Friday, February 28, 2014

The Way of Kings: The Stormlight Archive, Book 1, by Brandon Sanderson [Dedication to Paco de Lucia]

This blog post is dedicated to Paco de Lucia, famed Spanish flamenco guitarist. Please see full Dedication, below.
The Way of Kings: The Stormlight
Archive, Book 1
, by Brandon Sanderson. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is the first book of The Stormlight Archives. Sanderson's book first appeared in August of 2010. Soon after, it became wildly popular with epic fantasy readers. It was so popular that in In 2011, The Way of Kings was nominated, and then won the prestigious David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Novel. 

Other awards garnered by the novel include the Whitney Awards for Best Speculative Fiction, 2010 and Whitney Awards for the Best Novel of the Year, 2010. The Way of Kings was also nominated in 2010 for the Goodreads Choice Awards. Additionally, The Way of Kings opening week sales placed it as number 7 on the New York Time's Best Seller List (in subsequent weeks it remained in the top twenty-five as a best seller).

The Way of Kings: The Stormlight Archive, Book 1, won
The David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Novel, 2011.[2]
     Back in 2010, I saw the promotional ads for the book, read the synopsis for it, and became very excited about the new series. I promptly put in a preorder for the book. I received it on the day of release, August 31, 2010, and soon had the book devoured--even though the book numbered some 1009 pages.

     I reread the huge tome last week in anticipation of Brandon Sanderson's upcoming release of book two of the Stormlight Archive series: Words of Radiance. Since it's been three and one-half years since I read book 1, I wanted to refresh my memory of the events so that when I took up Words of Radiance (book 2), I would have a smooth transition with no lapses of memory as to what transpired in the first book. Of course, I also wanted to revisit my thorough enjoyment of this wonderful novel.

     Last year my very first blog post topic was "My Top Ten Favorite Books" that I had ever read. In my post, I had placed The Way of Kings in the number two slot of my top ten favorite books. One of my very first readers of this blog saw the book on the list and asked me to do a review of that book. Even though it is one of my most favorite books I have ever read, I put off doing the review.

     I put off doing that review, because I knew that Words of Radiance, book 2 in this new series, would be coming out in the beginning of 2014. I also knew that I wanted to write the review for The Way of Kings shortly before the new book was published. I have been waiting, it seems like a long time, to be able to do this book review. And now, at last, I get to share this book with you.  

The Way of Kings and its genre: Brandon Sanderson's book is an epic fantasy. Generally, stories that are epic consist of three notable attributes: (1) the time-span of the story lasts for years, sometimes decades or even centuries. (2) To write such a story, multiple books are needed, consisting of at least three books, a trilogy, although many epics use far more than three. (3) And finally, the epic story contains a large back-story or universe, or life-system, allowing the author latitude in drafting a complex story interwoven with various and multiple story lines and themes.

    Sanderson, apparently, plans The Stormlight Archive to consist of a series of ten novels. The first book came in at 1009 pages, and the soon-to-be-released, Words of Radiance, will number 1088 pages. If the other novels are of a similar length, we will see the series number about 10,500 pages. A lot of reading time. Those who love reading in the epic fantasy genre, generally, don't mind those big numbers.

Rereading can be fun! [5]
     The thing is, the readers LOVE the story, seeing it unfold, savoring the complexity of intricate story lines, and holding their breath in anticipation of the big "reveal(s)." Some die-hard epic fantasy genre fans wish their favorite books had more pages, not fewer--they just hate to see the story end. Many love their stories so much that they read and reread, again and again, their beloved novels, while waiting in anticipation for the much longed-for next novel.

Szeth-son-son-Vallano. His
extraordinary skill in use of
the Shardblade and as a
wielder of Stormlight makes
him a very deadly assassin--
he is unbeatable (in this book).[6]


STORMLIGHT:    What is this world like, this Way of Kings world? As the book opens, Death comes wearing white. We follow the steps of Szeth, a deadly assassin, and learn just how deadly he is. We observe him wield "stormlight," a kind of magical energy that allows him to bind things together--binding guards to the ceiling to keep them out of the way, or binding furniture to the guards (in effect, throwing furniture at them), or lashing himself to a wall or ceiling and walking along fighting the guards to give himself the advantage.

SHARDBLADE & SHARDPLATE:     What is his weapon? Szeth is equipped with a terrifying type of sword known as a "shardblade." The shardblade can cut through stone or rock, and if dropped it vanishes, but can be summoned back, reappearing in the hand in ten heartbeats. Szeth is highly skilled, cunning, and deadly effective. We read as King Gavilar, who, like Szeth, is a skilled fighter and wielder of the shardblade, and wears shardplate, is killed. Szeth is lethal.

Field of Blades. [7]
YOU KEEP WHAT YOU KILL:    Learning about stormlight, shardblades and shardplate introduces the initial major concepts into the story. Concepts, that Sanderson builds upon to introduce related concepts. For example, we learn that "shardblades" belong to history, as much as they do the present.

     Shardblades were the swords wielded by the Knights Radiant, and abandoned. From that time forward, to attain near-invincibility on the battlefield, the blades were fought over, killed for, and friends betrayed friends, just to possess them.

