I’ve been finished with this book for a few days now, but summoning the energy to revisit it, even if it only is in the way of written commentary, has proven difficult. For me there was an overwhelming amount of drudgery in this novel. It didn’t go anywhere. It moved forward with the haste of US forces trying to get out of Iraq. Generally speaking in most all narrative fiction there is a central conflict that is built upon for the better part of 80 percent of the book. When that moment arrives it is a big deal to the reader and the resolution has a profound effect. Usually this central conflict is hinted at and indeed built upon in many subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. This concept holds true for Well of Ascension but the lethargic pace and somewhat dead setting (for Sanderson this is somewhat of a compliment that I’ll explain later) combined to help me read the book with nothing short of complete and total apathy.
The majority of the book is very interesting, well written and woefully unimportant to the events that comprise this trilogy. I can say this without even having read the third book yet. There is not a lot of material to work with here. The essential dull cast from the first book are back again doing exciting things that manifest themselves as mundane only because the bulk of the events going on lack a tie in to a central theme or relate to the novel’s pivotal climactic moments.
To say this book felt like a place holder would be a stretch but I am left wondering if I left this book out and skipped to the third would I still be rewarded with comprehension? Perhaps even greater enjoyment?
I had started reading Robert Jordan’s famed Wheel of Time series years ago. I stopped around the sixth or seventh entry because I felt nothing happened in an entire 700 plus page book. In the penultimate book that I read, I still distinctly remember placing a post-it note inside the front cover should I ever want to consult the book again. I wrote on that note the only two events that I felt were important to the entire story. Upon reading the next entry and experiencing the same feelings I promptly started reading other things. Upon finishing Well of Ascension I felt I could place another post-it note on the inside of this book as well.
Reading a series with all the books in hand as opposed to waiting for each entry's publication is a bit different than the norm. My single biggest contention was the constant recapping the book provides of the events from the previous entry… the entry I had just read. This redundancy only added to Sanderson’s still persistent form of repetition. Perhaps other readers will be able to empathize when Adrian Tchaikovsky’s trilogy comes out next year; each book will be released in successive months.
Feruchemy takes Allomancy’s place in terms of reader education and general ‘bogging down of events.’ And now characters are associated with the same cliched word each appearance they make to help hammer home the repetition: Vin, mist; Breeze, wine; Dockson, ledger; OerSeur, contract. And my final point of the written repetition: I pray that the third book makes no mention of Inquisitors with metal spikes through their eyes. (Who could possibly forget an attribute as distinct as that!?)
Forgive me. I don’t use exclamation marks causally. When they happen they take even me off guard.
There were a few awkward moments where the speaker attributive contained an adverb. Something I always thought was a, “no, no.” Not only is it insulting to reader intelligence but it is a cover for weak writing; and Sanderson is not a weak writer. A couple of previously taciturn characters are now chatter boxes only to be called out by other characters as, “quiet” within a few pages. Oh yeah, and a dog constantly shrugs his shoulders.
I’ve been a dog owner and I’m pretty sure the action is physically impossible.
Despite my ranting all is not doom and gloom. My compliments to Sanderson remain the same as my first comments on The Final Empire. He can craft tension and drama as well as anyone but getting there can be a chore and it’s only worth the experience if you actually care about the people involved, and these characters are a bit stiff.
His world-building is nothing short of phenomenal which was also my primary praise of Elantris, his first novel. Considering the book takes places in or around only one location is a further testament to his ability.
I think it’s easy for me to be hard on Sanderson because I am predisposed to liking him. If you enjoyed the first book then you should pick up the second. I, however, am going to take a break before exploring the series end in The Hero of Ages. Amidst all the excitement action and intrigue their is a great, dull presence that I shall call ‘mist.’ At the moment, I need to clear the air, take a break, and read something else.