Size Doesn’t Matter (128): The Alloy of Law; Empress of a Thousand Skies; The House of the Dead

Size Doesn’t Matter (128): The Alloy of Law; Empress of a Thousand Skies; The House of the DeadThe Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
Series: Mistborn: Alloy Era #1
Published by Tor Fantasy on October 30, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Western
Pages: 392
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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three-half-stars

New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson returns to the exciting world of the Mistborn in The Alloy of Law.

In the three hundred years since the events of the Mistborn trilogy, science and technology have marched on. Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads, electric lighting, and even the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Yet even with these advances, the magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for those attempting to establish order and justice.

One is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax must now put away his guns and assume the duties incumbent upon the head of a noble house—until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

Ever since my reread of Mistborn and attempt to finish that series went so disastrously last year, ending with a DNF of book three, I’ve been terrified to try this spinoff series. Still, the review copies of books two and three have been sitting on my shelf judging me, and the time has come. The Alloy of Law reminded me of just how good Sanderson’s books can be, but it did also have a few major flaws.

The opening of The Alloy of Law is dramatic and intense, but it also fridges the woman Wax loves. Not a great way to start a series. Sanderson has struggled with female representation, and it’s clear he’s working on it, since there are more important female characters in this series already than the whole of the prior trilogy, but there’s clearly a lot of work yet to go.

However, setting that aside, I loved the bulk of The Alloy of Law. I’d forgotten, mind trapped in the infuriating thing the original Mistborn trilogy became, how funny and delightful Sanderson’s books are. Wax, Wayne, and Marasi are fantastic characters, and I absolutely love them and want to go on their journey. The pacing is fast, the dialogue snappy, and the plot exciting. I’m a bit suspicious of the interplay of religions/Harmony, but so far I’m mostly letting it slide. View Spoiler »

The romance between Marasi and Wax could be amazing, but it’s going to be a frustrating ship of pain it seems. *shakes fist* Still, I do want to hang out with these characters. I’m just crossing my fingers that the female representation doesn’t go to shit.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (128): The Alloy of Law; Empress of a Thousand Skies; The House of the DeadEmpress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies #1
Published by Razorbill on February 7, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Adventure
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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three-half-stars

Empress
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he's forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

The increasing interest in science fiction in YA excites me. There haven’t tended to be too  many actual space books coming out, which is part of why SFF ends up inextricably blended on year-end lists. Empress of a Thousand Skies is fast-paced, fun, and pretty approachable science fiction.

You may need a bit of patience for the first few chapters. Belleza drops a lot of knowledge on you. She doesn’t infodump, which is both a blessing and a curse. It took some time for me to settle in and become used to all the new terms for people, places, things, and slang. If you’re a wee bit confused at the start, don’t worry too much.

The characters are pretty good, but thus far lacking in depth. They’re likable and compelling, but without the vibrancy that really makes me care. Several people who are important to the MCs died in the course of Empress, and I felt absolutely nothing. It’s not really a feelsy book, but I was curious to find out what would happen to Rhee, Dahlen, and Aly.

The world building works pretty well, though there are definitely some areas that feel a bit fuzzier. The plot varies between excellence and eye-roll-inducing predictability. I really enjoy the way that shit is basically always hitting the fan; there are some conveniences but mostly things keep going wrong, which, on a basic level, is great for plot and keeps the pace quick. On the other hand, the mystery of the missing princess was idiotically obvious; it might as well have not been a mystery. There are shades of our current political situation, which made some elements a bit more immediate. View Spoiler »

If you’ve read a lot of SFF, many elements of Empress of a Thousand Skies will feel recognizable, and you will call many of the twists. However, everything comes together nicely and the fast pacing makes this one a good read.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Size Doesn’t Matter (128): The Alloy of Law; Empress of a Thousand Skies; The House of the DeadThe House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Stars by Daniel Beer
Narrator: Arthur Morey
Length: 17 hrs, 7 mins
Published by Random House Audio on January 3, 2017
Genres: Nonfiction, History
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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Goodreads
four-stars

It was known as 'the vast prison without a roof'. From the beginning of the nineteenth century to the Russian Revolution, the tsarist regime exiled more than one million prisoners and their families beyond the Ural Mountains to Siberia. Daniel Beer's new book, The House of the Dead, brings to life both the brutal realities of an inhuman system and the tragic and inspiring fates of those who endured it. This is the vividly told history of common criminals and political radicals, the victims of serfdom and village politics, the wives and children who followed husbands and fathers, and of fugitives and bounty-hunters.

Siberia served two masters: colonisation and punishment. In theory, exiles would discover the virtues of self-reliance, abstinence and hard work and, in so doing, they would develop Siberia's natural riches and bind it more firmly to Russia. In reality, the autocracy banished an army not of hardy colonists but of half-starving, desperate vagabonds. The tsars also looked on Siberia as creating the ultimate political quarantine from the contagions of revolution. Generations of rebels - republicans, nationalists and socialists - were condemned to oblivion thousands of kilometres from European Russia. Over the nineteenth century, however, these political exiles transformed Siberia's mines, prisons and remote settlements into an enormous laboratory of revolution.

