The Well of Ascension
Author – Brandon Sanderson
Pages: 817 pages
Release Date: June 3rd, 2008
In my review of Brandon Sanderson’s The Final Empire, the first volume in his Mistborn trilogy, I lauded it as a novel that returned me to my roots as a reader of Fantasy. It brought back memories of first getting into the genre and reading the likes of Terry Brooks, Raymond E. Feist and R.A. Salvatore.
Furthering its success was Sanderson’s ability to take the cliches of the genre, which the aforementioned authors were chock full of, and flip them on their head, pulling the rug out from under readers, so comfortable with genre tropes, just as they began to feel like they had a grip on the story. The Final Empire was a story of likeable characters, imaginative world-building and genuinely shocking twists. Unfortunately, The Well of Ascension takes most of these strengths… and tosses them out the window in favour of a hard-to-swallow love story and a drawn-out siege with the heroes caught between two armies. Luckily we still have one hell of a twist to end the novel off.
With the Lord Ruler seemingly defeated, Sanderson was set to explore territory not often touched upon in the Fantasy genre: how a world reacts when the evil lord has fallen and freedom is within grasp. Sanderson presents a world on the edge of chaos, one that has to transition from a society ground under the oppressive rules of the Lord Ruler to one that has to manage itself, to figure out how to right the wrongs set by a thousand-year-old regime, and why it might not be so easy to rule with kindness, compassion and democracy. Where The Final Empire was a successful character-driven caper novel, The Well of Ascension is a political stalemate led by a naive youngster.
The Well of Ascension is defined less by what it has, and more by what it’s missing. Kelsier, the dashing lead of The Final Empire is gone, and with him goes most of the charisma and fun that defined the first novel. In his place is Elend Venture, the aforementioned naive youngster, who made a strong impression when he was first introduced in The Final Empire, but utterly fails to live up to it in The Well of Ascension. Gone is the confident, aloof individual that helps bring down a tyrant, and in his place is a nervous, self-righteous boy who has little idea how to handle his newfound power. Of course Sanderson sets up The Well of Ascension as a novel about growing into oneself, and making sacrifices for the greater good, which gives Elend (and Vin) room to grow. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that the extended siege (which takes up the majority of the novel) was an excuse to halt the more interesting aspects of the story (what exactly the Lord Ruler was warning against at the end of The Final Empire; where Kelsier discovered the fabled Eleventh Metal; Marsh and his infiltration of the the Steel Inquisitors), allowing Sanderson to self-indulgently explore his philosophies on leadership and bog down the story with boring politics that just don’t hold up against other novels in the genre.
After a bit of Facebook-fueled begging from myself and Blake Charlton, Daniel Abraham, author of The Long Price Quartet, revealed the cover art for his upcoming short fiction collection Leviathan Wept, coming next year from Subterranean Press.
Stories included in the collection:
The Cambist and Lord Iron
The Best Monkey
The Support Technician Tango
A Hunter in Arin-Qin
The Curandero and the Swede
Knowing Subterranean Press and Daniel Abraham, I’m sure book will be just as beautiful as the words between the covers!
Okay, this is seriously cool. An artist named Sillof has recreated the Star Wars cast in a Steampunk style. Click the pictures to embiggen.
This line is my attempt to redesign the Star Wars universe in an antiquated Victorian style.
This line is a three part series. It features my favorite aesthetic…old. I love the clunky old-fashioned look of the industrial era. It is kind of steampunk, but not really, which is why I changed the name of the line. It is influenced by Jules Verne, HG Welles, Terry Gilliam, Guillermo Del Toro, etc. But I feel it has my own unique sensibilities as well.
There are detail shots of all of the characters over at Sillof’s Workshop, the website of the artist behind the conversions. Even more is available on his deviantART Gallery.
Best known for His Dark Materials, an allegorical look at religion disguised as a great YA trilogy, Philip Pullman is back to dissecting the Christian faith in a not-so-veiled manner. His next novel, title The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is sure to turn as many heads as His Dark Materials ever did.
The book will provide a new account of the life of Jesus, challenging the gospels and arguing that the version in the New Testament was shaped by the apostle Paul. “By the time the gospels were being written, Paul had already begun to transform the story of Jesus into something altogether new and extraordinary, and some of his version influenced what the gospel writers put in theirs,” said Pullman, who last year pronounced himself delighted that the His Dark Materials trilogy was one of the most “challenged” series in America’s libraries, boasting the most requests for removal from the shelves because of its “religious viewpoint”.
His new book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, will be published next Easter as part of Scottish independent press Canongate’s Myths series, which has also seen Margaret Atwood tackle The Odyssey from the perspective of Odysseus’s wife Penelope, Jeanette Winterson retell the myth of Atlas and Heracles and Michel Faber take on Prometheus with a modern retelling which sees an academic discover a fifth gospel. In Faber’s version, Jesus’s last words on the cross are “please, somebody, please finish me”, and one of his last actions is to urinate on the head of the gospel’s author.
“Paul was a literary and imaginative genius of the first order who has probably had more influence on the history of the world than any other human being, Jesus certainly included. I believe this is a pity,” said Pullman. “The story I tell comes out of the tension within the dual nature of Jesus Christ, but what I do with it is my responsibility alone. Parts of it read like a novel, parts like a history, and parts like a fairy tale; I wanted it to be like that because it is, among other things, a story about how stories become stories.”
It may be a departure from the Fantasy genre that launched Pullman’s career, but in a post-Dan Brown world, it’s hard to imagine that a story like this won’t hit a huge audience. Plus, Pullman can tell a hell of a story, regardless of being shackled down by real-world history. In fact, it seems the strength of this novel, and the whole drive behind the story, is exploring how history gets warped and twisted by those that record it.
I’m not a religious person, but between my enjoyment of Pullman’s earlier novels and a general interest in the history of religion (and controversial religious studies), I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this for a rainy day when I need a break from the genre.
Taking a page out of Hellgate: London (which crashed and burned, hard) and Maple Story (which is a huge success), Dungeons and Dragons Online is going free-to-play, with micro-transactions included for those really serious about the game. The official web site gives a little rundown:
DDO Unlimited introduces an innovative new way to play – you can download and play DDO for free! For even more action and fun, you can purchase additional adventures, convenience items, and account services at your leisure from the new DDO Store. Can’t get enough of DDO? You can even subscribe, becoming a “VIP”, to get unlimited access to all of the game’s content.
An article on Gameindustry.biz sheds a bit of light on why DDO went free-to-play:
The US-only, free-to-play makeover for the MMO turns regular subscribers into VIP members and gives access to all game content as well as a monthly Turbine Point allowance. But, said Mersky, the company has still profited from Turbine Point sales.
“They all got a ton of points for being loyal subscribers, for being in the beta. We weren’t really expecting a ton of sales – they had no incentive to. They already had access to all of the content as VIP subscribers, and we just gave them a butt-load of Points,” Mersky told Kotaku, as reported by Eurogamer.
“They’ve gone through their points, and we’ve already sold millions more Turbine points, and we’ve not even opened up the world to the public yet.”
“The hottest selling items are the new Favored Soul class, which is unlockable in-game, but all of our subs just went ahead and spent points on it, unlocked it, and they’re playing it right now,” he added.
[...] Alongside the switch to a free-to-play model comes Module 9, which raises the level cap, adds two new storylines, overhauls the combat system and introduces the Favored Soul. Module 9 will also be released as a regular free update to European subscribers.
You can create an account and download the game HERE.