Star Wars: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn

So this is the first part of a trilogy of books set around one thousand years before the main Star Wars timeline.

It follows the story of Dessel, born and raised a miner in a world where the workers are basically indentured slaves to a corporation. It is on the fringes of the Republic and is used by both the Republic and the Sith Alliance for material for the war so is a kind of neutral ground. The Jedi and the Sith have been at war for a long time at this stage and it seems like there is no end in sight, though the Sith have recently all began forming under a single leader so might have a new initiative. We see how events unfold as Dessel has to flee the mining life he knew, then into the general Sith forces as a soldier and finally learning the secrets of the force under Sith guidance.

I have not read many Legends books as I only really got into Star Wars novels in the years since the new canon was finalised and so have focused my intention on them. However I’d heard some good things about these and since there is nothing to really contradict this too much yet, I thought I’d give it a go and was pleasantly surprised.

Dessel/Bane is a good character and I thought the author did a good job of showing his gradual embrace of the dark side. I’m not saying he was ever a ‘good’ person but the guy at the start compared to the end is a very different person. I really liked that though he was obviously extremely determined and vindictive, there was some sort of crisis of conscience, even if it was mostly at a subconscious level. The whole school element, though a complete cliche, was still very enjoyable to read and I loved every bit of it.

The author who wrote them is also in game design I believe and it does show sometimes. I actually really enjoyed the lightsaber styles which are done in great detail, along with new powers and searching for lore so Bane can ‘level up’. Now this is in no way LitRPG but you can see elements of it. I also like that at this stage there is not much differences between the Sith and Jedi in a lot of ways and the bothers people from both sides, it was a nice touch.

Bane has a lot of Gary Stu elements to him and by the end he is practically twirling his moustache but I still had greet fun reading this, quite interesting to read a book that’s almost entirely from the bad guy’s POV. There are a few other character POV’s but they are minimal. All in all it was a good read and looking forward to seeing where it’s going from here.

4 stars

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Not quite sure what to make of that.

Guy Montag is a firefighter, but in this world it means starting fires rather than putting them out. In this dystopian future, all novels are banned and anyone found with books are taken away and their house and all their possessions are set on fire. He seems happy enough in his world until a chance encounter with an enigmatic girl called Clarisse makes him start to question everything that he’s taken for granted.

You’ll probably hear about how prescient it is, and some parts are surprisingly so. TV’s that take up whole walls are here, though rare, and the interactive element is not disimilar to the internet. The nature of the shows that we hear about will also ring a lot of bells and how people vote in elections will also sound very familiar. Now there are bits that seem very out of place, such as mechanical killer dogs, but considering this book is over sixty years old, I’m surprised more isn’t.

I’ll be honest I found this book a mix of contrasts. It’s a short book, only a couple of hundred pages but some parts seemed a bit stretched out and others felt rushed. It’s a weird focus in the book, most of it is on the banning of books, and the quotes that take up whole sections contribute to that feeling of bloat in places. However the whole killing of people, and teenagers encouraged to drive around killing others and hopefully themselves is kind of glossed over. Very strange. I found out after that is started as a novella and was expanded later to this so that kind of explains it.

Montag is an interesting character, at first you feel that this awakening is a sudden thing but then you find out it’s been going on longer than that. I actually found him a bit bland and it’s the supporting characters that interested me more. Clarisse is basically a manic pixie dream girl but Mildred, Montag’s wife, is the best. I kind of wish there was a POV from her, she appears so superficial but there’s more going on than it seems and you never know where she stands. The fire chief Beatty is also great, a mass of contradictions and a bit of an enigma.

The story did keep me interested though I did find myself glazing over in places. I found the narrative almost dreamlike in places and hard to follow sometimes but overall it wasn’t bad. I’m glad I read it though I doubt I will again. An interesting read.

3.5 stars rounded down.

Enchanter’s End Game by David Eddings

Great end to the series.

So all the buildup, prophecies etc were all leading up to here and honestly, it was quite satisfying. We finally get to meet Torak and learn what it was all about and it was pretty cool. The actual dual was shorter than I remember but everything before and after makes up for it, it seems appropriate actually. Belgarath and Zeder is awesome.

Like the last book, it’s mostly split into two sections, Garion, Belgarath and Silk in one, and Ce’Nedra and her army in the other. The Garion one has a bit of the travelogue feel to it again but it’s interesting, I particularly enjoyed the sections in the mountains and with the Moridim. The army section is also good though in surprising ways. For such simple books I really enjoyed that the first part was mostly about logistics of moving an army, and the battles in the latter part were suitably epic.

There is not too much tension in reading these books, you’re never in any real doubt that the heroes will conquer all but what is so good about these is how it all comes together. It’s a very focused story and the characters may be stereotypes but they’re very well done. Like all my favourite books, there are liberal moments that happen that really get me, some profound, some simple but all affecting. I’m positive that, unless something unforeseen happens, I will read these again. They are my go to comfort read. Usually I’d head straight into the Mallorean but this once I might leave it here and read those when it’s needed again.

