Review: The Well of Ascension & The Hero of Ages – Brandon Sanderson

Well I’ll be honest – I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this series as much as I did. I really wasn’t expecting to devour the whole series in under two weeks, and certainly didn’t expect to read the final, 725 page book, within two days. But I did and I have only one regret, I read it so quickly that I’m now bereft that it’s over. I intended to write separate reviews for each book but I put The Well of Ascension down and picked up The Hero of Ages immediately afterwards.

My review of the first in the series, The Final Empire, can be found here and needless to say this one is going to contain spoilers; I’ll try to keep it to a minimum/vague!

My first statement is though I rated all of these books at 4* – the series as a whole is definitely a 5*. Each book was lacking something but as a whole, as a series, it was incredible. The story that spans the entirety of the series is one of the best I’ve immersed myself in; the world, the characters, the plot, the subplots. I really don’t know I to do this series justice in writing a review, but I’m going to try.

It’s a Masterpiece.

Every single character was thought out and different, they developed over the course of the trilogy as I anticipated they would from reading the first book. They all had different motivations, different strengths and weaknesses. Each of them was an individual with quirks and flaws that I grew to love. Vin grows up so much, as does Eland – her learning to trust in the second book, while a bit convoluted and drawn out, was so important. The growth in Spook was much needed, I think his name was perfect, he was a peripheral character who came in to his own. Sazed remained my favourite character throughout the series, his internal struggle in the the final book and his subsequent resolution of that was frustrating in some respects but frustratingly realistic. The important thing is I cared about them all, I cared so much.

The intricacies of the magic system where impressive. Some reviews mainly criticise the whys and wherefores of the magic system but even as a scientist I accept it. It’s a bit rough around the edges but it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility when the whole story is taken in to account. It’s no more absurd than having a bunch of Wizards living in and amongst us in Harry Potter! I loved the exploration of new metals, the combinations of metals, the open end to explore further. The three different branches of the magic system were also quite interesting to explore in depth and understand.

What I loved most about this series is that it kept me guessing. Come the end, everything added up, everything that happened had reason and I understood but it was just great that it wasn’t overly predictable like many series can be! Even the bits that involved battle didn’t bore me, which is an achievement in itself! And it made me well up a bit. I didn’t want it to be over. I couldn’t cope with some of the final scenes. I spent two weeks in this world and I wasn’t ready for it to be over, I wasn’t ready for the end, I wasn’t ready for the inevitability of what was going to happen to some of my favourite characters… It was hard but equally great.

Truly, this is one of the best series I have read, I aided it with listening to an audiobook for all three books which helped enormously with the rate at which I got through it! I’d seriously recommend them to you if you like audiobooks! So yes, on the whole this is a 5* series, each book had issues for me but the pros outweigh the cons overall to give this the title of Second Favourite Series Beaten Only By Harry Potter.

Review: The Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson

03 - The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)One of my new years resolutions for 2016 was to read more fantasy and I’m so glad I cracked this one open. I whizzed through this and I really, really loved it. I’ve seen it everywhere and, honestly, the cover is beautiful which made me want to read it so this was a book I read after caving in to peer pressure.

It is set in a dystopian future where ash falls from the sky and mists fall at night. It has the most incredible magic system, burning metals to give you power really drew my nerdy scientist side in. I’m not a big lover of fantasy because often, things just happen and while that was somewhat the case with this, I feel that the why this is possible will be explained in the future books. The empire is run by this immortal figurehead known only as The Lord Ruler and, this book is essentially a mission to overthrow him.

I loved this. The plot was incredible, the magic system was mighty fun and the characters were great too (Vin has her issues but is on the whole an incredible protagonist). What I appreciated is that this book could essentially stand on its own, I want to read the rest of the series, but this was action packed and had good character development so doesn’t feel like some of those series where the first book is just a nondescript character building event. I felt some of it was a bit predictable but I can forgive it because on the whole it was great.

I rated this 4* and I don’t know how long I’m going to last before picking up the second book. I don’t think it’ll be very long at all!

Review: The Making of a Marchioness – Frances Hodgeson Burnett

02 - The Making of a MarchionessI like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s fiction – I loved The Secret Garden, I really liked A Little Princess – naturally I assumed that I would enjoy her writing for adults but this seriously lacked something for me.

I honestly found this very dull. Her writing really lends itself to children’s fiction but it didn’t give itself to a romance novel whatsoever. Emily, our protagonist, is just really like a wet weekend. I found her insipid and dreary, I found reading this book really hard work because she was just so… dull.

The first half of the book is Emily making her way in the world, her rags to riches story essentially. The second half, the plot goes “gothic” –  I use the term lightly as I like and enjoy gothic fiction, this really felt like parody gothic. It really was just absurd.  There were also quite racist undertones which, while may have been acceptable when this was written, still made me uncomfortable when reading.

I really don’t know how many times that as a reader I was reminded that Emily was not intelligent (but she wasn’t stupid!) or that she was childish. There were so many other instances of being told what a character was rather than shown it. I felt bombarded by being TOLD things about the characters which I really would prefer to have explored more passively. The result was that I found it very difficult to care about the characters at all.

