Oathbringer – TwoMorePages Book Review

Oathbringer – TwoMorePages Book Review

Woohoo we’re back in Roshar! 1200 pages worth, and we learn SO MUCH! Brandon Sanderson once again builds a wonderful world to share, and we get to spend some more time with our favorite characters, Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar.

Arielle is here to join me this time in co-authoring this review – you’ll see her thoughts in blue. 

YAY! It’s me! Hopefully I don’t spell anything wrong because I listen to the audio version.

Okay, let’s get to the meat of things. Spoilers start now.

Dalinar’s Story

Yours is the power Ishar once held. Before he was Herald of Luck, they called him Binder of Gods. He was the founder of the Oathpact. No radiant is capable of more than you. Yours is the power of Connection, of joining men and worlds, minds and souls. Your surges are the greatest of all, though they will be impotent if you seek to wield them for mere battle.

The Way of Kings was Kaladin’s story; The Words of Radiance, Shallan’s. I thought, between her surprise re-appearance at the end of book 2 and her appearance on the cover of this book, that Oathbringer would be Jasnah’s story. Nope. Dalinar’s. Surprise!

In Oathbringer, we got to learn all about Dalinar’s past as The Blackthorn. Up until now, I had just assumed he was some sort of badass in combat, perhaps a brilliant tactician, and that’s how he earned his name. Sure, some people mentioned he was brutal, but let’s be real – war is brutal. That kind of comes with the territory.

“I want them to suffer for this. Men, women, children. They must know the punishment for broken oaths. Immediately.”

“I promised Tanalan that his widows would weep for what I did here, but that is too merciful for what they’ve done to me. I intend to so thoroughly ruin this place that for ten generations, nobody will dare build here for fear of the spirits who will haunt it. We will make a pyre of this city, and there shall be no weeping for its passing, for none will remain to weep.”

O.o Oh, okay. Well then.

Arielle insert time – THANK GOD Edmund takes notes. I’d just like to point out in the above quote from the book that “none will remain to weep” is such an understatement. Sure, no one is alive to weep, but all the crying comes back to literally HAUNT Dalinar in his mind.

Slight tangent – I’m actually going to post an unpopular opinion here and say that I’m 100% okay with what Dalinar did there, razing the rift. This entire debacle was because he refused to murder a small child earlier. Or did we forget that an act of mercy in sparing a small child is what got us here in the first place?

Only one other person was in the small chamber: a young boy. Six, perhaps seven. Tears streaked the child’s face, and he struggled to lift his father’s Shardblade in two hands.

Dalinar loomed in the doorway.

“You can’t have my daddy,” the boy said, words distorted by his sorrow. Painspren crawled around the floor. “You can’t. You…you…” His voice fell to a whisper. “Daddy said … we fight monsters. And with faith, we will win…”

Last time he granted mercy and clemency, the child grew up to cause a rebellion. And more than that, he used underhanded tactics to try to A) get Dalinar to turn on his allies and B) murder Dalinar in a trap. I’d be pissed too. I’d *also* want to burn the city to the ground.

So, if we’re to learn our lessons from history, we should raze the city, lest its inhabitants grow up just to try and take vengeance on all of us later. If he’d just killed that little boy, none of the other citizens of the Rift would have had to die decades later. To take an example from another series, didn’t Tywin Lannister do something similar in Game of Thrones with the Castameres? And everyone thinks that he’s smart and prudent.

Okay, tangent over.

So apparently Dalinar wasn’t just The Blackthorn because he was really good at killing people, but because he had earned a reputation for being unnecessarily cruel and harsh in doing so, murdering scores of civilians along the way. This was a really harsh contrast to the Dalinar we saw in the previous books, especially the Dalinar that we saw in Book 1.

“What is a man’s life worth?”-Dalinar

“A life is priceless” – Kaladin

“Coincidentally, that is the exact value of a Shardblade. So today, you and your men sacrificed to buy me 2600 priceless lives. And all I had to repay you with was a single priceless sword. I call that a bargain.” -Dalinar

“You really think it was a good trade, don’t you?” Kaladin said, amazed.

Remember that exchange from Book 1? Dalinar was supposed to be the pinnacle of honor! Of all that was good in the world! Welp.

I really liked how Brandon Sanderson had us realize the same way that Dalinar did, in slow, small snippets. As we’re feeling betrayed and lied to about his character, Dalinar has to come to grips with the fact that he isn’t the person he thought he was. That it was all built on a foundation of…not lies perhaps, but omission.

Dalinar’s arc in this story is one of redemption, of him feeling guilty for having killed all the people in the Rift and accidentally killing his wife in doing so (oops). We see him try and hide from his grief, first by drinking, and eventually by going to the Nightcrawler/Cultivation.

“I will give you…a pruning. A careful excision to let you grow. The cost will be high.

In doing this, I provide for him a weapon. Dangerous, very dangerous. Yet, all things must be cultivated. What I take from you will grow back eventually. This is part of the cost.

It will do me well to have a part of you, even if you ultimately become his. You were always bound to come to me. I control all things that can be grown, nurtured.

That includes the thorns.” – Cultivation

Woah! In exploring Dalinar’s backstory, we learn

A) Why he went to the nightcrawler (to try and stop feeling all the guilt)

B) What he got (he stopped feeling guilt about killing Evi, but also forgot Evi entirely, which allowed him to grow as a person)

C) That the Nightcrawler and Cultivation are different entities. I had personally been under the impression for most of the book that they were one and the same, instead of having a relationship similar to the Stormfather and Honor. 100% in the same boat here. I definitely thought they were the same person. It was interesting that Cultivation wanted to take care of Dalinar, instead of letting the Nightcrawler handle it.

D) Cultivation KNEW he was going to get his memories back. You’ll see some hypothesizing below but I wonder if bonding a spren is what makes his memories come back. It began at pretty much the same time. 

E) That Cultivation had a plan in doing this. There’s even foreshadowing when she speaks above about “even if you become his”. Also here, she would’ve known that he was to become a Knight Radiant? The Nightcrawler even specifically calls him “Son of Honor? Son of Odium?”

The Thrill boiled within. And Dalinar knew. He knew he’d always been a fraud. He was the same as Amaram. He had an honest reputation, but was a murderer on the inside. A destroyer. A child killer.

“Let go,” Odium whispered.

Dalinar squeezed his eyes shut, trembling, hands tense as he hunched over and clawed the ground. It hurt so badly. To know that he’d failed them. Navani, Adolin, Elhokar, Gavilar. He couldn’t live with this.

He couldn’t live with her tears!

“Give it to me,” Odium pled.

Dalinar ripped his fingernails off, but the pain of the body couldn’t distract him. It was nothing beside the agony of his soul.

Of knowing what he truly was.

Dalinar’s struggle with his guilt over his actions at the Rift was the central point around which the story revolved around. I loved how Brandon Sanderson made everything tie together at the end with Odium wanting to make him his Champion (plot twist!!) and offering to absolve Dalinar’s guilt as a way of enticing him.

The most important step a man can take. It’s not the first one, is it?

It’s the next one. Always the next step, Dalinar.

“I will take responsibility for what I have done. If I must fall, I will rise each time a better man.”

He closed his eyes, breathing out, listening to a sudden stillness. And within it a simple, quiet voice. A woman’s voice, so familiar to him.

I forgive you.

Side note – You know sometimes how a book reaches out beyond its confines and affects you in real life? When a quote is so poignant that you just stop reading and say “wow”? That was the “always the next step” line for me.

Sometimes it’s not about who you are or what you’ve done in the past, but who you are or what you’re doing *right now* that defines who you are.

I love that Dalinar’s redemption arc concluded with him accepting that he did certain things, that they’d always be with him, but that those things didn’t prevent him from doing the right things *going forward*, namely, you know, not becoming Odium’s Champion. That was nice.

Side note: I think Odium was also training Amaram to be a champion backup.


“Maybe you don’t have to save anyone, Kaladin. Maybe it’s time for someone to save you.

Speaking of twists and turns, how weird was it that Kaladin took a backseat in the story in book 3? Not only did he have much less screentime (pagetime?) than in books 1 and 2, he also wasn’t the savior at the end of the day.

“I…I will…”

He thought of friends lost. Malop. Jaks. Beld and Pedin.

Say it, storm you!


Rod and Mart. Bridgemen he’d failed. And before them, slaves he’d tried to save. Goshel. Nalma, caught in a trap like a beast.

The Words. Say the Words!

He *almost* speaks the 4th ideal, but not quite. I’m curious as to what it is. One of the better theories that I read on the internet was that the fourth ideal would be something like “I will forgive myself for those I cannot save.” Oooh. I like this theory.

That would explain why he thinks of all the friends he lost as he’s trying to speak the 4th ideal. He can’t quite get there to forgive himself.

“What about me?” Kaladin asked.

Dalinar pointed at Amaram, who was climbing to his feet in Shardplate. “He is going to try to kill me for what I do next, and I could use a bodyguard. As I recall, you have a score to settle with the highlord.”

Kaladin DOES however *finally get the showdown he and I have been waiting for since book 1 against AMARAM*! Wooooooh.

I’ve been waiting for this for SO LONG. I got blue balls when it didn’t happen in The Words of Radiance and just kind of assumed it would never happen. So Jonah Hill there pretty much embodied my excitement when I got to this portion of the book haha.

“Didn’t you tell me you’d given up that grief?” -Kaladin

“Yes! I’m beyond guilt!” -Amaram

“Then why do you still hurt? Murderer! You’ve switched sides to find peace, Amaram. But you won’t ever have it.” -Kaladin

I found it interesting that Amaram basically confessed that he went through similar trials to what Dalinar was going through regarding guilt (see note about Amaram maybe being a backup champion above). And that he, unlike Dalinar, accepted Odium’s way out in trying to convince himself that he didn’t need to feel guilt, that it was all Odium’s fault that he did those terrible things, not his.

But Kaladin is able to tilt him during the battle by continuing to pick at that scab. It’s not healed. Amaram doesn’t *actually* think that everything is fine and that he shouldn’t feel guilt.

I made you, Kaladin! I gave you that granite will, that warrior’s poise. This, the person you’ve become, was my gift! “I made you! I forged you!” -Amaram

“Today, what I do, I do for the men you killed. I am the man I’ve become because of them. Ten spears go to battle. And nine shatter. Did that war forge the one that remained? No, Amaram. All the war did was identify the spear that would not break.”

And I loved the further exchanges between the two where Amaram tries to convince Kaladin that everything he did to him was a good thing for Kaladin, forging him into what he was.

“I saw it in your eyes, Amaram,” Kaladin whispered as the husk of a man stumbled up to him. “When you killed Coreb and Hab and my other friends. I saw the guilt you felt. You tried to break me as a slave. But you failed. They rescued me.”

Maybe it’s time for someone to save you, Syl had said in Shadesmar. But someone already had.

Amaram raised the Shardblade high.

“Bridge Four,” Kaladin whispered.

It was so satisfying to see Amaram continue to tilt while Kaladin didn’t, and for Bridge Four (and Rock!) to be the ones who ultimately saved Kaladin. Closing circles feels *so good*!

My little note and something that didn’t quite make sense to me this section of the fight:

“You have great form, spearman! Do you remember when you first came to me? Back in that village, when you begged me to take you? You were a blubbering child who wanted so badly to be a soldier. The glory of the battle! I could see the lust in your eyes, boy!” – Amaran to Kaladin

Amaram makes it sound like fighting was all Kaladin wanted to do, but we, as readers, know that isn’t exactly the truth. Kaladin wanted to protect his brother. Sure, of course, he wanted to be a soldier too but I wouldn’t say that’s why he went running off to war. I feel like this is another piece/lie Amaram tells himself so that he feels “okay” about what he did.

Some other notes about Kaladin is I really enjoyed the part where he became friends with the Parshmen. We get to see things a bit from their side, their confusion, the fact they just want a life, and more spoilers from Edmund below. BUT this friendship directly changed the outcome of the Kholinar battle – WHICH WAS OFF THE CHAIN.


Adolin (and Maya!)

“You want to fight it, don’t you?” Adolin asked. “It reminds you of when you were alive.”

Something tickled his mind, very faint, like a sigh. A single word: Mayalaran.

Special shoutout to Adolin, who is at this point my favorite side character. And while Kaladin is obviously my favorite character, I identify most with Adolin. We both grew up relatively privileged, and we both apparently talk to our inanimate objects and treat them as though they had thoughts and feelings, which apparently makes us weird haha.

So it was a pretty cool reveal to see Adolin’s spren in Shadesmar, even if she is a deadeyes. It warmed my heart to see her help protect Adolin right after he got stabbed, especially since deadeyed spren are supposed to basically be no brained passive zombies.

“The world is full of gods and Heralds now, and you’re one of them. I’m practically a nobody. I’m not used to that feeling.”

-Adolin, to Shallan

His battle sequence snippets were great, especially since he went through this entire book without his shardplate, which he’s used to fighting with. His coming to grips with the fact that he’s no longer a member of the most important group of people since he’s not a Radiant is interesting character development. If he’s a central focus of Book 4, I bet that will be his character arc.

I wonder if there’s a way that he can bring her back to life? After all, Syl said in the last book that spren are never truly dead in the way that people are. I was hoping for this too, especially since she is showing “signs of life.” I’d love for that to happen.

Plus, he was able to summon her with only 7 heartbeats once. And he felt sadness from his Blade when he had to lend her to the Theylen shardbearer.

I need more Adolin + Maya in my life like I needed Kaladin + Syl.

So… part of me wants Adolin to be a Radiant, but:

“They say you have to be broke,” Lopen said…

I don’t think he’ll get there. As Edmund mentioned, he’s a little too privileged. I would like to give a shout out to Adolin for confronting Shallan on her “feelings” towards Kaladin. I know that must’ve taken a lot of guts, but I shouldn’t have been too surprised, Adolin is honestly a pretty brave dude. ALSO he’s brave enough to tell his dad he killed Sadeas and it was just like “Oh… okay. Well I guess we will figure it out.”

Lastly, about Adolin is that I LOVE how much Sanderson brought out Adolin’s fashion sense. One, it was hilarious. And two, I think it helps with how in modern day, fashion isn’t really assumed to be a guy’s thing. I liked how unabashedly interested he was in it.

Nale and Szeth!!!

Really? Didn’t you tell me you spent a thousand years following the instructions of a rock?

“More than seven years, sword-nimi. And I didn’t follow the rock, but the words of the one who held it. I…”

…had no choice?

But it had always been nothing more than a rock.

Speaking of side characters, Szeth is back! And…I guess I was wrong in wanting Kaladin to have murdered him in Book 2. Like I *really* wanted that…

The disagreements between the Skybreakers and the Windrunners have grown to tragic levels. I plead with any who hear this to recognize you are not so different as you think. – drawer 27-19

All of his entire interactions with Nale were very interesting. For one, I don’t really get the difference between skybreakers and windrunners. They seem to have almost identical lashing and binding abilities.

The only differences seem to be in their ideals. Compare “I will protect those who cannot protect themselves” (Windrunners) to “I will put the law before all else” (Skybreakers). Whereas skybreakers (and highspren) only seem to care about the law, windrunners (and honorspren) only seem to care about “doing what is right”, which is a much more nebulous concept.

Syl actually touched on this concept in Book 2, specifically stating with derision that she was NOT a highspren.

“You must choose, Szeth-son-Neturo. The skybreakers will swear to the Dawnsingers and their law. And you? Will you join us?”


And we see the importance of such a nebulous distinction at the final battle. A HERALD says he’s going to join Odium’s side, WHAAAAT? I suppose Brandon’s entire point regarding the two different orders is that what is lawful is not always what is right.

Nale went around murdering surgebinders for who-knows-how-long, under the pretense of law, making the entire world less prepared for this Desolation. And he’s now done the mental gymnastics to say that yes, he’s still following the law by switching sides. Because he gets to pick which laws are “right.”

Honestly, I fail to see how that’s functionally different than just nebulously following what is “right.” It’ll be interesting if in book 4, there are windrunners vs skybreaker fights, not only physical ones, but mental arguments between them as well regarding what is “right.”

“I serve Dalinar Kolin. I cannot know truth, so I follow one who does.”

Szeth’s decision to follow Dalinar is interesting in two ways.

(1) Nale basically says that he’s going to tell all the other skybreakers to join the parshmen, even stating that “it will be hard” for some of them. But Szeth gets a choice? Why? This is interesting. I’m not sure if Nale specifically meant he’d force them into it, but that he thinks they will follow his will, even if they don’t necessarily want to. But Szeth, during his trials, etc, has shown to think a bit outside the box.

(2) I honestly felt like there wasn’t a ton of buildup to make Szeth’s character innately trust Dalinar, especially not to the point where he would trust Dalinar more than Nale. Super agree. Szeth spends most of Book 2 trying to kill Dalinar, and is spurned only by Kaladin. Is Szeth’s basis for following Dalinar entirely based on the fact that Kaladin is then? And will this change if Kaladin’s feelings change once he learns about Dalinar’s past?

It will be really interesting to see 1. how Kaladin’s feelings do change about Dalinar, for sure, BUT also, how he feels about the assassin in white just nilly-willy joining up with Dalinar. I am going to assume that he’s going to be pretty untrustworthy towards Szeth for a good while.

I’d like to talk about the sword here too. Like WHAT IS UP WITH IT?! 

Wow! I’m impressed. You know, Vivenna never drew me even once? She carried me for a long time too. Maybe a couple of days even?

“And how long have I been carrying you?”

At least an hour; the sword said satisfied. One, or two, or ten thousand. Something like that.

That sword’s mind is definitely in a weird place, and I honestly wonder why that is. Are the other swords like this? 

Kathleen was right! That *IS* Nightblood!

(spoilers – if you haven’t read Warbreaker, just skip to the next section, sorry Arielle – and lol at your question about the sword since you can’t read the next section yet)

You should draw me, the sword said.

“And do what, sword-nimi?” Szeth whispered.

Fight him. I think he might be evil.

When are we actually going to fight someone? You sure do like to talk. Even more than Vasher, and he could go on and on and on…

I read Warbreaker after The Words of Radiance on Kathleen’s recommendation. She thought the sword that Szeth got at the end of Book 2 sounded a lot like the sword in the beginning of Warbreaker – same snarky tone, same snarky personality, same proclivity to DESTROY EVIL!


One of the things that was touched on in Warbreaker was that while Nightblood is basically a sentient sword, made with the purpose to “destroy evil”, he wasn’t made with the capacity to truly discern *what* evil is. And so passages like the one above where he just kind of guesses at what is evil and what needs to be destroyed are both funny and poignant.

Does he think Nale is evil because he sees that Nale is going to switch sides to the Parshmen? Or does he think he’s evil just because?

“You almost ate him,” Lift said. “You almost starvin’ ate me!”

Oh, I wouldn’t do that, the voice said. She seemed completely baffled, voice growing slow, like she was drowsy. But … maybe I was just really, really hungry…

And his interactions with Lift were very interesting too, if for no other reason that Lift hears Nightblood as a *girl* while in all of Warbreaker, he’s referred to by Vasher as a boy, and even Szeth refers to him as a boy. I think I remember a passage about how Nightblood doesn’t really understand gender, and so he/she’ll appear to different people as different genders as a result.

“I have known royals. Including one woman who left it behind. Throne, family, responsibilities…

I can’t help feeling that this is merely one in a long string of duties abdicated, of burdens set down, perhaps to disastrous results. But of all the things I’ve walked away from, the one I don’t regret is allowing some else to rule. Sometimes, the best way to do your duty is to let someone else – someone more capable – try carrying it.”


Bonus, we got Nightblood, AND WE GOT VIVENNA! It took me until after I finished the book to put two and two together, but Azure *has* to be Vivenna!  She talks about needing to be royalty, but then abandoning it, like she did to her home kingdom in Warbreaker. And Vasher *was* kind of a bounty hunter.

So many questions though then –

(1) Where is Vasher?

(2) How do colors / breaths interact with this world? Nightblood feeds on stormlight first, and THEN colors. But obviously colors are still a thing.

(3) Everyone in Roshar should still have all their breaths. How do breaths interact with shards or spren?

The Fall of Alekthar

More twists and turns. Who saw Alekthar falling? I definitely did NOT. I assumed the entire book was building up to a giant battle at Alekthar for the final Act, Dalinar and Alethi troops rolling in to stem the tide to rescue a beleaguered Kaladin, Adolin, Elhokar, and Shallan . Welp, I was wrong.

Kaladin saw them. All of them. Sah and the parshmen, fighting to keep their freedom. The guardsmen who had been rescued, fighting for their king. Azure’s Wall Guard, terrified as their city fell around them. The Queen’s Guard, convinced they were loyally following orders.

In that moment, Kaladin lost something precious. He’d always been able to trick himself into seeing a battle as us against them. Protect those you love. Kill everyone else. But…but they didn’t deserve death.

