Middle Aged Gardening

I never thought I'd become this guy. But something about making the back garden thrive with greenery and life just makes me smile. It has taken some time to get the garden to a state where I feel it's ok to show somebody, mainly due to it being a new build house. We basically got a square of grass and a few basic slabs leading to the back gate. Much time, a patio, shed and a few raised beds later I've finally been ready to plant something! Whilst I'd love to go off-grid like Tom and Barbara Good, to not end up with a garden that looks like an allotment, I think we have to temper the amount of edible produce. However, a starter-for-ten were the eighteen strawberry plants I stuck in in March. It has been a success! They are delicious. I'm fairly sure they're only about 20% better than can be bought from the supermarket. But they're all shapes and sizes, I took care of them, and they're just better. Like having chips out of the paper. It wasn't even a g

There's Always Another Secret

For a few years now I’ve put off buying a kindle. Several people told me how great they were, but a few things always drew me away from e-readers when I considered jumping on the bandwagon. The initial expense can be high, book availability can be an issue, you can’t drop it in the bath, it needs charging, can I read on a screen for extended periods? That said, I eventually ended up taking the plunge after spotting a few decent books on Amazon for cheap. I needn’t have fretted though, Kindles are fantastic things. I’m reading more than I ever have, it’s light as a feather (and for some of the books I’ve picked recently, this is a gift from the gods… I’m looking at you The Way of Kings :/), and also a charge lasts weeks. Brill. And who takes baths these days?!

Having just finished the first two books in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive (my first time reading BS), I was looking for something new, so I settled on his arguably most famous series: Mistborn. This series was originally a trilogy containing the titles, The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension & The Hero of Ages, but now BS has added a further three books (with a fourth in the works) in his Wax and Wayne series. So, to tide me over until Pat Rothfuss releases book 3 I’m going to work my way through all of these. Reading a finished series for a change! Here’s a few thoughts I had after the reading the first book…

*a few spoilers inbound*

Book One: The Final Empire

Update December 2016 – Books 2 & 3

The first book in the series sets out with a nobleman looking out over his plantation, and ash falls from the sky. We get a glimpse of our first mistborn as he eyeballs Lord Tresting before vanishing into the sea of Skaa workers. Kelsier, the Survivor of Hathsin is one of the more powerful users of the magic system that Sanderson has created, and we get a show fairly early on (although offscreen) of his ability to ‘go medieval’ on whomever he wishes. Mistborn are those who have the ability to ‘burn’ metals, each of which is associated with a different ability (known as Allomancy). In total there are 16 metals that allomancers can burn: 8 basic and 8 higher metals. And on top of all that Allomancy is only one of the three metallic arts that these 16 metals can be used with. Most allomancers (which are rare to begin with) can only burn one type of metal, whereas ‘mistborn‘ (extremely rare) can burn them all. Complicated at first, but very cool :). As the plot develops we get to see another metallic art known as Feruchemy, which has become quite rare (due to breeding laws). This ability utilises the same metals as allomancy but instead of drawing power from the metal, the power is drawn from the person’s body. Every action must have an equal and opposite reaction, so to ‘use’ strength or sight stored away in a metal one must first ‘charge’ it by being weak or blind for a while. A great magic system to me is one that has a good degree of internal logical integrity with reference to real world scientific concepts, and it has been done very well here (no Harry Potter magic system shenanigans).

To describe this book in a nutshell, it’s more or less Oceans Eleven with magic, and instead of taking a load of cash from a casino, they’re trying to steal a load of rare metal, kill an oppressive Lord Ruler, and collapse the entire economy (at least that’s how it starts). As Kelsier (George Clooney) returns to Luthadel (LA) he meets a young (16) street thief by the name of Vin (Matt Damon), who ends up joining Kelsier’s crew as a spy to infiltrate the nobility. We later learn that our protagonist is also Mistborn and a fair amount of page time is spent with her, Kelsier, and the crew teaching her in the allomantic arts (a great storytelling device Mr Sanderson!) After this it is hard not to ruin the story, but if you want a dry synopsis there’s always wiki.

I’ll leave it there I think. It’s a great book, fairly easy reading, doesn’t get bogged down, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to getting The Well of Ascension. One thing I did note was the lack of bad language or sex in this book (a common theme for Sanderson I think), which in some senses detracts a little for me. Possibly this stems from Sanderson’s religious roots (have a read); there is a also a fair amount of reference to preservation of religions and its importance in The Final Empire. ANYWAY…

All-in-all, great stuff. 4.5/5.0

It has been a few months since writing my first impression of book one, and I’ve now had chance to chew my way through the next two books of the trilogy, so I’ve now gleaned the full picture of how it all fits together. I won’t dwell on the plot here, since you either know it already or don’t want it to be spoiled! The series overall is a great exercise in world building (at which Sanderson is undeniably a master); the logical way in which it all fits together and all the story threads come together and tie-up is wonderfully neat and satisfying. The magic system is also one of the most inventive and internally logical systems ever created.

That said, I do a have a few qualms. These three books lack a little artistry for me, and generally come across a little cold and sterile. And I do mean ‘a little’. Physical descriptions and expression of emotion/ideas is fairly transparent, which does make things easier when reading between the lines isn’t constantly required. I think this aspect of Sanderson’s storytelling has changed over time, which I’m judging by the writing style in The Stormlight Archive (The Way of Kings, The Words of Radiance…). This is small niggle, but if you’re coming from books such as Name of the Wind, this may be the biggest difference you notice.

Another thing with Mistborn is that the characters tend to fall in to one of two traditional categories: good or evil. There are a few exceptions to this *small spoiler*, Zane for instance. Traditional yes, but it doesn’t really detract from the story telling or the believability of the story. We all know life is more complicated, and I’m not saying this makes the story is less enjoyable, perhaps just a little less believable. But then again, this is fantasy, who cares? Again, aspects of light and shade in the characters seem to be examined in greater depth in The Stormlight Archive. I’m very much looking forward to book three of that series!

Overall Mistborn is a fantastic story and staple in the fantasy genre. Now for book four…