     And all of this came about because, if you kill a wielder of the shardblade, you get to keep the shardblade and armor. It almost sounds like a line from the Riddick movie, "You keep what you kill."


     Four, arguably five, major characters define the circumference of Brandon Sanderson's epic novel. I've already told you about SZETH, he's the Shin assassin in white who kills King Gavilar. A mystery surrounds Szeth as to why the Shin people sold him to the merchant Thresh in the first place, and why is he a "Truthless?"; Thresh later tells us he regrets trading him away. We also don't know how the Parshendi came to be Szeth's masters--we know they were at one point because Szeth tells us he walked by his Parshendi masters, seated away from the others at the banquet. Second, what was the "small crystaline sphere tied to a chain (p.33)" that Gavilar gave to Szeth saying, "You must take this. They must not get it."? Who musn't get it? Get what--what is it, anyway? What does it do? What's its meaning/purpose? Ah, me.

     And neither do we know the answer to one of the really big questions in the book: Why did the Parshendi take credit for King Gavilar's murder? Even Gavilar said, "That makes no sense." The final mystery about Szeth centers around King Taravangian of Kharbranth: What is the King planning that would cause him to send Szeth on assignment to kill Dalinar? My, my, my...I can see a lot of sword play coming up in the next book! Szeth is truly an exciting and mysterious character! An assassin who hates killing and murder? How'd he get wrapped up into that?

The Alethi Codes of War dates from the time of
the Knights Radiant. After Gavilar's death,
Dalinar took up the cause of the Codes
and by the end of The Way of Kings, when
he is appointed to be the Highprince of War,
Dalinar intends to make all the 10 warcamps
follow the precepts. [9]

DALINAR: Well, I tipped my hand in the previous paragraphs, didn't I? Yes, Dalinar, known as, "The Blackthorn," is brother to the murdered King Gavilar--so, the connection is obvious. Szeth's honor made him pass on to Dalinar the message from his brother, King Gavilar as he lay dying: "To Szeth's people, a dying request was sacred. He [Szeth] took the king's hand, dipping it in the man's own blood, then used it to scrawl on the wood, 'Brother. You must find the most important words a man can say' " (p.33).

     We find out later, the words must come from the book, The Way of Kings, written by Nohodan thousands of years before, as a guide towards an ideal way of living and behaving. King Gavilar had begun following, "The Codes," as they are called from, The Way of Kings, before his death. Now Dalinar has taken up the gauntlet, so to speak, and is having visions as did his brother, Gavilar, and also like Gavilar, is trying to follow the Codes as a way of right living. Dalinar reads the passages of The Way of Kings (intermittently having "visions" of the past), trying to decipher what the "most important words a man can say," means...but so far has been unsuccessful. Everyone is beginning to think he is crazy, and even Dalinar's devoted son, Andolin is beginning to doubt his father's sanity.
King Elohakar is being saved by Dalinar in a supreme effort
of strength and will to save his brother's son. The massive
chasmfiend is eventually killed with the assistance of Ando-
lin Kholin (Dalinar's son, who is not shown) who also wears
Shardplate armor and wields a Shardblade. The Shardplate
gives the wearer supreme protection,agility,and strength.[10]

     The war against the Parshendi peoples take place at the Parshendi homeland, The Shattered Plains. All ten high lords have signed the Vengeance Pact, and are gathered in war camps.

     Having been encamped at The Shattered Plains for over six years, there is plenty of time for unorthadox activities, like hunting "Chasmfiends," for sport and recreation. Oh yeah, you can also get a valuable "gemheart" from the beast (I'll explain about gemhearts, shortly, a little further down.). On an expedition out hunting for chasmfiends, King Elhokar's life is threatened by a huge chasmfiend--Dalinar, however, using the strength given him by his shardplate, prevented the King from being crushed by the monster.

The Shattered Plains--5 (of the 10) war camps can be seen, here, at the edge
of the plateaus and chasms. Note the bridges over the chasms
leading from one plateau to the next, in this night scene. [11]
    The third important char- acter for the book is Kala- din. His story seems unrelated to what's going on at The Shat- tered Plains, be- cause we first see him as a squadleader in Amaram's army trying to save inexperi- enced boys from death on the battle- field. Kaladin (called "Stormblessed" by his men) hopes that by performing well on the field of battle, he and his squad will win a spot in the King's army at The Shattered Plains.

Kaladin and Syl are two prominent char-
acters in the book. Each grows into some-
thing more than they were originally. [I
hear another "Riddick" line, here:
"We all began as something else."] [12]

     After a good bit of skirmishing on the field, Kaladin and his squad get caught up in an incident that changes his life forever. He saves the life of the commander (Amaram) by killing a shardbearer. Honorable and generous, Kaladin gives the plate and blade to his surviving squad members. It spells his doom. Amaram, lusting after the plate and blade, kill all that remain of Kaladin's squad, including the boy, Cenn.

     To further hush up the story, Kaladin is beaten, then sold as a slave. We find out in flashbacks that Amaram also caused the death of Tien, Kaladin's brother, whom Kaladin joined the army to protect. The flashbacks also provide the backstory about Kaladin's youth and how he joined the army with his brother, Tien.