None of them did.

Kaladin screamed, tears streaming form his eyes. He begged them to just stop, to listen.

They couldn’t hear him. Sah – gentle Sah, who had only wanted to protect his daughter – died by Noro’s sword. Noro, in turn, got his head split by Khen’s axe.

Noro and Sah fell beside Beard, whose dead eyes started sightlessly – his arm stretched out, glyphward soaking up his blood.

We spent so much time with Kaladin as he befriended the parshmen on his reconnaissance before; just as much time with Kaladin as he made friends on the Wall Guard. I thought for sure the ending to this battle would be Kaladin at the *very least* convincing everyone to stop killing each other. That it would be this grand scene where everyone lays down their weapons because they know Kaladin, and they all work together to defeat the queen and save the city.

But nooooope. Everyone died. And it broke Kaladin. And a little bit of me as well.

Kaladin could almost hear Elhokar stuttering the words.

Life … life before death …

The hair on Kaladin’s neck rose. Elhokar started to glow softly.

Strength … before weakness …

“Do it, Elhokar,” Kaladin whispered.

Journey. Journey before …

A figure emerged from the battle. A tall, lean man – so, so familiar. Gloom seemed to cling to Moash, who wore a brown uniform like the parshmen. For a heartbeat the battle pivoted on him. Wall guard behind him, broken Palace Guard before.

“Moash, no…” Kaladin whispered. He couldn’t move. Stormlight bled from him, leaving him empty, exhausted.

Lowering his spear, Moash ran Elkohar through the chest.

And when I say everybody, that doesn’t mean “no name characters that no one really knew anyway,” that includes freaking ELHOKAR. And of storming course it’s Moash that does it.

So sad that he was *so close* to becoming a Radiant, to coming one step closer to becoming the hero and leader he wanted to be.

All of this is so same. I’m honestly surprised Elhokar was killed. I’m still trying to figure out what is going to become of Moash though.


“Can you see it, Teft?” the Spren whispered. “Can you feel the Words?”

“I’m broken.”

“Who isn’t? Life breaks us, Teft. Then we fill the cracks with something stronger.”

Storm you! Be a man for once in your life!

“I will protect those I hate. Even … even if the one I hate most … is … myself.”

I’ll be honest. I didn’t enjoy most of Teft’s chapters for almost the entire book. Same. I thought he was a whiny little bitch that kept abdicating his responsibilities. But I guess that was just one giant elaborate setup for his own personal little redemption arc at the end.

Hilarious it is to see his spren basically be as gruff as he is. She basically calls him a pussy and literally tells him to man up.

Light exploded from the Oathgate platform in a wave. The Fused cried out in a strange tongue, zipping into the air. A luminous wall expanded from the Oathgate platform in a ring, trailing a glowing afterimage.

It faded to reveal an entire division of Alethi troops in Kholin blue standing upon the Oathgate platform.

Then, like a Herald from Lore, a man rose into the air above them. Glowing with Stormlight, the bearded man carried a long silver Shardspear with a strange crossguard shape behind the tip.

Teft. Knight Radiant.

And as a result, Teft gets major screentime in one of the best scenes of the book! The entire end is of course breathtakingly amazing, but for him to figuratively ride in as the cavalry with the description above was…jawdropping.


“We’re still ignoring too much,” Shallan said. “We’re getting too good at pretending.” She had decided to stay with Jasnah in the first place to learn. But when the woman returned from the dead, Shallan had – instead of accepting training – immediately fled. What had she been thinking?

Nothing. She’d been trying to hide away from things she didn’t want to face. Like always.

Shallan’s character took a *very* interesting turn in this book, where she deals with split personalities and has a crisis of confidence in herself.

Much like Dalinar, she has to come to grips with some stuff from her past; whereas Dalinar hid himself in drinking and went to the Nightcrawler to assuage his guilt, Shallan tried to just run away from it all together and never face it, making up new personalities to deal with problems as she went.

We saw Veil again, but instead of being a character she puts on to accomplish things sometimes, we saw Shallan start to imagine herself with Veil as her main personality and Shallan as a personality she wanted to hide from the world…which was…weird.

Moreover, we saw Veil undergo her own plot lines and suffer major setbacks herself. Which ordinarily wouldn’t have been a problem since she’s a made up person, but…

“Since the first day, you storming woman. Hate…hate you…Others too. We all…hate you…”

The whole city was depending on her, but she hadn’t even been able to save a little beggar boy. As she curled up on the floor, Grund’s death seemed a shadow of everything else, of her good intentions turned arrogant.

Everywhere she trod, death haunted her. Every face she wore was a lie to pretend she could stop it.

Couldn’t she be somebody who didn’t hurt, just once?

Tragedy! How horrible would it be to genuinely figure out that while you were trying to do something good for people, you were actually ruining their lives? And that they *hated* you for it!

I give money to the homeless folks on the street; I donate to charities. I would feel crushed if I figured out that I had basically gone out of my way to accidentally hurt people.

“You tried to help the people of the market. You mostly failed. This is life. The longer you live, the more you fail. Failure is the mark of a life well lived. In turn, the only way to live without failure is to be of no use to anyone.”


And the same things happens to Veil. She doesn’t “come out” as often anymore after that soul crushing realization. Wit literally has to rescue Shallan/Veil and help her back to her feet. And even then, she really doesn’t do much in the climax of the book.

Shallan’s struggle with who she was (Veil? Radiant? Shallan?) was honestly a little weird for me. I thought her battle with self doubt was basically over in Book 2, and it was curious to see it bleed over as her central theme in Book 3. I wonder how much of Shallan’s story in Book 4 will center around it. I hope in book 4 that Shallan figures out who she is and comes to terms with it. 

Adolin searched her eyes. She bled from one, to the other, and back. A moment of Veil. A moment of Radiant. Shallan peeking through –

Adolin’s hand tightened around her own

Shallan’s breath caught. There, she thought. That’s the one. That’s the one I am.

He knows.

Speaking of things spilling over from Book 2 to Book 3, remember that whole sexual tension between her and Kaladin and her and Adolin? It’s resolved!

And in a pretty cute way at that. Adolin noticing that Veil and Radiant have a thing for Kaladin and offering to step aside, only for Shallan to confidently proclaim that she wanted to be with him and he with her. Their exchange was heartwarming.

Some other things about Shallan is her involvement with the Ghostbloods. I guess we are going to see how that plays out in Book 4 but I’m wondering if her brother’s are going to be held against her in someway now that they are around. Honestly, I thought she (and Brandon) had forgotten about her brothers altogether. I even messaged Edmund when i had about 40 minutes left thinking they weren’t going to be mentioned. But nope, they get a super short scene where they show up just before her wedding, convenient!


This is not possible, the Stormfather said in Dalinar’s mind. How did she come here?

“You didn’t bring her in?” Dalinar said softly.

No. This is not possible! How…?

This is a creation specifically meant to defy my will!

That child is tainted by the Nightwatcher. This is different. This is unnatural. She goes too far. The Stormfather rumbled his discontent, refuisng to speak to Dalinar further. He seemed genuinely upset.

It was really interesting that she was able to pop in and out of the Stormfather’s and Odium’s visions, and even take people out of them. Both of them seemed so unnerved whenever she did so. In fact, it’s the only time that Odium ever seemed freaked out.

Lift seems to be tied closely to Cultivation, who I assume will play a larger role in the books ahead. With Honor dead, Cultivation is really the only thing that can stop Odium.

Her deal with the Nightwatcher seems very interesting. She asked to stay young forever, but in addition, she seems able to do a lot of things other Knights Radiant can’t. She can metabolize Stormlight directly from food (I think this is an extra bonus about being an edge dancer, but I’m honestly not sure); she can screw up things from Odium and the Stormfather; her spren seemed to survive with more of his memories intact than either Syl or Pattern after transitioning over, and he always talks about “mother” who I can assume is either the Nightwatcher or Cultivation.

I wonder what her curse is? And how her special abilities as a Knight Radiant will factor into everything. I think that somehow her curse/boon will be reversed – like Dalinars. I think that since bonding, that is what has given Dalinar back his boon/curse, so maybe the same thing will happen with Lyft.

The VoidBringers

The biggest twist of this book was set up perfectly. *We* are not necessarily the good guys in this story, defending our land from the voidbringers. We are the original voidbringers!

Syl confirmed that humans originally brought Odium with them when they came from another world. They switched to Honor as a religion *afterwards*.

You could protect your home. You could kill to defend the people inside. But what if you’d stolen that house in the first place? What if the people you killed were only trying to get back what was rightfully theirs?

It got so complicated. Humans had lived upon this land for thousands of years. Could anyone really be expected to let go because of what ancient people had done, no matter how dishonorable their actions?

“The oaths are about perception, Syl. You confirmed that. The only thing that matters is whether or not we are confident that we’re obeying our principles. If we lose that confidence, then dropping the armor and weapons is only a formality.”


“I’m not going to do the same,” Kaladin said. “I’d like to think that the past of Bridge Four will make us a little more pragmatic than those ancient Radiants. We won’t abandon you. But finding out what we will do might end up being messy.”

This brings about all sorts of interesting philosophical questions that I’m sure will be delved into in further books.

Will it kill people’s will to fight? Or will they not care, because fuck, it’s their lives they’re fighting for, and we’re now thousands of years removed from that. Plus, it’s *Odium* that we’re fighting, and he is the one bringing the void.

A good analogy is “Should Americans today feel less national pride because of what we did to the Native Americans?” and the answer in society has been a resounding NO. What we did to Native Americans has, for most intents and purposes, just become a footnote in history. So I feel like it’ll be something similar here in Roshar.

The Oathpact and the Heralds

Honor let the power blind him to the truth – that while spren and gods cannot break their oaths, men can and will. The ten heralds were sealed upon damnation, trapping the voidbringers there. However, if any one of the ten agreed to bend his oath and let voidbringers past, it opened a flood. They could all return.

That started a desolation.

“They were tortured, weren’t they?”

Horribly, by the spirits they trapped. They could share the pain because of their bond – but eventually, someone always yielded.

Ohhhh! We learn the secret of the oathpact relatively early on in the story, about 1/3 of the way through. NOW that first prologue in The Way of Kings makes sense! I’d always wondered why that battle was described and then basically never really referenced again.

Poor Talenelat. 4,500 years of torture. So that explains why HE’S crazy. Why are the rest of them crazy? And if any of them were like Ash, who felt bad about the whole thing, how come none of them ever decided “Hey, we should prob go back and help out Talenalat?”

Can new Heralds be made? Is that the endgame of all this? Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar as new Heralds? Or is that the obvious BAD solution that we’ll shy away from at the conclusion of this series since that really doesn’t solve anything, but only delays another desolation? Plus, it’s the obvious solution, so I’m sure Brandon Sanderson won’t bring us there.

Most of the remaining Heralds all seem crazy. Ash is the only one who seems even remotely sane that we see any screentime for, and she spends all her time trying to deface anything that praises the Heralds. Talenelat’s brain is broken except for small outbursts of clarity; Nalan went crazy and is now actually going to join Odium’s side. Jezrein, king of the Heralds, was acting like a crazy hobo dude and just got perma-murdered by Moash? And there’s one Herald who apparently has his own army? Can’t remember his name right now, but I imagine he’ll end up being some sort of antagonist in future stories.

Arielle’s Final Comments

Here are some things I’d like to say that Edmund didn’t really cover! 😀

Venli: I loved seeing her grow, loved seeing her start to understand and dislike Odium, and I really LOVED Timbre. I loved that she bonded a spren and he speaks her language. It’s adorable. I kind of hope she helps out Dalinar, she did see him as a beacon of light or something really similar to that.

Renarin: HOLY SHIT. He bonded a spren and then it became corrupt! His visions weren’t correct! HE WENT TO FIGHT A GIANT ROCK MONSTER! What a freaking badass. I have high hopes for Renarin in the future.

Taravangian: This guy will stop at fucking nothing. I know that when he met with Odium that The Diagram had a lot of applicable parts.  I WISH he had just followed Dalinar and tried to help him once he realized that people would actually follow him. I thought there was a bond there and then he effing goes running off to Odium. Little bitch. 

The Unmade: It’s really exciting to see the sides of the unmade. Some of them are “nice and some of them are definitely not. I’m wondering if the one Shallan scared away will be back, but it was awesome of the one in the castle to warn Shallan. I like the little insert from Hessi’s Mythical too.

Shadesmar: I really like that we got to learn more about Shademar and how it works. We’ve always known about the beads but it was definitely interesting learning about the spren, the perpendicularity, how Oath Gates USED TO BE ABLE TO GO BETWEEN REALMS LIKE WHAT.

Book 4: I really hope they figure out how to “run” the tower. I hope our Radiant’s learn to summon their shardplate. I wonder if Kaladin’s family is going to play a bigger part in the book as well.

Last side note: Apparently I need to read another book to put the Azure thing together. 😛

Random Nitpicks

All this to say that a LOT of stuff happened in Book 4. And I really enjoyed it. Sucks that I have to undergo a multi-year wait now for the next book. But I guess not everyone can be like James S.A. Corey and pump out a new novel every year. I got spoiled since it was only a few months between Books 2 and 3 for me personally.

Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if these were released in smaller novels more regularly. Like you could publish each part every year? I wonder why Brandon Sanderson doesn’t do that…

That all being said, one thing I did notice was that I had a lot less of Kaladin + Syl in my life in this book, and chatter from the internet seems to think that this will be a trend going forward. If so, that’s disappointing, as Kaladin is the main reason I read and love this series. Doh.


I’m pretty happy with this book overall, and am sad that I probably won’t get to read the next until until 2022. I’ll definitely have to come back and reference this review, maybe even read this entire book again in order to get ready.

I hear that we’ll have a significant time jump between books 3 and 4, which is…honestly, a little disappointing for me. Time jumps always kind of mess up my flow quite a bit. I just finished reading The Expanse Book 7, Persepolis Rising, and the time jump really messed up my immersion since literal DECADES had occurred between books. But I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I loved that we got to see Kaladin’s showdown with Amaram, loved seeing Dalinar’s character development through flashbacks, and the two twists (Alekthar NOT saved, *We* are the voidbringers) were really well done. Never saw them coming.

I hope that we’ll see more of Kaladin and Syl in future books, but am a little afraid that won’t happen. While I enjoy Lift’s chapters, and Pattern + Shallan’s chapters, nothing really comes close to the banter between Kal and Syl. But again, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

(Warbreaker spoilers for one paragraph – ignore it you haven’t read it yet)

I’m really happy that Kathleen introduced me to this world, and will probably read some of the other books in Sanderson’s cosmere. I LOVED the crossover from Warbreaker and it felt so cool when I figured out that Azure was probably Vivenna, and that Nightblood MOST DEFINITELY was the same sword!

Sanderson has a real gift for world building and tying everything together. I’m sincerely impressed. Kudos to you, Brandon. See you in your next book.


Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House – TwoMorePages Book Review

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House – TwoMorePages Book Review

You know how best to get everyone to read a book? Freak out and tell everyone not to read it, call it a bunch of lies without even knowing what’s in it, like Trump’s administration did lol. I hadn’t planned on reading this book at all, and yet here we are!

Honestly, I thought my friend Elijah would be right when he said that I probably wouldn’t learn anything by reading the book. It would just reinforce some of the things I already thought, and so it probably wouldn’t be a good use of my time. So surprise surprise, when I *did* actually learn things in Fire and Fury!

It never really occurred to me that Trump’s advisors would not only NOT be one unified front, but would actively be undermining each other. I thought they were just incompetent and that’s why they couldn’t get on the same page.

Nor did it occur to me that Steve Bannon, of all people, would sometimes be the voice of reason among the senior advisors. For instance, he was the loudest voice against firing James Comey! WUT?! I’m sure this is due in part because he ended up being such a primary source for the book, but he’s painted as this racist political mastermind.

So here we go. Let’s talk about some of my favorite passages from this book. And Rachel’s too (in blue!)

The Administration’s Beginning

“Don’t let him piss off the press, don’t let him piss off the Republican Party, don’t threaten congressmen because they will fuck you if you do, and most of all, don’t let him piss off the intel community,” said one national Republican figure to Kushner. “If you fuck with the intel community, they will figure out a way to get back at you and you’ll have two or three years of a Russian investigation, and every day something else will leak out.”

Lol, if this was really told to Kushner and Trump’s advisors right in the beginning, that was extremely prescient. The only thing they got wrong so far was predicting legislative pushback from Republicans, since they seem to be actively aiding in obstructing Mueller’s investigation so far (*cough Nunes*).

Hi guys – Rachel here! Writing this a few months out, (and quite a few Mueller team revelations and subpoenas later), it’s remarkable to watch how little the modern Republican leadership (and I’m not taking shots at all of them or all Republicans so hold your horses people) seems to care that Trump is actively going after the Mueller investigation. Basically the strongest quote is Lindsey Graham saying firing Mueller will be “the beginning of the end of his presidency,” but since I’m pretty sure we’ve already past that point, its not much of a threat. And wow, let’s just say Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have severely given up the mantel of any ethical leadership. I pretty don’t much want to hear them say the words moral, right, or good, ever again 

The Breitbart formula was to so appall the liberals that the base was doubly satisfied, generating clicks in a ricochet of disgust and delight. You defined yourself by your enemy’s reaction. Conflict was the media bait – hence, now, the political chum. The new politics was not the art of the compromise but the art of conflict.

On Friday, January 27th, the travel ban was signed and took immediate effect. The result was an emotional outpouring of horror and indignation from liberal media, terror in immigrant communities, tumultuous protests at major airports, confusion throughout the government, and, in the White House, an inundation of lectures, warnings, and opprobrium from friends and family. What have you done? Do you know what your’e doing? You have to undo this! You’re finished before you even start! Who’s in chart there?

But Steve Bannon was satisfied. He could not have hoped to draw a more vivid line between the two Americas – Trump’s and liberals’ – and between his White House and the White House inhabited by those not yet ready to burn the place down.

Why did we do this on a Friday when it would hit the airports hardest and bring out the most protesters? almost the entire White House staff demanded to know.

“Err…that’s why,” said Bannon. “So the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot.” That was the way to crush the liberals: make them crazy and drag them to the left.

Never really thought about it in that respect. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see now that okay, this was Bannon trying to set a tone for the administration, one that purportedly never thought it was going to win, and so never planned for what to do if it did.

The way Bannon is described in the beginning of the administration is true to what we know about him – he is brash, and he is a man of action. It makes perfect sense that he would advise Trump to just start making executive orders, and then let the fallout happen. Even more than that, it makes perfect sense that he would do something that would provoke the maximum response and push people away from what would have been the middle.

If I’m being introspective for a second, I’m as guilty as anyone of being pushed left from his actions, and then condemning people that were pushed to the right. There are some friendships of mine that will never recover.

Bannon and Trump’s actions reshaped the national dialogue. The administration of most Presidents, after winning, tries to unite the country again, bringing people back to the middle so that compromise can be reached. So that we can move on and move forward as a country. Bannon and Trump did the opposite, and that’s part of why you still see stupid shit about Clinton when the election was FOURTEEN MONTHS AGO.

But it’s interesting to see that this was planned. That we were all part of Bannon’s game. Which if I take a step back, is honestly…pretty impressive. Especially when the rest of the book paints everyone else as basically incompetent idiots running around just trying to make the best of their situations. Steve Bannon – racist political genius.

 This is probably something I’m going to end up saying a lot here, but Steve Bannon – at least Michael Wolff’s Steve Bannon – is scarily prescient. This man, from what it appears, was smart enough to know enough about a deep, dark, scary vein running through America. Do I severely dislike the man? Hell yes. Do I think maybe the way he is portrayed in this book is at least in part a product of his own making? Again, 100%. Do I think he is extremely, virulently racist and discriminatory? Oh yeah, for sure and for certain. But, I also think he knew pretty much exactly what he was doing and what he needed to push and prod to make his scary-ass dreams come true.  

The Stupid Wiretapping Allegations

“At the Obama White House, Mr. Trump’s statements toked fears among some that intelligence could be covered up or destroyed – or its sources exposed – once power changed hands. What followed was a push to preserve the intelligence that underscored the deep anxiety from which the White House and American intelligence agencies had come to view the threat from Moscow.”

-The New York Times

Here was more confirmation of a central Trump thesis: The previous administration, its own candidate defeated, was not just disregarding the democratic custom of smoothing the way for the winner of the election; rather, in the Trump White House view, Obama’s people had plotted with the intelligence community to put land mines in the new administration’s way.

So here is one example of something I genuinely learned from this book. Perspective, however screwed up, from the other side.

I remember being absolutely livid when Trump’s allegations against President Obama came out. I got a fight with my buddy Scott, from which our relationship has never truly recovered. I almost doxxed him, I was so mad, in order to prove a point as to how dangerous those allegations truly were.

