Politics and conspiracy...

The second installment in Sanderson's WHITE SAND trilogy is one that I couldn't wait to get into (so, I didn't) and I was very pleased to find this was (mostly) better than the first volume in every way.

4.5/5 More exquisite artwork, new information about Sand Mastery, and a more cohesive plotline all made VOLUME 2 of the WHITE SAND trilogy a near-perfect reading experience for me. A deeply unfortunate artist switch in the final chapter of this installment is the main reason, I don't think this is a full 5/5 read.   

Kenton and Khrissilla pick up their missions right where VOLUME 1 left off and I really enjoyed seeing how each of them went about chasing their respective goals. It was also interesting to see how similar they both are in terms of their stubbornness. This time around, some of the characters whose names I couldn't even remember in the first installment, had a much more memorable role to play here. There are still some who are more in the background that don't leave a particularly big impression, but Ais and Aarik definitely got their time to shine as I'd hoped they would. I was a little surprised to see so little of Drile, but since he's such an annoying character, I didn't mind that he got sidelined for now. In his place, I liked meeting all the different lords that Kenton had to approach in hopes of gaining their support to preserve the Sand Masters. I know it may not be the same for readers who enjoy Sanderson's novels but these are very much his characters through and through and I felt like this entry allowed for a much deeper understanding of each of them. 

Although we don't necessarily get to go to any new locations within Taldain's Dayside continent, I did feel like I was seeing a lot of the different regions in a new light thanks to how much more the story shares about this world's politics. There are some interesting camps and estates that the group travels to on Kenton's mission to secure votes from the other masters that mixed things up a little, but both the new and the already visited locations are still elaborately rendered. I continue to be impressed with this fantastical world and loved seeing some of the more oasis-like lush areas of the planet in addition to the alien deserts. 

Because all of the main characters are in one place, the story felt a lot smoother overall. There are still some perspective shifts and lots of minor characters to keep track of, but it all felt so much more focused this time around. I liked that the main point of conflict was so political with Kenton and Khrissilla trying to gain favor with a variety of guild leaders that the Sand Masters fell out of favor with long ago. I appreciated that there was still plenty of action to be found as well with a mysterious religious leader sending a constant barrage of assassins after Kenton. There is also another great fight with a large monster that those that were impressed by the opening chapter of VOLUME 1 will likely appreciate. In the more quiet moments, I enjoyed seeing how Kenton's relationships with Khrissilla, Ais, and Aarik developed over time. I also liked that Kenton explained himself to Khriss even though he didn't divulge everything she hoped he would. 

As with the first volume, the hardcover quality is great with a beautiful dust jacket, a naked hardback that matches the first installment, and well-designed interior paneling. The quality of the linework, color, and shading are all top notch once again as well...until the final chapter anyway. I'm definitely the type of reader that gets very annoyed by artist swaps, especially in a series that where just three volumes were planned from the start. While the second artist isn't necessarily bad, there is just such an alarming drop in detail when it comes to the linework for both characters and environments, as well as what felt like a cartoonishly bright color pallet. In addition to the dip in quality, this new style also just didn't really seem to fit with the story at all. When I looked into the reason for the change, Brandon Sanderson's official site simply states that they had issues with the original artist meeting their deadlines. Now, I don't know how egregious this issue was, but to me that just sounds like they wanted the artist to pump out incredibly intricate work at a faster pace when they SHOULD have been prioritizing the quality. Art like what we got in VOLUME 1 takes time and it bums me out that some of the chapters in VOLUME 2 looked slightly rushed and were then finished off by a significantly less appealing style (that definitely looked much faster to produce). 

There are so many things that I loved about this entry into the WHITE SAND trilogy, from the characters, to the world building, and some neat information about Sand Mastery that will likely play a part in VOLUME 3. I am excited to see how the story ends, but am not looking forward to the rest of it being told with much more simplistic artwork that may very well spoil the conclusion of the series overall for me.  


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