     Making his way to the Shattered Plains in a cage on a wagon to be sold to the army as slave labor, Kaladin first starts seeing a Spren who has taken a liking to him--she plays tricks on him and eventually starts talking to him. Annoyed, he tries to shoo her away, but she keeps hanging around annoying him. Eventually, she befriends him and he finds out her name is "Syl." Later on in the book, Syl tells Kaladin, "I bind things, Kaladin...I am honorspren. Spirit of oaths. Of promises. And of nobility."

     Sadeas, one of the ten high lords, signer to the VENGEANCE PACT, and friend to the murdered King, Gavilar, buys Kaladin (through a purchase agent), and he is quickly put onto bridge team 4 to work as a bridgeman. Kaladin feels hopeless and wants to take the "honor" walk off a nearby cliff to end it all--as so many others have. Syl, convinces him to stay, and Kaladin struggles to find a way to want to live again. We learn that only some people can see Spren, Kaladin is one, and later two other bridgemen, "Rock" and "Teft," can see her.

     Kaladin grows, survives even more setbacks, but in the end his honor has earned him the loyalty of all the other bridgemen. He devises new ways to carry and use bridge 4, inadvertently causing Sadeas' army's defeat--he is severely punished, but survives (thanks to Syl and his improved healing ability using Stormlight). He and his bridgeteam make plans to escape, but a climactic turn of events causes Kaladin's life to be dramatically changed forever. Sadeas betrays Dalinar, Andolin, and their men by withdrawing and taking all the portable bridges with them (including bridge 4). [I couldn't believe it! SADEAS, YOU TURKEY!]

Kaladin is able to attract arrows shot at his crew of
bridge four, to his shield; thereby, protecting them. [13]
     But then, just when you think the army is about to be totally destroyed, Bridgeteam 4, with Kaladin as the leader, disobeys their commander's orders--they return to save Dalinar and his son Andolin, and what's left of the army. They run back across the plateau and place the bridge over the chasm.

     The bridgemen fight, and hold the bridge to prevent the Parshendi from seizing it; meanwhile, Dalinar and Andolin see the bridgemen coming for them--the soldiers fight their way towards the bridge. In the climax of the book, Kaladin "Stormblessed" takes in as much "stormlight" as he can hold and begins fighting with his spear. The ensuing battle is one you will not want to miss reading about. It is one of the best fight scenes in any fantasy novel that I have ever read. WOW! Brandon Sanderson, can you write!
Kaladin "Stormblessed" is back. Kaladin is glowing with stored-up "Stormlight." He releases the energy as he fights, using it to give him speed, endurance, strength, and agility. Hmmmm? Kind of sounds a little like the Knights RADIENT, to me. [14]

     I have many unresolved questions about things that happen in the book. But, in the climatic battle, what was going on with the Parshendi Shardbearer (The Shardbearer didn't kill Dalinar when he could, but he leaned down to Dalinar, on the ground, and spoke in a thick Alethi accent (Not Parshendi.)? He told Dalinar, "It is you...I have found you at last."). The scene is interrupted, so the reader doesn't know what the import of it is.  Humpf.

   Next, we meet the fourth (and debateably, the fifth) most important characters in the book: SHALLAN DAVAR and PRINCESS JASNA: What do two women have to do with a story that is so obviously militaristic? It's true, they don't show up on the battlefield dressed in armor, ready to do battle as the Valkyries of old. And, no, they don't wear shardplate and wield a shardblade (Although in Dalinar's visions, he saw female Knights Radiant--that shocked him! I imagine, so.). But, the women do play important parts in the story.

Princess Jasna's "Soulcaster." The caster can use various
types of gems, from diamonds and rubies to the valuable gems
harvested only from the "gem" hearts of the chasmfiends.
They are extremely valuable and necessary to use the soul-
caster. The types of gems used determine what the soul-
caster can transform. To make the soulcaster useable, they
must be infused with "stormlight." Those in Jasna's soulcaster
were "smokestone, a pure glassy black gemstone...[t]he
second was a diamond...[t]he third was a ruby...[a]ll three
were cut--a cut stone could hold more Stormlight--into
glistening, many-faceted oval shapes" (p.90). [15]
     SHALLAN is propelled into the story by a family crisis. Her father, a merchant from Jah Keved (where, outside of Alethkar, the most shardblades are possessed), dies leaving the family without funds; his one prize possession, a "soulcaster" bracelet is found irretrievably broken in his pocket. And to make matters worse, family debts will soon come due for payment--the thing is, the people they owe are not so understanding. If they don't pay with money, they pay with their lives.

     The family hatches a scheme to save themselves. Shallan will go to Princess Jasna, become her ward and apprentice, ingratiate herself with her, then once she is trusted, switch her father's broken Soulcaster with Princess Jasna's working one; after she steals the bracelet she will hop a ship and head home. [I wonder who hatched up this idea. Was it the family Steward?]

The City of the Bells, Kharbranth. King Taravantian's
city-country. It is a small country, only one city.
Here is where Shallan caught up to Princess Jasna. [16]
   It sounds like a simple enough plan, but as you may have guessed, things do not go the way they were planned. Prin- cess Jasna has been traveling, going to great cities to use their great libraries for her research. Shallan eventually catches up to Prin- cess Jasna at the port city of Kharbranth, home of King Tara- vangian.