It’s interesting to see how Trump and his administration saw it. From Trump’s POV, where he’s always a victim, the fact that intelligence agencies were scrambling to protect themselves wasn’t a symptom of a larger problem – namely, that they didn’t trust the President.

No, instead, it was a symptom of some larger conspiracy, where Obama’s administration set “land mines” in Trump’s way to prevent him from having a good relationship with the intelligence agencies. Absolute lunacy from a 3rd party perspective, but at least now, you can get a glimpse into the craziness.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped” in Trump Tower jsut before the victory.”

And once you understand that level of paranoia and craziness from Trump, you can see how it was so easy for Trump to jump to his stupid tweets accusing Obama of heinous acts that he didn’t do.


Yeah, okay so here’s something  I still have problems understanding. So I get that Trump is terribly paranoid. Sure, I think we’ve all grasped that by this point. But, in reading this book, it struck me once again just how odd it is that the rest of the Trump team – like all of them, generals, commanders, RINOs, CEOs, the Kushner family, etc. – are going along with the paranoid shtick. I know they get to be in some of the powerful position in the world by following along with Trump’s paranoiac behavior, but you know…they still technically won the election. Meaning, they could hold onto power and not bow to conspiracy theories every three days. Just a thought! *cough* Javanka and Kelly *cough* 

Steve Bannon’s Best Quotes

Despite the fact that I think he’s an absolutely awful human being, Steve Bannon has the most entertaining and memorable quotes in this entire book.

“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

-Steve Bannon

“He (the President) said to me everybody would take that Don Junior meeting with the Russians. I said, ‘Everybody would not take that meeting.’

‘I’m a naval officer. I’m not going to take a meeting with Russian nationals, and do it in headquarters, are you fucking insane?’ ”

-Steve Bannon

It boggles my mind that Bannon and I have things we 100% agree on. Bannon’s condescension and disbelief at the stupidity of that meeting in Trump Tower mirrors mine. He just makes it so entertaining to read lol.

“I’m pretty good at coming up with solutions, I came up with a solution for his broke-dick campaign in about a day, but I don’t see this. (Russia thing). I don’t see a plan for getting through. Now, I gave him a plan…but he’s the President…and you can’t stop him. The guy is going to call his own plays. He’s Trump…”

-Steve Bannon

“If he fires Mueller, it just brings the impeachment quicker. He wants an unrecused attorney general. I told him if Jeff Sessions goes, Rod Rosenstein goes, and then Rachel Brand goes. We’ll be digging down into Obama career guys. An Obama guy will be acting attorney general.

I said you’re not going to get Rudy (Guliani) because he was on the campaign and will have to recuse himself, and Chris Christie too, so those are masturbatory fantasies, get those out of your brain.”

-also Steve Bannon haha

That last one is I think my absolute favorite. “Those are masturbatory fantasies, get those out of your brain” bahahaha

The way that Bannon describes *just how bad* of a decision firing Mueller would be is hilarious entertaining.

Quick snap back to real life, I’m obvious on Team Mueller, and hope he finds enough to not only get Trump out of this Presidency, but charged with actual crimes. With the increasing speed of front-page worth news articles related to Trump, since this book got released, Mueller got a subpeona to interview Bannon.

What’s weird to me is that Bannon has basically lost everything now. He was kicked out of the White House by Kelly/Jared/Ivanka. Then, because of some of these hilarious quotes in the book, he and Trump no longer publicly get along. And on top of that, the Mercer family, the main family backing Breitbart, cut ties with him and so he got fired from Breitbart, of all places.

So here he is, having lost everything. No income. No relationships. No nothing. He’s literally got *nothing* to lose by talking.

So why isn’t he turning on Trump and Trump’s family? *Especially* because the book goes into so much detail about how much he hated Jared and Ivanka. Considering how vengeful he seems to be, this would seem to be a prime opportunity for some vengeance at getting ousted by them.

Instead, he’s hiding under executive privilege from Trump, and seems to be actively trying to not answer Mueller’s questions. WHY? I’m so confused…

Couple months out from the release of the book and not one whisper from Bannon. Which, agreeing with Edmund, is super super super odd. It’s kinda like the saying about toddlers and puppies, although this time applied to a much more sinister case scenario — The scariest sound of all is silence. 

Favorite Quotes from Other People

It’s worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won’t read anything – not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his staff is no better. Kushner is an entitled baby who knows nothing. Bannon is an arrogant prick who thinks he’s smarter than he is. Trump is less a person than a collection of terrible traits.

I hate the work, but feel I need to stay because I’m the only person there with a clue what he’s doing. The reason so few jobs have been filled is that they only accept people who pass ridiculous purity tests, even for midlevel policy-making jobs where the people will never see the light of day. I am in a constant state of shock and horror.

-Gary Cohn

I think this totally unrefuted blurb from Gary Cohn is the most telling thing about the inner workings of the Trump White House. This is someone who was on the inside, who worked for Goldman Sachs. Why wouldn’t I believe him?

“Its impossible to make him understand you can’t stop these investigations. In the old days, you could say leave it alone. Now you say leave it alone and you’re the one who gets investigated. He can’t get this through his head.”

-Roger Ailes

I think it’s funny that even Roger Ailes speaks condescendingly of Trump, especially in relation to the Russian investigation that most die hard Trump supporters think is a “nothing-burger.”

To me, the exposition of the relationship between Murdoch, Ailes, Trump, and Bannon was fascinating. Three of these men have been household names for decades now, and all four will be for a long, long time in the future. But I guess what’s crazy is you never think about the fact that these guys actually know each other – like each other, hate each other, tolerate each other – in real life. But that’s beside the point. The point is this quote by Roger Ailes: 

“Men who demand the most loyalty tend to be the least loyal pricks.” 

Now, who on earth in the White House do we know demands absolute loyalty from anyone he encounters… You’d think by now people would know Trump is one of the least loyal humans ever. I mean come on, the man’s been stabbing people in the back since the 70s. 

Trump: Marshmallow in Chief

“The President fundamentally wants to be liked. He just fundamentally needs to be liked so badly that it’s always…everything is a struggle for him.”

-Katie Walsh

The speech also confirmed Ivanka’s understanding of her father: he just wanted to be loved. And, likewise, it confirmed Bannon’s worst feat: Trump, in his true heart, was a marshmallow.

This is simultaneously the most insightful and most sad revelation from this book. That maybe, at his core, Trump isn’t an awful person. He’s just a someone with the mind of a child who’s surrounded himself with awful people, and so he does awful things with the powers granted him based on their influence.

It makes sense when you zoom out and see which world leaders he gets along with the best. They’re all people and regimes that flatter him – literally almost everything else doesn’t matter. He gets along with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the Phillippines, autocratic regimes that flatter him.

And the countries that he gets along least with? Our allies who don’t just cowtow to him, but expect him to lead and set a good example. Germany, Australia, France, Great Britain, Canada.

Or when you look at his visceral reaction to the press. Fox News, which is basically a propaganda machine built on fellating Trump, is his favorite. He even likes Infowars and Breitbart, not because of the quality of their journalism, but because they praise him. Meanwhile, actual good news outlets are all “fake news” because they are critical of the MANY things his administration is failing at.

So how do we approach things given this information? Because right now, the only people who deign to be his sycophants are awful people with awful agendas. They are the only ones with his ear.

Does the press start focusing on praise when he does well, to encourage him to do more good things? Like a child? I’ve always heard you teach children/pets tricks by praising them when they do something well, not punishing them when they do something you don’t want to do. Could that work with Trump as well?

And if so, how does that change the national discourse? Does it change it in a positive way? Will he stop attacking the press if so?

To be clear, this argument is not advocating to go full on Fox News apology mode, ignoring anything he does poorly and making excuses for them. It’s just to give him a little positive press when he DOES do something well that’s popular – like when he pulled out of the TPP for instance. And then continue being critical of him where he fails.

Or maybe we can praise him for things like NOT firing Mueller? 😀

Would that work? Would that help dilute the advice of his awful advisers, and somehow mitigate some of the terrible effects of his awful presidency? Food for thought.

I gotta agree – this portion of the book hit me hard too. But, maybe I’m more cynical, I just have a hard time believing that underneath the racism, sexism, power hunger, class-ism, etc. that Trump is just a big Marshmallow. Truly, I think he has a narcissistic personality that has been fed simpering, sycophantic flattery over his entire life, is someone who has never worked an honest job (yes, I know he worked, but come on, it wasn’t really honest), and is very rarely contradicted by his inner circle when he says something blatantly (or dog whistle-y) wrong. Give a man like this nearly unlimited power and attention…well, why did we except him to change upon entering the Oval Office. I’m sure he does feel some level of sympathy about bad situations, but if the man – who, let’s just reiterate, is THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES – needs a card that reminds him to say “I hear you” at a listening session for shooting victims…something’s off there. 


In conclusion, this book was a better read than I thought it would be. I got a little glimpse into Trump’s POV (however wrong) in certain issues, developed a better understanding of the adversarial relationship that Priebus, Bannon, and Jared/Ivanka had in Trump’s White House, and maybe got a little glimpse into the President’s character as well, along with some *very* entertaining quotes from Bannon.

A worthwhile read.

The Only Pirate at the Party – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Only Pirate at the Party – TwoMorePages Book Review

My evolution as a violinist has included many thrilling performances, and I still love what I do, but there are times when even I get burned out. When this happens, I go back to that moment ten years ago. I picture myself on the stage with my bow in the air. I feel my heart racing, I see the faces in the audience smiling, and I remember the moment I thought, I have to make this my life.

So I was overseas, with limited access to internet and…whoops, I read through all the books that I had on my kindle. So…what was I to do, but re-read something I’d already read?

Well, what book to read then? I’d just finished a load of sci-fi with the latest installment of Craig Alanson’s The Expeditionary Force (aka THE ADVENTURES OF SKIPPY haha), fantasy with Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer, and well…I was trying to read to relax instead of stress out with righteous indignation, so politics was obviously out of the question (thanks Trump lol).

I looked through my library and…voila! The Only Pirate at the Party, from my first favorite violinist, Lindsey Stirling! I didn’t remember a ton about it, since I’d last read it 2 years ago, but I remembered it being mostly positive and uplifting?

It hit the spot, helping me turn around a vacation that honestly had not gone that well up to that point, and helping me cool off some of my anti-Trump rage. So kudos to you, Lindsey. 🙂

Uplifting Messages/Advice

That’s the best part about being a kid. Nothing seems impossible until someone bigger and older tells you it is. I grew up in a lovely little world where nothing was too far out of reach if I wanted to work for it. I think I still live in that world.

Standing out on purpose is one thing, but doing so by default takes a lot of energy and confidence. I’m proud of the things that set me apart, and I know why they are good; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult.

Lindsey had a lot of great and relatable messages to her readers in this book. The above two are my favorites.

I’m often told that I have a lot of (too much?) energy, especially for my age, and I know for a fact that I stand out. I’m confident now, but I wasn’t always. Stick me in a completely unfamiliar place, and you’ll see me struggle sometimes if I can’t turn “it” on.

Based on her stories, Lindsey seems the same way. She grew up a certain way, found it didn’t *quite* conform, but rolled with her personality and upbringing anyway. It’s nice to see and read affirming messages, and I hope she reached some of her younger fans with them.

Living in the Moment

Once upon a time, I thought I blew the greatest moment of my life. I no longer believe that is possible. Life is kind and full of great moments, but I think the greatest moment of my life is always ahead of me. When I reach it, there will be another, greater moment to come.

I want to spend more time balancing in the present. It’s the only thing that truly exists. If I’m too busy ruminating over the past or pining for the future, some of those great moments will pass by before I get the chance to live in them.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I had been pretty stressed out, both personally and at global affairs for several months leading up to re-reading this book. I’d spend hours ruminating on what-could-have-been if only I’d made a different decision at a certain point in time in December, or stressing out about the LATEST idiotic thing that Donald Trump did, or stressing about learning that someone *else* I knew and looked up to had voted for and continues to support Trump through it all. Oi.

But Lindsey’s message of staying in the moment, of not dwelling on the past or waiting for the future was a kind reminder to pay attention to the present, was a good reminder to enjoy the here and now. It helped that I was in New Zealand, of course, but yeah – I should enjoy this vacation, weather and bad luck be damned.

Lindsey Philosophy

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” What genius came up with that one? A robot? What a load. Let me set the record straight. Throwing stick sand stones is mean (and archaic), but you really want to hurt me, use words. They are much more effective.

Lindsey went into detail about how pretending to not care about how others feel about you may work for some people, but not for her. I think that’s a really good lesson for any of her readers that have or have had self esteem issues.

It’s not weak that you care about what other people think of you. You can try to minimize it, but it’s okay to still care.

“Not long after, I came across some positive comments on the internet, and I was reminded why I do what I do: to bring people joy. Am I the best violinist in teh world? No. Do I need to be the best to bring people joy? No.”

What’s important is how you deal with it. Lindsey’s solution was to care more about what she thought of herself, and to think about why she performed. And bravo to her for that.

“Maybe my best isn’t as good as someone else’s, but for a lot of people, my best is enough. Most important, for me, it’s enough.”

And of course, her real overarching idea in that chapter was acceptance. It’s okay if you’re not the best, as long as you’re accomplishing what you set out to do. For her, it was helping others have fun via entertaining them.

For me, it’s okay if I didn’t make the perfect trade – sure, I maybe could have retired if I had, but I still came out well ahead of most of the decisions I could have made, so I should be happy with what I’ve done, and look to the next trade, instead of beating myself up for not timing the top and making the perfect one.

Selfishly Selfless

Selfishly selfless: Selfless behavior resulting in positive recognition for good deeds, warming the heart and causing feelings of being noble and heroic.

Selflessly selfless: Selfless behavior resulting in negative recognition, or no recognition at all.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: being selflessly selfless was really hard for me.

Her chapters about her Mormon missionary work were very interesting. She went into depth about how hard it was, and about her mindset going into it: that she’d go and save souls and be super recognized for it, and oh how fun that’d be!

If you’ve seen The Book of Mormon, the main character has similar aspirations for credit, and falls on his face, similar to what Lindsey experienced initially as well.

Her main point with her mission stories is that if you go into the mindset that helping you will help you feel better via praise from others, it’ll sometimes be really hard to enjoy being selfless. Which is…an interesting concept.

I’ll admit that part of the reason why I help people when I can is exactly that. I want to be recognized for helping others so that way I feel better about myself. Selfishly, I also think that doing so will end up coming around karmically to help me out if I’m even in a bind, which is…if you think about it, kind of a selfish reason to be selfless.

“Whenever anyone asks him how he found the church, Mike talks about you. Says he met a little short haired angel on the subway.”

Her major success story in her missionary work brought a smile to my face, and is clearly an important moment in her life. I’m glad she shared it.

Lindsey’s Struggles

Reading about Lindsey’s struggles, both professionally and personally, was a lot more than I honestly expected. I had expected more of “Well, things were hard at first, but then I kept working and things kept getting better and then yay!”

When the lights faded, I held it together until I reached the bathroom, where I locked the door, sank to the floor, and sobbed. I was humiliated, but more than anything, I felt utterly betrayed by God. Leading up to my performance, I was confident it was nothing short of divine intervention that had led me there – that God wanted me to do well. Instead of rising to the top as I had prayed for, I took a nosedive, and I couldn’t understand why.

Reading about how she locked herself in a bathroom and cried after what happened to her on America’s Got Talent was heartbreaking. I’ve been there where you think “welp, guess it was fun having hopes and dreams. That’s over. What are my consolation prizes / where do I go from here?”, and it is a *dark* place.

At first, I felt like I had a split personality. Every time I ate something out of my comfort zone, the internal battle would begin in my head. Automatically, the eating disorder side of my brain would say, You can’t even say “no” to a small bowl of ice cream? You are pathetic and weak.

Furthermore, reading about Lindsey’s struggles with anorexia were both frightening and eye opening. If I ever have a daughter (or son) going through something similar, I hope I’ll be able to help them, first with getting them to read her anorexia chapters in this book, and then starting on a support structure from there.

Hopefully the chapters here would help her (or him) to see that she (or he) is not alone, that others have gone through it, and that they have triumphed, Lindsey being one of them.

I’m fortunate enough to not have gone through something like that, but damn, the way she described anorexia was psychologically pretty frightening – the way her relationships with her friends changed, the way her relationship with her family and her mother changed. That’s scary.


I can only hope I never have to find another keyboard-playing best friend. Those are some big shoes to fill. I would know, since I once tried to wear Gavi’s shoes into a venue. It was snowing, and I couldn’t find my own. I ended up using one as a toboggan instead.

And Last but not least, I heard it from someone somewhere that Gavi thinks I’m hott. Don’t make me say it again, I’m blushing so hard right now.


I’ll close this review the same way that Lindsey closed her book, with Gavi.

I had heard whispers that Gavi and Lindsey were almost a couple, but never quite. Lindsey wrote this book while he was still sick, but everyone thought he’d recover. He was a healthy guy in his late 20s, early 30s before he got sick – surely nothing to worry about?

But then…

Gavi passed away after the completion of this book, but before it was published. Losing him was the darkest period of my life, but he will always be a light in my memory.

When I think of him, I will always imagine him laughing, because that’s what Gavi was best at – making people laugh and spreading joy.

I love you, Gavi. I love you more than you will ever know.

That’s just…so sad. 😦

Reading this book gave us all insight into Lindsey’s past life via her stories and musings, but it also gave us a window into her life at the time of her writing this book. I’m sorry you and Gavi didn’t get your storybook ending, Lindsey.

Seems like you two truly did have something special, especially after hearing Gavi’s Song, from your Brave Enough album. Gosh, I even believe the online speculation that you named your album Brave Enough because you wished you had been “brave enough” to tell him your feelings. 😥

Persepolis Rising – TwoMorePages Book Review

Persepolis Rising – TwoMorePages Book Review

Unpopular opinion incoming: this book might have been my least favorite in The Expanse series, and I’m a little afraid it’s going to set the tone going forward for the rest of the series.

The Expanse to me has always been about the adventures of the Rocinante and its crew, zipping around in a mostly state of the art MCRN corvette, and dealing with sci fi and space travel in a way that Star Trek, Star Wars, and other major Space franchises didn’t – without a lot of fancy tech.

No inertial dampeners to provide gravity, so ships are built more like skyscrapers to provide thrust gravity. No shields to make space travel less dangerous, so everyone’s ships are actually super fragile. No fancy space lasers, but more conventional weapons like PDCs, torpedoes, and railgun rounds (plus ingenious weapons like just throwing rocks at high speeds at planets).

So to have the Laconians come in and seemingly break all of those rules made this installment of the Expanse radically different for me. Then, combine that with the HUGE time jump of 30-ish years for our crew, and I felt like I was reading an entirely different series.

And maybe that was part of the point of this book. To put us in the mindset of our characters, having everything turn upside down all at once. What do you mean one ship can take out the entire Earth-Mars-Union fleet? What do you mean it can eat a nuke and keep on trucking? What do you mean it has fancy space weapons that can take out entire stations? What do you mean it TOOK OUT TYCHO STATION?

Maybe this book was supposed to be all about transitions. The transition of Rocinante leadership from Holden to Bobbie; the transition of power from the Sol system to Laconia; the transition of technology from mostly human technology to alien protomolecule technology.

If that was the case, then the authors definitely set the uneasy tone of transition very well. I can’t say that I had fun reading this book – everything felt shitty the whole time because everyone we were cheering for instantly got conquered. There was only small tokens of resistance victories, and even those came at a price.


I have killed, but I am not a killer. Because a killer is a monster, and monsters aren’t afraid.

“I’m a monster,” Clarissa said.

No you aren’t, baby. You’re not a monster. You’re not. Which meant Naomi had misunderstood. Clarissa had meant, I’m not afraid. She tried to think what to say that would clarify that, but it was a lot of effort. And what did it matter really if anyone else understood? She knew.

Fuck it, she thought. Some things you take to your grave.

Clarissa Melpomene Mao closed her eyes.

One thing that hit me harder than I thought it would was Clarissa’s death. 😥 We barely even got to know her character once she became one of the Roci’s crew. She had a few chapters in Babylon’s Ashes, but not nearly enough to develop her character on the level of Naomi’s, Holden’s, or Amos’s. I was really looking forward to learning about her more.

Her final chapter was my favorite of the whole book – great action, a win for the good guys, intriguing introspective thoughts, and laconians dying.


The story of Medina will be that Governor Singh mismanaged the station, lost his ship to a band of malcontents, lost his perspective. And when he let his wounded pride exceed the mandates of the high consul’s directives, he was removed for the protection of the everyday citizens in his care.

And, speaking of characters dying, one person who I was very happy to see go was Singh, main Laconian POV character. I’m not really sure what the point was of his chapters.

