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Book Reviews

Review: The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

The Bands of Mourning will blow your mind with its developments related to the world of Scadrial and events in the Cosmere. Which may be it’s greatest weakness as a Mistborn novel.

The character development and emotional payoff in this book feel weaker than Shadows of Self, while the latter was weaker in terms of world building and general nerdiness.

I might be creating a false dichotomy here, but I felt similarly about Oathbringer (Stormlight Archive #3) in that each book had so much cool Cosmere stuff that characters took a back seat. Though Oathbringer had a better balance.

Don’t get me wrong, this book had some great moments for Wax and co. I mean, Steris. So so good.

Another respectable Mistborn novel. So much promised for book 4!

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Cosmeric Faith Uncategorized

Cosmeric Faith Part 4: The Path

In this post, I want to consider the two main religions in the Wax and Wayne books and why I think the Path is one of the great contributions of the Cosmere to the world.

In Mistborn Era 2, the people of Elendel are primarily divided into two religious groups, Survivorists and Pathians. While both groups acknowledge Harmony as God, the latter pursue individual relationship with Him, and the former see him as more of a force. Survivorists look to Kelsier as their primary advocate and guide. So it seems the Pathians are the theists while the Church of the Survivor is more deist.

These are not the only two religions practiced in the basin, not to mention the rest of Scadrial. There is mention of Sliverism, which apparently focuses on the Lord Ruler. Though, despite his quasi-redemption, I’m not sure who would want to continue revering Rashek. The Church and the Path, though, have primary purchase on the devotional lives of the citizens of Elendel.

The Church of the Survivor somewhat parallels “high Church,” establishment Christianity. It is a religion of grand cathedrals, a religion of power with the death of its Hero at the center of its theology and ethics. It is the juxtaposition of weakness and triumphalism at the paradoxical heart of Christianity. As the more deist of the faiths, the Survivorists do not seek either deep personal communion with God or spiritual experiences in general. Amusingly, as Wax observes, Survivorists reverse the mists yet worship under grand glass domes. The mists are allowed in for certain special liturgies, but in general they are appreciated from a distance.

The Path has many different parallels in our world. It is like a mix of the simple, quiet faith of Quakerism (though the Path seems to have little focus on the community of the faithful) with elements of Buddhism. Indeed the Eightfold Path is central to Buddhist practice, and one name for early Christian faith was”The Way.”

Devotion in the Path primarily consists of solitary meditation. Not the grand worship of the cathedral, Pathians meet commune with God in stillness–in small Pathians temples, stagecoaches, or wherever.

More than Divine interface, however, the Path is primarily about how to be in the world. The Path is inspired by the humble, humanistic Terrisman-become-Deity, Harmony. It is not so much the way toward fulfillment but a way. A way that sees all of the other ways and loves them for what they are. It is about doing more good than harm.

The Path has the self-effacing quirkiness that one would expect from a Sazed-inspired faith. Harmony is not so much adored as appreciated. Revered, perhaps, but not worshipped. In fact, as in some Eastern devotion, worship of God may be more of a hindrance than a help on the journey. And as Ironeyes notes at the end of The Alloy of Law, Harmony expects the faithful to disagree with and challenge Him.

Brandon writes with a very open-minded take on religion. There are the devoted and the nominal in Mistborn. Hrathen and Dilaf show religious zeal in two different stages, the former going cold and the latter burning and consuming everything in its path. Lightsong is the god who does not believe in himself. There is the atheist Jasnah in Stormlight and the atheist-turned-deity Sazed in The Hero of Ages.

I think Sazed/Harmony acts as a focal point for all of these differing views. He has experienced it all and tried to consider all sides. Sazed has taken the treasury of faiths of the past and combined it with his his own humble godhood and left the Path, which I think is just the humanistic take on devotion that we needed in fantasy. This is not the theistic fiction of Lewis not neither is it atheistic or ambivalent toward faith. Some sort of devotion or belief is fundamental to being human in the Cosmere. But the details are less defined. There are many roads. Journey before destination, etc. And as I’ve written elsewhere, the Path is humanistic, as it shows that faith is part of life because it represents humanity’s striving for the best of itself.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night, by Jason Zinoman

I don’t know why, but I have a fascination/low-key obsession with late night television and its history. Letterman is in many ways the progenitor of the swath of comedy that I enjoy, so a Letterman biography written two years after his retirement is right up my alley.

Zinoman’s treatment of the life of “the last great giant of late night,” is thorough and incisive without much of an obvious agenda. If there is a “take” on Letterman is this book, it’s that his legacy is complex and difficult to distill. The author considers Letterman’s self-effacing yet arrogant persona at the center of his comedy and how it inured him to some and yet repulsed others.

While the wide influence of Letterman and his three decades of work is impossible to deny, Zinoman also honestly examines the racism, xenophobia, and sexism present throughout the host’s tenure.

Four stars

Categories
Book Reviews comics

Review: Sea of Stars vol. 1 by Jason Aaron and Dennis Hallum

Excellent! Part Jungle Book, part space opera, and part Bear Grylls, Sea of Stars is a new book from Jason Aaron and Dennis Hallum.

In issue 1, a space trucker father and his son become separated in a cosmic incident.

The Dad is on a harrowing mission to find his son, but Kadyn has discovered that in the accident he has gained some mysterious powers. While the boy comes to thoroughly enjoy the space play that his powers enable, his newfound companions are baffled at what he can do–and especially what he can survive.