     Shallan has a tough time, but eventually, she convinces Princess Jasna to apprentice her; the women begin work on a very special research project that we only learn about in bits and pieces, though. Princess Jasna also has Shallan researching King Gavilar's death. Hmmm. Just a coincidence?

     Shallan's moral compass starts causing her pain. She questions what she is doing, and starts thinking about deep moral issues. When Princess Jasna kills some men who have been robbing and murdering people, Shallan's own conscience causes her distress and she contemplates the morality of her own actions. Though in distress, she eventually is able to switch the Soulcasters, taking the working one and giving Princess Jasna the broken one.

     Time goes on, yet Jasna says nothing. An Ardent, Brother Kabsal, makes friends with Shallan. Shallan learns that the Ardent's would dearly love to have Jasna's Soulcaster; Kabsul admits he contemplated stealing it, but that he was ordered not to steal it. Kabsul confesses that he would like to convert Jasna since the Ardent's are upset with Jasna for being a heretic.

     Finally, things come to a crisis when gentle, sweet, religious, devoted, Ardent Kabsal, brings poisoned bread--all three eat it. Kabsal falls over dead, and Shallan, about to die, gives Jasna the "real" Soulcaster she's been carrying in her pouch. Jasna Soulcasts the poison out of Shallan and saves her. The jig is up.

     Jasna is about to send Shallan away for her thievery and deceit, but is confronted by Shallan. Shallan realized that Princess Jasna didn't need a Soulcaster, that she could Soulcast without use of a device. Shallan confessed to Jasna that she had recently discovered she could Soulcast without a Soulcaster device, as well. I never really liked Shallan all that well as a character, but hopefully, she will get  to redeem herself and follow a path with more honesty and integrity.

This is what a chasmfiend's gemheart
is suppose to look like. [17]
     Jasna tells Shallan that, "Two orders of the Knights Radiant possessed inherent Soulcasting ability; it was based on their powers that the original fabrials were designed, I believe. I had assumed that you... But no, that obviously wouldn't make sense." WHAT WOULDN'T MAKE SENSE? Come on Jasna, what do the Knights Radiant have to do with you and Shallan's ability to Soulcast? Aargh! Drop a few more hints why don't you?

     Jasna also learns that Shallan can access Shadesmar. [Another concept I won't go into much here: Shadesmar. Shadesmar is described in the book; succinctly, it is a location you can be transported to, that Shallan, Jasna, and Hoid (aka, Wit--Wit is a mysterious character who becomes King Elhokar's "Wit" and is also seen in a mysterious meeting with Kaladin. I'm sure we'll see him more in book 2.) are able to access.].

You can see the area bordering Alethkar, on
the left, Jah Keved. This is where the most
shardblades exist outside of Alethkar. War
with Jah Keved would be devastating. And,
we know that Sveth has assassinated the King
of Jah Keved (King Hanavar); Jah Keved is also
where Shallan is from, her father, her brother,
Nan Balat, and of course, the family Steward.
The Steward and her father were, certainly,
members of the Ghostbloods. What's going on
in Jah Keved? Note: On this map (lower right)
you can see the Shattered Plains in relation
to the other areas. [18]
    Shallan promises never to lie or deceive Jasna again, and Jasna accepts Shallan back again as her apprentice. Jasna tells Shallan she shall have to learn all about the "Voidbringers." Now, with this reveal, we know Jasna is a big part of what is threatening the world.

     As they did in the previous "Desolations," the Voidbringers are coming again--and perhaps this time they will destroy the world, utterly. Jasna reveals that she believes that the Parshendi are the Voidbringers, that instead of destroying them, the people of Roshar enslaved them. Jasna said, "They serve our our storehouses...tend our children...." Shallan responded, "Stormfather... Shal- lan whispered, horrified" (pp.980-990).

     Finally, Jasna reveals to Shallan that "Brother Kabsal" tried to kill her for the secrets she had just revealed to Shallan. She said that Kabsul belonged to a sect called the "Ghostbloods," and the reason she knew...they found the "Ghostbloods" symbol tattooed onto the inside of his arm.

     Shallan, after seeing the drawing of the three overlapping diamonds tattoo, appears flabbergasted. Shallan remembers her brother (Nan Balat) showing her the symbol worn by Luesh, her father's steward, the Soulcaster user; Shallan also realizes that the men who came to pressure her family into returning the Soulcaster wore the same symbol. Shallan confesses, "Jasna, I think... I think my father might have been a member of this group." Wowsers! Bombshell time! And, Holy Mackerel! What's next?

