Today we bring you the latest installment in our new feature, “What She Said…” in which we both review books that the other has already read and reviewed. The idea arose because of the dilemma that if one of us reads and reviews a book, the other can’t really post again about it, right? WRONG! Hence, “What She Said…” was born. For those books that we REALLY want to read after the other has reviewed – and gushed – about it.
For today’s post, we take on Resenting the Hero by Moira J Moore, and Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson.
Resenting the Hero by Moira J. Moore
Ace, February 2006, Paperback 304 pages
Original rating: 7 – Very Good
What Thea said: These books are compulsively readable, and firmly in the ‘unputdownable’ category
What Ana says: Thea has been talking about these books and trying to make me read them for a long, long time. When the idea for the What She Said feature came up, I immediately thought about this series. Thea sent me the first book and here we are. I am glad to report that I had a most pleasant time reading Resenting the Hero – in fact , it was just what I needed to read right now, after two books that were rather sad and heavy (The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White and The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh) . The book was funny, fun and yes, unputdownable – I read it in one sitting.
Narrated in first person by Mallorough Dunleavy, Lee for short, the story follows her adventures after leaving the Shield Academy. In this world, there are regular people like you and me but also Sources and Shields. Sources channel forces of nature and are the only thing standing against possible natural catastrophes in a world plagued by them. Each Source works together with a Shield, who shield their minds as they are channelling the forces, and without a Shield, a Source would go mad. A Pair is a true partnership, a bond for life and should one die, the other follows suit. Sources, as the forces they control, are emotional and unpredictable, Shields are (or should be) calm and controlled. They go to separate academies growing up, to learn their powers, learn the rules they need to follow and then there is a matching/bonding ceremony when the right time comes and they are set into the world to protect it.
Lee is a Shield and as the book opens, she is about to find out whether she has been matched to a Source or not. All that she wants is to be matched to a reliable, sensible Source and go about life doing her duty in safe, collected way. To her dismay, the bond clicks with her last choice as a Source, the infamous Shintaro Karish, or Taro, known for his heroics and for being the most handsome, sympathetic man ever. Everybody loves Taro, men and women alike and gravitate around him like moths to the light. Lee is so not happy with the pairing but she has no choice but to learn everything about him and do her duty. Then, he has to go and get kidnapped. Oh, the nerve of the creature.
I loved Lee – she is a great character and a great narrator. She is very much her own woman, who knows what she has to do; she is reasonable and practical to the point where she might come across as not very sympathetic – because she is also selfish and prepared to think the worst of Taro. The title of the book is absolutely perfect as Lee spends most of the book resenting being paired off with Taro. And that resentment and her readiness to jump to conclusions about him kinda clouds her judgment and that makes for awesome reading. Because at the end of the day, Lee is a most unreliable character and I happen to LOVE those.
Everything that she thinks about Taro – that he is irresponsible, that he is a wastrel and whoremonger is based on prejudice and gossip. She has the most warped view of herself as well, and even though she says that she is ultra calm and collected and that she does not want any heroics , her actions points to something else altogether and that is what makes reading this book super, ultra fun.
Like for example, when Taro gets attacked:
“I was fine. Karish was the one who had been assaulted. Nothing had happened to me. There was no reason for me to be anything but all right. There was no reason for me to be reacting to anything at all. I was great. I was wonderful. My hands were strangely cold, but that was probably nothing. “
And even though she thinks HE has a huge ego, hers is not small either:
“Later. Time enough to save the world after I’d found Karish. And figured out how I was going to deal with this being a duke. And oh aye, what was going on with those strange Rushes. The list just kept getting longer and longer. “
Couple that with the cool scenes Sourcing/Shielding, the potential problematic dynamics that come from being bonded for life and having to suffer the consequences of misdeeds of each other plus the growing tension in the world they live in then add the chemistry between Lee and Taro, ergo, a very fun book indeed.
And even though Sources and Shields are not supposed to fall in love or have sex with each other , it is obvious to me, with my powerful romance radar which can detect a romantic pairing from miles away, that these two? Oh yeah, prime romance material as evidenced by the A-MA-ZING scene it the cage which you will have to read to find out for yourself what it is that I am talking about. Because I am evil like that.
And now Thea is sending me all the other books in the series and I shall devour them presto!
Rating: I totally agree with Thea on this one – 7 Very Good leaning towards a 8
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
Tor, June 2009, Hardcover 592 pages
Original Review: July 2009
Original Rating: 8 – Excellent
What Ana said:
Warbreaker caught me by surprise and you can colour me amazed by this book.
What Thea says: This is my first read from non-Mistborn Brandon Sanderson, and I have to admit I was both excited and nervous as I started Warbreaker. I loved the Mistborn books, but a large part of the series’ appeal was its inventive, original system of magic (“allomancers” ingest certain metals which they then “burn,” allowing them to exert different magical abilities). Would Warbreaker – could Warbreaker – compare?
