Tag Archives: fantasy

The Way of Kings

A few months back, Brandon Sanderson posted on his blog that if you work in a bookstore or library, you could send him an email, and he “might” send you an advance reading copy of his to-be released book The Way of Kings.

Since I do, in fact, work at a library, I sent him a carefully crafted email, full of flattery and mentions of his various works so he would know I am a Serious Brandon Sanderson Reader and Not To Be Given False Hopes.  I waited, not hearing anything back, and just when I was resigning myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to get a copy, I went in to work and there was a large padded envelope in my mailbox.  I tore it open – and oh joy! – there was my ARC, with a note saying it was “compliments of Brandon Sanderson”.

This is a honking HUGE book, people, even in the ARC paperback; one thousand pages, with maps and fabulous illustrations.  Despite its size, I carried it around me, hauled it back and forth from work, because I could not bear to be parted from it once I had started reading.  It’s just that good, folks, it’s definitely going to make my list of the Best Books I’ve Read in 2010, and unless I read something truly incredible between now and January 1st, it’s going to be in position number one.

Beside the fact that I lugged this monster around me for weeks, one way I can tell how much I loved it is by the way it’s changed my metal slang.  Books do that to me.  Ever since I read the Wheel of Time books (which, btw, are so much better now that Brandon Sanderson is writing them!) my private name for my dreaming worlds is Tel’aran’rhiod.  I call the vitamin C powder I take laumspur, stealing the name for the healing draft from a different fantasy series.  And a few days ago at work, I caught myself mentally calling a nasty customer a cremling as he walked away.   Yes, The Way of Kings is officially hot-linked to my brain.

Here’s the review of it I wrote for Goodreads and Amazon:

Brandon Sanderson fills me with awe. He’s so prolific, so inventive, so exactly what I want to read. I was lucky enough to receive an advance reading copy of The Way of Kings, and from the very beginning I was completely enthralled by this new world he’s created. It’s gritty, realistic, thought-provoking, completely unique, and fascinating. I enjoyed reading every single character’s viewpoint, and that’s a rare thing; usually in books of this length, there are the necessary but somewhat boring chapters woven cleverly in with the exciting ones to keep you reading. This wasn’t at all the case with The Way of Kings; every character was one I was eager to spend more time with. Also rare, Sanderson managed to completely stun with a twist near the very end – one of those perfect twists that are so logical and fit so perfectly into the story that you wonder why you never saw it coming. I love that kind of storytelling, and if you can’t tell, I loved this book. It’s going to the very top of my “Best Books of 2010” list.

This is a must-read, folks.

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Brandon Sanderson

Interview with Brandon Sanderson about his latest novel: Warbreaker.  If you’re a fantasy fan and you haven’t read any of his books, what the heck are you waiting for?

In the interview, he calls his forthcoming book The Way of Kings “the project of his heart”, and judging by the way he lights up as he speaks about it, this one is going to be something spectacular!  I’m getting chills just thinking about it!

The Bridegroom Arrives in Sarn

Below is an excerpt from a fantasy work-in-progress.  Hope you enjoy!

The city of Sarn is built of red stone, tier on tier of high balcony and tower.  By night the stone is black, but it holds the heat of blood until morning, having soaked up sunlight with the jealous avidity of an old man licking up a virgin’s tears.  Sarn at night is a place of tombs, of revels.

But all of this is only what is written in books, by men who have not been there.  There are no tales told of Sarn, only rumors.

Lining the wharf were iron cages, gilded over with thin, flaking peels of gold.  And in the cages were strange, elongated people, people with silver-smooth skin and perfect features, people with long silken tangles of hair that seemed to shimmer and dance over their shoulders and down their naked bodies.

I stared; everyone in my caravan stared.  The heat of Sarn’s red stone burned up through the thin leather ship soles of my boots and a fine red dust wafted up through the swirl of our cloaks and into my face.  The dust burned like pepper on my tongue and in my throat.

“Where is the welcome?” my captain asked, staring in open dismay at the confusion before us.  “My lord, perhaps it were better we should return to our ship.”

