Tag Archives: brandon sanderson

Am I Sarene from Brandon Sanderson’s ELANTRIS?


Never before have I been struck by a character so much like me.

Sure, I frequently see characters I can relate to, particularly INTJ characters making hard and distasteful decisions, but not much beyond that. I’ve never had a character resonate with me to the extent where I almost could have been looking in a mirror.

Sarene is a woman who, though a king’s daughter, has been made unmarriageable by her own strength of character. Now before I go on, I should qualify by saying I am married, but that dating was never easy for me. I was even advised once or twice to ‘tone’ myself ‘down’ on first dates – advice I find completely counter-intuitive, because if someone doesn’t like me as I am from the start, it seems unlikely they would warm to me after discovering I’m not at all the person they thought I was!

Sarene did attempt to do tone herself down, even going so far as to find herself betrothed to the one man who would risk her attention – only to break it off at the last minute when she recognised she would do them both a grave disservice if she went through with the marriage.

So what is it that got Sarene into this position? Put simply, she is:

  • Intelligent;
  • Outspoken;
  • Always challenging authority;
  • Inclined to take charge;
  • Not content to be told what to do;
  • A feminist.

These are qualities that she recognises as being undesirable to her male peers, and alas I don’t believe it’s much different now. A recent study even found that the majority of men who profess to want an independent, intelligent and strong-willed wife later expect her to change upon marriage, to let her career take a back-seat, and to become the primary child-carer.

That stacks up against my personal experience, where most men wouldn’t even approach me because I was ‘intimidating’ (from the lips of a man who actually did strike up a conversation), who couldn’t handle the way I conducted my life (uh, with an expectation I can do everything a man can?), or who had issues with my earning potential. A recent article in a Sydney newspaper had single men describing women as too picky, while a dating agency said men wanted a ‘nice, old-fashioned girl’.

Well yeah, cause I don’t see the problem there, do you? I bet Sarene would too.

Sarene noted throughout the book that while she would earn the respect and admiration of men, they almost ceased to see her as a woman and an object of desire. That’s not something I’d given much thought on until she considered it, and while I don’t know for sure, I wonder if it is true of me too. I can count the number of advances I’ve had from men in the last seven years on one hand without even needing all the fingers. But I’m pretty sure the men I’ve done business with respect me, and certainly don’t hesitate to make use of what’s in my head commercially.

I have difficulties with friendships too, which is not a trait uncommon to female INTJs anyway, but it could be because we all have many of the same things in common with Sarene. In fact, she probably is an INTJ as well. While I can like a woman well enough, or even a group of women, and I think they like me well enough (I think – well, they haven’t told me to sod off to my face) they don’t reach out to include me the way they do each other. I don’t quite know why this is, and sometimes it leaves me feeling a little on the outer–and it’s a rare person who really clicks with me. But maybe Sarene’s analysis is correct here too–am I again inspiring admiration and respect, but not much in the way of warm inclusiveness? I don’t know. I know I’m not a very warm and fuzzy person, but sometimes trying to bridge the gap is lonely and frustrating….

I realise this post may sound egotistical, but I am trying to be honest about who I am (and I recognise INTJs are not everyone’s cup of tea) while thinking my way through some ideas that Sarene raised in Elantris that could well explain some patterns in my own life. I’ve been a little frank about some of my feelings, too, which is downright uncomfortable for an INTJ…

The question I have left at the end of this post is “Who is the woman who inspired Sarene?”

Brandon Sanderson, You Have A Sexy Brain


The Way of Kings is littered with intellectual ideas – a fact I missed the first time I read it, presumably because I was too distracted by the story. That is, itself, a good thing, as it means the story is gripping. But on a second read, I felt those included intellectual thoughts were telling me as much about the author as the story.

I’ve probably forgotten some, but here are a few I spotted:

  • Atheism, the arguments for and against it, and particularly the tendency of some to not understand how one can even be an atheist;
  • The atheist’s wager – the notion that if one lives a good life, god will forgive you your disbelief, and if he doesn’t, then he’s not a god you want to worship anyway;
  • The nature of morality and what makes an action inherently good or bad;
  • The question of whether morality springs from the divine or not, and the idea that it is better to do good for good’s sake than for fear of punishment by some god
  • Questions of morality versus practicality
  • Is there a distinction between doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason and doing the wrong thing for the right reasons?
  • What makes a god a god?
  • Justice vs mercy and whether a life of goodness and atonement makes up for one very bad deed.

