Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Words of Radiance is the second book of the Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson. The first book The Way of Kings has been highly regarded in the fantasy community and so it came as no surprise that the hype for this book has been massive. You can actually read a lot of excerpts and even full chapters (I think) on Tor.com here. They were added in january already, but I didn’t want to get teased so much and decided to ignore them and read the book in one fell swoop.
I had actually wanted to re-read The Way of Kings last year in preparation for this release, but found too many other books that kept me occupied. I was pleased to discover that a re-read wasn’t needed. I found into Words of Radiance very fast. Some of the names of the Bridge Four crew were unfamiliar to me and I couldn’t remember their backstories at first. This handy blog from Tor might help you, if you stumble across similar problems. One of the reasons for the easy transition from my room into the Stormlight world is the prolog. It features the same night we already know from The Way of Kings, this time from a different Point of View. Another reason is that the book doesn’t take time to get into the story again. It starts right where we left it, and even though my read of Way of Kings was years ago, I felt like I’d only felt the story for a mere moment.
The story is even more interesting than Way of Kings and one of those instances where the second book in a series is even better than the first. The book is divided into five parts, with Interludes between them. The five parts are about the character we’ve come to know and love already, while the Interludes feature different characters and show a lot more of the world.
To stay with the Interludes for a moment longer, I think they are great because not only do they introduce more characters that might become more important in the next books, they show us glimpses of the world outside of the conflict too. The rest of the book narrows down on the Shattered Planes, but the Interludes provide the reader with a respite from the fighting and infighting. They show us beautiful landscapes and exotic cultures. They show us more about the forces that operate in the dark, and they show us very interesting structures of power, vastly different from kings and kingdoms, and even the Highprinces. Not to forget that they give us a glimpse into the inhuman Parshendi, which was a pleasure to read.
While the characters are as interesting as in the first book, the most impressive feature of Brandon Sanderson’s Stromlight Archive is without a doubt the extensive and imaginative world building. We get to see different places and cultures and I can say that I’ve enjoyed dreaming in Sanderson’s world very much. It’s simply a pleasure to read his ingenious ideas and there are more than a few places I’d love to go in Roshar. Not to mention the Shardblades and the powers of the Knights Radiant with their Surgebinding. I’ve read someone compare those two concepts with Anime and Manga and I can definitely see the semblance. Giant swords and characters defying gravity? Yeah, that fits, and in a very good way.
As The Way of Kings featured the past of Kaladin, Words of Radiance shows us Shallan’s tragic past. I found it very interested to learn as much about her as we learned about Kaladin in the first book. She seems a lot more proactive than in the first book too, which I liked very much. The reminiscences draw you closer to the characters and I’m glad that at least the next books will feature different characters in the same manner: showing us more about their pasts through retrospectives, so we can understand them and their motivations even better. I’m especially interested in learning Dalinar’s past, I have to admit.
The story is brilliant. I assure you there will come events you will not have foreseen and they’ll hit you like a Highstorm. The longer you read, the more you get swept away with the story, in a very good and natural way. The story unfolds slowly and will have you guessing at what happens next, because of the great foreshadowing Sanderson uses. Especially the big part between the beginning and the very end brims with tension. There is a near visible Sword of Damocles hanging very low about the cast of characters, which has you on your toes every page.
As the second book in a planned ten-book series, Words of Radiance is still at the very beginning of the story and that shows. More questions emerge than are answered, and while the ending is amazing, there are definite cliffhangers at the end the reader will have to wait years for them to be answered. And while the antagonists become more visible in this book, there is still so much left we can only guess about. I would not miss having read the book for anything, but I do feel a tinge of envy for the next fantasy generations that gets to read this series in one go.
There are some minor and not-so-minor problems with this book and story, but I can’t really say much about it without possibly spoilering something to you. One of the things I can mention is that I felt Navani’s character slip in favor of the story at one time, which annoyed me a bit. One other is only a nit-pick I have with the beautiful cover. Brandon Sanderson’s exsessively big name is just too much. We already know he wrote the books, that’s one reason we want to read it, you don’t need to slap that into our faces like this. I think swapping the name of the author and the titel of the book would have been better. If you want to know more, open the spoiler below, but you should only do so when you’ve finished the book. You have been warned:
My problem with this book is that the tension is created through the danger to the characters, which is actually nonexistent. Why? Because I couldn’t believe that Sanderson would actually kill any of the important characters, especially not the POV characters. Tension was there, definitely, especially through the believed death of Jasnah, but it warred with my knowledge about Brandon Sanderson as an author. He doesn’t strike me to be as ruthless as G.R.R. Martin with his characters. Which is a good thing, because I like the characters, but I don’t like characters that are basically immortal. This was only enhanced by the “resurrection” of Jasnah. Her “death” had surprised me, and that was a very good feeling. To take it back just like that didn’t work as much for me, I have to confess. And I’m definitely not convinced that this was the last we’ll see from Sadeas. His death simply felt too easy.
Well, to have such problems with a book says something about its overall very high quality and even these problems couldn’t digress me from enjoying it tremendously.
Now, should you read the book? If you already read The Way of Kings, this is a rhetorical question for you. Go and read it already! What are you waiting for? And this is what everyone that hasn’t read the first book yet should do too. Go and get a copy of The Way of Kings, read it, and get Words of Radiance afterward. When Brandon Sanderson can keep the quality and enjoyment of the next books as high as in Words of Radiance (and I have no doubt that he can) this will become one of the great series of this fantasy generation.