He was clearly unqualified to be governor, lashing out in petty ways even against the advice of his senior staff. His actions were that of a coward rather than a leader, constantly second guessing his own decisions and growing increasingly fascist and authoritarian as he feared more and more for his safety. We saw him go from an idealist family man to a person willing to kill everyone on Medina that he didn’t deem “loyal”.

And then we saw him die as a result of that transition, executed by his own security officer who apparently had orders to keep him in check and make sure that he didn’t turn fascist and authoritarian? Well then why did you send this guy anyway?

There are plenty of older, more seasoned and established MCRN staff that came through the gate that could have and *should have* been given this responsibility instead. Why give this green officer this important responsibility?

Final Thoughts

It’s weird reading all the other reviews that are praising this book. I feel like it’s a radical departure from The Expanse that we’ve been reading for the last several years. The time jump for me is jarring, as is the entire shift of balance of power.

This is the first time where I’ve been reading an Expanse novel and hoping that it would just be over soon. Because I was gonna finish it! haha. But I wasn’t really enjoying it.

Maybe this is just because I read book 3 from The Stormlight Archive right before it and it was a hard act to follow? I’m definitely staying invested in the series, so I’ll see y’all at the next book.

Conscience of a Conservative by Jeff Flake – TwoMorePages Book Review

Conscience of a Conservative by Jeff Flake – TwoMorePages Book Review

{Edited Preface: Like The Words of Radiance review, this one has two voices. This time, I read the book along with my good friend Rachel, and she’s shared her thoughts below in blue.

Funnily enough, Jeff Flake had an unexpected announcement while we were coming up with our thoughts. I wrote all of my thoughts *before* his announcement and Rachel wrote all of them *after*, so there will be a slightly interesting dichotomy in timing and verb tenses. Enjoy!}

So I’ve been reading a lot of political books lately given our…unique political climate. Senator Bernie Sanders’s book was cool, if a bit preachy. Senator Al Franken’s book was hilariously entertaining, while also being on point with his messaging.

But in order to prevent myself from living in an echo chamber, I thought it important to read something from a conservative viewpoint. On a recommendation from my buddy, Eric Kuhle, on our Acadia National Park trip, I picked up Jeff Flake’s book, “Conscience of a Conservative.”

It was way better than I thought it would be. And, surprisingly, it read *really* similarly to Al Franken’s “Giant of the Senate book.” The main difference wasn’t one of topics, but of tone. Whereas Franken’s book carried a mostly comedic tone, Flake’s come off in a very serious manner. The only time he really tries to be funny is when he points out the absurdity of some of the situations he has been faced with as a US Senator.

Hi! Rachel here. I picked up this book on a recommendation from Edmund and, I have to admit, I honestly enjoyed it. It was short, witty, to-the-point and a breath of fresh air in an otherwise very smothering political atmosphere. Was it a little preachy? Yeah, of course, it’s a book written by a politician. Was it necessary? Absolutely. 

On Bad Information and the Threat to Democracy

For instance, the third chapter of Flake’s book is titled “On Bad Information and the Threat to Democracy”. Compare that with Franken’s chapter “Lies and the Lying Liars that Tell Them”. You could have dropped one persons’s chapter into the other verbatim and aside from a slight change in tone, I would never have noticed. For instance, compare the following statements from each of their books:

Whatever the source, a steady diet of bad information, conveyed in bad faith, can over time become a serious threat to democracy. Over time, a determined effort to undermine the very idea of truth softens the ground for anti-democratic impulses.

-Jeff Flake

I know I’m sort of farting into the wind on this. But I hope you’ll fart along with me. I’ve always believed that it’s possible to discern true statements from false statements, and that it’s critically important to do so, and that we put our entire democratic experiment in peril when we don’t.

-Al Franken

or these statements from each of their books:

There was once a time in politics, as well as in journalism, when in order to be serious and credible, you had to observe a baseline fidelity to empirical truth. And if you made mistakes – or worse, if you were a bad actor and got things wrong on purpose – you suffered real consequences. Violate the public trust, and you paid a steep price. The higher up the food chain you went, the more serious and credible you were expected to be.

That order seems to have vanished.

-Jeff Flake

All of this to say that I care a lot about people in politics telling the truth. And even considering all the horrible things Trump got away with during the campaign – mocking a disabled reporter, attacking a Gold Star family, referring to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “drug dealers,” calling for Muslims to be banned from our country – I still can’t believe he got away with lying so much.

Frankly, it made me wonder whether, sadly, the war was over and the liars had won.

-Al Franken

I’ll give credit where credit is due. Flake is an eloquent writer. While his prose is more fancy than Franken’s, they basically had the exact same message. And remember that they are on pretty staunchly opposite sides of the political aisle.


Look on my facebook wall and you’ll see that I don’t shy away from political debate. But you’ll notice that until someone tries to use “#FakeNews” to discredit something that they disagree with, I try to be relatively cordial, trying to address the specific points that we are disagreeing on vs assuming that they are dumb.

Just because we disagree doesn’t make either one of us stupid. I fully agree with Day[9] when it comes to internet arguments, and try to approach discussions that way.

But try to discredit anything you disagree with as “fake” not because it’s actually fake, but because it disagrees with you? Now I’ll treat you like an idiot child.

If you treat everything that you disagree with as “fake” and then ignore it, how are we supposed to have a reasonable discussion? Your mind can’t be changed, and you can’t support your argument with provable facts. Why are we even talking?

It was very heartening to see Senator Flake, a staunchly Republican Senator, agree that facts are important.

Perhaps most destructive of all, we haven’t ever had an occupant of the White House who so routinely calls true reports that irk him “fake news” while giving his seal of approval to fake reports that happen to support his position.

It is madness to turn ourselves inside out in an attempt to make reality comport with an alternate reality, just because someone in power would like us to.

It was further heartening to see him call out Trump specifically for what infuriates me about him – calling everything that disagrees with him “fake” while automatically praising anything that agrees with him, regardless of its validity.

I’d go further down this rabbit hole, but I already did in my review for Franken’s book, so no need to rehash that here.

Only in anti-democratic propaganda states do we see “alternate facts” successfully compete with the truth for primacy. Only in such states do we see a sustained program of bad information emanate from the highest levels of the government. This, as I will continue to point out in the course of this book, is not a conservative value. And as conservatives, we simply cannot carry on as if it is not happening.

As someone who grew up staunchly conservative and who has become sickened at what now passes as conservative, it’s nice to know that there’s still someone home who has the ability to think critically. And that if Flake thinks this, surely other Republican Senators and House Representatives do as well.

I wholeheartedly agree with Edmund’s analysis above. While always a liberal, I too grew up in a pretty conservative extended family and I have watched the Republican party and its conservative affiliates leap to the right and leave my family behind, bewildered and all of a sudden pretty liberal. (Shout out to all the Southern Baptist conservative Texan families out there who have rejected this administration as well…oh wait, no one else? Ah well.) Senator Flake analyzed the situation fairly aptly: The Republican Party, “following the lead of a candidate who had a special skill for identifying ‘problems,’ if not for solving them…lurched like a tranquilized elephant…” with no solution or moral code in sight.  That’s a pretty damning indictment of someone who will continue to work on behalf of the Republican Party for another year and a half. 

On Fox News

I fully expected to receive the “Do you believe the President is a citizen?” question, and sure enough, when the question came, I said that if we wanted to be taken seriously, we had to stop indulging in ugly conspiracy theories. Those words were met with a choros of boos.

When a conspiracy theory becomes litmus-test orthodoxy, objective reality is at risk.

The truth is the truth, and anything else is a waste of time. Still, to be booed because I didn’t subscribe to a right-wing conspiracist fantasy about our first African American president is a sobering experience indeed.

The impact of the support of the absurd birther theory regularly received on certain shows on Fox News cannot be overstated. In fact, the impact of the conditioning that the minds of American conservatives receive on some of these Fox shows cannot be overstated.

That last paragraph was something I had not expected to read AT ALL in a book written by a conservative senator. That was an amazingly pleasant surprise.

So kudos to Jeff Flake, calling out bullshit where he sees it.

I know that one of the big hullabaloos about him writing this book at all was that he put himself in danger of losing re-election, not from a democratic challenger, but from a primary challenger. And I think that danger is very real, given that he calls out the idiotic ideas that galvanized the extremes of his party’s own base (who are the ones who usually vote in primaries). So again, major props to Jeff Flake.

Way to stick to your principles, Flake. I really hope you’re not punished for it from within your own party, that smart conservatives actually read your book and show up to the Primary voting booths.

So I’m adding to this review a few days late and it looks like my prediction that Flake would drop out has come true. I haven’t quite come to terms yet with how I feel about that. This is a man with whose policies and voting records I vehemently disagree.  This is a man who voted 91% of the time with the Trump Administration’s policies. But as much as I disagree with this, I can’t really blame him – Flake is a staunch conservative who borders on libertarianism, of course he would vote this way. 

However. This is also a man who wrote in his condemnation of the modern Republican party, “We hold out our hand, expecting our share of nonwhite votes, and yet we give these Americans too few reasons to come our way. Instead, we demonized them, marginalized them, blamed them for our country’s problems…” That statement right there? Incredible. A member of the modern Republican party being able to critically diagnose his party’s failings in this regard is almost unprecedented. 

On Globalism and Free Trade

Seemingly overnight, the word globalist became a grave insult among people in my party who also called themselves “conservative.” I remember a right-wing blog post during my election t the Senate that said I had “been seen in the company of globalists in Paris, France.”

Quel scandale! Globalist as opposed to what, exactly? A provincialist? A parochialist? A localist?

In this country, we are less than 5% of the world’s population. We are 20% of the world’s economic output. And if we don’t trade, we don’t grow. Given the alternatives, I’ll take the globalist moniker, thank you.

One of my favorite snippets of the book came in his chapter about Free Trade. It’s one of the few times that he comes off as comedic and, imo, the perfect amount of snarky.

Yes, Flake! This is something that has been driving me up a wall for years. When on earth did we decide that being a “globalist” or internationalist was such a bad thing? Did we learn nothing from World War 1 or World War 2? Let’s just set this straight. No, the U.N. is not out to take over the world and ruin American lives. No, isolationism is not the best way to solve problems. No, understanding other cultures is not going to undermine your own. No, attempting to make peace through treaties and diplomacy is not a symbol of a country’s weakness. And no, globalization and trade and international relations ARE NOT A ZERO SUM GAME. They’re just not. 

As someone who grew up with the notion that free trade makes everyone richer and better off, the whole “protectionism” vibe that we’ve been seeing with the election of Trump, the potential election of Marie LePen in France, and the whole BrExit fiasco has been super puzzling for me. Who votes to cut off their nose to spite their face? Well, a lot of people apparently.

Free trade is a lift-all-boats phenomenon, and that is precisely what free-market economics is all about. It provides for the most efficient use of capital…It is precisely because we have taken advantage of globalization that we have the standard of living that we have.

In America, it’s even weirder, because, to me, the party that is about hands-off government and laissez-faire economics should be the party that is all about open borders and free trade. IT MAKES EVERYONE RICHER, so why wouldn’t the pro-business party be all for it?

His condescension at the idiot members of the Republican party that seem to be for protectionism, those idiot members who use globalist with a negative connotation perfectly encapsulates how I feel about them. DO YOU NOT LIKE MONEY? WHY WOULD YOU BE FOR TRADE WARS?

On Thinking About What You Say

In politics, it is difficult to win an argument with complexity and facts when the other side offers easy answers and free stuff without worrying about the details. This is largely how Donald Trump vanquished the Republican field in 2016.

Candidate Trump was giving – and we, the Republican electorate, bought – the late-night infomercial: “Health Care for Everybody! Much Better, at a Fraction of the Cost! Free Border Wall! Super-Colossal Trade Deals! But Wait! There’s More!!”

This doesn’t need much commentary by me. It is just straight up funny, while being OH-SO-TRUE.

Trump promised his electorate the world, and those of us who questioned how the fuck he was going to do things that seemed mutually exclusive like make health care better while simultaneously making it cheaper while simultaneously covering more people were brushed off. And then of course, when push came to shove, came “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Yeah, “nobody.” /s

Exactly. As a Political Science major a little piece of me dies inside any time a politician or layman tries to say that a policy is bad because it is too long or complicated. There really isn’t ever such a thing in politics as an easy solution. In fact, there is a whole branch of political science devoted to something called Wicked Problems: problems that have incomplete or contradictory information, a plethora of people and interest groups involved, a large economic burden, and interconnections with other problems and policy areas. So yeah, the legislation that is the most detailed, comprehensive, thought-out, and analyzed is probably going to be the best legislation to pass. And yeah, we all knew health care (and literally any other policy arena) was going to be complicated. 

On Checking the Powers of the Executive Branch

I was puzzled when the new president’s senior adviser Stephen Miller – who was also credited with a principal role in the development of the travel ban – appeared on national television and announced that “our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.” Will not by questioned? Really?

Presidential power should be questioned, continually. That’s what our system of government, defined by the separation of powers, is all about. It shouldn’t matter whether the president belongs to my party or to another one.

Besides, I’m from the West. Questioning power is what we do.

Aside from entertaining Jeff Flake’s mic drop there at the end (Woooh! West USA!), I was very happy to see that Senator Flake understands that the legislative branch is there not to serve at the leisure of the President, but to work alongside him/her, and to provide a check on executive power when it is over-reaching.

Contrast that other Republican lawmakers literally saying that our representatives “work for the President” instead of their own constituents.

Once again, a little piece of me dies every time I hear a politician – on either side of the aisle – say they serve the interests of the President. No you don’t. Please, just read the Constitution once. That’s all I ask. And while Flake has voted incredibly frequently for the President’s agenda, and while I disagree with most of it, I believe that *he* believes he is voting in the best interest of those who elected him, not the President. 

The Senate must be the saucer that cools the coffee, as George Washington is said to have told Thomas Jefferson.

A case in point early in the new presidency was President Trump’s increasing pressure on the Senate to dispense with the filibuster for legislation so that he might be able to get his program through the Senate without concern about achieving consensus.  Such a move would turn the Senate into just another majoritarian body just like the House of Representatives, thus forfeiting its reputation as a deliberative body at all, much less the world’s greatest. At that point, it might be fair to ask: Why have a Senate at all?

That is not how constitutional democracy works. And it’s not how the United States Senate works, either.

How willing would the Republicans be to go along with the President? Would we be willing to change the institution for short-term gain? We all consider ourselves institutionalists, but what will we do when the President starts tweeting, scolding us for obstructing his agenda?

What happens if there is a tax bill which isn’t getting any Democratic support? Will we stand up and say no, we’ve got to be bipartisan, we’ve got to work for it and pick up the necessary votes? Or will we scrap the rules?

I will not support any such effort to harm the Senate. It is a line I cannot cross.


I was pretty pumped when I read the above section in his book. And then I went to google and found out that he did indeed vote on completely partisan things like removing the filibuster to put Gorsich on the Supreme Court. And he voted for the terrible Republican health care bill. And he voted to put Devos as Secretary of Education.

So…partial credit. Good rhetoric, no matching action. :/

But maybe he’ll be better going forward? I hope so.

Maybe. I’ve probably studied politicians and Congress too much to have much faith in them but maybe now that Flake has completely severed his ties with the President and the scary wing of his party he’ll be more inclined to buck them. 

On Conviction of Conservative Beliefs

Never has a party so quickly or easily abandoned its core principles as my party did in the course of the 2016 campaign. And when you suddenly decide that you don’t believe what had recently been your most deeply held beliefs, then you open yourself to believing anything – or maybe nothing at all.

Why did we do that/ And how did it happen? How did conservatives betray conservatism? Or worse: how did we embrace incoherence?

The quick answer: We did it because it was cheap and easy and the real world is hard and defending a principled position to voters is harder still.

His introspection into what has happened to the Republican party over the past decade, but ESPECIALLY in the 2016 election was especially poignant in my opinion.

It is a testament to just how far we fell in 2016 that to resist the fever and stand up for conservatism seemed a radical act.

I often wonder what Barry Goldwater would make of the current state of his party and of American politics more generally. I am confident that he would not be pleased or amused.

The party of Lincoln would now likely be unrecognizable to the Great Emancipator.

I don’t even recognize the current Republican party. It’s not the same party that I grew up with, *that I was a part of* in my younger years. It’s funny now to me that I’m considered “so liberal” when I don’t feel like I’ve really changed that much. didn’t change – the party did, bringing the needle *so far to the right* that apparently now I’m liberal?

When did it become a conservative value to place party over country?

When did it become a conservative value for your elected official to do/say something because he has an R next to his name, but not okay for someone else to do/say a similar thing because he as a D next to his name?

When did it become a conservative value to turn a blind eye towards lies and misinformation?

When did it become a conservative value to be okay with consorting with foreign powers during an election?

So it’s refreshing to see that at least one (and hopefully more) Republican lawmakers feel the same way, that their party has changed, and not for the better. They may not all have the courage of conviction that Jeff Flake has, who may or may not be committing career suicide by breaking ranks and publishing this book; but I want to believe that some at least are smart enough (and sane enough) to realize what is happening to the Republican party.

It’d be nice to be able to “come home again” and be able to agree with a Republican on political topics without having to believe such silly things as “Obama wasn’t a US citizen” or “Climate change isn’t real”.

When your raison d’etre stops being How can we hold to the principles of limited government and economic freedom? and becomes How can we hold on to this majority for one more cycle? then you’ve become the very thing that you’re supposed to be against.

In this era of dysfunction and collapsed principle, our only accomplishment is painstakingly constructing the argument that we’re not to blame and hoping that we’ve gerrymandered ourselves well enough to be safe in the next election.

We decided that it was better to build and maintain a majority by using the levers of power rather than the art of persuasion and the battle of ideas. And we have decided that getting nothing done is okay.

There are many on both sides who like this outcome so much that they think it’s a good model on which to build a whole career. (Edmund insertion: *Cough Ted Cruz*) Far too often, we come to destroy, not to build.

Moreover, I like how he spends entire chapters talking about the foundations of good governing, and how poisonous the current Republican party’s stance on governing is for the country.

TARP was actually a modest price to pay to forestall a global depression. My vote against the bill is a vote that I still regret.

Here’s what mattered: At a moment of national and global crisis, that vote was an abdication of my responsibility as a member of Congress.

For instance, he goes into detail about how stupid it is to “Vote No, but hope yes” (on the TARP bill), and about how he is ashamed to have done so in the past.

He talks at length about how bipartisan legislation used to be passed, and about how wholly partisan victories are shallow, because they’re just as easily overturned in the next election cycle without bipartisan support. He uses specific examples of attempts at good, enduring legislation, successful or otherwise, and it’s not all to make himself look good – some of his examples he isn’t even involved in.

I have to agree with everything above. I think it is remarkable that a sitting politician could come out with such a damning expose of his entire party and I admire him for that. It was interesting that he agreed with Franken when he traced part of the start of the Republican Party’s decline to Newt Gingrich. Both Flake and Franken wholeheartedly condemned Gingrich for bringing to light the vicious underbelly of the Republican Party. Flake’s condemnation of Gingrich echoes my concerns with many of today’s politicians: “Newt, whose talents for politics exceeded his interest in governing…” This is extremely on point. As someone who one day would like to enter the world of politics, it worries me that many politicians seem to prize their ruthlessness and cunning over their concern and care for their constituents. 


I am a proud conservative and a lifelong Republican. That does not make the Democrats my enemies. America has too many real enemies to indulge such nonsense.

It’s good to not demonize the people on the other side of the political aisle, and this book helped me a ton in that respect. The similarities between Jeff Flake’s book and Al Franken’s book were eye opening to me. If two senators that are that different from one another politically can agree on things like that, it gives me hope for the future.

This book helped me greatly in that respect. It’s good to know that not all Republicans are Trump supporters who are ignorant to logic.

It’s great to know that not all Republican lawmakers have abdicated their responsibility in understanding that the legislative branch doesn’t work as an arm of the executive branch.

It’s fantastic to know that some of them like Jeff Flake have such strong conservative convictions that they’re willing to put themselves out there and risk their own re-election to help lead their party’s return to sanity.

I think it’s really interesting that once Republican legislatures are free from the shackles of worrying about re-election, they say and do sane things. Like Bob Corker. or John McCain.

Of course, relying on Senators not worrying about re-election to keep Trump in check is not sustainable. So I do hope that Jeff Flake, like his idol Goldwater (whose book Flake based his own book on), sparks a conservative revolution, one that affects the ranks of normal congressmen and women that *are* seeking re-election.

Now, more than ever, America’s separation of powers is what is keeping her afloat. But that requires legislators like Jeff Flake to have the conviction to stand up for their conservative ideals rather than act as servants for Trump.

And maybe more than that, I hope it helps spark activism amongst more moderate conservatives, ones who look around and see that things ARE INDEED NOT NORMAL AND NOT OKAY. I plan on giving this book to some of my more conservative, older friends. They’d be much more likely to read a book by the Republican Senator from Arizona than the Democratic Senator from Minnesota. I don’t know if it’ll work, but I sure hope it does.

