Sunday, 28 October 2012

Review: The Well of Ascension

The Well of Ascension
The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been watching the videos of Brandon Sanderson's writing course at BYU, and it's interesting to be reading one of his books at the same time (particularly since he draws on his own writing for examples sometimes). Here is a spectacular example of plotting. At the end of each of the six parts, there's a twist or a big reveal. There are constant surprises and turnarounds, which kept me glued to the page. I was always wondering "How on earth is he going to get them out of this one?"

There's lots of action, too, but every fight is different. He never writes the same scene twice.

Mistborn has a couple of things going for it in terms of my personal taste, as well. I love superhero novels, and basically the Mistborn and the Mistings are superheroes, albeit in an epic fantasy setting. I'm not a fan of the same-old-same-old epic fantasy formula, on the other hand, but Sanderson puts wonderful spins on that formula. The result is a fresh story that wouldn't be quite the same if we didn't know the formula he's playing against. The ideas of the Chosen One, the Dark Lord, the wise mentor, even the returning king all get turned inside out and upside down. It's not just play for the sake of play, either. It makes for some deep and moving moments as the characters discover how their expectations were tragically wrong.

One of Sanderson's stated goals is to achieve "Orwellian language", which isn't (as you'd expect) doublespeak, but language that is like a clear window through which you see the story, without noticing the language itself. But, he has a distinctive language quirk that occurs over and over again and which, once I had noticed it, I found very distracting. I won't say what it was to keep from driving someone else crazy with it, but the previous sentence in this review contained an example of it. It's not wrong, exactly, just unconventional.

Other than that, I am thoroughly enjoying the Mistborn series, and will be hunting out other Sanderson books as well.

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