The delightful Peter Ahlstrom (who works for the one-and-only Brandon Sanderson) shared his review of The Burning White over in Sandersonland:
While Brent’s on paternity leave, we’ll be posting some fun reviews over he wrote ahead of time — reviews of children’s books! We’ve posted a few today on Goodreads and will be posting more over the next few weeks.
Go HERE to see his reviews — if you’re a Goodreads member, click “Follow” to get updates whenever he reviews a new book!
*UPDATE*: Oh yeah, and the biggest reason I don’t blurb books… I just don’t get around to them. I have ARCs of books that I have heard are awesome still sitting around, looking at me with puppy dog eyes. ‘Why, Brent?’ they ask. ‘Why?’
Blurbs are a mess of the personal, the professional, and the commercial. Readers see that an author whom they trust loves a book, and they think, “Hey, I respect her, I bet I’ll really enjoy that book she thinks is great!” Professionals see a chance to help out a friend or a newbie and want to pay it forward to help someone succeed in a career with a high attrition rate. Publishers and publicists see another selling point.
I don’t blurb often. Much of my reading is a fun/work blend these days. I might read a book about Jean Lafitte for fun, but also to see if he’s got a justified reputation as an honorable pirate or not, and then (if he was honorable), figure just how would one go about being an honorable pirate? Or I read about special operations soldiers to get a handle on psyche of elite warriors. Fun, but work, too. I read books about the original Assassins—not nearly as fun as you’d think. Or I read books about slavery in the ancient world, or about race and slavery in the Mediterranean Sea basin. (Not fun at all.) Or I’ll read a couple Sookie Stackhouse books to understand their huge success—and yep, I see why they’ve done so well. (Not my kind of fun, but fun!)
Some of my former joy at reading fantasy has dimmed. It’s simply too hard to take off the analyst’s glasses: ah nice turn here, odd anachronism not to eliminate here, man this chapter is gritty just because gritty is in, isn’t it? Ah, here’s your politics showing here, great visual, nice building of a badass character, let me think how you did that…
Added to this, of course, is that I mostly get sent debut novels. These frequently put me in a bind. I can see why the novel got published. I can see that the novelist may well become quite skilled, and I know what it is to hope someone will give me a chance. I want these novelists to survive so they can write the great novels they’re clearly capable of writing. But if I didn’t love their book, I don’t want to tell people who trust me that I did.
Of course, fantasy being my work now, I also have strong opinions about what I like and don’t like–stuff that has little to do with its quality, but are simply preferences. I don’t like sermons in my fiction, even if I agree with them. A book that deals with the environment or capitalism or whatever as an integral part of the plot is fine: five page lectures that feel like they were rejected from yesterday’s op-ed page? Yawn. To many other readers, those elements are neutral or (if they agree with the viewpoint), even a bonus. Good for them. Reasonable people can have differences of opinion and taste. Even great books have things about them that I don’t think work, or that I think could be done better.
A novel is a blend of choices and execution, and I often like one but not the other. (A subtle distinction, sometimes.) I’m sure there’s stuff in my own work that gets similar eye rolls. I’m even guilty of some of the things I now dislike—I was once going to call for a moratorium on names with apostrophes. Please, can we not have any more N’ns’nse names? Then I realized when I return to Night Angel, I’ll definitely have returning characters and items with apostrophes. Doh!
The blend of the personal and professional is part of what makes my Goodreads page look barren. If I read a book and think it’s meh, I feel some compassion. Either it’s a new writer who hasn’t honed their craft yet, or a good or great writer turned in something that was sub-par for reasons I don’t know. In the first case, I won’t help that writer by raving dishonestly, but I also don’t want to poke holes in the boat of someone who’s just hope to float, either. Thus, I keep my 3- and 2-star reviews to myself. (The 1-stars I just quit reading. I feel no compulsion to finish something that I’ve decided isn’t worth my time.)
The only time I break this rule is when the author is so successful they couldn’t care what I say. Thus, I wrote a serious critique of an Anne Rice book.
When I DO write a blurb, I also put on my marketer’s hat. Maybe it’s the first novel I’ve seen that uses an outcast blue kobold as its main point of view character. (And man, it just nails that blue kobold experience!) I KNOW that others are going to comment on that. Praising that is just adding my voice to the echo chamber. So, if there was something else as praiseworthy—and usually an excellent novel doesn’t only do one thing well—then I’ll praise that so that the blurbs aren’t all about the same thing. I’ll even add something in the longer form of the blurb about the blue kobold experience (just in case this novel got stiffed on blurbs for whatever reason). That’s why sometimes you’ll an author quoted twice, or a brief pull quote taken for the front cover, and the full paragraph from which it was taken inside or on the back cover. Marketing.