     We started out with Szeth, an assassin from Shin, he kills King Gavilar. The Parshendi people take credit for the murder and Alethkar declares war on the Parshendi. Gavilar is married to Navani Kholin and together they have two children: Princess Jasna and King Elhokar. Dalinhar Kholin is brother to King Gavilar, his two sons are Andolin Knolin (heir to Dalinar) and Prince Renarin. Dalinar and Andolin together save King Elhokar on the Chasmfiend Hunt, which Sadeas takes part in. Sadeas is very successful in the war against the Parshendi People because of his ideas of using "bridgemen" who carry portable bridges to cross the chasms. Amaram betrays Kaladin, causing the death of Tien, Kaladin's brother. Then Amaram kills Kaladin's company, takes the trophy shardplate and shardblade and sells Kaladin into slavery. Kaladin becomes a bridgeman and (with Bridge Team 4) eventually saves Dalinar and Andolin and their troops from complete slaughter. Princess Jasna is secretly researching the Voidbringers and takes on Shallan Davar as an apprentice. We learn Shallan's family, father and perhaps Steward belong to the secret "Ghostbloods." It is the "Ghostbloods" who are trying to get Jasna's Soulcaster, and to assassinate her for her unbelief in the gods. It is clear, Brother Kabsal is a "Ghostblood" and wants to assassinate Princess Jasna, we are not clear whether Kabsal was tied in anyway to King Taravangian and the port city kingdom of Kharbranth--the City where Jasna and Shallan are staying. King Taravangian is the clandestine power moving the assassin, Szeth, and who, of late, has assassinated the King of Jah Kheved (and two score of other important people and princes); Jah Kheved is, after Alethkar, the holder of the most shardblades and shardplate. War between the two countries would be devastating. Finally, Grump, Tinker and Blunt (three unknown characters) hire Ishikk, to act as an agent to find a man named, "Hoid." Hoid becomes King Elhokar's, jester, of sorts, and is known as "Wit." Wit is a mysterious character and has a secret meeting with Kaladin (Kaladin has a dream about "Odion" coming to destroy the world.). We also see Wit, or Hoid, at the end of the book with one of the ten Heralds, Talenel'Elin, Stonesinew, Herald of the Almighty, announcing the onset of the Desolations.  

Shallan and Jasna in a scene together--
Princess Jasna has just accepted Shallan
as her ward and apprentice. [19]

Life before death, Teft said, wagging a finger at Kaladin...Living is harder than dying. The Radiant's duty is to live...Strength before weakness. All men are weak at some time in their lives. The Radiant protects those who are weak, and uses his strength for others. Strength does not make one capable of rule; it makes one capable of service....Journey before destination. There are always several ways to achieve a goal. Failure is preferable to winning through unjust means. Protecting ten innocents is not worth killing one. In the end, all men die. How you lived will be far more important to the Almighty than what you accomplished. The Almighty? So the knights were tied to religion [Kaladin]? Isn't everything [said Teft]? (p.831)
     I know it sounds hokey, but I really like the words Teft gives Kaladin. It seems a beautiful way to live life. The concept of how you live your life as being more important than what you accomplish, your honors and awards, the money you made, the prestige, whether you are beautiful or handsome, and how much fame or esteem other people have for you or give to you. I really like this!

This is one of the many pages of
Shallan's drawing in her sketchbook.
Shallan's ability to draw is one of her
prominent abilities. [20]
Then he spoke in a clear, crisp voice. "Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination. Speak again the ancient oaths and return to men the Shards they once bore." He turned to Dalinar, meeting his eyes. "The Knights Radiant must Stand again" (p.997).
     I won't tell you everything that happens in this last vision. But it is ominous. I would like to know what "Dawnshards" are (the golden figure in the vision speaks of them)! The golden figure indicates that someone must lead the people and that perhaps a champion might "work well," but even that was not certain. Such uncertainty.

     And then in the last pages we see Talenel'Elin, Stonesinew, Herald of the Almighty (One of the ten Heralds mentioned, before). He makes the pronouncement, "The Desolation has come." So, book 2 promises a lot of action, I'm sure, some big reveals, and, of course, Sanderson won't let us off without keeping us in the dark about what some of the future holds--not with more books in the works.

     Always, in any book that has violence, I caution parents to read the material before letting their young children read it. So, for young readers of those who have sensitive natures, be aware, that violent scenes and murder exist in this book. For all others of appropriate age, especially those who love fantasy novels, this book will be a most beloved book. Read it and enjoy it. My rating should come as no surprise to the readers of this blog. I give out very few five star ratings. This is one that has most definitely earned it.

     Thank you for taking time to read about this exciting book, The Way of Kings, Stormlight Archive, Book 1, by Brandon Sanderson. I hope to join you next week for another book review. [Between you and me, If I can manage it, I will bring you the book review of Words of Radiance, Stormlight Archive, Book 2, by Brandon Sanderson. The book will hit bookstands on Tuesday, March 4, 2014--so that doesn't give me a lot of time to read the 1088 page book and to write the book review. No promises. I will, however, do my best.] Please take one more minute to read the full dedication for this blog post today for Paco de Lucia. Thank you for your time and attention to this important man.

Paco de Lucia, with his passion. [22]
     BELOVED Paco de Lucia passed away Tuesday, February 25, 2014 (As I write this blog post, for me it was yesterday.). Pablo de Lucia, a famed Spanish flamenco guitarist, composer and producer was, even in his late 20s, one of history's greatest guitarists, according to author of Guitar Atlas, Dennis Koster. de Lucia was noted for creating the "modern style" of flamenco and incorporating the harmonics of progressive jazz with the more sophisticated Latin-influenced methods to the traditional rhythms.

