On the planet of Taldain, the legendary Sand Masters harness arcane powers to manipulate sand in spectacular ways. But when they are slaughtered in a sinister conspiracy, the weakest of their number, Kenton, believes himself to be the only survivor. With enemies closing in on all sides, Kenton forges an unlikely partnership with Khriss—a mysterious Darksider who hides secrets of her own.
Spoiler – There’s a spoiler beneath in my review. If you’d prefer to read the review minus the spoiler I suggest you check out my GR review, as the spoiler is hidden there.
Review – In some ways I think this may be one of my favorite of Sanderson’s works – in a lot of ways I identified with Kenton (constantly seeking approval despite the array of odds against him, the frustrating knowledge that no matter what you do you’ll be judged for what you can’t do) and for the first part (when he’s undergoing the Master’s test) I was rooting for him the whole way.
So of course when the meat of the story occurs very quickly – the attack on the Sand Masters and Kenton meeting Khriss – I was a little let down about the brevity of time we spent with Kenton and his fellow Sand Masters. Plus GDI another instance where our clever, but socially considered useless hero breaks with tradition and in return he’s left orphaned and alone by the narrative. This is why people don’t try to break the rules you know.
The story suffered for two reasons – 1) if you’re a fan of Sanderson’s works you’re used to a more detailed introduction to the world and its particular blend of magic and political atmosphere. Words on a page with more words and sometimes illustrations, but that’s it. For a reader like me, who focuses on words not visuals, this is wonderful. WHITE SAND however relied on comprehension of the words while busy visuals were crowding around also trying to make their point.
While the “big” illustrations herein were eye-catching, the average panel distracted more then it helped to convey the story. Much of understanding what’s happening involved reading the panels, then going back and looking at the illustrations for each. There was a disconnect for me between the two that made it hard for me to comprehend both at once. My problem wasn’t with the illustrations themselves – like I said some were eye-catching and the overall style is pleasing – but with the layout of the action and paneling. I’m so far outside the world of mainstream comics I’m not sure if the illustrator has done superhero comics before, but it didn’t have the easy transitioning between panels you’d expect from a more veteran illustrator.
The second problem is more of a “what if” sort. Sanderson has an introduction that details where this idea came from, how he’s tweaked it and what made him finally bring it out again but in a different (read: non-prose) format. This is part of his larger “Cosmere” universe (I believe this is set at one of the earliest points in the current known timeline), so fans will see hints that tie it in (as this is the first volume of three its largely speculated the next two volumes will contain more clues, hints and information), but not so much that non-fans will be like “what is even?”.
It both reads like a Sanderson novel and doesn’t. The meat of his novels isn’t the dialogue between characters (which is almost always fun), but the world building. A lot of this is shown in context, though some is, by necessity, explained (for instance in WARBREAKER, biochromatic breath is explained to us several different times because its a very visual magic system, whereas in the Mistborn books its shown to us through the characters’ actions and reactions with few “tutorial” explanations). The Sand Masters’ (and other spoilery characters) magic may have had more of an effect on me if it had been explained without the visuals to me.
If this has been published as a novel first, I would have gotten more out of it. The pacing feels off – not enough time is given to Kenton and his fellow before/during/after the Master’s test (it was over and done before I could blink!) so it lost some emotional resonance with me. I liked Khriss quite a bit, but she just…appeared in the story after the too short introduction to Kenton’s people (I gathered that Kenton had traveled quite the distance from the site of the massacre).
tdlr; – I enjoyed this, I’m happy Sanderson is branching into (yet another) type of media to conquer, but I wish more thought had been put into the pacing and overly busy illustrations.
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Published by: Dynamite Entertainment
Release: June 28, 2016
Series: First in Series
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