I could not agree more. The only way to escape our political malaise is to educate ourselves. Jeff Flake’s book is a good first step in this direction. I can only hope that his actions support his words. 


Al Franken, Giant of the Senate – TwoMorePages Book Review

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate – TwoMorePages Book Review

Kudos to Rachel, who turned me onto this book. I wouldn’t have read this without her recommendation, and my life would have been much less rich for it.

Al Franken is hilariously insightful. It’s like one of the correspondents from the Daily Show became a Senator. I really enjoyed his insights into the workings of the Senate, complete with plenty of tangible real world examples.

For instance, I always felt like this Congress was more obstructionist, but I was never quantified it. I didn’t realize that 40% of all cloture votes in US Senate History were called by Mitch McConnell alone, just to delay progress so that Obama couldn’t get credit for things. McConnell called for cloture votes on some things that would eventually pass 98-0! He called cloture on bills that he himself ended up voting yes on! HOW STUPID IS THAT?

But more than that, his take on the difference between Congressional behavior just a few decades ago compared to Congressional behavior now was interesting, specifically his take on the specific drivers that caused that change in behavior.

His discussion of various facets of policy was passionate. It was like he took the words and arguments straight from my head, replete with the righteous anger of being lied to over and over again.

One of the tenets of his book is that a strong failing of Democrats is messaging. This book? Definitely the antithesis of that. Strong, direct, entertaining, and to the point.


Operation Curdle

“On this day,” Obama declared in his inaugural address, “we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

To which Mitch McConnell basically responded, “Oh yeah? Well, screw you, buddy!”

The way I see it, Republicans had three options for how to deal with the new political reality they faced in January 2009.

Option 1: Recognize that the new President was hugely popular and had a mandate from the American people to deal with a series of pressing crises, and ask, ‘How can we help?’

Option 2: Recognize that the new President was hugely popular and had a mandate from the American people to deal with a series of pressing crises, and say, ‘Congratulations, but we have some political standing too, and we’re going to make you come to the table and negotiate. So let’s sit down and work out something we can all live with.’

Option 3: Focus on reducing his popularity, refuse to respect his mandate, and as for those pressing crises? Not only are we not going to help him solve them, we’re going to do everything we can to prevent him from solving them, and then we’re going to blame him for failing to solve them. In fact, after a while, we’re going to start blaming him for creating the problems in the first place!

Democrats and Republicans had faced this dilemma many times before, but never before had anyone ever chosen Door Number 3.

And then, having enjoyed making a big show out of refusing to help the President succeed, Republicans then turned to making a big show out of complaining that he had failed.

In reality, he hadn’t. The stimulus kept us from falling into another Great Depression, and created millions of jobs. But it took awhile to kick in, and it wasn’t as strong as President Obama and Democrats wanted (or as economists had called for). It’s hard to get people excited about avoiding a hypothetical depression when you’re slowly muddling through a huge recession.

Let’s just start off with the meat of things, shall we? I really liked Al Franken’s perspective as a Democratic Senator in the midst of Obama’s first term, a term that brought with it the Great Recession.

More than any other subject I ever studied, I loved economics. One of these days, I want to teach economics. It’s fun; it affects people; and it makes sense. One of the basic tenets of basic macroeconomic theory is that that GDP (Gross Domestic Product) = C (consumer spending) + G (government spending) + I (investment spending) + nX (net exports). (I still remember that Mr. Santucci!)

Going into 2009, C in that formula was falling off of a cliff. People were scared. They were losing their jobs, and so were spending less, making industry stall and making more people…lose their jobs. See how that’s a shitty cycle?

In Econ 201, you learn that the total monetary supply = M (Total amount of money in circulation) * V (velocity of money, how often money changes hands). Going into 2009, the value of V was dropping *so much* that the US economy was experiencing deflation *despite* printing trillions of dollars and increasing the value of M. The only realistic way to stop that is with a strong increase in overall spending. Well, as we just learned before, consumer spending wasn’t going to do that (and in fact was falling as a result of the falling total monetary supply), so you have to get *government* spending to pull us out of that hole. You increase G in C + G + I + nX.

I remember being livid at the time at people saying “We should have just let all the banks fail.” No, that’s how you decrease the velocity of money EVEN MORE and make the economy EVEN MORE DEFLATIONARY, putting us into an even DEEPER RECESSION.

And I remember having to politely say “A statement like that shows a profound misunderstanding of basic economic theory” instead of what I wanted to say: “Are you insane?! Have you even seen the rate at which the velocity of money is declining?! Do you even understand the implications a drop in velocity of that magnitude? No, of fucking course not, because you’re too stupid to understand what that even means. All you know is that ‘Government intervention = bad, herp derp.’ ”

I will defend to my last days the necessity of government intervention in 2009. Anyone in their late 20s or early 30s was a direct recipient of that government intervention. Our thriving economy now is a direct result of that aid. So if you’re someone like me, who is doing relatively well now, and you want to complain that “the government should not have intervened in 2009”, know that deep down, I truly want to punch you in the face and make you retake economics, you ungrateful imbecile.

So to read about Al Franken’s experience in the Senate itself trying to get that through was interesting. He could have been the 60th vote to help push through a better, $1 trillion dollar stimulus (instead of a $.7 trillion one that took longer to work), but his election was held up because of a recount. It still boggles my mind that he won by less than 200 votes. That’s insane.

The stimulus had been a successful test run of the Republican strategy: Abdicate their responsibility to govern, obstruct the President’s agenda, complain that things weren’t getting better, and wait for Americans to get fed up so they could profit politically as his expense. Operation Curdle was well under way.

And that brings us to what Al Franken so affectionately refers to as “Operation Curdle”, an unfortunately very successful political maneuver. Fuck things up, blame it on the guy in charge even though you’re the reason it’s fucked up, and then somehow score political points with it.

In a rational world, this would never work. It 100% relies on the stupidity of the governed to be too dumb to see through your charade. The fact that it *does* work, and works *so well* makes me question my faith in the intelligence of people.

On hundreds of occasions, the minority would use a parliamentary procedure called “forcing a cloture vote” simply to waste everyone’s time. They did it more than ever before in history; in fact four out of every ten cloture votes in the history of the United States Senate up to 2014 came in the eight years that Mitch McConnell served as minority leader.

In most of the situations there wasn’t actually anything to debate. McConnell would force cloture votes on ridiculously noncontroversial stuff.

So it was not uncommon for us to file a cloture motion on a Monday for a vote on say, a noncontroversial district court nominee, only to have the nominee confirmed with an overwhelming majority (in one case by a 98-0 vote) late on Thursday evening. That’s right – Republicans would routinely filibuster things that they’d then turn around and vote for.

What made it worse that McConnell had made his intentions clear by actually saying, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Not making sure that kids get a great education, not creating millions of good jobs, not even getting our deficit under control. No, his first priority was about Republicans winning the next presidential election. I wasn’t shocked that he thought that. I was just appalled that he actually said it.

Like how is this okay? Congress had been around for more than 225 years through 2014. And Mitch McConell, by himself has 40% of the cloture votes under him? That is brazen obstruction.

Which brings us to…


“But that’s Washington for you” – Politiphobia

And the thing was, ordinary Americans who weren’t themselves rabid partisans saw all this happening and blamed both sides. I was always amazed when I would go around Minnesota and meet people who didn’t follow national politics that closely but who knew that Republicans had been extremely uncooperative during the Obama administration. “I know,” I’d say, “it’s awful.”

“Yeah,” these people would often respond. “But that’s Washington for you.”

These folks didn’t reach that conclusion without some help. Many political reporters can’t seem to write a sentence about a problem without casting at least some blame onto both sides. Congressional Republicans knew that, and made hay with it. McConnell and his friends consistently blamed Obama for the partisanship of the Obama years, managing to suppress their giggles all the while.

After eight years of refusing to help the President govern – in fact either years of actively trying to make the country ungovernable – Republicans hadn’t just created a monster within their own ranks. All that inaction and gridlock helped to create a nation of politiphobes, people who (correctly) felt like they were being left behind in the economy and (correctly) felt that the political system was broken and rigged against people like them and (extremely incorrectly) felt that everyone who had anything to do with politics was more or less equally to blame.

But perhaps the worst side effect of Operation Curdle isn’t from people who refuse to believe that anything is wrong. It’s from people that agree with Franken and me that something is wrong but that blame both sides for it.

Even today, I’ll hear people say “Oh, well they all suck, what are you going to do?” or “I think politics has always been like this. It’s just being reported more now.”


There is quantifiable evidence of specific and malicious wrongdoing by one party over and over again. Gerrymandering is how Republicans control 2/3’s of seats in state and national legislatures despite consistently only garnering just south of 50% of the popular vote. Mitch McConnell led 40% of all cloture votes IN US SENATE HISTORY.

Trump, our idiot Republican President, consistently lies to our face over and over and over again. In the same amount of time that Trump was under investigation for possible collusion with Russia AND had fired Comey to obstruct said investigation, literally the only thing that Fox News could come up with to discredit Obama was that he liked to eat his burgers with fancy mustard.

But you want to blame *both sides*? How in the wut…? How are these things even remotely equal?

I know Democrats aren’t perfect. No party or person ever was or ever will be. But if you’re going to paint all politicians from both parties with that broad of a brush, you’ve created a perverse incentive for politicians to just go balls to the wall with unethical obstruction.

It’s like if the penalties for murder or speeding in your car were the same. Well, I’m already speeding, so I may as well go murder that guy I really hate? It doesn’t make sense.

Why is this worse? Because the people that are die hard party line people are basically always going to vote Republican no matter what. This last Presidential election proved that the Republican party could basically put up a completely unqualified candidate, one who routinely lies, who had no experience in government, who is openly prejudiced, and those people would still vote for him.

Look no further than the millions of people who didn’t think Trump was a particularly good candidate, but *still* voted Trump because he had an (R) next to his name. Nothing is ever going to change those minds or votes.

But other people, smarter people, people with the ability to think critically and see when they’re being lied to? If they become politiphobes and distance themselves from politics altogether because “both sides are bad”, this only amplifies the voices of the aforementioned.

Republicans tend to do *much* better in low turnout elections. They have a motivated base that consistently votes Republican basically no matter what. Not voting is like a Republican half-vote.

So it’s a Republican victory if they can obstruct everything, and then have people blame BOTH parties for it.

It’s frustrating for me, as someone who pays attention and doesn’t like getting lied to; but it’s got to be *mind-blowingly frustrating* as a sitting Senator like Al Franken, trying to do your best despite the gridlock, and STILL getting the blame for said gridlock.

Several of my good friends seem to have fallen into this politiphobe mindset, and hey – at least it’s better than being a die hard party line person no matter what. But I really do wish they’d look into things some more and see that one party seems to consistently be on the wrong side of things more than the other. Please don’t paint both sides with the same brush.


Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

The distinctly antigovernment Limbaugh / Gingrich agenda swept in a significant number of radical Republicans and with them a partisan enmity that has just grown even worse over the past two decades. In addition to the nastiness, there seemed to be a new willingness to lie about the basic facts.

Even after the Rush book came out, I kept noticing conservatives in the media saying things that were recklessly, provably false. And every time I noticed it, it would drive me bananas. No matter how many times it would happen, it would engender the same visceral reaction every time. “You can’t just lie!” I would yell, to no one in particular. “You can’t!” But they did.

I’ve struggled sometimes to succinctly define why I’ve turned so anti-Republican as I’ve grown older. It should be the opposite, right? I mean, I grew up Republican in a conservative suburb of Houston; several of my friends and their families are conservative; I honestly don’t feel like I’ve changed *that much* from my childhood. So what happened?

Al Franken helped me put my finger on it. I hate being lied to.

All of this to say that I care a lot about people in politics telling the truth. And even considering all the horrible things Trump got away with during the campaign – mocking a disabled reporter, attacking a Gold Star family, referring to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “drug dealers,” calling for Muslims to be banned from our country – I still can’t believe he got away with lying so much.

Frankly, it made me wonder whether, sadly, the war was over and the liars had won.

And one party seems to consistently lie over and over. This is the party that put Trump into office AND CONTINUES TO DEFEND HIM; all he ever seems to do is lie, from stupidly petty ones like “I had the biggest inauguration crowd ever” to more serious ones like “I didn’t have any contact with Russia” when it is so provably true that he had business dealings there.

This is the same party that blamed Obama for the partisan atmosphere in Washington that they themselves created; the same party who said  “There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices.” when it came to Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, but then turned around and used the nuclear option to push through their own nominee in Gorsuch; the same party that said the Affordable Care Act would have “Death Panels”.

Lies. The Republican party and Trump specifically have normalized them, and that is maddening to me. His election was 100% verifiable proof that you could be caught lying “with your pants on fire”, and somehow it doesn’t matter?

Trump has deployed a variety of methods to debunk debunkings that have proven startlingly effective. The first and most common is to simply ignore the correction even when confronted with it.

This is why he’s continually planting the seed that the media is dishonest. It renders statements of contrary fact highly suspect, because you tend to hear those via the media:

Trump: The US murder rate is at a 45 year high.

You: That’s wrong. The FBI says that it’s at a 50 year low.

Trump Supporter: Uh-huh, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. Where’d you hear that?

You: CNN

Trump Supporter (sarcastic): Ah, okay. CNN, right. And they always tell the truth. Come on, man! Wake up!

I have no problem having political discussions with my conservative friends. Discussions are healthy – it’s how viewpoints change and new information is presented. Not living in an echo chamber is important.

I *do* have a problem when the crux of their defense is calling anything they disagree with #FakeNews.

That’s not a freaking discussion. That’s the equivalent of a person plugging their ears and going “LALALA. If I can’t hear you, it’s not true.” How are we supposed to discuss things if literally everything you disagree with is “fake”? if we can’t agree on basic facts like the DoJ saying that the murder rate is at a 50 year low? Or that Comey straight up said he thought he was fired because of the FBIs investigation into possible Russian ties to Trump’s campaign?

If you reply saying something factual is #FakeNews just because you don’t like it or because it disagrees with you, that is infuriating. And I very much think less of you for it.

But I really think that if we don’t start caring about whether people tell the truth or not, it’s going to be literally impossible to restore anything approaching a reasonable political discourse. Politicians have always shaded the truth. But if you can say something that is provably false, and no one cares, then you can’t have a real debate about anything.

I know I’m sort of farting into the wind on this. But I hope you’ll fart along with me. I’ve always believed that it’s possible to discern true statements from false statements, and that it’s critically important to do so, and that we put our entire democratic experiment in peril when we don’t.

I firmly believe that you can draw a straight line from Rush Limbaugh through Fox News through present-day websites like Breitbart and the explosion in “fake news” that played such a big role in the 2016 campaign. And that’s how someone like Trump can wind up in the Oval office.

I love that Al Franken went into detail about how frustrating it was that it seemed (seems?) like the truth doesn’t matter anymore.

I love how he explored how Trump isn’t a one off aberration, but a culmination of the result of Republican support tactics over the last two years, specifically the last 8 years under Obama. How lying about things that were 100% false (like Obama not being born here) somehow increased their own support base, and that after being proven wrong, nothing bad happened to them.

I found his insights into how this endangers our entire democracy especially poignant. If we can’t agree on what is provably true or false, how are we ever going to agree on anything? For that matter, how will we ever govern?



Probably the most ridiculous political skill I had to learn was how to “pivot,” a term which basically means “not answer questions.”

His chapters describing how he had to change his behaviors as he became a politician were really interesting, both in contrast to how little President Trump has done in that regard, and in just straight up spelling out in what ways he had to act differently.

Honestly, I’m not sure I could ever learn how to “pivot” as he described above, or just straight up not answer questions asked of me. It seems so counter intuitive, and yet his stories of how he got misquoted and burned when he tried directly answering baiting questions showed how necessary it was.

So kudos to him.


Ted Cruz

Here’s the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz. I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz. And I hate Ted Cruz.

Rachel mentioned that the chapter devoted to shitting on Ted Cruz was her favorite. And I can easily see why. It’s amazingly funny.

The problem with Ted isn’t that he’s humorless. It isn’t even his truly reprehensible far-right politics. No, the problem with Ted – and the reason so many senators have a problem with Ted – is simply that he is an absolutely toxic coworker. He is the Dwight Schrute of the Senate.

“Clinton’s own Department of Justice did a study of the assault weapons ban and concluded that it doesn’t work.” -Ted Cruz

“No it didn’t. Actually, what the report said was there wasn’t enough data to reach a conclusion, because the study was conducted only two years after the ban was implemented.” – Al Franken

“Just go read the report.” – Ted Cruz

…later, after looking up the report

“Our best estimate is that the ban contributed to a 6.7% decrease in total gun murders between 1994 and 1995, beyond what would have been expected in view of ongoing crime, demographic, and economic trends. However, with only one year of post-ban data, we cannot rule out the possibility that this decrease (in gun murders) reflects chance year-to-year variation rather than a true effect of the ban.” -Justice Department Report

“Well, I guess you owe me an apology.” -Al Franken

“Why?” – Ted Cruz

“Well, the last time we spoke, you said that anybody who is for the assault weapons ban is engaged in sophistry.” -Al Franken

“No I didn’t” -Ted Cruz

And that’s when I realized that Ted Cruz was really something special.

It’s hilarious that Ted Cruz has an entire section devoted to how shitty of a person he is. Not just how shitty of a Senator he is, but specifically how terrible of a person he is.

If nothing else, this book is worth reading specifically for the Ted Cruz chapter.

Ted Cruz isn’t just wrong about almost everything. He’s impossible to work with. And he doesn’t care that he’s impossible to work with. And that’s why, even when the choice was between Ted Cruz (who was a sitting member of the United States Senate) and Donald Trump (who was Donald Trump), establishment Republicans couldn’t bring themselves to rally behind Cruz.




My story, the one you’ve just finished reading, is a small part of a bigger story – the story of how progressives picked themselves up off the mat and made an epic comeback.

And now we have to do it again. This comeback starts with standing up for our values and making it clear that no president has a mandate to spread bigotry or roll back the clock on progress. It continues through next year, when we have a chance to punish Republicans for enabling this disaster and take back governorships and state legislatures all across the country.

Meanwhile, we can hold President Trump accountable for everything he does – and not just that, we can hold accountable every single Republican who enables him, so that when we kick him out, we can kick them out too.

There’s a part for you to play in the next great progressive comeback story. But only if you can keep from losing your mind or getting so discouraged that you quit before the comeback even begins.

Al Franken’s final chapter is fantastic. It’s uplifting, motivational, and channels all of the anger and frustration that we as readers just experienced in the preceding chapters into something positive.

In the beginning months of Trump’s Presidency, I read about (and experienced) “outrage fatigue.” Every week, Trump would find some new way to make a mockery of the office, the rule of law, or the country. Hosts like Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah all made the joke that the first couple of months of Trump’s Presidency felt like years and that we had all aged rapidly for it.

I worried that this fatigue would eventually spread. By the time the 2018 mid terms rolled around, would people be so tired they wouldn’t bother caring anymore? Would this all be a new normal? And that was terrifying…but I was so tired.

Books like this give me hope, inspire me to do more. So Kudos to you, Al Franken. Between you, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris, I have Senators and leaders that I can look up to, especially since my own (Ted Cruz (ugh) and John Cornyn) suck so much.

Thank you Al. And thanks again, Rachel, for being my inspiration to read this book. You rock.

The Words of Radiance – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Words of Radiance – TwoMorePages Book Review

1100 pages. So much stuff just happened in 1100 pages. I feel like I read three different novels all encapsulated into one. From the development of Shallan’s backstory to her further character development; to Kaladin and Syl’s relationship continuing to evolve; to learning more about the nature of spren; to everyone’s storylines all merging together into one cohesive storyline – SO MUCH HAPPENED.

So much stuff. Too much stuff to vaguely allude to. Spoiler section starts now. For those of you who haven’t read it yet, perhaps this will provide you extra motivation to do so? 😀

This time around, I was actually able to read this book *along* with someone, namely the person who introduced me to the series in the first place (Kathleen!). So I’ve invited her to put her thoughts in to here alongside mine as well in blue.

Let’s do this.


“I’m worried about you, Kaladin. I thought things would be better, once you were free from the bridges.” -Syl

“Things are better. None of my men have been killed since we were freed.” -Kaladin

“But you…I thought you might be like the person you were before. I can remember a man on a field of battle…a man who fought…”

“That man is dead, Syl.”

So it’s no secret that Syl is my favorite character. For the first half of this book, I felt like most of what her character was doing was telling Kaladin to cheer up / stop being a pouty little bitch.

“Has it ever struck you as unfair that spren cannot attract spren? I should really have had some gloryspren of my own there.”