This is a brilliant series though I’m aware that not everyone will agree with me on that. I also know there are some issues that have come to light about the authors but in my head it just can’t take away from how much I love reading these.

5 stars

Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings

In some ways this felt the weakest of the books so far though it was still very enjoyable. The last book ended very abruptly and so this one starts off exactly at that point. Garion and company are dealing with the consequences of that encounter and are fleeing back towards safety.

Actually this book is the first that didn’t feel a bit like a travelogue (though there is still lots of travelling), there’s only one new country introduced in the course of it. There are also no new characters introduced though Taiba is basically new as she only had the briefest of introductions in the last one. We also get one of the major climaxes here and it happens around the half way point which is a bit unusual. I doubt that any reader would be very surprised at it but it is still good nevertheless.

Another break from tradition here is that Garion is not the sole POV in this book. Ce’Nedra has a couple of chapters in the last book but here she has a whole section. The condensation she is treated to can be annoying but to be fair she is a spoilt sixteen year old so it is somewhat understandable. I’ve always enjoyed the formation of the army and it still holds up well. I also like that it doesn’t shield the characters or the reader about the utmost futility of it. The trip back to Faldor’s farm is very well done, honestly you can’t help but feel for Zubrette.

You could say that each book in the series doesn’t really standalone very well but it most definitely the case here. I would not start this without having the last book on hand.

4 stars

Magician’s Gambit by David Eddings

Another great entry though suffers a bit due to the main story still not progressing much until the end.

This is still basically a travelogue on the search for the Orb. Our cast is only added to by two characters in this one, Relg the religious zealot and right at the end Taiba, an escaped slave. Can’t really say much about Taiba as she only has a few scenes in this book but I like how Relg is portrayed. He’s not a very nice person to be around due to his convictions but the reasons behind them are well done and you still have sympathy for him.

Garion is still continuing to grow and in this book we learn a lot more about the Will and the Word. A very simple magic system but I like that it (mostly) follows the laws of physics. We also get glimpses of Polgara’s early life and meet some of the other sorcerer’s, I’ve always had a soft spot for Beldin. The gods are also starting to come into it more which I’m always a sucker for and the prophecy as an entity is also starting to play a bigger part.

Again nothing mind blowing here but even after however many times I’ve read these I’m still hooked throughout. This does lose a bit as the main plot is almost ignored until the end, though that is suitably spectacular. It also ends very abruptly which I’m not a fan of. Not an issue really as all the books are out but still annoying.

4.5 stars

Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings

A brilliant continuation of the series.

This is really just one big story with minor climaxes to each part. We start pretty much where we left off in the last book. It is almost a travelogue of various kingdoms again where the party are following the trail of the orb and also warning the various monarchies about what’s going on. We are joined in the quest by Lelldorin an archer, Mandorallen a knight, Hettar a horse lord and finally Ce’Nedra, an imperial princess. It actually sounds like a party for a board game.

All the strengths and weaknesses from the first book are here in the second. The strengths still far outweigh the weaknesses in my head. I’d actually forgotten how little part Lelldorin plays here, he’s barely on the scene when he’s off again. Mandorallen is written well, seems pretty superficial at first but the depths are revealed as the story progresses. I was actually disappointed a bit with Hettar. I always thought there was more of him in the story but he’s barely present here anyway.

Ce’Nedra drives me mad but I guess she’s supposed to. I like how the author(s) show the dual nature of her and that the core of her is still the same further down the line, though luckily enough the worst parts dial down a bit as we progress. Garion learns a lot more about himself in this book and there is an explanation of what’s really going on, though certain parts are still hidden. Garion is still pretty whiney in this one though again I think he’s justified for most of it.

The first book had a few continuity errors and I think they’re mostly fixed in this one which makes the reading of it better. Obviously the story wasn’t quite complete in their heads for the first book. There’s so many great scenes in this book, the court scene in Vo Mimbre and the whole episode with Salmissra, one of my favourites. Again nothing earth shattering here, just a simple story told extremely well with great characters.

5 stars

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

Still probably my favourite comfort read series.

So this story pretty much hits every fantasy cliche straight on the head, but it nails it. Garion is a farmboy who grows up in the farm’s kitchen with his Aunt Pol who is in charge of running it. The farm is occasionally visited by an itinerary storyteller whom Garion calls Mister Wolf. One night Mister Wolf calls to the farm and says that Garion and Pol must come with him as something has been stolen and they must find it. They’re joined by two companions, Barak a warrior and Silk, a trader, thief and spy. There are prophecies hinted at and dark forces trying to stop them.

If you were to try to write a story and hit every fantasy stereotype you might end up with something like this. I’m pretty sure I read that that’s what the author and his wife actually did. However there’s just something about this series that keeps me coming back.