“No!”  Narus, my youngest retainer tore his gaze off the iron cages and held out his hands to the city, where we could clearly see the tall sharp spires of the Bloody Hall.  “Should we hide on our ship like frightened children?  My lord, if they will not come to us, let us go to them – let us storm their city like true conquerors!”

In truth, I did not want to return to the ship myself.  My throat was afire with the dust of Sarn.

“We will go,” I said, “by that road,” and I pointed down the market street, where the iron cages stood.

“My lord,” the captain protested, but I pushed past him, Narus so close behind me that he trod on my cloak.  My other retainers followed, leaving the captain scrambling to assemble a proper guard.

It was more than a slave market; Sarn was a city whose breasts gave suck to the sea while her buttocks perched on the desert cliffs.  Everything could and did come to her, either by caravan or ship; and there were things in that market that I had never even heard described in my land.   Small glass balls held light captive, cloth rippled with strange colors, exotic spices and queer twittering birds with frail claws and trailing feathers that drooped in the red dust.  Jewelry of gold and rare stones, mahogany chests spilling out brilliant silks and gold thread, velvet-furred cats, and cats with no fur at all, books bound in thin leather and each letter painted by a monk’s hand, monkeys, and silvery black and gold fish.

But the slaves were the heart of Sarn’s market.  Not just the beautiful ones, those caged as the centerpiece, but also the slaves in the cages of bent and ugly iron in the side alleys of the market, the slaves who were twisted and ugly as their cages, inhuman in horrible ways that made me shudder.  They had horns or hairless fleshy tails, or faces mashed inward like pugs, or boars’ tusks, or masses of black curled hair covering their bodies.  Their eyes glinted yellow and slitted like cats’, sly in their ugly brutish faces.

One of the Sarnese merchants spied us lingering beside his iron cages and sauntered out of his striped tent, taking in our wealth with a casual glance at our boots and weapons.

“I have a pretty fae who likes to dance,” he said, “she moves like a wave, all curve and passion.”  He insinuated his body between us, turning us back toward the gilded cages and his more expensive wares.

“She is all pleasure, for a patron of the arts.”  He ran his finger lightly down a gilded cage, watching for my reaction.  The fae inside was round-fleshed and pearly-skinned, with masses of golden hair that wound around her ankles and spilled out of her cage and into the red dust.  Her hands lay palm-up and limp beside her thighs, as passionate as dead fish.

“Or perhaps…”  The merchant gave me an evaluating stare and then turned us toward the cages filled with beautiful men. “Perhaps my Prince would prefer one of these?  They are the best of their kind, easily taught in all skills, from acrobatics, to serving, to…whatever pleases my lord.”

I told myself to be impassive, and must have succeeded because the merchant smiled instead of seeking shelter behind his cages.

“Where do these people come from?” I asked.  “Do you breed them as you do your camels?”  There were so many rumors told of Sarn’s slaves, these fae who do not thrive outside of Sarn, who spindle and die if they are transported beyond Sarn’s port.

“They are all wild-capture; they cannot be bred.”  The merchant idly smoothed down the curls of one of the fae men.  “Let me make you a gift for your welcome, Prince – whichever of these you favor most is yours.”

My captain’s fingers closed on my arm although I did not need his warning.  I knew not to accept bribes from these people, these sly Sarnese.  But it did not matter; I did not want one of these strange fae, who watched with the dissipated coolness of cats despite their cages.

“I have servants of my own.”

The merchant shrugged and bowed over his hands as he stepped backward into the blowing shade of his pavilion, the stripes undulating with heat mirage.

“Great heavens,” my captain murmured, releasing my arm.  I don’t know whether he was reacting to the fae, or simply the heat.

A horn blew, echoed in cacophony by a dozen more, and my captain’s hand went to his sword.  He looked down the market street and his hand fell away in fresh astonishment.

Sarn had come to greet us at last.

A menagerie of strange animals rumbled toward us: camels and lithe desert horses with scarlet tack and pompoms tied to their reins, tiny wild-caught deer crowned by massive gilded antlers and ridden by winged fae, goats, zebras, giraffes, and little dun-colored cats that weaved with military precision through the differently jointed legs.  Towering over the other beasts was an elephant, ridden by a man who was neither fae nor Sarnese.