     Koster says that because of de Lucia's influence, more excellent flamenco artists exist today than at any time in the past. Some of de Lucia's notable creations include Entre dos Aguas (I love this one); Friday Nights in San Francisco (1981, with infusion artist Al Di Meola and jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, to also complete:), Passion, Grace and Fire (1983), and The Guitar Trio (1996), and De Lucia's Luzia (1999). I especially liked watching videos of him playing so I could see his fingerwork (like, Tico Tico). I just loved watching him play. Many consider him to be the best guitar player in the world.

     I fell in love with de Lucia's music after hearing his recording, "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" (1995) from the film, Don Juan de Marco. But anyone who has listened to de Lucia's music knows you can't just listen to one of his pieces of grabs you and you must have more. So, I am thankful for that film having been made, as it exposed me to a whole new world of flamenco music. I think I was attracted to his music, at least partly, because, as a young woman, I learned to play the guitar (not flamenco, and I must confess, I was not very good at it). But I love and appreciate the music. All day today, as I have been working on drafting this blog post, I have been listening to his music and watching YouTube videos of him playing. I am grateful that I live in a time where we have these recordings to look at and listen to of great people performing, like Paco de Lucia. I wish I could have heard him in person--that must have been a gift beyond belief. I feel very sad today that the world has lost such a great artist, one who moves peoples souls through the creation of such passionate music. 

     My condolences go out to all of Paco de Lucia's family and his friends. My condolences also to the people of Algeciras and all of all who loved and admired him and his work. Finally, my condolences to all who sorrow over his passing. Once heard, his music is with us forever in our hearts. Vaya con Dios, Paco de Lucia.

Until next time...
White Rose. [24]
...many happy pages of reading!

All my love to you.


[1] "The Way of Kings: The Stormlight Archive, Book 1." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[2] "The David Gemmell Legend Award Finalists." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[3] "Words of Radiance: The Stormlight Archive, Book 2." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[4] "New Yorker Cartoon: It's an Epic Novel...." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[5] "Advice Mallard: Reread a Book." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[6] "The Way of Kings-Szeth." [by inkthinker] inkthinker.deviantart. Retrieved 02-28-14.
[7] "Field of Blades." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[8] "Taravangian." [by Botanica Xu] Retrieved 02-28-14.
[9] "Alethi Codes of War." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[10] "Chasmfiend." [mightyScent] Retrieved 02-28-14.
[11] "The Shattered Plains." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[12] "The Way of Kings Kaladin." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[13] "Kaladin Stormblessed." [by michaelwhelan] Retrieved 02-28-14.
[14] "Kaladin Stormblessed.jpg." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[15] "Princess Jasna's Soulcaster." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[16] "Map of Kharbranth." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[17] "The Way of Kings-Gemheart." [by krhart] Retrieved 02-28-14.
[18] "Map of Alethkar." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[19] "tWoK-Shallan vs Jasnah." [by BotanicaXu] Retrieved 02-28-14.
[20] "The Way of Kings: Rockbuds." [by inkthinker] Retrieved 02-28-14.
[21] "5 out of 5 Stars." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[22] "Paco de Lucia is dead." Retrieved 02-28-14.
[23] "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?" [Paco de Lucia-Bryans Adams] Retrieved 02-28-14.
[24] "Top 28 White Roses Pictures for Free Download." Retrieved 02-28-14.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Divergent: The Divergent Trilogy, Book 1 by Veronica Roth; The Book-to-Movie Now on Blu-ray & DVD!

Divergent by Veronica Roth.
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     On April 25, 2011, Divergent became the debut novel for author, Veronica Roth; the book I am featuring in today's book review. Divergent is the first book in a trilogy by Roth, the second book is Insurgent (May 1, 2012), and the third is, Allegiant (October 22, 2013). 

     One of the main reasons I selected Divergent as the subject of today's book review is that Summit Entertainment has purchased the media rights to the book; the production of the movie took place in 2013. I have since learned that the scheduled release date for this movie is March 21, 2014! What a major accomplishment for Veronica Roth on her debut novel. 

     Why is this novel being brought to the big screen? Well, it, undoubtedly, has everything to do with the novel's popularity. Originally appearing on the New York Times Best Seller List for the Children's Chapter Books, the book remained on the list for thirty-nine weeks in 2012; then in December 2012, when that list was eliminated, the book was moved over to the new Young Adult Best Seller List--it met with similar success on this list, as well.

     Divergent also won a major victory when it won the Goodreads Choice Award for Favorite Book in 2011. It also won the Sakura Medal Contest and was number one on the Teens' Top Ten Vote, sponsored by YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association). So, having met with all this success and with the popularity of the book, the novel quickly became slated for big screen production.

     The setting is a dystopian Chicago where all peoples have been categorized and then labeled as one of five types based on personal inclinations. Each faction serves society based on the abilities they exhibit as determined by their faction.

The Five Virtue-Based Factions.
The symbols represent the given faction
     Every year, each person reaching majority performs an aptitude test to determine their proclivity to fit within one of the five designated factions: (1) Can- dor [for people who value truth]; (2) Abnegation [for people who value selflessness]; (3) Erudite [for people who value intelligence]; (4) Amity [for people who value peace]; and, (5) Dauntless [for people who value bravery]; but when the results indicate equal aptitude in different areas, the test is inconclusive, and the person is found to be "Divergent" from the rest of society.

