#1 New York Times Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson meshes Jason Bourne, epic fantasy, and time travel together in a standalone adventure where an amnesiac wizard's only hope of survival in medieval England lies in recovering his missing memories. A man awakes in a clearing in what appears to be medieval England with no memory of who he is, where he came from, or why he is there. Chased by a group from his own time, his sole hope for survival lies in regaining his missing memories, making allies among the locals, and perhaps even trusting in their superstitious boasts. His only help from the "real world" should have been a guidebook entitled The Frugal Wizard's Handbook for Surviving Medieval England, except his copy exploded during transit. The few fragments he managed to save provide clues to his situation, but can he figure them out in time to survive? ****** Praise for Brandon Sanderson "Epic in every sense." -The Guardian on The Way of Kings "Brandon Sanderson's reputation is finally as big as his novels." -The New York Times on Words of Radiance "If you're a fan of fantasy and haven't read the Mistborn trilogy yet, you have no excuses." -Forbes on Mistborn "A fresh view of how a world can grow, building new dimensions into the best of the old. Sanderson continues to show that he is one of the best authors in the genre." -Library Journal (starred review) on The Alloy of Law "Sanderson's fresh ideas on the source and employment of magic are both arresting and original [...] Think brisk. Think fun. Enjoy." -Kirkus, on The Alloy of Law "Mystery, magic, romance, political wrangling, religious conflict, fights for equality, sharp writing and wonderful, robust characters...Sanderson is a writer to watch." -Publishers Weekly, starred review, on Elantris
Reviews with the most likes.
"The more I've studied history, the more I've maintained that great achievements aren't so much about aptitude as about timing."
This one never really came together for me. I had similar concerns going into Tress of the Emerald Sea, but I ended up finding it pretty charming in the end after I'd spent some time with it. This one lacked that charming part, and just felt a bit of a chore to get through. It just wasn't what I expect out of Sanderson, and even beyond that, it was just....fine. Even reading it blind without knowing who the author was, I probably wouldn't rate it much higher.
I'll keep this brief and un-spoilery. A man wakes up in a field, surrounded by burned grass, doesn't remember how he got there or what he was doing or even who he was. Around him in the burned grass are charred pages of some book; reading these he starts piecing small things together. Turns out he's bought a pocket dimension in medieval England, but now he's stranded and has to figure out what to do, how to get home, and how to help the local people that rescued him.
Right off the bat I'll say Johnny's tendency to mentally rate experiences (like a Yelp reviewer or something) really grated on my nerves. It always felt forced and shoehorned in, and even after it's directly addressed near the end it didn't help. The humor in this one, too, felt repetitive, with a lot of the same joke beats being hit each time. Lots of eyeroll jokes. I also wasn't really invested in Johnny as the main character, as he felt really bland and boring. He does get quite a bit of character development near the end, but it's basically dumped on you all at once and doesn't feel very authentic as a result. The side characters aren't really explored all that much either, which, I guess, is a product of the relatively short nature of the book.
I loved the artwork though! Most pages feature at least a doodle at the bottom, with several full color spreads throughout. The concept of buying your own dimension to live out your medieval fantasy in is interesting, but since this seems like a one-off novel I'm a bit disappointed it can't be explored more. The story itself is....fine. Serviceable, but not remarkable.
In summary, kind of a miss for me. An adequate book, but not really a Sanderson book.
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
At some point in the future, scientists discover the ability to move between parallel dimensions, and even find a group of them capable of sustaining human life—and buy/license exclusive access to some of them with histories and developments similar to our own, but delayed somewhat, so that visitors from “our” world look advanced. And then you “sell” these universes to people who are looking for the ultimate getaway.
Sure, sometimes you temporarily lose your memory when you travel to your new dimension. So you need to write everything you need to know in a book that you carry with you. But if things get bumpy in your entry, that book might catch on fire, removing a lot of your information—so it takes a bit to recover your memory. Which is what happens to John West when he wakes up in a version of medieval England.
I know that Sanderson keeps saying that John West is inspired by Jason Bourne—but that suggests that he’s competent on multiple/several levels and that’s not John. He’s not even a Samantha Caine. He’s more like a Myfanwy Thomas. But for the sake of discussion, let’s go with Bourne okay?
Imagine Bourne wakes up in Terry Brooks’ Landover, and tries to pull off a Hank Morgan-con to convince the locals that he’s a wizard with great power. Throw in a little bit of Wizard in Rhyme‘s mixing of math/quantum physics into fantasy and a Douglas Adams-ish book-within-the-book (heavy on the “ish”) and you’ve got this book.
Oh, and mobsters from his time are wandering around, as is at least one undercover policeman. And they all know John West—and he’s not on anyone’s good side.
I recognize—and want to remind everyone—that this is a completely subjective thing, and if I’d read this two months ago or two months from now, I’d react differently. But…this was good. Not great. Certainly not bad. Good—but somehow underwhelming.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling the whole time that I should be enjoying it more than I was. I like the tone (although it felt like Sanderson was holding back and wouldn’t let this get as funny, snarky, or whatever as it should’ve been). I love the premise, the characters, the twists, etc., etc., etc. But…it felt restrained? Like he’s trying to assure everyone that no matter what he’s still Brandon Sanderson—he’s not going full-comedy (or whatever). I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d put this out under a pen name if he’d been able to let loose a bit more. If Scalzi, Cline, or Meyer had done this? Absolutely would’ve worked.
It’s been bugging me for days—I absolutely should’ve been raving about this, or at least enthusiastically talking about it. But I’m not. There’s utterly nothing I can point to that explains it, either. All the elements are there for the kind of book that I love, and they were combined to just become something that I liked. Explain that one, Gestalt.
I absolutely recommend this—and think that many readers will find it as enjoyable as I thought I should. And even if you walk away with the same whelmed-level as I did, you’ll have had a good time. But I’m not sure you should rush to it.
Originally posted at irresponsiblereader.com.