I initially gave this book 3* but upon thinking about it and writing this review I’m going to give it 2*. It was passable, it was at least coherent, but I just didn’t enjoy it whatsoever unfortunately.

Review: The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot

01 - The Mill on the Floss

Rating – 4*

I loved this book. Trying to put it across in words is going to be difficult because there is just so many things I feel I want to say about this book.

The Mill on the Floss follows a little more than 10 years in the lives of Tom and Maggie Tulliver. We start when they are young, Tom 13 and Maggie about 9. So many things about the relationship between these siblings irritated me, mainly Tom’s faults it has to be said but Tom’s faults were redeemed by all things Maggie. Maggie is one of the best female protagonists in 19th Century literature – at least from what I have read. She is wild and free and, on the whole, is everything a good female protagonist should be.

This book is so many things but, ultimately, is about the bond between siblings. While I felt Tom had his faults, that is me as a 21st century reader. Tom is ultimately a good person who loves his sister but, as a product of a 19th century novel is often calling Maggie a “silly girl” and very often undervalues her. But Maggie is quite scandalous, really, and I imagine that when this was released there was quite a few raised eyebrows. George Eliot has shot up my list as one of my favourite authors because of this book, I can imagine her smirking behind her pen as she wrote some of this!

There is a bit of romance here, and I honestly haven’t rooted for a fictional couple as much as I did in this book for quite a long time. As it happens, it doesn’t go the way I wanted it to. Maggie emerges from it all a changed woman but nonetheless and incredible one who won’t let her opposition get her down.

If you want a happy or uplifting book, this isn’t for you. While the ending was in part disappointing, I don’t think it would have been right if it had finished any other way.

2015 Wrap-Up & January TBR

Happy 2016! I hope this coming year is going to be wonderful for you. I’m currently snowed under with coursework and still feel like death so this is going to be woefully brief I think!

2015 Reading Wrap-Up
I decided to do a wrap up of the entirety of 2015. I read a total of 35893 pages which is just incredible and I finished the year having read 97 books, I was aiming for 100 but had a slump in the last 10 days of December and read pretty much nothing! I was apparently quite generous this year as my average rating was 3.8*.

I’m not going to dwell on least favourite books but my favourite of the year was definitely The Count of Monte Cristo. Although, Orlando is the only book I have read twice in quick succession since I first read Harry Potter!

December Wrap Up
In December I read 9 books, albeit 5 were rereads of Harry Potter. I did really enjoy that and there is something special about rereading around Christmas time. I did two bulk reviews of those if anyone is interested.

Other books I read were equally as fantastic! Out of them the best has to be The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus but close second is probably du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now and other Stories.

Thanks to my reread, my average rating was 4.4 in December and I read a total of 4077 pages!

January TBR
Ah. A fresh new year. The next few months are going to be hideously stressful for me and as such, reading is probably going to slow down. But as for books I want to get through before it all becomes hideously stressful…

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Okay, I appreciate that is hideous photography on my part. I’ve already started The Mill on the Floss – I really enjoyed Silas Marner and was a bit indifferent about Middlemarch but I really love Eliot’s writing so I’m excited to get my teeth right in to this.

I want to start on the Mistborn trilogy. Have had them on my shelf for a long time now and it’s about time they were read. I haven’t really dipped my toe in to the realms of fantasy but I’m looking forward to reading this series.

The Hobbit is a book I’ve shamefully not read yet. I’m changing that this month.

Finally, The Making of a Marchioness. I absoloutely adore The Secret Garden and I really want to finally get around to reading this one. A beautiful Persephone edition helps.

Review: Don’t Look Now and Other Stories – Daphne du Maurier

don't look nowThis was, once again, an incredible collection of short stories by Daphne du Maurier. It’s also actually the penultimate of her short story collections for me to read. Thankfully I do still have one left to read, which I didn’t think I did at the start of this book – I thought I had read them all. Needless to say, I savoured this over the entirety of the month of December thinking it would be my last foray in to her short stories.

On the whole this was incredible, as with all of her short story collections. There were a couple in the collection that I didn’t click with quite as much but damn, this was good.

The stand out story has to be the first one, which sent chills down my spine when I read it. I kid you not. It starts out really mundane but then becomes really trippy and honestly it is so good. It was atmospheric and completely bizarre but so, so very du Maurier and I loved it.

I hate to repeat myself but her ability to build atmosphere is incredible and I just find myself so drawn in to her work and I just can’t tear myself away. There was a low point in the collection, there is always a weak story, but a weak short story by du Maurier is still an amazing story by the arbitrary standards I rate a book on!

Overall this was a 4* read. Alongside the titular story, my favourite was The Way of the Cross which was also a damn good read. I’d put this up there with my favourites, but honestly of her short story collections my favourite will always be The Rendezvous which I really ought to reread soon! I still have The Breaking Point to read – which I will have to get to in the near future! I’d recommend her short stories to anyone so seriously, give them a whirl!