     After testing, the candidates go through a ceremony, choosing which of the five groups will guide their lives. Their choices are based on the aptitude test and what they actually desire. Choosing a group different from their parents and family means they must move away to another part of the city and leave their family behind forever. But, choosing a group antithetical to their aptitude means leading a life of constant struggle against their own innate talents and abilities.

To find out what faction you would fit into, take the Divergent Faction Quiz,
just like I did (My results are just below.). Just click on this link.
It was a lot of fun and it only took a few minutes.
     Once in the new group, if the, now, initiates fail their initiation period, they are ousted from that group and must live life as a "factionless" person, in poverty. They do work no one else wants to do (garbage collectors, janitors, bus drivers, etc.), and are constantly poor, constantly hungry, constantly dissatisfied, never able to advance in career or make their lives better...and never able to go home.
My test results for the Divergent Faction Quiz.
     At the opening of the book, Beatrice Prior, our heroine, faces this very situation. She takes her aptitude test, but the results are "inconclusive." She is told by the tester to keep quiet about the results and not tell anyone that she tests as "Divergent"  from the norm.

   Then, at her choosing ceremony, she does not choose her parents' faction (Abnegation), but chooses, instead, the Dauntless faction. Beatrice, also, immediately chooses a new name for her new life, by shortening her name to "Tris."

     Tris is plunged into a world unlike the "selfless" and gentle world in which she grew up. She is plunged into a world where she must suddenly confront her own fears and conquer them if she is to pass her initiation period and avoid having to live on the streets as a factionless person.

Katniss, heroine of the Hunger Games,
with Peeta on the Victory Tour.
     Tris then faces the typical obstacles any hero faces in the initiation or learning phase (just like Harry, in Harry Potter, Katniss, in The Hunger Games, or even Ender in Ender's Game). Trying to fit in, being outside the group, being unjustly judged, overcoming your own inner fear, learning how to fight, avoiding being killed, social "backstabbing," making friends/finding love, overcoming self doubt, and, of course, achieving success and doing it better than everyone else, so that you come out as number one of the group.
Ender being threatened by Bonzo.

     Threaded in with Tris's experiences in her new Dauntless faction, including her profound attraction to Tobias, we see hints of something much larger at work in the background of the story. We see that Tris gets mysterious messages from her mother, she has a secret meeting with her brother, and "Four" (Tobias Eaton) confides to her some secret and urgent information he has uncovered about the Erudite Faction--that the Erudites plan to use the Dauntless faction to attack and defeat the "selfless" Abnegation Faction. Tris and Four are confused and troubled about all the new information they have acquired. They wonder how the Erudite Faction will be able to control or force Dauntless to attack the people of the Abnegation Faction. They also feel great confusion about their feelings for each other and their overwhelming attraction.

Tris and Four (Tobias).
     But behind all of this, Tris still works to conceal the fact that she tested as Divergent from the rest of society. She wants to trust Four, but circum- stances and appear- ances work against her. looks like Four has secrets of his own. Then, at the conclusion of the initiation period and the initiates passing of the rigorous tests, Tris discovers that she has landed in first place and is assured of a place within the Dauntless Faction (only the top ten initiates are permitted a place in the faction).

     What happens next will leave you on the edge of your seat. Tris and Four will be tested and they must decide whether or not trust is something they can share. In fact, this trust issue is one of the hinges on which their whole future and the future of Dauntless and society as they know it, will depend. Tris's whole family is thrust into the the exciting and action-packed conclusion. Tris and everyone soon learn just how the Erudite Faction plan to take over society by destroying the Abnegation Faction and making the Dauntless Faction do their dirty work. The conclusion is not to be missed!

  The scheduled release date for the movie is March 21, 2014 (USA). This movie is directed by Neil Burger; Writers are Evan Daughtery, and Vanessa Taylor (for Screenplay), and Veronica Roth (for the novel). The movie stars Shailene Woodley as Beatrice 'Tris' Prior, Theo James as Four (Tobias), Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews, Maggie Q as Tori, Ashley Judd as Natalie Prior, Tony Goldwyn as Andrew Prior, Miles Teller as Peter, and Jai Courtney as Eric.

     Please enjoy this YouTube trailer for the movie, Divergent:
     Wow! Veronica Roth had her work cut out for her when she created these exciting and intricate plot lines. She definitely keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. In the beginning of the book the action was slower paced and more interior psychological drama, but Roth didn't stop there. She began building one event on another, gradually quickening the pace until the climatic conclusion at the end of the book. How did she do that? One of Roth's major devices was placing the story in a setting that would naturally lead to excitement and action. What am I talking about? Well, I'm talking about the use of the dystopian society as a setting for the young adult novel.

     A "dystopian society" is one that is undesirable, harmful, or unpleasant; the unpleasantness is usually due to a dramatic decline in society, for example, an apocalypse. The harmful or unpleasant side-effects of the societal decline usually center around politics [the government] (e.g., The Hunger Games), the environment (e.g., Logan's Run, and Soylent Green), religion (e.g., A Canticle for Liebowitz, and The Handmaid's Tale), psychology (e.g., Brave New World), ethics and science (e.g., Blade Runner), or technology (e.g., R.U.R. and I, Robot). A few other famous dystopian novels are, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Farenheit 451, and Brave New World (There are many, many more.).

