Review: WORDS OF RADIANCE by Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Tor Books
Page Count: 1087 Pages
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Series: THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE, Book 2
Rating: 5/5 Stars – LOVED IT

Warning: Light spoilers for THE WAY OF KINGS. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find the review here!

917and4pjflThe fates of many people in the land of Roshar intersect as a mysterious countdown begins appearing on walls after highstorms – though what will happen at the end of refoundthe countdown, nobody knows. With only a few months remaining until the unknown calamity occurs, our heroes search for ways to prepare. Dalinar continues to try to unify the bickering high princes, attempting to create new allies and even refound the lost order of Knights Radiant.  Kaladin, now head of Dalinar’s personal guard after recently saving his life, experiments with his new magical abilities, while struggling to decide if Dalinar is a highborn fully worthy of Kaladin’s loyalty and trust. Shallan and Jasnah travel to the Shattered Planes to share their disturbing revelations about the nature of Voidbringers with Dalinar.  Once there, Shallan becomes entangled with the mysterious group known as the Ghostbloods, a group with ties to her own family, and one with their own plans for the fate of Roshar.  As the days tick down, everyone braces for the unknown storm and the potential revelations it will bring.

There are so many good things happening in WORDS OF RADIANCE, but I absolutely have to start with the characters.  Any story over 1000 pages longs lives and dies by its characters, and I felt like this book truly let them shine.  That in part has to do with shift in structure in WOR vs. book one, THE WAY OF KINGS.  In WAY OF KINGS, we were being introduced to all the characters and the world, and for the most part, the storylines were kept separate, with brief overlap here and there. This meant that when the POV shifted, you could be without a favorite character for some time.  WORDS OF RADIANCE, however, begins bringing people together, some from the book’s opening, and others later on as the story progresses. Having spent a good deal of time with each of these characters in WOK, it was great to FINALLY see them working and fighting together. Kaladin and Shallan’s initial interactions had me dying and it was well worth the wait.

This also felt like a book that just moved better than THE WAY OF KINGS.  WOK was in some ways a very long first act, full of character development and establishing the ground rules of the world, all of which was necessary, but could sometimes ground momentum to a halt.  WORDS OF RADIANCE felt like the brakes had been taken off and the plot could really begin moving forward. Brandon Sanderson is SO good at setting you up to want something and then delivering – look no further than the arena fight midway through the book (you’ll know it when you see it). The book ends with the characters and the world in a much different state, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things continue to develop in OATHBRINGER.

I also need to give a shoutout to the artwork in this book, which is sprinkled throughout the chapters and include maps, sketches of creatures and wardrobe, and “hand-written” notes from various characters. These notes are fantastic easter eggs, and one reference in particular made me sit up a little at a throwaway line later in the book.  The art enhances the world and helps make it easier to picture some of the more bizarre aspects of Roshar.

There were a few places where the book stumbled, mostly in the “interludes” section, chapters that follow seemingly random characters around Roshar.  My interest in these sections is very hit or miss, in particular because I’m always scrambling to remember if I’ve met this particular character or if it’s someone new.  On top of that, the relevance of these chapters is sometimes not made clear, even by the end of the book. This ties into my second low-grade frustration, which is that the mythology of Roshar’s past is handed out in tiny obtuse chunks, leaving many gaps that are only slowly being shaded in over time as connections are revealed. It’s something I’ve just had to accept and let go, but I’m frequently hoping I’m not forgetting some tidbit that was mentioned earlier that might help me draw a connection.

I could probably go on for several more paragraphs to try and cover all the things that I loved about this book.  The fact that the flashbacks this time were devoted to Shallan, a character I love and who I desperately wanted to know more about.  The fact that I multiple times cursed under my breath with delight and/or surprise as certain characters made moves or information came to light.  The fact that there’s a love-triangle and I’m not even mad about it. The fact that these characters are kick-ass but their relative kick-ass-ness is tied into their character arcs and watching those arcs can take you on an emotional roller coaster.  I had to mentally brace myself to tackle this 1000 page book and I regret nothing. I look forward to reading novella EDGEDANCER in the coming months, and perhaps even OATHBRINGER by the end of the year!

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