He looked like one of my own people, well-tanned and leanly muscled, with a just-barely tamed tangle of dirty blond hair.  He was even dressed more in the style of my people than of the Sarnese: simple well-cut breeches and shirt, tied with a sash and a belt for his sword, although my people didn’t wear such a clash of colors as he did, blues and reds and oranges and purples.

He threw out his arms as he approached and slid off the back of the elephant, the elephant coiling her trunk around his waist to ease his drop to the ground, and walked to us with a slightly effeminate swagger.  It seemed deliberately false to me, and I didn’t protest when my captain drew his dagger and stepped between us.

“Who are you and what do you want with my prince?”  It was hardly the most politic greeting, but I could hardly blame my captain for his assumptions.

The elephant rider stopped short, cocking his head.  “Why, do assassins always come riding an elephant and blatting horns in your land?  Shouldn’t you assume I’m here to welcome and greet your prince and react accordingly?”  He tutted and turned his attention to me, bowing with an elaborate courtesy that seemed as false as his swagger.  I wondered if he were mocking me.

“I am called Gilly, and I am sent to bring you to the Court of the Seven Daughters.  Will you be welcomed freely, or must I fight your man for the honor of escorting you?”

My captain put up his dagger, glowering.  “We’re not riding those blooming elephants.  Not any of the other things either.  We’ll walk, if Sarn’s hospitality can’t spring for a carriage.”

Gilly didn’t turn so much as a eyelash toward him, keeping all his spotless attention sorely for me.  It felt odd, as though I should be looking for an enemy sneaking up behind me.  “If my prince will come with me?  Your men may return to their ship, or to their own country, whichever they prefer.”

“We’ll come with the prince,” my captain said.  His fingers were twitching in the folds of his breeches, wishing he hadn’t put away his dagger, but clearly feeling he would lose face if he drew it again.  “We don’t leave the prince’s side, and we don’t go home until he does.”

“I think you’ll find,” Gilly said, still entirely focused on me, “that your contract clearly states that you only are welcomed into Sarn’s court – as the Bridegroom – for the Sarnese court does not welcome outsiders.  The contract also states that should the Sarnese fail to guard your safety, their kingdom will fall to yours.  There can be no higher surety than this.”

“You’re not Sarnese,” I said.  I knew what the contract said, although I had naturally assumed that ‘you’ meant me and my retainers.  That the Sarnese would demand I separate from my servants, I had not considered.  I wondered if my father had known when he had signed it.

Gilly shrugged.  “Your men cannot make the sacrifices that I have made in order to belong.”

Books-in-Progress

As a writer, the most difficult thing about finishing a book is trying to decide which book to write next. I have so many characters and bits and pieces of plot milling around in my head, shoving and jostling for my attention, that I have trouble deciding which I love most. Last night I got to thinking about my future books and books-in-progress, and I decided to make a list.

1) The Mask of Fate/The Mask of Destiny. This is a two book YA series, and I’m currently working on the second revision. Someday, there will be a third volume, because one of the more minor characters is still bouncing around in my head, demanding for the chance to tell her own version of events. What happens to a city that tries to shut away the rest of the world by building upward, not out, until the only the most rich live in the light, and the poor are condemned to a life in darkness? The people live by the guttering dregs of oil in a lantern, too afraid to look outside the walls, while the magic holding the walls together is slowly unraveling, and one girl has to decide for herself whether she’s the one destined to save everything or destroy it completely.

2) Arassa. This one still needs a good title – I’m about two-thirds of the way through this one, maybe a bit further. I started writing this one sort of by mistake. I was watching HBO’s Rome, and reading a lot of non-fiction about ancient Rome, and I started playing around with a couple of characters…just for my own entertainment. Although it’s “set” in ancient Rome, I changed the name of the city to “Itorica”, so I could keep all the good stuff of ancient Rome and add in all the fantastical elements I wanted. When I had about 4 or 5 chapters, I posted them for fun on Goodreads.com. When I received a pm from a stranger begging for more, I decided to keep writing and posting chapters. It’s been interesting doing it this way, because every time I post a chapter I basically lock myself in to what’s happened. I can’t just throw stuff in, knowing I’ll change it later and make it ‘right’.