A dystopian society often
exhibits rigid controls on its
citizens--for example,
demanding complete
obedience to the will of the
     OK. So what else? What are some of the hallmarks of literature that utilize this dystopian structure in the book's plot? Well, one would be the stratification of society. Stratification is also seen in our novel, today, Divergent. Roth, though, creates stratas based on innate abilities and inclinations (Amity, Erudite, Dauntless, Abnegation, and Candor). Here, society is grouped into five different groups similar to Aldus Huxley's dystopian, Brave New World (where he used Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons).

     Family is also a critical piece of dystopian society. The government seeks to destroy or control social interaction by exerting rigid controls on the family. Take a look at what happens in our novel, Divergent. If a coming-of-age person chooses a faction alien to their family of origin, they lose their family. And, if they fail their initiate stage of training, they are, likewise, thrust out into a factionless world (without family).

The Book of Eli, starring Denzel
Washington, utilizes a
dystopian setting.
     You get the idea. Other hallmarks of dystopian novels and movies include the following: Politics and Economics [see, V For Vendetta), Religion (See, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), issues of Identity (see, Gattica), Violence of fighting, war, or other oppression (see, Judge Dredd, Mad Maxx, or The Running Man), and Environmental issues [pollution, not enough food, etc.] (See, Avatar, Soylent Green, and Wall-E).
Gattaca is a dystopian

     Undoubtedly, since novels (and movies) following dystopian themes are so popular and prevalent in society, right now, we will visit this issue again in the future. Because dystopian themes are seen in everything from television shows (like The Walking Dead), to video games (Fallout), novels and movies, I'm sure we will be looking at dystopian themes in new novels as they are written and come into the publishing and reading world. Until then, I hope this quick little nutshell version of dystopian society helps you to appreciate this genre of literature more.

I walk slowly around him. On his back is more ink than skin. The symbols of each faction are drawn there--Dauntless at the top of his spine, Abnegation just below it, and the other three, smaller, beneath them. For a few seconds I look at the scales that represent Candor, the eye that stands for Erudite, and the tree that symbolizes Amity. It makes sense that he would tattoo himself with the symbol of Dauntless, his refuge, and even the symbol of Abnegation, his place of origin, like I did. But the other three? [Tobias says,] "I think we've made a mistake," he says softly. "We've all started to put down the virtues of the other factions in the process of bolstering our own. I don't want to do that. I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest" (p.405).
Tobias' ("Four's") tattoos.
     Being "divergent" is what Tris and Tobias are. They have attributes other than Dauntless. They have within them Abnegation qualities, Candor qualities, Amity qualities, and Erudite qualities. Tobias expresses his desire to openly be all of those qualities. That is the reason for the tattoos. They are reminders of what he wants, and yet is afraid to show others because they would know. They would realize he is divergent. And yet, he used his Dauntless courage to place the other symbols on his back to remind him of who he really is and who he openly wants to be.

     As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this blog post, Divergent is Veronica Roth's debut novel. She has done a very credible job for such a start. She has executed the dystopian novel in an interesting manner, with much to be said in a positive vein about the denouement. 

My rating for, Divergent.
     That having been said, I think she could have done a better job at making Tris more sympathetic. I felt removed from her as a character and found myself caring more about the other characters in the novel than I did our heroine. Even my favorite quote was from Tobias. Tris just felt a little "flat" to me. Nonetheless, on a whole, the book was good. I, therefore, rate this book 4.25 stars out of 5, given my reasons, as stated, above. 

     As always, in books with violence or sex, I caution young or sensitive readers to be wary. Parents who exercise control over children's reading material should be warned of inappropriateness of some passages. For young adult readers of this book, actually, the intended audience, you will find an exciting story with room to grow in the subsequent two sequels;  if you haven't read it yet, I hope you enjoy, Divergent, as much as I did.

Veronica Roth
     Please, please, please, pick up a book and read it this week! It could be, Divergent, or it could be something else in which you have an interest. Read something good and let it fill you up until the book becomes a part of you. Let a wonderful story permeate your being. Let some beautiful words or quotes into your heart and remain there. To get them there, you must actually read something. So, I exhort you to pick up a book and devour it before we meet again in this blog. God bless you. Have a great week. And thank you for joining me, here, to look at Veronica Roth's book, Divergent.
Until next time...
White Rose.
...many happy pages of reading.

My best to you, all.


________________________________________________________ - Divergent (Amazon); - Divergent by Veronica Roth; - goodreads Choice Awards 2011; - Divergent Symbols; - Divergent Faction Quiz; - Katniss Everdeen, winner of Hunger Games (75th Quarter Quell); - Ender being threatened by Bonzo; - Tris and Tobias; - Dystopia; - Dystopian society, "Do Not Disobey"; - The Book of Eli is a movie with a dystopian setting; - Gattaca;*o5iQ4q3RjxfW14o04O*16gYKUOOab-P9xZnrOF3Avl78c8cnaholYaFF27E9lCKCrpxpOwgA93DkTzomr* - Tobias' tattoos; - My rating for, Divergent, 4.25 stars; - Veronica Roth; - White Rose.