A lot of this, but not all, is included in Jasnah Kholin’s scenes, as she is a scholar of some renown, and a woman after my own heart – a critical thinker who questions everything! No answers are necessarily offered in relation to the questions posed – and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing, because it means the reader doesn’t feel preached to. The point is that the mind turns to the question in the first place.

I’m reading Words of Radiance right now, and I’m sure I’ve missed more of these pearls, but I did just spot another one – a discussion of the correlation between intelligence, compassion, and practicality, and the observation that those with an over-abundance of intelligence might find themselves entertaining ideas that seem like a good idea (but probably aren’t) such as requiring people to pass an intelligence test in order to breed.

Such a wealth of conversation topics! I would much rather sit down and discuss any of these in preference to the boring tedium of small talk – even with a perfect stranger! In fact, just a few weeks ago I did have a conversation on topics like this with an accountant I’d just met.

I’ve never had an answer to the question “If you could choose one person, alive or dead, to talk to for an hour, who would it be?”

But I think, now, that I do – and it’s you, Brandon Sanderson. We might not necessarily agree, but the conversation would no doubt be stimulating!

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson: Book Review

Brandon Sanderson is the master of the unique fantasy world, complete with unique magic systems, and he doesn’t fail to deliver in this novella. In an Asian style setting, the people of this place have mastered a magic called ‘Forging’ – imprint an object with a seal (like a Chinese chop) that ‘tells’ the object what it would be if its past were rewritten – and it changes.

The closer the Seal is to the actual object in terms of probability, the easier it is to make it work. So restoring a worn desk to its former glory is relatively easy – it only supposes that someone didn’t stop caring for it. If there is absolutely no conceivable way the object you are working on could ever have been what you want it to be, the Seal fails. If a Seal is removed, because it remains as a physical seal that can be prised off, the object returns to its original form.

Shai is a Forger – the kind who dabbles in the forbidden, daring to Forge people’s souls, and even her own. Though she is reviled, when the Emperor suffers a terrible accident and has no memory of who he is, the political leaders turn to her in a desperate bid to reforge the Emperor’s Soul and return him to the man he was. The Emperor will remain in mourning for one hundred days, and this is the impossible timeframe Shai must work within.

But she knows that even if she succeeds, they dare not allow her to live…

Shai faces multiple challenges – Forging a soul is a complex task, one that is nigh impossible to do within a hundred days, and a task that requires her to intimately understand who the Emperor really is. Not just who he presents himself as, but his true self, a truth that may be lost with the Emperor’s memories. At the same time, she must plot an escape plan to get her beyond reach of her enemies. 

One of her captors, Gaotana, and close friend of the Emperor, makes himself available to her in this quest to learn the nature of the Emperor. As she probes the deepest motives of the Emperor, Gaotana finds himself questioning his beliefs about the evil nature of Forging. 

When Shai discovers that the Emperor lost his idealism, and his potential to be a great man, will she risk everything in a bid to restore to him the possibility of what he might have been?

Like all of Sanderson’s stories, this one captured me easily, even though it’s only short. It’s one of his most alien, though, and I found myself questioning this system of Forging and Seals more than I might question another magic system. Still, as the complexity of it revealed itself, I found myself more willing to suspend disbelief, particularly my scepticism that it would be possibly to replicate the almost infinite complexity that makes up a person to any kind of believable degree. Yet the evident level of complexity that went into Forging a Soul was sufficiently high to be believable.

An excellent fast read, highly recommended for readers looking for unique story worlds and magic systems. It won the 2013 Hugo Award for a Novella, and that really says it all.

This is an A to Z Blogging Challenge post. For more information about the challenge, check it out at A to Z Blogging. If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletterCheck out my March Newsletter if you missed it. 

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!

Audience Expectations: The Danger of Trying To Be All Things To All People

Audience Expectations

Last week I saw Brandon Sanderson was releasing a new book. Excited, I rushed off to find out when I could buy book 2 in The Stormlight Archive only to find Steelheart is the first book in a new dystopian series. 

What the…?

After some discussion with some folks, I learned that Brandon Sanderson apparently advocates writing multiple series at once in case some people don’t like one series or the other.


I see what he’s getting at, but I think it’s playing with fire. Readers already wait a long time for sequels in the fantasy market, and I was under the impression that his readers were already chomping at the bit because of how much of his time had been consumed by finishing The Wheel of Time. If you make them wait longer, by dividing your attention between series, you may frustrate them to the point of losing them.