All the characters are so well done. Garion actually feels like a kid and young teenager. Half the time in fantasy the teenage protagonist is basically just an adult with a bit less experience, whereas Garion is a proper naive, sheltered teenager. He hasn’t a clue about what’s going on though he’s aware there’s more going on regarding himself than he’s been told. ‘Mister Wolf’ and ‘Aunt Pol’ are brilliant, their relationship is profound and you can feel the weight of years behind it. Barak is a bit one dimensional, and there are a couple of moments that really haven’t aged well, but he’s still good to read about and Silk, well what can I say? He’s still up there with one of my favourite characters of all time.

I’m not sure how older readers would react to this if they were reading this for the first time. I think it’s now labeled as YA if that means anything, but I love this book and still find it a great read. I can still feel Garion’s revulsion in the scene when the two warriors are fighting each other towards the end, it just felt very real and visceral. There are a lot of issues with this book in relation to harmful stereotyping and it gets worse as the world expands it later books but it still doesn’t take away my enjoyment of it. Take this review with a healthy spoonful of nostalgia but I still think it’s a great series and is well worth a read.

5 stars

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

It definitely feels a bit less polished than his later novels but it’s still a great read.

Set around a city in which random people undergo a transformation and become essentially zombies, this story follows three different people: Raoden, the heir to the throne who wakes up to find out the transformation has happened to him (not a spoiler, it happens in the first few sentences), Sarene his intended bride from another country, and Hrathen a warrior priest sent to bring the country under the sway of his religion by any means necessary. The transformation used to make people into almost god like beings but something happened ten years ago that changed all that so Raoden tries to find out what happens in his exile to the fallen city of Elantris while the other two storylines are more political and set in a nearby town.

To be honest I couldn’t tell a lot of difference between Raoden and Sarene most of the time. They are both clever and inspiring people and seem able to overcome almost anything. It didn’t take away from the story too much but I didn’t feel a lot of depth there. Hrathen was a bit more nuanced but I even felt his journey was a bit forced even though it was definitely more interesting.

However what really shines is the world and story. It moved well and though the politics were a bit simplistic it was still intriguing enough to keep you interested. The world is great and you’re kept guessing until the end on how things changed. Though there is nothing explicitly referencing the cosmere, it definitely has a familiar vibe to it with the seons being somewhat similar to spren in Stormlight, and references to Splinters in the religions. Nothing at all obvious, first read I didn’t see anything but after reading pretty much everything cosmere since then it is there to see very slightly.

For a debut novel this is really good and a definite must for fans of the cosmere as there are references to it in later books. Hopefully we’ll get the long awaited sequel at some stage.

4.5 stars rounded down

Mistborn: Secret History by Brandon Sanderson

So this is a very interesting, cosmere heavy little novella.

I won’t go into any details as it would be very spoilery but I really recommend reading this after the original Mistborn trilogy. It will ruin a little surprise at the end of book 6 I think, but I read it then and I’ll be honest it has more resonance now after reading it immediately after era one.

It actually has the format of a much bigger book with multiple parts but each of them are kind of small and it covers pretty much the events from the series from another POV. These is by far the most cosmere heavy book there is, with characters and references from other worlds. It also totally cemented the reveal at the end of Rhythm of War, I had forgotten that little episode.

Sanderson mentions at the end that he doesn’t want to do this trick too often, of a character not being quite as dead as they appeared, but I already think there’s a danger of it. It’s not the first time he’s done it so I’m not quite so sure anymore if a character’s death is actually final and that does take away from the emotional impact.

Apart from some issues that Sanderson addresses himself in the author’s note at the end, this is a really fun book and though it answers some questions it raises even more which is great.

4.5 stars

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

What an end, even on a reread.

Set around a year after the events of the previous book, things are looking even worse now than they had been. The mists are staying later every day and ash fall is increasing, so this means that food is getting almost impossible to grow and supplies are going to run out. Vin, Elend, Sazed, and what’s left of the crew are trying to find the Lord Ruler’s caches and also see if there is any way to prevent what looks like the world failing.

So this is a bit of a mixed bag. I thought the first half was pretty slow, seemed more of the same in that there were armies on the march, with new antagonists trying to hold off the changes that have occurred or going to the opposite extreme. However the oppressive atmosphere throughout was very impressive, done almost too well in that it made the politicking going on seem redundant. It’s one of the few series that the end of the world felt very real in a literal sense and I could empathise with the character’s basically trying to ignore it as something too big to deal with.

The characters were still good, they even grew up a bit! Vin has learned to trust and accept herself so luckily we didn’t have the navel gazing we experienced in the last book. Elend is pretty much the same as well in that he’s started to balance what he was to what he is. Unfortunately we weren’t spared the angst fully as Sazed took on that and spent most of the book in a crisis of faith. Somewhat understandable but went too far I think. We also had a lot more of Spook in this book and though he isn’t the most interesting character it was an interesting arc.

The end was amazing. Sanderson has an almost unique ability to put everything in plain sight yet you still miss it until the reveal. Well I do anyway. On a re-read it’s all so obvious but I still remember the first time and being completely blind sided by it. It was a dark, sad, and beautiful end that made the whole book and series. I have very fond memories of this series and though some parts didn’t hold up as well as I remember, most of it did and I ended up really enjoying it.

4 stars

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