Tuesday 10 November 2015

Mini-Reviews: The Final Empire, The Martian and The Snow Sister

Mistborn: The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson
672|Gollancz|1st October 2009

A thousand years ago evil came to the land and has ruled with an iron hand ever since. The sun shines fitfully under clouds of ash that float down endlessly from the constant eruption of volcanoes. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk are condemned to lives of servitude, sold as goods, labouring in the ash fields.

But now a troublemaker has arrived and there is rumour of revolt. A revolt that depends on a criminal that no one can trust and a young girl who must master Allomancy – the magic that lies in all metals.

For the last few months, most of my Twitter feed has been raving about Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, especially after Gollancz launched the Mistborn Readalong ahead of the release of Shadows of Self, and I felt like I was missing out. I was.

Before beginning The Final Empire I had introduced myself to the world of Brandon Sanderson with The Rithmatist and I loved it. The characters, the world-building and the magic system blew my mind, but that had nothing on Mistborn. I have to admit that the first hour or so of the audiobook was a little slow and I struggled to grasp the mechanics of Allomancy, but in an audio nearly 25 hours long, that’s really not too shabby! I fell hard in love with it though.

The magic system is intense and detailed and I was completely fascinated. I expected to maybe get a little bored as all of the details were worked out and it played into the long, precisely described fight scenes as I tend to in those scenes, but I was entranced and I could see it all unfolding so clearly – I usually get a little lost in the action! I think it helps that Allomancy – the science-y, magic of swallowing metals and taking power from them – is ingenius and like nothing I've come across before and I really wanted to know how it would show itself in battles.

As strong as a world is, for me, a book can't stand without its characters and I fell in love with mistrustful Vin; bold, determined Kelsier; adorably hapless Elend; knowledgeable and loyal Sazed and the rest of Kel’s crew. I was championing them from the beginning and I became surprisingly invested in their wellbeing as Sanderson isn’t afraid to kill of his characetrs. There was one loss in particular that I couldn’t quite get my head around and I was really rather devastated; I'm just hoping it didn’t happen at all and they’ll make their way back to the crew. 

Brandon Sanderson has revolutionised my idea of high fantasy and I’m so excited to continue with this series and slowly devour his backlist.

The Martian, Andy Weir
385|Del Rey|28th August 2014

I’m stranded on Mars.

I have no way to communicate with Earth.

I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days.

If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I'm screwed.

I was really nervous about reading The Martian. Excited because of all the hype, but also really nervous because of all the hype. Luckily, I completely loved it.

One of the biggest criticisms of the novel is the amount of science and maths in the story and I was worried that I'd find it a little boring but that wasn’t the case at all. The science and maths was often the biggest part of Mark’s day and a lot for those back at NASA trying to figure out how to keep him alive; without it, The Martian would be a very short novel! But I also think it just brings home the marvel of space travel and the technology, time and money needed for it to work at a most basic level. I found it really fascinating.

I have to admit that it was definitely helped by Mark’s dry, witty and sarcastic delivery. I listened to this on audiobook and the narrator, RC Bray, was wonderful. His hit all of the comic nuances perfectly and I could clearly detect the change in tone when the POV switched from Mark to NASA. Every character felt distinctive and fully drawn and I was interested in everything that was going on, never wanting to skip any perspectives which is always a possibility with split narrations!

I loved The Martian and it met all of my expectations. The only thing I wanted that I didn’t get was a little more of an epilogue. Though the story did end there, it also didn’t and I want more.

The Snow Sister, Emma Carroll
Illustrated by Julian de Narvaez
100|Faber|1st October 2015

Pearl was putting the finishing touches to a person made of snow. And that person, with coal for eyes and a turnip for a nose, was now wearing Pearl’s sister’s best shawl.

It's Christmas Eve and Pearl Granger is making a snow sister. It won't bring her real sister back. But a snow sister is better than no sister.

Then a mysterious letter arrives, with a surprise that will stir the heart of Pearl’s family.

Will Christmas ever be the same again?

At only 100 pages, The Snow Sister is a short and sweet Christmas novella.

Set around the mid to late-1800s, Pearl’s story begins on Christmas Eve. She comes from a poor family who is still grieving the loss of Agnes, Pearl’s sister, and Christmas hasn’t been a proper Christmas since. But with a letter arriving from Bath, it seems their luck might be changing and Pearl runs to the shop to buy the ingredients to make a celebratory cake! But Pearl’s day doesn’t go quite as planned…

The Snow Sister has a surprisingly adventure, highlights the disparity between the rich and the poor in Victorian England and, like all good Christmas stories, teaches you that it’s who you have, not what you have.

A lovely, sweet and beautifully illustrated tale that will be the perfect bedtime story for Christmas Eve.


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