I think this also applies to cross-genre writers. If you’re playing in two genres, readers won’t necessarily follow you. Sanderson can get away with epic fantasy and dystopian sci-fi, I think, because both are inside the speculative fiction genre. Hard SF, and erotic romance (separately, I don’t mean genre mash-ups or crossing genres), might be a tougher sell….

Anyway, I was mollified by the knowledge that the second Stormlight book is to be released soon, but still, I think it’s a dangerous course.

After this experience, I started listening to Keith Urban’s latest album, Fuse, and I am not happy (I know, jump to country music, but bear with me). Where’s the country at? I began to suspect the name Fuse was a reference to genre crossing, and it turns out I was half-right. Fuse is a move away from traditional country. Urban says he wasn’t trying to create a pop album, only to “capture a sonic energy” he hadn’t captured on other records, but the result is something that sounds more pop to me than country. For someone who just loves that country sound, this is disappointing.

Urban says “If I were a new artist, I don’t think I could have done this.” I would argue the opposite. If he were a new artist, no one

would yet have any expectations, and he could create whatever sound he wanted, and attract the fans who like that sound. With an existing fan base, you risk alienating them. How many of his other fans feel the same way? I don’t know, but it strikes me as risky.

The lesson?

Think about the expectations of your fans. I’m not saying you can’t branch out and experiment, but consider if it might lose you fans. And if you might, consider why you are doing it, and if it’s a good enough reason. Don’t just expect that readers will stay loyal to you if you try something new. Look what happened to JK Rowling with The Casual Vacancy – it’s now on the list of most unfinished books because so many readers started it and then stopped because it wasn’t what they expected from the author of Harry Potter.

In another word – branding. You create a brand, and fans are loyal to your brand, not you. Think about whether something fits within your brand, could damage your brand, or needs a new brand.

How do you feel as a reader if your favourite authors switch between series or genres? How do you feel when your expectations aren’t met?

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter. 


Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us.

Discovery Writers and A Memory of Light

So often a writer is asked if they are a plotter or a pantser. But what about someone in-between?

Apparently there is a name for this in the industry and it is ‘discovery writer’. This is a writer who plots a basic outline, but then isn’t afraid to follow the characters and the story wherever it might lead.

I came across the concept when I attended a Brandon Sanderson book-signing. As those of us who are Wheel of Time fans know, Brandon is responsible for finishing the saga following Robert Jordan’s untimely demise, and Brandon spoke to us a little bit about Robert Jordan, and used the term ‘discovery writer’ to describe him.

The story goes that when Robert Jordan first pitched The Wheel of Time to his publisher, he had a planned trilogy. His publisher said he loved the idea, but knew Robert Jordan tended to let his stories get away from him, and suggested a six-book deal, thinking that would be enough to get him the whole series even if it blew out. 

And as we sit here awaiting the fourteenth and final book in the series, we all laugh.

Evidently Robert Jordan was a discovery writer to the extreme, taking what was originally only a planned three book series and turning it into the epic saga we all know and love. The ideas must have flowed thick and fast as he wrote, and kept flowing for a good long time.

I don’t think a writer needs to turn a three book series into a fourteen book series to be a discovery writer, though. All it requires is a balance between plotting and pantsing, a need to outline the basic bones of the story, and then the desire and the willingness to follow where the characters lead.

I admit to being rather enamoured of the concept, because it seemed a fairly accurate description of my own writing process. I always outline my books these days, but the finished product may only bear a passing resemblance to that original outline at the most basic level.

So with Robert Jordan’s ‘discovery writer’ tendencies in mind, do you think Rand will die in A Memory of Light

Here’s what I think:
  • Maybe Rand was originally intended to die, but somewhere along the way that plan (if it ever existed) changed;
  • Sure, we know Rand has to bleed all over the rocks of Shayol Ghul, but that doesn’t mean death. Hey, a paper cut bleeds like hell;
  • Rand thinks he’s going to die – therefore it’s too obvious for him to do so;
  • You’d have to be one son of a b*tch to keep your readers waiting twenty years only to kill off the hero.
OK, you might say some of that is more wishful thinking than hard evidence, but that’s my line, and I’m sticking to it. Earlier in the series I was far more convinced Rand would die, but after The Towers of Midnight, I started to think he had a real chance. 

So what do you think? Is Rand going to live happily ever after, or do you think he’s going to get the sword?

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or subscribe to my newsletter.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!