“I saw a woman do it in the market,” Syl said, yanking her hair to the sides again. “It means I’m frustrated. I think it’s supposed to hurt. So…ow? Anyway, it’s not that I don’t want to tell you what I know. I do! I just…I don’t know what i know.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Well, imagine how frustrating it feels!”

Like, don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed their little quips. Sanderson’s ability to write her personality is amazing. I’d still give almost anything to have my own smartass little spren looking out for me in my life.

“Syl?” Are you allright? You seem…”

Like you were before. When we first met. It made a feeling of dread rise within him to acknowledge it. If his powers were withdrawing, was it beacuse the bond itself was weakening?

Once things started to go down, little hints like the above gave me insight into what could possibly happen, but I didn’t believe them. Didn’t believe it could happen. Syl was almost a main character – nothing could happen to her, right? Nothing permanent anyway…

Syl couldn’t see why his decision was the right one. She was a spren, and had a stupid, simplistic morality. To be human was often to be forced to choose between distasteful options. Life wasn’t clean and neat like she wanted it to be. It was messy, coated with crem.

And then Elhokar had Kaladin imprisoned for helping Adolin. Before that happened, I, like Kaladin, had been on the fence as to whether or not to help Moash assassinate Elhokar for the good of Alekthar. Like yeah, he’s kind of an idiot, and Dalinar would be a better king, but…is it really okay to let someone that you’re guarding get murdered?

But after imprisonment? For helping team Kholin? Pfffft. Sanderson did a great job of making me empathize completely with Kaladin’s actions and decisions. His description of Kaladin’s thoughts and reasoning lined up perfectly with mine.

Not with mine… I was screaming “NOOOOO” at Kaladin the minute he opened his mouth and doomed the Kholin’s whole plan to ensnare Sadeas.  Don’t get me wrong, that duel was BEYOND EPIC!! So awesome!  But I wanted to beat my head against a wall once he tried to go after Amaram in front of all the lighteyes.  Also, I was afraid that if Kaladin made decisions based on vengeance it would lead to him loosing Syl…

Which of course led to…

Syl screamed, a terrified, painful sound that vibrated Kaladins’ very bones. In that moment, he got a breath of Stormlight, life itself.

He crashed into the ground at the bottom of the chasm and all went black.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? The distant voice sounded like rumbling thunder.

Kaladin didn’t remember grabbing her (Shallan) as he fell, but he didn’t remember much of that fall beyond Syl’s scream. That scream…

“Syl. What have I done to her?” -Kaladin



“Please! How can I fix it? What can I do?” -Kaladin


**FUCK** -Me

I’ve never quite been as upset in this book series as I was when Kaladin lost Syl. And when she stayed lost for what felt like an ETERNITY.

For awhile, I couldn’t even figure out why the bridge collapse was the catalyst of Syl disappearing. I was lost for several chapters.

“Patterns are eternal. As is fire, as is the wind. As are all spren.” -Pattern

Syl lived. Syl lived. He still felt euphoric about that. Shouldn’t she be dead? When he’d asked on their flight out, her response had been simple.

I was only as dead as your oaths, Kaladin.

I had to backtrack once I read this passage to figure out that it was only a few pages in the book after Kaladin told Moash that he was A-okay to help him to kill Elhokar that the bridge collapsed and Syl disappeared.

Now I know it had nothing to do with the bridge. It had everything to do with that decision.

The writing setup for this was fantastic. It was right after Kaladin had been wrongfully imprisoned by Elhokar and was furious about it. Hell, *I* was furious about it. I was 100% on board the “MURDER ELHOKAR” train. He was the reason Roshone had gone to Kaladin’s village. His ego and temper were the reasons why Kaladin had to sit in jail for days/weeks after HE HELPED WIN A 2V4 Shardbearer battle, keeping Elhokar’s cousin alive and stabilizing the Alethi Kingdom. Fuck that guy, right?

Well, wrong, I guess. If it means you have to give up your bonded spren. Yep, definitely wrong :p totally not worth it!

The Nature of Spren

“Not ten heartbeats?” he asked.

Not when I’m here with you, ready. The delay is primarily something of the dead. They need to be revived each time.

Which brings us to…the nature of spren, both bonded and unbonded spren. This was one of the giant reveals in the book that Kathleen saw coming, but I didn’t.

Spren can become shardblades. Spren *are* shardblades. More than that, the shardblades that are in use are dead Spren, and that’s why Radiants can’t use them without hearing screaming (poor Renarin).

“I should have practiced more with the sword.”

Oh. That’s right. You probably want me to be a spear, don’t you?

Pattern is a blade! Syl is a blade/spear/hammer/shield combo lol . This is interesting, especially since Kaladin kept refusing Shardblades OVER and OVER. So yay, Kaladin finally gets a blade!

“We’re spren. We’re forces. You can’t kill us completely. Just…sort of.” -Syl

“That’s perfectly clear” -Kaladin

“It’s perfectly clear to us. You’re the strange ones. Break a rock, and it’s still there. Break a spren, and she’s still there. Sort of. Break a person, and something leaves. Something changes. What’s left is just meat. You’re weird.” – Syl

I feel like this exchange will be important in the later books. Plus, it was hilarious and it encapsulates Syl’s personality perfectly. Moreover, it leads into

“The Honorblades are what we are based on, Kaladin. Honor gave these to men, and those men gained powers from them. Spren figured out what He’d done, and we imitated it. We’re bits of His power, after all, like this sword.”

which I think will be extremely important. This touches on the difference between Honorblades and Shardblades, and explicitly states that Spren are little bits of God’s power. This should come into play a lot in the next book, where presumably we’ll be fighting lots of voidspren-bonded Parshendi.

If normal spren can become shardblades, does that mean voidspren can to? And what of shardplate ?

“Really, you can divide spren into two general groups. Those that respond to emotions and those that respond to forces like fire or wind pressure.” -Shallan’s early studies on Spren

“Useless things. They don’t do anything. They flit around and watch, admire,. Most spren have a purpose. These are merely attracted by someone else’s purpose.”


Moreover, this was some information waaay early in the book (Chapter 3?) that got mentioned, then never spoken of again. I thought we’d see a lot more of the difference between the types of Spren. Syl and Pattern are obviously the ones that respond to emotions, right? But then why is Syl, an Honorspren, so closely related to Windspren? Could it be that the latter grow up to be the former? Or do they actually exist as two separate branches of the same tree?


Shallan and Kaladin’s Interactions

“No apologize! Boots!” -Shallan, stealing Kaladin’s boots haha

“I should envy you.” Kaladin said, turning back to her. “My breath needs to be up close to kill, while that face of yours can kill any man from a distance.”

“Any man?” Shallan asked. “Why, it’s not working on you. I guess that’s proof that you’re not much of a man.”

Storylines A and B finally merged! Well, kinda. And Shallan made Kaladin give her his boots, even though they didn’t fit, so whoops lol. Kind of off to a rocky start, but it made for hilarious reading!

But where they really bond is in the chasm after their bridge falls. It was funny when both of them just assumed they had saved the other with stormlight, not knowing that the other could also use stormlight. Although…at this point Syl had just left Kaladin, right? So maybe Shallan actually did save Kaladin?

Their banter is really great character interaction though, from their original antagonistic barbs that they throw at each other

“Don’t lie. You’ve never liked me. Right from the start. And not just because of the boots.” -Shallan

“That’s because I know you’re lying through your smile at everyone you meet. The only time you seem honest is when you’re insulting someone!” -Kaladin

“The only honest things I can say to you are insults.” -Shallan

“Bah! Why is it that being around you makes me want to claw my face off, woman?”

to when Kaladin incorrectly assumes that Shallan’s life has been nothing but fun and roses

“All right. Here it is. I can imagine how the world must appear to someone like you. Growing up pampered, with everything you want. To someone like you, life is wonderful and sunny and worth laughing over. That’s not your fault, and I shouldn’t blame you. You haven’t had to deal with pain or death like I have. Sorrow is not your companion.”

Silence. Shallan didn’t reply. How could she reply to that?

The first time I read this, I found this part of the chapter especially poignant. We, the readers, knew how broken Shallan was from her childhood, but Kaladin didn’t. It was a remarkable juxtaposition between expectations and reality, and a great way to show how misguided Kaladin’s prejudice against *all* lighteyes really is.

“You think I’m too optimistic, don’t you?” -Shallan

“It’s not your fault. I’d rather be like you. I’d rather not have lived the life I have. I would that the world was only full of people like you, Shallan Davar.” -Kaladin

“People who don’t understand pain…the sorry of watching a life crumble? Of struggling to grab it and hold on, but feeling hope become stringy sinew and blood beneath your fingers as everything collapses?

The sensation – it’s not sorrow, but something deeper – of being broken. Of being crushed so often, and so hatefully, that emotion becomes something you can only wish for. If only you could cry, because then you’d feel something. Instead, you feel nothing. Just…haze and smoke inside. Like you’re already dead.

The crushing guilt of being powerless. Of wishing they’d hurt you instead of those around you. Of screaming and scrambling and hating as those you love are ruined, popped like a boil. And you have to watch their joy seeping away while you can’t do anything. They break the ones you love, and not you. And you plead. Can’t you just beat me instead?” -Shallan

“…yes?” -Kaladin

“Yes. It would be nice if nobody in the world knew of those things, Kaladin Stormblessed. I agree. With everything I have.” -Shallan

Kaladin had thought his life terrible, but there was one thing he’d had, and perhaps not cherished enough: parents who loved him. Roshone had brought Damnation itself to Hearthstone, but at least Kaladin’s mother and father had always been there to rely upon.

What would he have done, if his father had been like the abusive, hateful man Shallan described? If his mother had died before his own eyes? What would he have done if, instead of living off Tien’s light, he had been required to bring light to the family?

Storms. Why wasn’t this woman broken, truly broken? She described herself that way, but she was no more broken than a spear with a chipped blade – and a spear like that could still be as sharp a weapon as any…marks like those were signs of strength.

Shallan sharing her story and shattering Kaladin’s view of her was amazing to read. Sanderson’s writing style truly conveyed her emotional state. Here’s a girl who has probably *never* told anyone her story; in fact, a girl who has actively repressed most of her childhood to remain functional, and you can feel her emotion in telling Kaladin her life story.

And seeing Kaladin react with genuine kindness and fondness afterwards was a breath of fresh air. He’d spent most of the book up until now basically being angry at everyone and everything, especially anything with light eyes. Having him experience empathy and introspection instead of hatred and vengeance (and freaking out over where Syl was) was refreshing.

Kaladin and Adolin

Kaladin stood, rolling his shoulder in its socket. He met Adolin’s gaze. So condescending. So sure of himself. Arrogant bastard.

Renarin said that Adolin was unfair towards the bridgeman captain, but there was something strange about that man. More than his attitude – the way he always acted like by talking to you, he was doing you a favor. The way he seemed so decidedly gloomy at everything, angry at the world itself. He was unlikable, plain and simple, but Adolin had known plenty of unlikable people.

Speaking of characters that should like each other, but for awhile didn’t… that brings us to Kaladin and Adolin. They start off with quite the antagonistic relationship, and I couldn’t really understand why.

When we left off in book 1, Kaladin had just saved Adolin’s life, plus that of his men, plus that of his father’s…so…why exactly was Adolin acting so petulant towards Kaladin, derisively calling him “Bridgeboy” and generally being a jerk?

Now that I’ve finished The Words of Radiance, I suppose the answer is what Shallan said, that Kaladin’s personality when he’s a big ball of anger and stress is offputting. But meh, they should have been best friends!

“Oddly, I do. Trust you, I mean. It’s a very strange sensation.” -Adolin

“Yeah, well, I’ll try to hold myself back from going skipping across the plateau in joy.” -Kaladin

“I’d pay to see that.”

“Me skipping?”

“You happy. You’ve got a face like a storm! I half think you could frighten off a storm.”

“Apologize to Adolin for me. I actually kind of like him. He’s a good man. Not just for a lighteyes. Just…a good person. I’ve never given him the credit he deserves.”


So yay when it finally happened! Bro-mance commence! There was certainly enough reason to. I was annoyed when after Szeth attacked the first time, Adolin soundly got his butt kicked, Kaladin saved the day (again), they were still not getting along. FFS, that was twice now that Kaladin had saved both Kholins’ lives. Once should have been enough for them to be best friends, but twice?

But after the 4v1/2 death match where Kaladin and Adolin fought side by side, I was glad to see them finally getting along. It’ll be interesting to see where this story goes in the next book. The story definitely seemed to be setting them both up to be attracted to Shallan, so that’ll be a weird story arc.

Kaladin and Honor

“Give me a reason why he (Elhokar) doesn’t!” Kaladin yelled, uncaring if the ardents heard. “It might not be his fault, and he might be trying, but he’s still failing.”

Gotta do what you can to stay alive

It made a twisted, horrible kind of sense. It hadn’t been Tien’s fault. Tien had tried. He’d still failed. So they’d killed him.

The king…

The king was Dalinar’s Tien.

The Words, Kaladin! You have to speak the Words! -Syl

“I will protect even those I hate so long as it is right.”

So, Kaladin’s overarching arc in the story is one of honor and protection. The lesson he is supposed to learn in the end is that what is right is more important than any other consideration.

It’s funny to compare that to James Holden’s arc in The Expanse, where he basically has to learn the exact opposite. I suppose this stems from the difference between high fantasy and nitty gritty story.

Holden runs around, thinking that he’s doing the right thing no matter what, and ends up screwing things up for everyone in the process – broadcasting partial conclusions and accidentally sparking a war in the process; refusing to finish/kill his enemies, allowing them to attempt to kill him and his crew again and again.

Billions die as a result of Holden’s naivete. His arc in the Expanse is that sometimes honor is foolish, and gets more people killed than practicality. You should try your best to do what’s right, but sometimes it restricts you from doing what is best for everyone.

So it’s funny that The Words of Radiance has basically the exact opposite message. It surely would be easier for everyone if Elhokar was gone and Dalinar was king. Moash’s colleagues certainly have a point.

I wonder if Syl’s main objection was that Kaladin would be helping to kill someone? OR was it mainly that Kaladin would be helping to kill someone that he swore to protect? Would everything have been fine had Kaldin not taken that original oath? His powers went away / he killed Syl once he made two mutually exclusive oaths, shattering his honor. So which is it? Killing is bad? Or taking two mutually exclusive oaths is bad?

I do not think it is either exactly… I think it is actively making a decision not to protect someone when you knowingly have the ability to protect them.  Syl does not seem to have a problem with him killing people per se, they are at war after all, but I think the nature of Windrunners demands that they protect.  Period.  For example, the second ideal of the Knight’s Radiant as mentioned in The Way of Kings is “to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”  So for Kaladin to go directly against that ideal by agreeing to help Moash was the issue I believe.  Stupid Kaladin and his desire for vengeance again :p Yes, yes I know, perfectly reasonable and human, but still!



“It is inevitable. You will eventually betray your oaths, breaking my mind, leaving me dead – but the opportunity is worth the cost.” -Pattern

“Sapience. Thought. Life. These are of humans. We are ideas. Ideas that wish to live.” -Pattern

Pattern is…weird. He has the same childlike innocence that Syl displayed when she first started becoming self-aware, but his personality is starkly different. Almost like a savant 5 year old kid.

He’s aware enough to know that Shallan will probably end up killing him, but he’s okay with it. Plus, he is obsessed with lies, which makes for a very different relationship between he and Shallan vs Syl and Kaladin.

Whereas Syl basically teases Kaladin all the time and worries about him like a sister, Pattern is kind of like an idiot savant kid brother. He makes observations about Shallan’s interactions with people, acting like a 3rd party observer making notes.

“No…it is not words that you lack. It is truth.” -Pattern

“You prefer lies.” -Shallan

“Mmm. Yes, and you are a lie. A powerful one. However, what you do is not just lie. It is truth and lie mixed. You must understand both.” -Pattern

“Humans can see the world as it is not. It is why your lies can be so strong. You are able to not admit that they are lies.” -Pattern

His obsession with lies is extremely interesting not only because Shallan’s Radiant power lies with lies/illusions, but because his commentary on the interactions of people is pretty spot on, namely that everyone’s interactions incorporate some weaving of lies and truth. I wonder if we’ll explore that more in the next book, or if this is all we get along this path.

Pattern hummed. “I’m sorry that your mystical, godlike powers do not instantly work as you would like them to.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “I thought you didn’t understand humor.”

“I do. I just explained…” He paused for a moment. “Was I being funny? Sarcasm. I was sarcastic. By accident!” He seemed surprised, even gleeful.

That all being said, by the end, I liked how he had started to get his snark down. Not quite Syl-level snark yet, but getting there. I have high hopes for him. 😀


Shallan – the real star of Book 2

While Kaladin was featured prominently in Book 2 and was obviously the main protagonist in Book 1, The Words of Radiance centered around Shallan’s story.

I loved getting her backstory fleshed out as well as Kaladin’s was in Book 1. Plus, there were so many twists and turns that made sense in retrospect, but that I didn’t see coming.

Starting with…

Now she was sailing toward a city on the edge of the world, betrothed to a powerful Alethi prince, and free to just learn. She was seeing increidble new sights, sketching them during the days, then readin gthrough piles of books in the nights.

She had stumbled into the perfect life, and it was everything she’d wished for.

A body in a thin nightgown, eyes staring sightlessly, blood blossoming from the breast. Jasnah.

“Be sure,” one of the men said.

The other knelt and rammed a long, thin knife right into Jasnah’s chest. Shallan heard it hit the wood of the floor beneath the body.

Wait. WHAT?! I knew when I read the top part that something terrible was going to happen. Nothing sets up trials and tribulations like the protagonist thinking that life is just so grand.

I didn’t see Jasnah’s death coming though.

I thought Shallan’s story was going to be one where she basically worked as a mentee under Jasnah’s tutelage, that she’d learn to harness her soulcasting powers and do cool stuff. Welp, *THAT* went out the window when Jasnah died.

Sanderson again painted a great picture of how the protagonists felt as things happened to them. We’re not told; we’re shown. We thought like the story was going one way because that’s what Shallan thought. It just made sense.

So when everything fell apart in the manner that it did, we felt Shallan’s panic as her world suddenly changed around her in an instant. That’s some damn good writing.

Speaking of twists and turns…

Shallan growled, thrusting her hands forward. Mist twisted and writhed in her hands as a brilliantly silver blade formed there, spearing Tyn through the chest. The woman barely had time to gasp in surprise as her eyes burned in her skull.

“Difficult things,” Shallan growled. “Yes. I believe I told you. I’ve learned that lesson already. Thank you.”

Kudos to Kathleen, who figured out that Shallan had a shardblade way back in like Chapter 3. Whaaaat? I still don’t know what she read that made her think of it. I read it again. I missed it again lol. And Kathleen said their was a hint back when Shallan was soulcasting blood back in Book 1? *Mind blown*.

I definitely didn’t see the above passage coming. I thought her only way out was Pattern rescuing her. Well, now that I’ve finished the book, I guess that’s true, in a way.

Oh this was one of my favorite parts!! “YES YES YES I TOTALLY CALLED IT.” I felt so validated the minute she used her shardblade. 😀 I was waiting and waiting for the shardblade to be used… which really is fantastic writing on Sanderson’s part.  So many little clues throughout both books really that when put together had me completely convinced it was only a matter of time before Shallan was revealed to have a shardblade.  But the anxiety! and the nerves! when trying to figure out “Is this the moment? Is she going to call it and save herself?! She has to have one, I’m dead certain she has one, all the clues point to it…why isn’t she using it?!” was so frustratingly fun!! I was so enthralled by her story, so much awesomeness! 

As for the clues, they went something like this:

Fool. A memory rose unbidden. A silvery sword. A pattern of light. Truths she could not face. She banished them, squeezing her eyes shut.

Ten heartbeats.   – Shallan’s thoughts in Book 2, Chapter 3, page 64

It was this quote right here that had me completely convinced Shallan had a shardblade. So much so I sent Edmund a text completely freaking out about it haha.  I flashed back to all those references in Book 1 where Shallan would immediately banish her thoughts, when she would not allow herself to think on the past and the traumatic events that she experienced.  Several times “ten heartbeats” would be mentioned, and as Book 1 clearly laid out, it takes exactly ten heartbeats to summon a shardblade.  So 2 + 2 = 4 in my brain.  Ten heartbeats = shardblade, ergo Shallan must have a shardblade!  SO, I immediately put Book 2 down (which is an admittedly very hard thing to do, but luckily it was only Chapter 3) and went looking in Book 1 for my proof.  And boy did I find some, for example:

She screamed then, jumping to her feet on her bed, dropping the pad, backing against the wall.  Before she could consciously think of what she was doing, she was struggling with her sleeve, trying to get the Soulcaster out.  It was the only thing she had resembling a weapon.  No, that was stupid.  She didn’t know how to use it.  She was helpless.

Except . . . 