Yes, I do work hard on blurbs. (See: Why I Blurb Infrequently)
Tuesday and Wednesday, I’ll be posting briefly on two books I’ve read recently that I CAN blurb freely.
(Also, new poll at right!)
I don’t usually write reviews, much less post them, but this is something of a special case. Peter V. Brett is a friend of mine, and as you probably know, he too writes epic fantasy. We entered the club at nearly the same time and met early in our careers.
Because we share many of the same fans and are each writing multi-volume epic fantasy, a review on one of his books really gives me a chance to share my views on the genre and on architecture of storytelling.
In this review, I avoided covering many of the topics that I felt other reviewers had hit at length and instead focused on only a few points where I disagreed with other reviewers, or where I wished to talk about endings and multi-volume epic fantasy specifically. The review is without spoilers, though my points are clearer if you’ve read the book. If you’re into this sort of thing, it’s over HERE.
Staffer’s Book Reviews raves: “I’ve read all five of Brent Weeks’ published novels and it’s a certainty that he’s evolving with every book. With The Blinding Knife, I believe he’s entered a new stratosphere and one that puts him on par with anyone who’s written these kinds of stories. It isn’t only the best book he’s written; I consider it one of the best epic fantasies I’ve read. Do me a favor and read it too.”
N. Schmiedicker says, “Even now, a week after I first finished the book I can say that Blinding Knife has jumped to my Top 3 all-time favorite books. It was the type of book that left me catching bits and pieces that I admired and wanted to work on in my own novel. It was a book that taught me how to write by virtue of it’s own magnificent writing and I highly recommend this series for any fans of epic fantasy.”
A Dribble of Ink comments, “It’s fast, it doesn’t hold back its punches, but there’s also a sense of hope, and the humour is bright. The Blinding Knife improves on The Black Prism in every conceivable way, and places Brent Weeks on comfortable footing beside contemporaries like Brandon Sanderson and Joe Abercrombie, if not a step above. I thought it would be a fun distraction, but instead found one of the best Fantasy books of 2012.”
British Fantasy Society notes that “Weeks has truly cemented his place among the great epic fantasy writers of our time… The mark of a good fantasy is that it can surprise you, catch you off guard, really make you feel what the characters are feeling, and this one does with a good, solid kick to the gut. Several times. And each time it feels good. The twists, shocks and heart wrenching blows keep coming and by the end you will be begging for more. The next in the series simply cannot come soon enough.
Comic Book Therapy says, “Author Brent Weeks has delivered yet again another novel that was almost impossible put down until the finish… The Blinding Knife is everything and more of what the Black Prism was, and leaves you wanting so much more at the very end.”
Fantasy Book Critic believes that, “As before, the major shortcoming of the novel is that it ended as I would have loved 600 pages more again… The Blinding Knife is just great stuff, an exuberant epic fantasy that I could read thousands of pages of and still want more and a top 10 novel of mine for the year.”
52 Book Reviews says that “The Blinding Knife is the best book I’ve read this year… The Blinding Knife is a masterwork of a novel (I know at least eighty percent of you get the reference) full of exquisitely drawn and believable characters, a surprisingly intricate magical system, break-neck pacing and more “no he didn’t” moments than Rush Limbaugh’s entire career… I think that in a few years readers will look back at The Blinding Knife as the point where Brent Weeks went from being an up-and-comer to an author whose name belongs next to stalwarts of the genre like Martin, Jordan, and Brooks. Run, don’t walk and get this book. You won’t regret it.”
Speculating on SpecFic argues that “The Blinding Knife is an example of epic fantasy at its very best… Everything is brilliantly paced, wild battles are beautifully choreographed and interweaved between heart-warming moments of honesty and trust between key characters.”
And now comes the terrifying time when I start to hear from reviewers–who often read differently than fans. Gulp. Here we go…
Grasping for the Wind says, “When I expected [Weeks] to zig, he zagged, and when I expected a character to be a certain type of person, Weeks would throw me for a loop…. Weeks has written an epic fantasy unlike any of its contemporaries. It is a truly visionary and original work, and has set the bar high.” Oh, hey, that wasn’t too bad.
Fantasy Book Review says, “‘The Black Prism’ is first and foremost a novel with tremendous narrative energy. It just grabs you and never lets go…. I am still awed at how Mr. Weeks infuses the story with so much vigor, while keeping quite a few balls in the air and never slipping a bit…. There are dramatic twists and turns and scenes that will just floor you….[and] The world building is superlative.” Yeah, definitely, I’ll take that!
But you know you’re in trouble when The Onion reviews you. “His prose rings like crystal; his dialogue is witty, chatty, and brisk; and his pacing is frictionless, even when he’s embedding convoluted exposition into action scenes… The narrative flies along…” No, no, wait! Don’t go! He didn’t actually like it. There’s a critical art called “damning with faint praise.” Check this out; it’s awesome: “Weeks does deserve props for his oh-so-slight deviation from the fantasy formula, not to mention his lively, engaging storytelling.”
