Archive for July, 2010

Review: American Gods

American GodsAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is probably my second favorite book by Neil Gaiman. It’s a really good book, with only a few nitpicks that prevent it from being perfect.

The story is about a man called Shadow who gets out of prison only to find his wife has died. He then meets a man named Mr. Wednesday (people who know a bit about Norse mythology should be able to guess who this guy is) who recruits him to join in a war of old gods vs. new modern "gods".

It’s a neat story that had some good twists I didn’t see coming (there’s one memorable one about 2/3 of the way through the book where after you find the twist, you find that the hint for it was so obvious that you can’t IMAGINE how you missed it, though pretty much everyone I know who HAS read the book didn’t pick up on it until the Reveal).

There’s a lot going on in the book and, I have to say, some of my favorite parts of the book were the scenes at the end of each chapter which didn’t follow Shadow, but showed what some of the other gods or minor characters are doing in the present, or showed events in the past which explains how the gods came to America. It gives a good sense that the world is alive and most of those chapters are fascinating. In a lot of cases, I found what was going on in those side stories more interesting than what Shadow was doing at the time in the main plot. There are a lot of subplots which are interesting and even though there is a lot going on, it’s never overly confusing or contradictory. In fact, I found all the subplots pretty easy to remember and keep track of throughout, which is something I sometimes have trouble with in other books (usually epic fantasies).

There are a few nitpicks I have with the book, mostly that 2/3 of the way through the plot kinda drags for a short amount of time before events kick off the climax. It wasn’t a long enough lull that it made me feel bored or annoyed enough to put down the book, but I did kind of notice it slow down a bit before the ending really starts to kick in. Also, while many of the gods and other characters were facinating, at times Shadow seemed kinda…bland to me at first. I ended up warming up to him a lot by the end of the book, but for the first half of the book, there are periods of time where he doesn’t seem to have much of a personality.

But those are minor complaints. I’ve reread this book several times and I still really enjoy it. It’s a fantastic book and the setting is fascinating. It’s probably my personal favorite urban fantasy book (second only to another Neil Gaiman story, the Graveyard Book). If you’ve never read a Neil Gaiman book, this is a really good one to start at, especially if you love mythology or urban fantasy.

View all my reviews >>

Categories: Uncategorized

Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s writing podcast, Writing Excuses, for a while now, and I was so impressed with his advice that I decided to pick up this book. I am very glad I did, since it is definitely the best book I’ve read so far this year.

The setting is very interesting, sort of a post-apocalyptic fantasy world. It is a world that really, really sucks to live in and comes off as being very believable and unsettling. The magic system is the most original one I’ve ever seen and I like how Sanderson goes to great lengths to make sure it makes sense, rather than just have magic to be a sort of “Do whatever the plot requires at the time” affair. It ends up working in a very logical way and it’s very cleverly utilized during action sequences.

The plot itself SEEMS rather straight forward at first, with a band of thieves using their talents to help start a rebellion which overthrows the totalitarian government by an evil overlord whose basically declared himself God after allegedly saving the world, but it has quite a few twists in it, particularly one near the very end which had me genuinely shocked. I was pretty impressed by this since I’ve become very good and predicting most plot twists in literature and movies ahead of time.

There’s quite a few good action scenes in this book, almost all of them using aforementioned magic system. Usually I find fight scenes in literature kind of boring to read and difficult to write in an interesting way, but all the fights are acrobatic and the creative use of the magic system in the fights makes it quite exciting.

The best part about the book though is the characters, especially the main character Vin. Vin is an antisocial girl with severe abandonment issues living at the absolute bottom rung of society who gets wrapped up in the plot to overthrow the Lord Ruler. She matures a lot over the course of the book. It’s done gradually, but she noticeably changes over the course of the book and its written in a way that is believable and natural for her character. Most of the characters have complex but believable motivations and, aside from one-off characters who only appear in one scene, few of them come off as two-dimensional. I found myself really loving most of the characters, to the point where once the book was finished, I immediately wanted to go out and by the next one, just to see what happened next to all of them.

The best thing a book can do is make you want to see more of the characters and not want to leave the world the author’s created for you. Mistborn was one of the most well-written fantasy books I’ve ever read that kept me pulled in all the way through. Sanderson is a talented writer and I’m excited to see how the rest of the series tops this first book.

View all my reviews >>

Categories: Books