This book was endearing and intriguing. Plus it was beautiful. Stephen Green and Rico Renzi amplify the storytelling in all the right ways. It was cartoonish yet just gritty enough, fitting featuring an estranged boy and his badass dad.

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Book Reviews

Review: Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

I love this book. While at first I did not warm up to Wax and Wayne as I did to the Crew, this book just may be my favorite Mistborn novel.

Among other things, it’s a signpost of Sanderson’s growth as a writer. He nails religious doubt in a way hoped for by Hrathen’s arc in Elantris.

Oh and the interplay if genre in this book is excellent and I believe an indicator of the dynamic future of the series. Sanderson dances between spec fic, thriller, and even horror in this one.

Feelings run high is this book. Wax is confronted again by the tragedy of his past even at he continues to struggle with the boundaries imposed upon him by high society. Marasi makes more room for herself in the world and pushes toward her future.

This book is everything one might want in a sequel. It’s a bridge that can stand on its own. Although in fairness, it’s more of a book 1 of 3 with Alloy of Law being a sort of prequel.

Five stars.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse’s entry in the Riordan Presents imprint was really fun. Nizhoni Begay is my new favorite. Her journey of self-acceptance and perseverance, while being typical middle grade fare, is generally delightful.

I was often hoping during this book that it was the first in a series. While it moved at the relentless pace that one expects from a Riordan-adjacent middle grade novel, some characters and plot elements seemed to get not enough attention. The sole focus on Nizhoni mostly worked, but it felt like there were gaps related to her companions.

Not my favorite middle grade mythology read, but enjoyable nonetheless. Four stars.

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Book Reviews

Review: The Brightest Fell by Nupur Chowdhury

*Thanks to Nupur Chowdhury for sending me a digital copy of this book*

The Brightest Fell is a political thriller centered on young genius Jehan Fasih and the politically enmeshed Shian family.

With unclear motivations, Fasih schemes to oust Rajat Shian from the premiership of Naijan, as Shian puts more and more pressure on Fasih to complete trials on the Amven drug.

Amven and it’s potential uses motivate the actions of the Naijani political players. The drug makes its subjects more pliable and docile. And while many of Fasih’s compatriots ostensibly want to use the drugs on criminals and terrorists, Fasih suspects even more nefarious users from rival ruler Maganti.

Readers are left to discover what is truly happening along with the Shian children, Rito and Abhijat Shian. Both of whom are loyal to their country now let by Fasih and yet infuriated by the political maneuvering against their father.

The Brightest Fell was highly entertaining. It had the feel of a 24-esque TV show along with some Sorkin-inspired pacing and dialogue. While some characters like JehN Fasih and Rito were interesting and even endearing. Others were frustrating and at times unbelievable.

Four stars.

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Book Reviews

Review: The Alloy of Law

Third time through this book, first review.

This may not be peak Sanderson, but it’s certainly a testament to the power of his craft that my opinion of this book has become more favorable with time.

What started as a standalone novel between eras of the Mistborn series became the jumping off point for the Mistborn era 2 steampunk fantasy quartet.

The Alloy of Law follows Waxillium Ladrian, a Twinborn (one who has access to Allomancy and Feruchemy) back in the city in which he was raised, Elendel, after spending two decades as a Lawman in the “Roughs.”

Much like the Ascendant Warrior, Vin, centuries before, Wax finds that he must negotiate two sides of himself and discover the alloy of his true identity.

Wax’s counterpart, Wayne, is the major comic relief of the book. Remaining btrue to the spirit of the Survivor however, his topsy-turvy take on life and sense of humor are born of a deeply tragic backstory.

Readers of the original trilogy will be delighted by all of the allusions to its beloved characters. Sanderson clearly had a lot of fun playing with a new cast centuries later in the same world.

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Bookish Content Spiritual Stuff

Beautiful Waste

Since having a little one and the advent of many, many children’s books in my immediate vicinity, I’ve come to really appreciate the medium.

Don’t mistake me, just like any other group of literature, there’s a spectrum of kid’s books from bold, original, and beautiful to tired, lackluster, and lazy.

However, over the last three years I have read many, many books primarily for children (thanks Kent District Library!) and a few specific books many, many, many times. Kid’s books have a lot going for them: typically simple, direct messages, humor, pictures! But my favorite aspect of kid’s picture books is the ways in which many of them waste space.

Right now we are on an Elephant and Piggie kick. White space takes up good portion of each page in Mo Willem’s hit book series. The focus is on simple actions and dialogue, and it works really well.

I also love in a picture book when you turn the page and there is a fully spread without any dialogue–perhaps simply reactions to what has happened on the previous page. There is space to breathe. To watch. To wait. To enjoy. To savor.

When I actually stop to delight in a really good picture book, it feels like I’m actually taking in a piece of art, allowing it to stop me in my tracks and perhaps even let it change me in some way.

Steeped in American culture as I am, I’m often looking for more and more content in less and less space. It’s more efficient. Access to every Disney property at any time? Sign me up! Every song ever released? Sure! (Not trying to simply rail on our culture, especially as a binge Clone Wars while my son tells Alexa to play Baby Shark.)

Kid’s books typically aren’t full of content, but they are deep. They open up new realms of beauty and thought within a few pages. There is life and energy in the blank space.

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Book Reviews

Review: Me

Me by Elton John

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent read!

Elton John considers his life and career, taking the good and the bad in measured perspective. He holds his own drive to achieve in one hand and the potential serendipitous role of fate in the other and beautifully weaves them together to the delight of longtime fans and newcomers alike. I highly recommend this book!

5 stars.

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