Review: OATHBRINGER by Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Tor Books
Page Count: 1240
Release Date: November 14th, 2017
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars – Really Liked It!

WARNING: Potential light spoilers for previous books in THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVES series.  Haven’t read the others?  Reviews can be found here!

OathbringerThe Desolation is here.  Despite the efforts of countless people, a new storm has arisen, one of devastating power and destruction.  In its wake, it brings a new enemy, one dedicated to wiping humanity from existence.  Dalinar Kholin and his newly established Knights Radiant hope to form a coalition of human nations to resist the threat, but centuries of mistrust don’t disappear overnight, and the world leaders are hesitant to ally with former rivals.  With ancient evils awakening and sewing discord from the shadows, it’s up to Dalinar, Kaladin, Shallan, and the rest of their allies to find a way to stop the enemy before all hope is lost.

“Journey before destination.” It’s a sentiment oft repeated in THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVES; it is, in fact, a basic tenet a person must understand before they can swear to be a Knight Radiant. And it’s a concept that’s integral to the enjoyment of THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVES overall (which is perhaps why I’ve noted variations of this theme in my reviews of the earlier books).  Every main book in the series so far has been over 1000 pages in length, and they don’t move at pace that encourages you to zip through the plot. Speedy reader though I am, it took me over two weeks to finish OATHBRINGER.

But this is a series that builds on everything that came before it, both within the same book, and on the books that came before.  It lands tremendous payoffs time and time again because you’ve gone on a journey with these characters, seen what they’ve been through, and get to undergo an emotional catharsis with them. OATHBRINGER may take its time getting to the ending, but once you get to the final couple hundred pages, there’s no putting the book down.  Everything connects in a truly epic finale that delivers both growth for the characters and plenty of action.

Every STORMLIGHT ARCHIVES book focuses on character in particular, revealing their past through a series of flashbacks throughout the books.  OATHBRINGER delves into Dalinar’s backstory, and I have to admit, these vignettes made the book a bit hard to read at times. You see, Dalinar – the man trying to save humanity, the man so many other characters look up to, inspiration to us all – is not a good person. At least, he wasn’t until fairly recently.  Reading about the terrible things he did in war was rough, and I struggled in particular with this relationship with his wife.  For someone so integral to Dalinar’s life, she comes off a bit flat and one-dimensional, which made certain events not land as much as I would have liked.

Thankfully, this isn’t a story that tries to excuse Dalinar’s actions, but one that is interested in how one becomes a better person despite actively knowing you have behaved abominably in the past.  And that’s a theme that’s true to some degree for many other characters in the book. OATHBRINGER is full of broken characters, each trying to come to terms with who they are, and if they are truly worthy of being a “hero.”  I particularly liked that some time was spent with the secondary characters of Bridge Four, giving us a chance to see that even the more minor characters have a lot going on in their lives.

I also want to give a shout out to Adolin, a character I’ve overlooked in the past. Adolin becomes increasingly aware over the course of OATHBRINGER that he is out of his depth.  Sure, he’s a pretty good swordsman, but he can’t fly or magically heal his injuries or anything else those like Kaladin or Shallan can do. And yet despite that, he hurls himself into danger anyway, not because of any fool-hardy machismo, but because protecting other people is simply the right thing.  He’s a rare cinnamon role in this series and deserves more credit than I’ve been giving him.

I mentioned above that this is a series that builds on what came before.  That is true not just for the main characters, but for all those interlude moments as well.  I’ve criticized THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVES in the past for being too precious with its mythology, leaving readers with confusing pieces that don’t currently have a place in the puzzle.  I’m happy to report that with OATHBRINGER, those pieces are FINALLY starting to click into place.  Interludes that previously seemed random are connecting with the main story, and the meaning behind certain pieces of history or mythology are becoming clear.  There are still plenty of secrets and unexplained characters, but it was a catharsis of its own to be able to go “THAT’S what you have to do with everything else!”

OATHBRINGER is an excellent continuation of THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVES.  If you hate slow-burn fantasies, I highly recommend you give this series a skip.  But if you like to really invest in a world and its characters, man is this series worth your time.  Fair warning that the journey ahead is still a long one – book four of what promises to be a ten book series will release November 2020, meaning we’re not even at the halfway point. But if you can get behind a mentality of “Journey before destination,” you absolutely must dive into the world of Roshar.


12 thoughts on “Review: OATHBRINGER by Brandon Sanderson

Add yours

  1. Great review! I feel like I rushed through my ARC to have a release-day review ready when it came out, but I’m enjoying it even more on a leisurely reread in anticipation of Rhythm of War. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, and GRATS also for completing it – like you said, these books and the series as a whole is definitely a commitment 🙂 Oathbringer might be my favorite Stormlight book, even though i’ve adored all of them so far, but this one had so much lore which added to the answers, and I just eat that stuff up.

    Liked by 1 person

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