This masterly work of original research taps a mass of almost unknown primary evidence held in Russian and Siberian archives to tell the epic story both of Russia's struggle to govern its monstrous penal colony and Siberia's ultimate, decisive impact on the political forces of the modern world.

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I read any history; I’m the worst history major ever, preferring historical romances to weighty historical tomes (or am I the most fun?). Audiobook probably wasn’t the best choice here, but the review audiobook of The House of the Dead was a good excuse to indulge in some Russian history.

Russian History has always been one of my favorites to study, and The House of the Dead proved no exception. The thing is that Russian history is on such grand scale, so full of death, horrors, and comedy that it’s almost like reading an epic fantasy. (You can really tell I’m a fiction person.) Seriously, elements of this history seem like they should be out of a Catch-22-esque work of fiction.

Beer does a great job revealing the larger political history of Russia through the microcosm of the Siberian exile and penal system. Though I’d previously studied the gulags quite a bit, I’d not gotten much into Siberian exile, aside from Crime and Punishment (I may have a new sympathy and understanding for that heinous epilogue). Beer manages to place everything in a larger political context and organize chapters by subject while also keeping everything in a fairly chronological order, which helped me tremendously.

The audiobook itself wasn’t my favorite. Arthur Morey doesn’t read with great emotion. If anything, he may have made the history a bit more dry than in print, though that’s a tough call to make. His Russian pronunciations also seemed a bit suspect. Obviously it was good enough I got through it, but I probably won’t ever listen to a Morey-narrated audiobook again.

If you’re interested in Russian history, this is a good one, covering a surprisingly broad swath of the last century of Tsarist rule.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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6 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (128): The Alloy of Law; Empress of a Thousand Skies; The House of the Dead”

  1. Anya says:

    Genuine question here, not meant to be snarky or argumentative, I’m just still processing through separating my first read of Mistborn with my mind now more aware of the problems often found in fantasy: You mention problem with female representation in the previous series, do you mean because there isn’t any major secondary female characters besides Vin? It just struck me as confusing since Vin is arguably the main character. Again, genuinely want to understand what problems there are in that series that I missed <3
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    • Christina Franke says:

      Hey, not a problem.

      ANYONE ELSE LOOKING SPOILERS FOR MISTBORN TRILOGY READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL.

      Part of it, yes, that Vin is almost the only female character in the trilogy. There are a handful of others. There was the girl Elend was engaged (or supposed to be engaged to, I can’t remember), who dies. There’s the Terris woman, who Sazed falls in love with, and who is fridged so he’ll do what he needs to do in book three. There’s a love interest for Breeze. Every single female character exists primarily as a love interest/motivation for a male character.

      Vin is, ostensibly, the main character of the series, but she does not end up being the most important. At the end of book two, Elend’s made a mistborn as well. He quickly becomes just as talented (or more talented) at Vin at being a Mistborn. She’s not even allowed that area to shine. That’s what really pushed me overboard. One of my least favorite tropes is when you take a physically strong heroine and give her a love interest who is just as strong or stronger.

      In this series, there are constant references to the Mistborn trilogy. Centuries later, Kelsier, Elend, and Sazed are such a big deal. Sazed is literally a god. Kelsier’s worshipped as a god too. Vin’s got some statues and stuff, but she’s not admired to the same degree as the men, and she’s always in reference to Elend.

      You may not agree with me, but I couldn’t handle that. This series has some flaws in representation too, but it’s doing a bit better.

      • Anya says:

        No I definitely agree with you, I just read the series long enough ago that I hadn’t clawed my way out of the patriarchy’s brain washing of what I should expect of female characters in my books! I completely agree with the trope of the heroine having a love interest that is better than her at the one thing she was awesome at and now that you point that out, I don’t honestly know if I would be able to read that series at this point…. I think Way of Kings does a lot better with that though since the main heroine doesn’t have a love interest and her antagonist is a woman awesome at magic as well. Have you read Stormlight Archive? So much of this is that I still have trouble noticing these problems when reading and having them pointed out is really helpful (for me, since I don’t mind liking some aspects of books that have problems yey!) THANK YOU
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      • Christina Franke says:

        I totally relate to that. When I first read Mistborn (just book one) a few years back, it didn’t register to me as a problem that Vin was the only female character of note. And I mean, these still have some issues, but I can appreciate the good qualities here too. It’s just that in Mistborn, that specific trope irks me so much that I couldn’t appreciate anything anymore; it was too tied into the plot, and it ruined it for me.

        There’s nothing wrong with loving problematic things, but it’s good to know! I’m learning from other people all the time. It’s a nice thing about the bookverse.

  2. I haven’t read any Brandon Sanderson but know you had some major issues with a few of the books so it’s nice that this one measured up for you! I felt similarly about Empress of a Thousand Skies, it was really fun and action packed. I noticed the political similarities too, yikes. I liked the characters & didn’t even mind the cliches because I need my sci fi a little more accessible to enjoy it haha.
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  3. I still have to read Mistborn but you have me nervous now. Seems like the spin-off works just as well on its own though in case the original also doesn’t work out for me.
    The House of the Dead sounds fascinating. I was just trying to pick out my next audio and realized I still haven’t read Symphony for the City of the Dead.
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