Book Review:- The Alloy of Law (Mistborn – Alloy Era #1) : – “Boy oh Boy oh Boy!”

Alloy of law

5/5 Stars,

“That hat looks ridiculous.”
“Fortunately, I can change hats,” Wayne said, “while you, sir, are stuck with that face.” ~Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law

I am definitely using that line, some day, some time, I will find an opportunity and use that line. The Mistborn series, ahhh these books! The final empire, The well.. & The hero of ages, and now this! My fantasy crazed heart could explode with gratitude for the man. Brandon Sanderson has done something so bizarre that I initially thought to be impossible, to make another totally, unbelievably, awesome fantasy series based on the world from his previous fantasy series.

The grit of the wild west, the intricately marvelous magic system, the strong background flavor of the previous series palpable in its pages and the wit & humor at an hilariously all time high. I enjoyed this immensely, oh so very much and Mr. Sanderson has yet again proved that he is an absolute master in fantasy story telling.

Goodreads Blurb : – Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old 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 the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such 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 has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, 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.

I am already a fan of Mr. Sanderson’s writing, of his awesome capacity to link the plot into knots which comes undone with a flourish at the right time, and with his brilliance of creating highly likable and enjoyable characters. All within a new timeline, The Old West Era (from 1865 – 1895 of our time) and the 300’s for the Mistborn’s new world. The brilliance of it all is just too much. As to its tone, it is obviously lighter than the Final Empire, how could it not be, the whole point of the new world was the total upheaval of the old one.

I must digress a bit here, what doubled my enjoyment of the story was Graphic Audio’s brilliant performance of it as an audiobook. They did an excellent job with the characters voices and the background score and all the little additions of gun-shots and background noises . Typically I don’t read audio-books as then I am beholden to their pace rather than my own. But here, as the book is not that big, 332 pages or 7-8 hours of audio, it was paced just right, with all the touches and brush strokes, that you just close your eyes and get lost in the world of ‘Elendel’ immediately.

And this is just the beginning, I am very much looking forward to the rest two books. The action in this book was phenomenal, with the rough machismo & wit of the wild west coupled with the oh so creative use of Mistborn magic, will always make you grin in every combat sequence. Also, the character of ‘Wayne’, he was the heart of the book, the light-hearted thief cum law man, he single-handedly made the book fun and delightful. Which is just as well because the protagonist ‘Wax’ is the troubled darkness in this dark-light duo combo. Their chemistry is spot on. And of-course the antagonist, ‘Miles’, a damn well worthy adversary, hell of a bad guy.

So, the first thing I did when I picked this up, was download the map of ‘Elendel’ , (which is absolutely brilliant btw), plugged in my headphones and got lost in a world that I dearly missed. This is the ultimate escape in a wonderful and enjoyable realm, I mean come-on, Pistols, bang-bang, and magic. Seriously, I can’t say the word brilliant enough.

So, I am off to the second one, pick this up with your eyes closed, this would be well worth it, as it has everything that you hope for in a good epic fantasy. Waist coats and bowler hats all the way my friends. To end with one of Wayne’s witty philosophical pearls about thinking only when things are simple : –

“The rest of the time, I don’t do so much thinkin’. ‘Cuz if I did, I’d go running back to where things is simple. You see?”
― Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law

 

 

 

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Book Review: – The Bastard of Istanbul : -“An under-cooked likable mess”

Bastard-of-Istanbul

3/5 Stars,

“Imagination was a dangerously captivating magic for those compelled to be realistic in life, and words could be poisonous for those destined always to be silenced.” ~Elif Shafak

Once there was, once there wasn’t…….indeed. This book is just like the Turkish dessert ‘Ashure’, a congee made with themes like ‘Humor’, ‘History’, ‘Identity crisis’ & ‘Self discovery’, ‘Nationalism’, ‘Philosophy’, ‘Depredations of the Past’, ‘Armenian- Turkish conflict’, ‘Present day reality’, ‘Family drama’, ‘Magic-realism’ and finally sprinkled with ‘the chaotic beauty of Istanbul’. All mixed together, promising a wonderful flavor, but surprisingly under-cooked, leaving you with a strange longing in the end. Back in 2006, Elif Shafak was still finding her voice in the literary world, this book is full of her probes in different directions, but in her zeal to do justice to all the issues, she fell short of doing it to many.

Goodreads Blurb :-  A novel about the tangled histories of two families. At its center is the “bastard” of the title, Asya, a nineteen-year-old woman who loves Johnny Cash and the French Existentialists, and the four sisters of the Kazanci family who all live together in an extended household in Istanbul: Zehila, the zestful, headstrong youngest sister who runs a tattoo parlor and is Asya’s mother; Banu, who has newly discovered herself as a clairvoyant; Cevriye, a widowed high school teacher; and Feride, a hypochondriac obsessed with impending disaster. Their one estranged brother lives in Arizona with his wife and her Armenian daughter, Armanoush. When Armanoush secretly flies to Istanbul in search of her identity, she finds the Kazanci sisters and becomes fast friends with Asya. A secret is uncovered that links the two families and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres.

This was my second book by Elif Shafak, the first one ‘Forty Rules..‘ post dates this by 3 years. Mrs.Shafak’s propensity to distill down day-to-day life’s philosophies into rules, which took the center stage in “Forty rules of love”, can be seen in this novel too, where some of the characters make up their own little check lists to deal with the world, be it Zeliha’s ‘Rules of Prudence for an Istanbulite woman’, or Asya’s ‘Personal Manifesto of Nihilism’ or the tit-bits of survival Armanoush’s grandmother tried to instill in her. These philosophical dives into the character’s thinking should have resulted in our deep understanding and/or bonding with them, finding common ground perhaps, and although not totally unsuccessful, it lacked the effect it had in ‘Forty rules..’. The problem with character development was (one.) there are a lot of them (two.) despite her tries, she failed to sketch them all in enough detail, within the right time, even at the end of the novel I was discovering new dimensions to them (Specially Aunty Banu).

The book works because it never shies away from the fact that it’s an undecided mess. Never conceding any one theme full control of the plot, and the end chapters were a rush tying it all in a sweet little bow, achieving what exactly? I was left to wonder. This makes it confusing sometimes, one moment you are dealing with the serious issue of Armenian suffering and their search for closure for the 1915 atrocities, the next a rebellious teenager trying to scratch her identity in defiance of her past, in the third you appreciate Istanbul’s complex place in the world and its paradoxical society,  western values with eastern culture, agnostics and believers sharing the same roof, truly the mixture of all the world. I once read a quote somewhere, that if you had just one glance to give the world, gaze on Istanbul. The book though not primarily advocating this, hints heavily on it all the same.

And ahh the food, this was one quirk I enjoyed, all through the novel Turkish and Armenian cuisines have been described in all their glory. Making my stomach growl from time to time, thankfully I had a box of Lokum(Turkish delight) handy, which I popped in my mouth, pretending I was tasting all the dishes mentioned. From watching one of the author’s Ted Talks, I realized that the family dynamics of the Kazanci clan in the book is influenced from her personal experiences, which makes the novel more interesting.

Despite having its faults, I liked reading it. The story is fast paced, and though not satisfactorily resolving the central ‘Conflict’ issue, her advice to the Turks to shed their amnesia and to Armenians their victim-hood is a sound one. An enjoyable little read, which though trying to do much, ultimately fails in some. But its humor was on point, making me chuckle in the right places. So, read this, keeping your expectations in check,  and playing Johnny cash’s songs in the background, something that I am currently engaged in.