Storms! she thought, frantic.  I can’t use that.  I promised myself.

She began the process anyway.  Ten heartbeats, to bring forth the fruit of her sin, the proceeds of her most horrific act.   – Shallan’s thoughts, Book 1, Chapter 45, page 799 right before she accidentally soulcasts blood.

It was so obvious to me in hindsight, which is why I think the lightbulb went off like it did…my subconscious was already toying with the idea and I remembered that at some point in Book 1 (or multiple points really, but for sake of conciseness I will forego quoting here) Shallan had been terrified enough to think about doing something that was directly involved with the trauma of her past (and therefore banished behind the best mental blocks she could come up with to remain sane) and at those moments in time “ten heartbeats” would be mentioned by Sanderson.  Two little words.  Easy to miss over. Easy to ignore.  But so very, very significant.  Really brilliant writing!  So rewarding too, when one figured out!


Shallan and Heleran

“Draw plants,” Heleran said, “and animals. Safe things, Shallan. Don’t dwell on what happened.”

“Don’t go,” she whispered. The words felt like gauze in her mouth. It had been months since she’d last spoken.

Heleran! Seeing her relationship with her family through flashbacks was simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking. Especially the parts with Heleran. He’s portrayed through her eyes as the perfect big brother, wanting nothing but to protect and help her and her house.

He magically shows up with a shardblade, and…I made a shot in the dark with Kathleen predicting how I thought that Heleran was the shardbearer that Kaladin killed and…whoops, Kaladin accidentally killed a good guy. It was the only thing that made sense about why a shardbearer was so far away from the Shattered Plains in the first place.

#NailedIt though! Kathleen’s not the only one who can tell the future. 😀 This is my only major claim to plot foretelling that came true, since Brandon Sanderson is so good at twists and turns, so I’m celebrating!

It did open up an entirely new can of worms regarding the story though. I remember thinking at the time “Who is Heleran working for? And we’ve never actually figured out *how* he got a shardblade?”

Kathleen had made a prediction about how she thought Shallan got Heleran’s shardblade on his death, and I had thought our two predictions were mutually exclusive, but nope, we both got a piece of that one. She predicted that Shallan had a shardblade in the first place; and I got that Amaram had Heleran’s shardblade, courtesy of Kaladin.

I wonder if we’ll see more of Amaram in the next book – I thought for sure we’d get more Amaram-Kaladin interaction in this one, but alas it wasn’t nearly what I’d hoped it would be.

Whoops, I’ve gone off on a Kaladin related tangent. Back to our regularly scheduled program of Shallan and her family.


Love is like…

“Love is like a classical melody.” -Balat

“If you end your performance too quickly, your audience is disappointed?” -Shallan

Playing the “love is like…” game with Shallan and her family was so cute. Watching flashback Shallan come out of her shell and tell dirty jokes with her brothers was so endearing. Plus, it was hilarious!

“I’ve carried those for the better part of a year,” Wilkim said softly. “The longer you have them, the more potent the leaves are supposed to become. I don’t feel like I need them any longer (because of you). You can burn them, or whatever. I just thought you should have them.”

“Name for me one reason I should show this man (Jushu) pity.”

“Our mother was murdered,” Shallan said. “That night, as I cried, Jushu held me.”

Her relationship with her brothers was such a nice contrast to her relationship with her father. She tried to watch over Jushu even though he’s an idiot that gambled money he didn’t have; she helped Balat find a girlfriend to curb his more violent tendencies; she helped Wilkim stop being suicidal. It was a nice window into her meek, but very selfless personality.


Shallan and her father

“He let everyone believe that he’d killed her. That he’d murdered his wife and her lover in a rage, when I was the one who had actually killed them. He lied to protect me.

That secret destroyed him. It destroyed our entire family.”

But of course we *do* have to talk about her relationship with her dad. It’s so weird to think about now that I’m done reading the book, what with the big reveal that her dad didn’t kill her mom, like the book had been alluding to literally the entire time. Everyone thinks it – all of her brothers literally say it.

So why was he such a jerk all the time? Was he just a jerk anyway who just *happened* to do the right thing and protect his daughter? Or were his lifelong outbursts a facet of him dealing with the knowledge that Shallan killed her mother?

Moreover, the knowledge that he never laid a hand on her while growing up can go one of two ways. Either he’s a good father who would never beat his daughter, one who would go to such great lengths to let people think that he killed his wife to protect her. Or…he’s a coward who’s afraid that if he tries to hurt her, he too will get murdered by Shallan’s shardblade.

I wonder which one was a more correct narrative?


What if you need to poop?

He paused again. She was probably supposed to ask what happened next.

“What if you need to poop?” she asked instead.

“I…er…that is not something any woman has ever asked me before.”

“So yes, I, Adolin Kholin – cousin to the king, heir to the Kholin princedom – have shat myself in my Shardplate. Three times, all on purpose….You are a very strange woman.”

Wait, Shallan thought, did that just…work? She was supposed to be acting feminine and delicate, not asking men what it’s like to have to defecate in battle.

But perhaps the most hilarious of all of these entertaining interactions between characters was that of Shallan and Adolin on their first date. I tried to convince Kathleen that she should definitely use this question on her next date, but it seems like that’s a hard sell.

It worked for Shallan; it should work for her too, right? NO, JUST NO

Much like the chapters in The Way of Kings between Shallan and Kabsal, I liked the genuine excitement that Sanderson had the story convey as Shallan and Adolin flirted. There’s something refreshing about the sheer innocence of it all.

Like I mentioned before though, it’ll be interesting to see where Book 3 takes this. She seems very enamored with Adolin and he obviously with her; but Sanderson definitely laid the seeds of attraction between Kaladin and her as well. Will that break up our awesome new bromance? 😥  Nothing like a love triangle to get you rooting for all sides…wonder if this world has polyamory?


Lol Sebarial and Palona

“Woman, you make me the most henpecked man in all of Alethkar-” -Sebarial

“We aren’t in Alekthar.” -Palona

“-and I’m not even storming married!” -Sebarial

“I’m not marrying you, so stop asking!” -Palona

“Winds know, you’re not the first stray he’s brought home. Some of us even end up staying.” -Palona

At first, I thought Sebarial was introduced entirely as comic relief. And he did a great job of it. His interactions with the other highprinces were funny enough, especially when he was poking fun at all the highprinces at the all-highprince OMG Elhokar almost got assassinated- meeting, but anytime he and Palona were in a scene, they basically stole the show.

Sebarial raised a cup of wine toward Dalinar. “Hope you don’t mind,” Sebarial said. “We liberated your stores. They were blowing past at the time, headed for certain doom.”

Dalinar stared at them. Palona even had a novel out and was reading.

“You did this?” Dalinar asked, nodding toward Roion’s army.

“They were making a racket,” Sebarial said. “Wandering around, shouting at one another, weeping and wailing. Very poetic. Figured someone should get them moving.”

It’s still weird to me that Sebarial brought his army out to the plateaus with Dalinar. And the story never talked about if he made that decision on his own, or if Shallan convinced him somehow. Ostensibly, his reason was that he thought something cool would be out there, and he wanted to be close to the action, but that seems too much like a fake reason.

I’m mean, I’m obviously glad for the sake of protagonists that he came and brought his surprisingly well skilled troops with him. But the story showed him to be shrewd and intelligent. Marching his army out there on a giant question mark from his point of view seems unwise to me – something of an outlandish risk honestly.

Perhaps we’ll see more of his machinations in Book 3. Perhaps he’ll have a bigger role. It’ll be disappointing if he truly was just a plot device that was funny when in a scene.



I was not wrong, he thought. I was never Truthless.

(after Szeth and Kaladin’s first encounter)

“Also, I felt even more sorry for Szeth at the end of that epic chapter. I could really feel his agony.” -Kathleen

Kathleen and I read his chapters pretty differently haha. While she was busy feeling sad at how conflicted Szeth was, I was more wondering why, once he learned that he was in fact NOT Truthless, that he wasn’t like “Well FUCK THIS THEN.” We already know he’s haunted by all the people he’s been forced to kill. Why continue doing it when he figures out that maybe he doesn’t have to. In fact, why not just go kill Taravangian? I’d be mad in his shoes. I’d want vengeance with the person who forced me to kill all those people that I didn’t want to.

The only reason he has to listen to his stupid oathstone is because of his religion/the people that brought him up, right? Well, those people were WRONG, so why should he listen to them anymore?!?!

I thought for sure that the story was setting him up for a redemption arc at the end, that Eshonai would be the main antagonist and that Szeth would come save the day. Boyyyy, was I wrong! I wonder where his story will go in Book 3. If he’ll be mostly limited to the interludes like he was in Book 1, or if he’ll be featured prominently like in Book 2.

Szeth swore he could see a small trail of black smoke coming off the metal. Like Stormlight, only dark.

Hello, a cheerful voice said in his mind. Would you like to destroy some evil today?

And now he has some crazy dark shardblade that works off of…anti-stormlight? (lol?) And he works for someone who knows how to kill surgebinders. Great.

And YAY for obscure references to Brandon Sanderson’s other works!! This made me really excited, as there was only one sword I could think of that was so dark, gave off black smoke, and could speak with it’s owner…NIGHTBLOOD from Warbreaker!  I have actually only ever read the first chapter of that book, so do not know practically anything about that world, except that Nightblood once released from his sheath can move about on his own and kill people and if that’s not weird enough, can COMMUNICATE IN WORDS with whomever’s holding it (owns it?).  But should be exciting!  I love when authors combine their worlds a bit, so much fun to be had.  Must now read Warbreaker though… oh well!  Such a hardship lol.

Unresolved problems – things to look forward to in Book 3

So uh…about your brother…

Storms…I killed him, didn’t I? The brother she loved. Had he told her about that?


Did she realize? Had she inferred that Kaladin, not Amaram, had been the one to actually kill the shardbearer? She didn’t’ seem to have made that connection.”

So my first thought once the book confirmed that Kaladin had indeed killed Shallan’s brother was “Oh shit. This is going to make it much harder for our protagonists to get along.” Funny that Kaladin’s thoughts immediately went to that as well.

Shallan’s smart – is she going to figure it out in the next book? My money is on yes. So if that’s the case, will she ever forgive him for it? Will the reasoning of “He was trying to kill people I was protecting. He *did* kill Dallet and several of my men!” be enough for Shallan to overlook that Kaladin killed “the best person she’d ever known”.

They did share that moment in the chasm, and they are the only people they’ve shared their stories with.


What about Amaram?

“Amaram’s worse than Sadeas, you know,” Kaladin said. “Everyone knows that Sadeas is a rat. He’s straight with you. ‘You’re a bridgeman’, he told me, ‘and I’m going to use you up until you die.’ Amaram though…he promised to be more, a brightlord like those in the stories. He told me he’d protect Tien. He feigned honor. That’s worse than any depth Sadeas could ever reach.”

One thing I was very much looking forward to in this book was seeing Kaladin and Amaram interact. It didn’t really boil over in this book the way I thought it would. Sure, Kaladin got to publically accuse Amaram of stealing his shards, but then he got immediately arrested for it, so… pffft. And yes, the Kholins believe him now, and no longer trust/work with Amaram, but Dalinar could have executed him!!! Why not?!?!?! Bah.

And now we know that Amaram wants to bring back the Voidbringers? Why? I imagine he’ll be one of the main antagonists in book 3. Oh Kaladin, if only you’d let Heleran kill Amaram…

Final Thoughts

I still can’t believe how much stuff happened in this book. The story was *so different* at the end. We have a brand new world to explore in Urithiru; Adolin killed Sadeas (O.o YAY!!!); The Knights Radiant have been re-founded; Renarin and Dalinar now have spren!; We never actually *saw* Eshonai die, and there are presumably still some non-stormform Parshendi around; looks like “Veil”‘s associates figured out that she’s Shallan; and JASNAH IS ALIVE!!!

She said that she’s honorspren, Kaladin thought. So why does she still keep up with the act of playing with winds?

He’d have to ask her, assuming she’d answer him. Assuming she even knew the answer.

Are we going to learn more about the nature of spren? What’s the difference between the Spren that respond to emotions and spren that respond to forces? And why do they seem so related?

Can’t wait for Book 3, and I won’t have to wait nearly as long as the people who read Book 2 when it came out. So yay for that. Q4 is going to be great between Oathbringer from the Stormlight Archive coming out in November and Persepolis Rising from The Expanse coming out in December.

It’ll also be interesting to see how many things that Kathleen and I can guess / read into before they happen / are confirmed in Book 3. In Book 1, I guessed almost nothing correctly lol. Kudos to Brandon Sanderson for keeping me on my toes.

In Book 2, I got that Kaladin killed Shallan’s brother; Kathleen got that Shallan had a shardblade AND that Shallan, not her dad, killed her mother. What surprises have we in store in Oathbringer?!

Should be a fun time. See y’all there. 🙂

The Way of Kings – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Way of Kings – TwoMorePages Book Review

Well, shit. I had just crowned another series as “The Best I’ve Read in 2017”, and yet here I stand, having read 1000 pages in two weeks. That’s the same rate that I read The Expanse books, and we all know how much I *LOVE* the Expanse. I learned too late that Kathleen lead me down the voyage of the damned, since this series has no conclusion and won’t have a conclusion for decades, doh haha.

But it was so worth it. I regret nothing!

My third foray into fantasy was easily my best so far. With Kvoth’s stories in The Kingkiller Chronicles, it took me a bit before I was really immersed in the story, though once immersed, it was super fun. With The Sword of Shannara, halfway in, I still found myself not caring about the characters, and I may have stopped reading halfway through…

With The Way of Kings, I was immersed almost immediately. Usually, I struggle with books that don’t define a clear protagonist at the very start, jumping around from character to character to set up context for the world. But I loved the world that was built from the perspectives of side characters to start, and the introduction of Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar as protagonists was seamless.

More than that, one thing this story did an exceptionally good job of was in being unpredictable while still making sense. Every unpredictable story turn or character action made sense in the context of the story, but there was enough mystery there to make it unexpected.

Kaladin is easily the one I identified most with, but then again I’m pretty sure I was the intended audience for his story. I immensely enjoyed his interactions with Syl, and the way his story unfolded kept me guessing the whole way. I guess incorrectly…a lot haha.

Shallan’s story was interesting in her own right, providing a very different perspective from what felt like across the world. I liked how the story set up her character one way in the beginning, only for her to show very different traits as her character grew.

And Dalinar’s story of political intrigue, military maneuvering, and the struggle to do what is right was a very refreshing change of pace. Whereas Kaladin and Shallan had underdog type stories (especially Kaladin), we saw Dalinar’s story unfold from the perspective of a highprince. More than that, we saw it unfold from the perspective of arguably the only “good” highprince, who voluntarily holds himself to a higher standard than his peers.

Okay, so onwards to the section with spoilers! Let’s talk about cool shit that went down in the book!



“You used to be vibrant. So many looked up to you, Kaladin. Your squad of soldiers. The enemies you fought. The other slaves. Even some lighteyes.” -Syl

I loved almost everything about Kaladin’s story. But most of all, I loved the pacing of it; you start off with the story of Kaladin the Spearman, revered by his troops, renowned for his fighting skills, but more importantly at his skill in keeping his men alive. And then…the next thing you know, he’s a depressed slave and you have no idea what happened in between.

There are some random hints about him killing someone, and about how much he hates lighteyes, and about how he might possible have won a fight with a shardbearer, but you don’t actually figure out what happened to him in Amaram’s army for about ¾’s of the book. My personal theory, which ended up being wrong, was that he had attacked and killed Prince Amaram for…reasons, and that’s why he ended up being labeled a deserter and thus became a slave. The real story was *oh so much worse*.

“Each lighteyes Kaladin had known, whether as a slave or a free man, had shown himself to be corrupt to the core, for all his outward poise and beauty. They were like rotting corpses clothed in beautiful silk.”

One thing we do know about Kaladin as the story progresses is that he is *majorly* prejudiced against lighteyes, and for the longest time, we don’t know why. His flashback chapters are really well written. In them, we see his childhood relationships shape his view on life. He tries to protect the weak as a product of his relationship with his brother Tien. He tries to do the right thing, even when it won’t benefit him because of his father. He hates lighteyes because of the shitty way that Rochone treated his family, but more importantly, because of the betrayal of Amaram.

“It’s all an act?” Kaladin asked. “The honorable brightlord who cares about his men? Lies? All of it?”

Amaram hesitated by the door, resting the blunt edge of the stolen Shardblade on his shoulder. The guilt was still there in his eyes, but he grew hard, covering it. “You are being discharged as a deserter and branded as a slave. But you are spared death by my mercy.”

Brightlord Amaram, one of the only lighteyes that Kaladin looked up to and trusted. Kaladin’s descent into utter racism comes from Brightlord Amaram’s betrayal on two fronts. First, that he put Tien in a position to die when Kaladin only joined to keep his brother safe.

But second, and more importantly, when Kaladin kills a shardbearer and saves Amaram’s life, something that is almost impossible to do, losing 17 of his 22 member spearman group in the process, Amaram…murders Kaladin’s remaining spearmen, brands Kaladin a deserter and slave, and takes the shards and shardblade that were rightfully Kaladin’s. WHAT THE FUCK.

I killed a Shardbearer, he thought again. And then I gave away the Blade and Plate. That single event had to be the most monumentally stupid thing anyone, in any kingdom, in any era, had ever done.

Now, granted, Kaladin had initially refused the shards and shardblade at the battle that ostensibly belonged to him. And I can debate all day about how that was a really piss poor decision, regardless of how he felt about the blade or about lighteyes. So yes, Kaladin, that was monumentally stupid. You could have done a LOT of good with that Shardblade.

But bajeezus, that is exceptionally dark.

“SEE? I TOLD YOU I WAS REALLY SAD” -Kathleen, who introduced me to this book, about learning about Amaram’s betrayal

Well, thanks for bringing me down this journey of sadness Kathleen! 😛 I couldn’t even move on to the next section for half a day. I just kept re-reading the betrayal chapter over and over. 😥


Kaladin’s Relationship with Syl

Syl! She’s my favorite! Mere words cannot describe how much I love Syl’s character. Probably not surprising, since I most easily identify with Kaladin, and she helps him more than anyone else, but nevertheless.

Her interactions with Kaladin are preciously heartwarming:


“Here, I brought you this (poisonous) leaf. You were so sad when you lost them last time. I hope you like it; it was so heavy. Will this make you happier?” -Syl

—> later


—> even later

“I don’t like that you lied to me.” -Syl
“That’s how I am. Bringing death and lies wherever I go. Me and the Nightwatcher” -Kaladin
“That was…sarcasm. I know what sarcasm is!” – Syl
Stormfather, Kaladin thought, looking into those gleeful little eyes. *That strikes me as ominous*

This was the first time I fell in love with Syl and Kaladin’s relationship. I knew the chapters would be nonstop fun. Their banter was a breath of fresh air in the most depressing parts of Kaladin’s story:

“You know, talking to you probably doesn’t do anything for my reputation of being insane.” -Kaladin

“I’ll do my best to stop being so interesting.” -Syl

“I feel like I’m remembering things I once knew.” -Syl

“Soon you’ll hardly be a spren at all. You’ll be a little translucent philosopher. We’ll have to send you off to a monastery to spend your time in deep, important thoughts.” -Kaladin

“Yes, like how to best get the ardents there to accidentally drink a mixture that will turn their mouths blue!” -Syl

“I don’t think you’re ready for that yet. Don’t be so risky. If you die, I go stupid again, you know.” -Syl

“I’ll try to keep that in mind. Maybe I’ll remove dying from my list of tasks to do this week.” -Kaladin

How can you NOT love these interactions? They’re so wholesome and cute. Plus, her development from a mindless spren who can’t remember anything to gradually take on more individuality is cool:

“I guess it makes sense to revere the spren. You are kind of odd and magical.” -Kaladin

“I’m not odd!” she said, standing up. “I’m beautiful and articulate.” She planed her hands on her hips, but he could see in her expression that she wasn’t really mad. She seemed to be changing by the hour, growing more and more…

More and more what? Not exactly humanlike. More individual. Smarter.”

While it’s often fun and games with Syl, she also serves as an important guardian angel for Kaladin as well. I loved the description of how she was fighting off the deathspren, and of how she seemed to part the winds when he was exposed to the highstorm:

In those brief moments of light when he dared to look, he thought he saw Syl standing in front of him, her face to the wind, tiny hands forward. As if she were trying to hold back the storm and split the winds as a stone divided the waters of a swift stream.

Standing before the deathspren was a tiny figure of light. Not translucent, as she had always appeared before, but of pure white light. That soft, feminine face had a nobler, more angular cast to it now, like a warrior from a forgotten time. Not childlike at all. She stood guard on his chest, holding a sword made of light.