This is what it is to be a writer: one review says “truly visionary and original” the next says, “oh-so-slight deviation.” Is there cognitive dissonance in this job? Oh yes.
I will be posting links to pretty much every review, good and bad, on the review page. The next time you see me, either my skin will be thicker, or my head will be. Thanks to all the reviewers for taking the time to read and write your reviews.
A couple more reviews have rolled in before I head out on book tour.
WordTipping has more of an analysis than purely a review, dissecting what makes my books tick. Although I’m definitely quoting that bit about “flat out great storytelling” and “the best male writer of female characters I’ve ever read.”
Janicu’s Book Blog also gave me such a nice review that I’m going to have to restrain myself from pulling too lengthy of a quote from it. (Ahem) She found the female characters “spot on…the world building unique and better than Weeks’ last series, and the twists and turns addictive.” It was “jam packed with epic goodness.”
The reviews are coming in faster now, so after this round, they’ll go straight to the REVIEWS page of my website. I take a pretty laissez-faire approach to reviews: I’ll post good and bad so long as they appear to be from book-focused blogs or review sites. I don’t post reviews that spring spoilers on you without warning. I always include links so you can see the whole review if you wish.
Civilian Reader gives it a “very highly recommended,” saying, “The dialogue is great (witty, intelligent, brisk); his characters are complex, realistic, and likeable; and the story is highly imaginative and original… this is brilliant, epic fantasy.”
The Bookbag (which was a little tough on the Night Angel Trilogy), says The Black Prism “is an excellent start to what promises to be a superb trilogy. Highly recommended.” “The size of ‘The Black Prism’ is only indicative of the huge imagination Weeks has.”
The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Review says, “Weeks managed to surprise me again and again with the depth [his characters] have. His greatest strength to date has been hiding secrets in plain sight yet still making them difficult enough to decipher that you have to laugh at yourself for not realizing the truth.”
Alternative Worlds calls The Black Prism “an exhilarating thriller…. Fast-paced and character-driven.”
The Falcata Times asks, “Is [Weeks] a one world, one series author and [will] his next project expand on his creativity? What unfurls is a rich new tapestry… Great stuff.”
Got Schephs gives it a 9/10, noting “the trademark humor…great characters…The fight scenes are some of the best I’ve ever read…. Ultimately, this book takes it to another level that even the NAT [Night Angel Trilogy] didn’t reach.”
LEC Book Reviews says “It establishes a thrilling world, fascinating magic system, and satisfying engaging characters.”
The King of the Nerds praises The Black Prism for having “extraordinarily entertaining characters absolutely bubbling over with vitality.”
So, I still haven’t been mentioned by the New York Times or Oprah. Go figure. But, I now have my reviews and interviews page totally up-to-date with a total of 57 reviews and 8 interviews. If you think that people who don’t live in New York City and don’t have an eight-figure income might have something worthwhile to say about books, you can CHECK IT OUT. Or click on the big “Reviews” tab to the left. —————->
No! The other left.
That’s right. Doh! Nevermind.
Civilian Reader has selected its annual 10 Best Fiction Releases of 2008 (in all genres), and I’m delighted to report that they have chosen my books. Thrice. For spots 3, 2, and yes, #1. Woo hoo!
The Night Angel books “take the top spot because they fulfill every criteria that goes into making an excellent read: plotting, characterization, pacing, interest, style, imagination and originality…. A stunning achievement for a first time author.”
And as before, I’d like to publicly affirm that I do not engage in payola to get on these lists. Not that I’m above it. It’s just that bloggers haven’t figured out that payola isn’t just for DJ’s any more. (C’mon, people, innovate.)
Indie Bound is a site organized by independent booksellers to help them better compete with the biggies, and foster all the independent-bookstore goodness you can imagine. I just learned learned recently that I was selected as an Indie Next Pick of the Month. (For November, but hey, I just found out.) Peeps in the industry tell me this is a semi-big deal.
Book-industry-person quote: “Oh, yeah, biiig deal. Just last year, Virginia/Brad Shake’s book ‘Billions of Small Pieces, No–Make that Trillions of Tiny Pieces, Microscopic Pieces, Nano-Pieces Really’ was selected. Two months later, she-he got The Call. Ya know? From Oprah. Instant millionaire.”
Really, I was most excited that I wasn’t a fantasy pick… just a pick. I feel like an unruly nerd inadvertently released from the ghetto.
Still waiting by the phone, though. Ya know. For The Call.
(p.s. I’ll be posting the Art Contest results tomorrow…sorry, buried.)