3) Haunted Venice. No title as yet. This was the book I was supposed to be writing, instead of Arassa. I got the idea of a water-city like Venice – only there are creatures that live in the canals, and the water is constantly rising, forcing the people to abandon and lock up the flooded lower levels of their homes. The ghosts of the dead can be bound into stone and captured in candle flames or songbirds…. I have a few chapters of this one written.

4) Ichabod’s Bridge. A modern-day, realistic story of the friendship between two damaged teenaged boys. It’s also a murder mystery of sorts. I say “of sorts” because the mystery part of the plot is in sad disarray. It needs serious work on the rational, logical parts. But the emotional sections are the most beautiful and raw writing I’ve ever done. Some day, when I can get the plot worked through, I’m going to re-write it. All of my modern-day novels in progress thus far are interconnected through a group called Betticker & Associates. It’s an association of lawyers, who do most of their work outside the courtroom – whatever needs to be fixed, they can do it, whatever it requires. The man who comes to investigate the murder in Ichabod’s Bridge is one of Betticker’s associates.

5) Breathing Ghosts. Another modern-day novel, about a woman who suffers a car accident and wakes up with amnesia. While she’s re-learning her life, her husband, and her family, she starts to realize that she isn’t really that woman at all – a completely different set of memories are slowly coming to light, including a different name. Has her husband been lying to her, or was she lying to him? Who can she trust, if she can’t even trust herself? This one not only has Betticker & Associates in it, it also introduces LABS, Inc, my ruthless organization of scientists who tend to get on the opposite side of Betticker.

6) God’s Wolves. This one is full-on LABS, Inc, as a former employee of theirs gets uncomfortably close to some of their experimentation.

7) Time Travel. No title yet. And nothing written, but this one is seriously haunting me. If you read one of my earlier posts, this is the novel I was talking about. My Revolutionary time-traveling soldier named Flinders. LABS, Inc are probably involved in this as well; it’s the sort of thing they’d have a finger in.

8 ) Fog Ferry. No title. What if you take a ride on a perfectly normal ferry, and the ferry gets lost in the fog? Really lost, as in there’s nothing out there but fog? Shortly after I came up with idea, I took a ferry ride, and the fog really did come in and surround us, blocking out everything. It was a wonderful half hour of recording impressions and scribbling bits of plot! Would the folks who had food in their cars share with the walk-on passengers? Would they work together to survive, or lose all civilization?

9) Maxy. If I don’t have a title, the main character often becomes the working title. This one is for grade-school children. A girl goes to live with her two ‘Old Aunts’ and discovers she’s an Acquisition Odd, someone who can find things that are lost, misplaced, or hidden. The only problem is, the Dark is trying to break into her world, and she needs to find the way to keep it out, while another Acquisition Odd, a man who has never lost anything (he still has all his baby teeth in his mouth) is seeking to find a way to let it in. I’ve got a lot of this written, but I never seem to finish it.

10) Sarn. Fantasy about a prince who travels to a foreign land to marry a woman from a land that enslaves the Fae, and finds out that his new wife’s family were never interested in the marriage, but had a different plan for him and his native country.

11) Malady. A girl grows up in an iron castle. She’s despised by her uncle, and one day he hires a stranger to be her ‘bodyguard’ and possibly, she suspects, to assassinate her. But if he’s been hired to kill her, why does he keep trying to teach her how to defend herself?

12) Star Wars. Okay, there’s a story behind the working title of this one, because it’s not a Star Wars novel. The thing that fascinated me most when I watched “Revenge of the Sith” was its themes of love and betrayal. Spinning off those themes, I came up with my own story of how a man would survive the complete betrayal by someone he loves of everything he holds most sacred. Since (as usual) I have no clue of a good title, I call it by what inspired it. I have quite a lot written of this one.

13) And finally, there’s lucky thirteen: Mia. One of my very earliest attempts at a novel, and really, really bad. The dialogue alone…well, let’s just say I won’t be posting chapters from this anywhere online. However, parts of it are good enough to keep me thinking about it. One day, perhaps, I’ll go back and revise it completely. There’s a good story in there, beneath all the screamingly horrible parts. Or maybe, I’ll just cannibalize it for another novel.