She’s more than just a funny little tinkerbell sidekick, someone for Kaladin to talk to to keep him sane and bring him back from the brink of despair. Seeing her abilities grow was wonderful to read, and the descriptions of the way she was able to influence the world were beautiful.

Not to mention that…

“You’re not a windspren, are you?”
She hesitated, then shook her head. “No.”
“What are you, then?”
“I don’t know. I bind things.”

—-> Later

“Are windspren attracted to wind? or do they make it? I’ve remembered what kind of Spren I am. I bind things, Kaladin. I am honorspren. Spirit of oaths. Of promises. And of nobility.” -Syl

I wonder where this is going to go. The book doesn’t really mention it much after she reveals this. What’s the difference between honorspren and windspren? Plus, didn’t she say that she binds things? So honorspren bind things? What does honor have to do with binding?

I love everything about this relationship. And yes, of course I wish I had my own little Spren like Syl hanging out with me.


Kaladin’s experience with trying to help people

There isn’t ever anything I can do. Stormfather, why can’t I save them? -Kaladin

“If I’m not cursed,” Kaladin said softly, “Then why do I live when others die?”
“Because of us,” Syl said. “This bond. It makes you stronger, Kaladin.”
“Then why can’t it make me strong enough to help the others?”
“I don’t know,” Syl said. Maybe it can.”

One of the things the book did best was in sharing the emotions of the protagonists with us. With Kaladin, the most heartbreaking part was in watching him try to help people, and then have those people always die at the end, despite his efforts.

You’re introduced to it first when he tries to help one of the sickly slaves on the wagon, and you’re given glimpses into how traumatic it was for him in the past. One thing the book constantly referenced, but didn’t talk about for awhile was how his brother Tien died, despite Kaladin’s best efforts. It’s why he tries to look after people like Cenn in the opening chapters, trying to atone for his initial failure. It’s why it hurts so much for him when Dallet is cut down, and then even more than that when his spearmen group are cut down in front of his eyes.

“Kaladin?” a voice whispered. He blinked. Syl was hovering in front of him. “Do you know the Words?”
“All I wanted to do was protect them,” he whispered.
“That’s why I’ve come. The Words, Kaladin.”
“They’re going to die. I can’t save them. I-”
Amaram slaughtered his men in front of him.
A nameless Shardbearer killed Dallet.
A lighteyes killed Tien.

Kaladin tried to squelch the feeling of despair inside him. This Dalinar Kholin was probably just like the others. Like Roschone, like Sadeas, like any number of other lighteyes. Pretending virtue but corrupted inside.

In the climactic battle on the plateau, Kaladin’s thoughts are especially poignant. When I first read the book, I didn’t know if this was a tragedy or not, especially since Kathleen had said that Kaladin’s story was a sad one.

“Something just changed,” Moash whispered, hand up. “Something important.”

Kaladin raised his spear. The powerful light began to subside, retreating. A more subdued glow began to steam off his body. Radiant, like smoke from an ethereal fire.

I was so happy to see that this story was in fact, NOT a tragedy. It’s a testament to the writing that I empathized so well with Kaladin’s emotions in thinking he’d failed his men. Again. That everyone that he cared about would die except him. AGAIN.

I legit texted Kathleen being like “His entire squad is going to die again, aren’t they?”

He promised, Kaladin thought. He promised he would free us from Sadeas.
And yet, where had the promises of lighteyes gotten him in the past?

And another promise dies, Kaladin thought, turning away. In the end, for all his good intentions, this Dalinar Kholin was the same as the others.

“What is a man’s life worth?”-Dalinar
“A life is priceless” – Kaladin
“Coincidentally, that is the exact value of a Shardblade. so today, you and your men sacrificed to buy me 2600 priceless lives. And all I had to repay you with was a single priceless sword. I call that a bargain.” -Dalinar
“You really think it was a good trade, don’t you?” Kaladin said, amazed.

His redemption ark was especially satisfying, where his trust in someone is finally rewarded in Dalinar. I’m intruiged to see where the next book brings his story, assuming this isn’t one of those series that has different protagonists from book to book.

Presumably, the men in Dalinar’s camp shouldn’t be giant sacks of shit like in Sadeas’s, so he shouldn’t have as many problems with lighteyes anymore, right? Perhaps his lighteyes-darkeyes struggle will center on him assuming the worst of the lighteyes around him in Dalinar’s camp, and that impeding how his men fit in. Or perhaps he’ll have to interact with the shitty Lighteyes from the other camps, especially Sadeas’s. Will we get the Amaram – Kaladin reunion / hate fest that I thought would happen in this book but didn’t?

Shallan’s Story

“I have weighed the facts, child, and I cannot accept you. I’m sorry.”

Six months of chasing, for this. She gripped the rag in frustration, squeezing sooty water between her fingers. She wanted to cry. That was what she probably would have done if she’d been that same child she had been six months ago.

—> later

Was she weak because confrontation unsettled her so? She felt that she was.

Foolish, idiot girl, she thought, a few painspren crawling out of hte wall near her head. What made you think you could do this? You’ve only set foot off your family grounds a half-dozen times during your life. Idiot, idiot, idiot!

I *really* enjoyed how Brandon Sanderson’s writing style conveys the emotions of his protagonists. I could feel Shallan’s desperation in trying to persuade Jasnah to be her ward in the beginning of her story; I could feel her panic when her solutions came up short due to her inexperience.

“It wasn’t an admonition. Simply an observation. I make them on occasion: Those books are musty. The sky is blue today. My ward is a smart-lipped reprobate.” -Jasnah

Her banter with Jasnah was pretty entertaining too. Not cute like Syl and Kaladin’s, but more quippy. Plus, I liked how Shallan grew more and more bold as her confidence increased under Jasnah’s tutelage.

“She’d come to Kharbranth to steal the fabrial, then use it to save her brothers and their house from massive debt and destruction. Yet in the end, this wasn’t why Shallan had stolen the Soulcaster. She’d taken it because she was angry with Jasnah.”

Besides the character development, the thing I enjoyed immensely with Shallan’s story were twists and turns in her story. I remember texting Kathleen immediately when Shallan got Jasnah’s fabrial, being like WHAAAAT?! SHE GOT THE FABRIAL! I was so sure that she would try and then have Jasnah be like “I knew you were going to do that” and stop her, but it was so easy. I wondered where the conflict was going to come from, since she accomplished her goal so early in the story?

“Nobody quite remembers where this ‘Kabsal’ came from…He was playing you, child. The whole time, he was using you to get to me. To spy on what I was doing, to kill me if he could.”

Someone had almost killed her. Not someone, Kabsal. No wonder he’d been so eager to get her to taste the jam!

Just like Shallan, I was blindsided when Kabsal died. I actually really liked the chapters with them flirting. The writing really encapsulated the fun feelings in the beginning of a relationship. It was so innocent and genuine, something that’s often sorely missing in real life.

So for him to end up being A) dead and B) an assassin left me like this O.o

And then for Jasnah to find out that Shallan stole the fabrial because of Kabsal’s actions! And for *that* not even to be the final twist in the story! Whaaaaat?

But the best part is that the clues were all inset in the story along the way. The bread was poison, but jam was the antidote; that way, Kabsal wouldn’t accidentally murder Shallan, but could hurt Jasnah, since Jasnah doesn’t like jam. Jasnah didn’t notice that her fabrial didn’t work for several weeks because she doesn’t need a fabrial to soulcast.

Shallan met her former mistress’s eyes. Was it the fatigue that made her so indifferent to the consequences of confronting this woman? Or was it her knowledge of the truth? “You did all that, Jasnah,” Shallan finished, “with a fake Soulcaster.”

The contrast between Shallan’s last chapters and first chapters is enormous. Her story is one of building confidence in herself, and I love that she had the intelligence, wherewithal, and courage to both put everything together and confront Jasnah at the end. It wasn’t a deus ex machina ending that saves her from her situation – it’s her solving a puzzle at the end that does it. She saves herself.


Dalinar’s Story

Unlike Kaladin and Shallan, Dalinar is not some underdog who overcomes things to grow. He is already a highprince, and has very different problems to solve. He has the weight of responsibility on his shoulders, and of trying to reign in his inexperienced nephew king, and of trying to save the kingdom.

Arguably, his storyline progresses the overarching storyline for *the world* the most. Whereas Kaladin and Shallan have their own personal struggles, Dalinar’s problems are global. He’s the one seeing visions of the past during highstorms; he’s the one being told to unite Alekthar so that everyone doesn’t die.

His struggle with whether or not to believe those visions is intriguing to read. His struggle of whether or not to step down when everyone else thinks he’s crazy is one that’s heartbreaking, but understandable. When everyone else seems wrong except you…are you truly the one that’s right? I struggle with that question/kanundrum from time to time in real life. It’s interesting to see something similar play out in what is now one of my favorite novels.

Ahead, Dalinar was speaking quietly with Sadeas. Both men wore frowns. They barely tolerated one another, though they had once been friends. That had also changed the night of Gavliar’s death.

But the best part of his story to me was his struggle with Sadeas. Like the other two storylines, this had its fair share of unpredictable twists and turns as well. Like Adolin, I thought *for sure* that Sadeas was making a powerplay when he became the High Prince of Information, that he would implicate Dalinar in Elkohar’s paranoid delusions, and cause Dalinar’s house to fall.

“I had hoped to make this presentation after I’d discovered more concrete proof that you weren’t involved. Unfortunately, pressed as I was, the best I could do was to indicate that it was unlikely you were involved. There will still be rumors, I’m afraid.” -Sadeas

“Wait. You wanted to prove me innocent?” -Dalinar

“Yes, I asked Elkohar for this position to prove you innocent. Is it so storming difficult for you to believe someone else in this army might do something honest?” -Sadeas

I was as confused as Adolin was when Sadeas announced that Dalinar was 100% innocent in that, and when Sadeas told Dalinar that he took the High Prince of Information post to prove Dalinar innocent. Like what? Hmm, okay, maybe everything was overblown, and we’re all just too suspicious of one another. After all, Dalinar and Sadeas used to be friends…

“Well, you do provoke them. Take, for example, the way you refuse to rise to their arguments or insults.” -Sadeas

“Protesting simply draws attention to the issue. The finest defense of character is correct action. Acquaint yourself with virtue, and you can expect proper treatment from those around you.” -Dalinar

“You see, there. Who talks like that?” -Sadeas

But the chapters that brought Dalinar and Sadeas closer together after that were also well written, showing Dalinar trusting his old friend again more and more. You only poke fun at your friends, doubly so if you’re doing it so that way they change a behavior of theirs.

Between the joint assaults, Dalinar saving Sadeas’s life, and the two hanging out together more, I thought a genuine bro-mance was re-forming.

Had it all been an act? Could he really have misjudged Sadeas so completely? What of the investigation clearing Dalinar? What of their plans and reminiscences? All lies?

I saved your life, Sadeas.

Whatever the visions were, they had misled Dalinar in at least one respect. Trusting Sadeas had brought them to doom.

…which made Sadeas’s betrayal all the worse. This book did an amazing job of having the reader experience the same emotions as the protagonists. Absolutely AMAZING.

Like wtf?!?! Who leaves his friend and his army out there to die? Especially when said friend had risked his own life to save yours just a few chapters (weeks in the book?) before! If nothing else, reciprocity should make you not abandon your friend at the first available opportunity, much less set him up to die.

I was so upset at the end when Sadeas basically had nothing bad happen to him as a result of his actions. Who gives a shit if Dalinar’s forces are now outnumbered by Sadeas’s? You have TWO Shardbearers, both with blades and armor, and Sadeas only has armor, so he’s like half a shardbearer. The book has already established that a Shardbearer is basically as good as an entire batallion, so despite your man-disadvantage, you should be at least on even ground. And you’ve already established that Dalinar’s men are better trained and stronger than Sadeas’s!

Plus, why even go to Sadeas’s camp in the first place? Go to Elkohar; explain what happened. Strip Sadeas of his troops and his money. After your troops recuperate / your shardplate is mended, MURDER/DUEL HIM; Take his Shardplate; Give it to Renarim to fulfill your promise.

Anything except what you did, which is march to his camp with your tired army and broken shardplate, say “oh, well shit happens” and give him your shardblade in trade for all the bridgemen. FFS, you could have just taken Kaladin back to your camp so Sadeas couldn’t demand a ransom to get him back. Just dare him to come into your camp to get his bridgemen. No need to give up the Shardblade!

Bah. I surely do hope I get a revenge arc in the next book. This was most unsatisfying.

Final Thoughts and Unresolved Questions

“They watch me. Always. Waiting. I see their faces in mirrors. Symbols, twisted, inhuman…” -Elkohar

Hey wait, is Elkohar seeing the same things that Shallan sees when she draws? This was a passage that was said once, and not referenced again. They definitely sound like the strange shapes that Shallan was seeing. Is he seeing them too?

“Considering what I’ve done before, this is nothing. It wouldn’t be the first time she betrayed someone who trusted her.”

I must know something true about you. Tell me. The stronger the truth, the more hidden it is, the more powerful the bond. Tell me. Tell me. What are you?

“What am I?: Shallan whispered. “Truthfully?” It was a day for confrontation. She felt strangely strong, steady. Time to speak it. “I’m a murderer. I killed my father.”

Ah, the voice whispered. A powerful truth indeed…

Um, did we just gloss over the fact that Shallan said she killed her father…and never talk about it again? The first quote was waaaay back earlier in the book, and I’d actually forgotten about it until I was reviewing my highlights for this book.

It makes much more sense in the context of the second quote, which we find at the very end of the book. You know, just a casual mention of her having killed her dad. No big deal, right?


Life before Death. I’ve failed so often. I’ve been knocked to the ground and trod upon.

Strength before Weakness. This would be death I’d lead my friends to…

Journey before Destination. …death, and what is right.

I loved the words of the Knights Radiant. They were short, but meaningful, and fit within the context of Kaladin’s story very well. Since the next book is called The Words of Radiance, I imagine we’ll learn the others that were referenced, but not specifically said in this one.

Somebody has to start, son. Somebody has to step forward and do what is right, because it is right. If nobody starts, then others cannot follow. – Kaladin’s dad

I didn’t talk about Kaladin’s relationship with his dad much in this review, even though it was a large part of what shaped his character. It was an unexpected twist that Kaladin’s dad *did indeed* steal the spheres, justifying his behavior as something that should have happened anyway / would have happened if Wistiow was lucid.

Kaladin never did go back to see his parents. To them, he’s been gone what…10 years now? I imagine the books will revisit this subject in the future, but will it be in the next book? or one of the ones that won’t come out until I’m closer to retirement age? (Thanks Kathleen 😛 )


The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival – TwoMorePages Book Review

“TIL that tigers can, and will, take revenge on those who have wronged them. They are one of the most vengeful animals on the planet.”

I was browsing reddit one day and came across the headline above. In the Chinese Zodiac, I *am* a tiger, and I consider myself more vengeful than most people, so I was super amused.

Apparently, in the 90s, there was a vengeful man eating tiger lurking around East Russia in Primorye. The comments in the thread, along with the linked article itself, mentioned that there was a book all about what happened, so of course I bought it!

This book was a cool mixture of half documentary, half story, with the narration constantly going into asides to help give more context to the situation.

I expected to learn plenty about tigers, but what I ended up learning even more about was Russia, specifically East Russia which is very different from Moscow and traditional Russian stereotypes. I learned about the history of Primorye, how it came to be Russian instead of Chinese; how the people that lived there had their lives changed from Russian perestroika; how those people dealt with the tigers that lived in the Taiga forests that their towns were in.


About Primorye

“Protruding conspicuously from Russia’s vast bulk, Primorye is embedded in China’s eastern flank like a claw or a fang, and it remains a sore spot to this day. The territory is an embodiment of the tension between proximity and possession: the capital, Vladivostok, which is home to more than half a million people, is just a two-day train journey from Beijing. The trip to Moscow, on the other hand, is a week-long…even Australia is closer”

So I’ll admit that I a stereotypical American sometimes and don’t know a ton of geography. I literally had to look up the Russian/Chinese border to see this for myself when I read the above statement. I didn’t know that part of Russia just jutted down along the East and into China. Whaaat?

The book taught me a lot about Russian-Chinese relations in the past. It was really interesting how Russia basically tricked China into a trade for the region; it was even more interesting to learn that in the late 1960s, the two countries had heightened tensions and had military conflicts. My dad was alive during that time, albeit far removed since he was waaaay south in Hong Kong.

“Though it was hailed as a positive development in the West, few Westerners fully grasp the toll perestroika took and continues to take on the country. Among Russians, it has since earned the ignominious nickname “Katastroika.” Proof of this abounds in Sobolonye, a place where civilization as most of us understand it has effectively collapsed.”

But more than that, a huge portion of the book was devoted to the life of people in Primorye, people who lived among the Taiga. It spent a lot of time in asides, telling the stories of people’s lives, both before, during, and after perestroika. I remember reading about perestroika in the history books of school, but tbh, I only kind of glanced through it, since I was here in the US, far away from it. It was shocking to learn about the incredible drop in quality of life for Russians, especially out in the fringes of Primorye.


About the Tiger

“As Trush and his team pieced the evidence together, they came to understand that this tiger was not hunting for animals, or even for humans; he was hunting for Markov”

I also very much enjoyed the anthropomorphism of the Tiger’s actions in this book. While the above stuff about the people played out like a documentary, everything about the Tiger played out like a story. Makes sense, since the you can’t talk to a tiger.

The author, given what facts he knew about the tiger, gave backstory and reason to the tiger’s actions. It had been shot, so it was weakened, and couldn’t quite catch the prey it used to and was hungry.

It had been shot by Markov specifically, and evidence at the scene suggested that it had spent days tracking Markov and systematically destroying everything with his scent on it before killing him, so it was vengeful.

The anthropomorphism helped flesh out the story *really* well.



The half documentary, half story nature of this book was a nice change of pace for me, both from the non-fiction political books I’d been reading and the sci-fi books that are my bread and butter. I learned a lot about a region of the world that I typically ignore, and about the people that live there.

All in all, totally worth the read!

Black Ops (Expeditionary Force Book 4) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Black Ops (Expeditionary Force Book 4) – TwoMorePages Book Review

The best Skippy Adventure yet by far!


I’ll admit. It’s been a little while since I was really, truly excited about a book. Between the Stanley Cup Playoffs reducing my available reading time, and me reading some books that I struggled to get through, reading was starting to become a chore instead of something that I really enjoyed.


While Book 3 of the Expeditionary Force series kind of felt like the recurring adventures of “Oshit. We’re in trouble. Oh, well that’s fine, because Skippy’s going to save the day”, Book 4 was great in that it relied a lot less on Skippy’s Awesomeness, and more on human ingenuity. Maybe part of it was just that it’s been awhile since I read an Expeditionary Force book, and I had like no gap between books 2 and 3, but I REALLY enjoyed Book 4.

One other thing I loved about this book was the anthropomorphism of inanimate objects. For instance, these thoughts from a missile:

WTF, I’m launching while the ship is inside a freaking wormhole? Of all the stupid-Unbelievable, I survived. Great. Where is the target? It’s – Holy shit, I’m right on top of the damned thing! No shields in my way? Uh, I am programmed to expect strong defensive shields. And defensive fire from maser turrets. None of that going on here. Ok, what should I – Oh. Hmm.There is a nice big smoking hole in the enemy’s hull. Maybe I’ll go in there. Yeah, that’s a great idea. Hey, it’s cozy in here, although the Thuranin really could use some help tidying up the place. Well, this has been nice, but a missile has got to do what a missile has got to do, right? I can set the warhead for wide dispersal, now that I’m inside the enemy’s hull.

Can’t really talk about more without spoiling stuff, so from here on out SPOILERS BE HERE:

Spoiler-y discussion begins here

Two facets I really liked the introduction of were (1) Skippy is not immortal and (2) Skippy might not have always been sentient.

The first point of course, was a major plot point in the book. Seeing our merry band of pirates deal with his absence not once, but twice, shows just how vulnerable our protagonists are. The book ends on quite the melancholy note because of it.

The second point though wasn’t revisited again, and I suspect will be a major point of the next book? I wonder how that will weave into the story. It doesn’t really matter to Joe whether or not Skippy used to be sentient, right? Only that he’s sentient *now*

The Jeraptha

We got to see our first look at the Jeraptha in this book! I actually loved the scenes on the Jeraptha ships, seeing their culture of gambling meshed with their military. The depiction of receiving Skippy’s Intel, along with the description of the ensuing battle, were honestly some of my most favorite chapters in the book, especially given how brief they were.


I love that Craig Alanson is keeping to a publishing schedule. The next book is out in Nov? YES! And I loved this book. It was my oasis in a sea of…less than stellar books lately.

The Expeditionary Force series always has a distinctly fun tone in it, and I’m a big fan of that. The story isn’t usually predictable, and the ways that our protagonists get out of them are fun to read. It’s a great escape from life. 🙂