on Nalthis, their homeworld.
Magic systems are central to all of Brandon’s works. They are sources of extraordinary power and people fight in wars over them. Warbreaker introduces BioChroma, a magic system focused on using colors and BioChromatic Breaths to Awake (animate) objects. Initially I thought that the whole idea is rather weak, but after finishing the book I find it fascinating.
It felt static at first: to successfully use its powers, Awakener has to issue a verbal Command4, visualize how this Command should be executed and draw a color from an object he has a physically contact with. It’s complicated process, easy to interrupt and seemingly rather slow and dull, at least when compared to Allomancy or some forms of Surgebinding. But Allomancy can be slow and boring as well. It isn’t because its central figures are master Allomancers (Kelsier, Vin). The same applies to BioChroma: its reception changes radically when master Awakener, Vasher, enters the stage.
It is insanely powerful and gives almost godlike powers to the masses6, to the point that it feels unfair for the other magical systems. Creating automatic, AI-like objects which automatically defend you? Check. Not aging at all, merely as a side effect of having 2000 Breaths? Check. Creating an army of undead who preserve their skills from their former lifes? Check, check and check! So many possibilities.
Warbraker has some of the most memorable characters in all cosmere novels. Sure, they’re not I-just-want-to-die-Kaladin, but being featured only in one book5, it is remarkable how well thought and written they are. Even antagonists, with their black sense of humor, are wonderful. They feel real and alive. Although Siri’s and Vivenna’s initial naivety is a little exaggerated, but I got used to it and now consider such exaggerations as a part of Brandon’s writing style. Being naïve and totally unprepared for the upcoming events is a mandatory feat for his main characters.
Mocking a woman is like drinking too much wine. It may be fun for a short time, but the hangover is hell.
– Brandon Sanderson, Warbreaker
For someone uninitiated to cosmere, Warbreaker is a great introduction. It’s very light on cosmere mythology (I think that Nalthis’ Shard, Edgli7, is only mentioned in the name of flowers which grow in Halladren). The story is well developed, the pace is perfect, the climax is most satisfying. Overall, it simply shows the magnificent style of Brandon Sanderson’s storytelling.
Highly recommended position!
Besides Kelsier punching Preservation. It was great. ↩
Some might say that, looking only at the size of his other books it’s typical Sanderson, but I don’t think that he should get a free pass on it only because of his name. ↩
Elantris is the first published book by Brandon Sanderson and you can really tell it. He developed a lot, as a writer, since that time. ↩
Not entirely true, because near the end we learn that once you achieve 10th Heightening (collect over 50000 Breaths), you can give Commands mentally. ↩
Not entirely true, because at least some of them later become wordhoppers and we meet them on Roshar, although under other names. They are secondary characters in Stormlight Archive though. ↩
You only need a certain number of breaths and everyone on Nalthis is born with one. ↩
Edgli is the name of the Vessel for Endowment. ↩