Well, folks, i’m happy to report that it certainly can.
Though it isn’t as fabulous as The Final Empire, Warbreaker shows Brandon Sanderson in his element, creating a fascinating new system of magic (“BioChroma”) whilst weaving intricate political schemes with compelling characters in an entirely new setting. The kingdom of Idris holds a shaky truce with the much larger, flamboyant kingdom of Hallandren to the south. In order to keep the peace, the King of Idris must send his eldest daughter, the perfect princess Vivenna, to Hallandren to marry the God King. But, he discovers that he cannot condemn his perfect, dutiful daughter to such a fate – he knows that war between Idris and Hallandren is inevitable, and he would be sending Vivenna to her doom. Instead, he makes a last minute decision and sends his youngest daughter, the vivacious but unruly Siri in Vivenna’s place. Terrified and completely clueless to Hallandren politics (as she never paid attention in her lessons), Siri makes her way to the foreign court of ostentation, vibrant color, and Gods that have “Returned” from death to share their knowledge and blessings with the world. Though she’s naive, Siri soon discovers plots upon plots in the Court of the Gods and finds allies in surprising places, especially in the form of a disenchanted Returned God named Lightsong. Together, Siri and her allies try to save herself and those she loves from war. Meanwhile, the spurned Vivenna sneaks away from Idris on a mission to find Siri and to bring her home safely – though Vivenna’s journeys through the slums of Hallandren, stirring up trouble may cause more harm than good. And all the while, a mysterious Awakener named Vasher prowls the streets of the city, with an agenda no one seems to understand…
Warbreaker is another keeper from Mr. Sanderson, especially so far as world-building and magic are concerned. The concept of “Breath” (each person is born with one, like a soul), and the ability to sell and gain it is fascinating and poses ideological questions that resonate throughout the book. People can give up their Breath, either to the Gods (who need to gain one new Breath each week to continue living) or to another person such as an Awakener (a person who has amassed enough Breaths to animate objects and Command them). The more Breaths a person or God has, the more powerful an Awakener they become. Breath also allows an Awakener to see colors more vividly, to understand the subtleties of each hue, and to bend light and color around them (in a power known as “BioChroma”). As with Mistborn, I found myself swept up instantly in this world of colorful magic, awed by Mr. Sanderson’s imaginative new take on sorcery. The concept of Gods, too, is a fascinating one in this novel – according to the Hallandren ideology, the Returned are those that have died noble deaths and awakened in their own reshaped flesh with a purpose of bestowing a single gift on humanity. Even the setting of the novel, in the politically embroiled city of Hallandren with its Irdian slums and its confident inhabitants, was well executed. The divisions of faith and nationality are the spark of all the troubles that threaten war, and Mr. Sanderson manages to build tensions nicely without ever making simple value judgements. Neither Idris nor Hallandren are “evil” or “corrupt” cities – they are simply kingdoms, trying to survive in a difficult world.
While the magical system, the power hierarchies and world building aspects were all fantastic, there were some issues in terms of characters and writing that detracted from Warbreaker. The book follows four different character stories, alternating viewpoints between Siri, Vivenna, Lightsong, and the mysterious Vasher. Unfortunately, not all characters (and storylines) are created equal – and I found myself growing bored with Vivenna’s (and at times with Vasher’s) plot threads. Headstrong Siri, with her mix of naivete and attitude makes for a strong, vibrant character that’s easy for readers to sympathize with. Her struggles in the Court of Gods, facing her silent new husband, disapproving priests and petty Gods is pretty compelling stuff, and easily my favorite storyline of the bunch. Lightsong, with his disenchantment with religion (despite the quiet understanding of his ever loyal priest and friend Llarimar) is a close second favorite – his irreverent sense of humor, his dogged determination that he is not a God, and (despite his efforts to seem frivolous) his caring heart make his unfolding story a delight to read. In contrast, Vivenna is a little lackluster – and I found myself resisting the urge to skim through her sections to get back to the more interesting storylines. Vivenna goes through a lot in this book, and I do appreciate her character arc as she faces her own deep-seated hate for Hallandren, her disenchantment with her father, her tenuous grasp on the true nature of life outside of the ideals of royalty – not to mention, early on she’s infused with a dangerously powerful number of Breaths against her will. But, there’s a level of repetition and inaction, especially where Vivenna’s concerned, that I couldn’t really engage with Vivenna’s storyline as I did with the other characters, making the middle portion of Warbreaker draggy. As far as Vasher is concerned, my only problem with his character is how LITTLE there is of him in the grand scheme of the story! He’s a major character by the final, dramatic showdown – but I do wish there was more of him and his witty (talking) sword.
Despite these gripes and some pacing problems, I thoroughly enjoyed Warbreaker. Brandon Sanderson has firmly rooted himself as an “auto-buy” author – and I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.
Rating: 8 – Excellent (I fully agree with Ana!)
Reading next on What She Said:
Thea: Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Ana: The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett