Book Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of The Stormlight Archive

Publisher: Tor (March 4, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars 

I don’t know what was more intimidating, the size of Words of Radiance when I first beheld it, or the thought of having to write the review when I finished. I took me about seven days to read this giant tome, and then five more just to let everything sink in. So many emotions. So amazing. Even now, I don’t know if I can completely separate my subjective feelings for this novel, simply because of the MAJOR soft spot I harbor for this particular series. See, I wasn’t always a fan of epic fantasy. I was the type to take one look at the page count and run the other way! Of course, that was before The Way of Kings became one of my favorite books. I guess you could say that I credit Brandon Sanderson and that book for being my gateway into this genre, and I’ve always been glad for that.

To finally read Words of Radiance was like fist-pumping excitement and all my restless giddiness rolled into one. In this second volume, the world of The Stormlight Archive becomes even more incredible and captivating. My favorite thing about Sanderson’s stories are his magic systems, and I know everyone always says that but I don’t care! It bears saying again because it’s true. Here I thought he was done laying down the ground rules for his world’s magic in The Way of Kings, but clearly he was just getting started. It’s actually getting so elaborate that part of me is beginning to worry this could become too confusing before long. But if you love Surgebinding, rest assured the storyline continues to build upon basic principles regarding stormlight and its uses in the various types of surges. When it comes to beefing up his magic systems, Sanderson never ceases to amaze.

I’ve also noticed he has a way of writing inherently good people in the roles of main protagonists. This certainly applies to the important characters here — Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar, Adolin, etc. — all decent folks with decent intentions, natural leaders who always in the end succeed. It took tension out of the story at times, but it’s also nice to feel exultant when a character gets ahead. That said, there were still plenty of twists and a couple of big surprises in this book, and of course when bad things happened, the impact of those setbacks felt all the more powerful. Sanderson knows how to pull me in and make me care, even when it comes to his more minor characters.

From Tor.com
Illustration by Ben McSweeney

But what I really didn’t expect was how things turned around when it came to the major ones. Kaladin pretty much made the first book for me, so I was shocked to see that his chapters in this one failed to hold my attention the same way. Kaladin himself, the ex-soldier and former bridgeman who has become a Knight Radiant, spirals into self-pity, anger, and impulsion because of his new powers and responsibilities, and I just didn’t like the man he was for most of this book. On the other hand, Shallan (who didn’t really impress me in The Way of Kings) comes into her own, literally becoming a new woman.

While Kaladin shrank into himself, Shallan branched out, becoming more adventurous and daring. Every time the story focused on her again, I was completely rapt, drawn into her research and personal journey to find the mythical city of Urithuru. I was also impressed by the way Sanderson handled her different relationships with other characters, especially the surprising one developing between her and Adolin. There’s no question, Words of Radiance is where Shallan steals the show and gets a lot more of her background filled in, plus the illustrations of “her drawings” do add so much to the narrative (and I agree, Shallan, Adolin is totally *sigh*). I just have to cheer for a fellow artist too, you understand.

As for the story, what can I say? It’s moving along, and in a big way. Everything is now converging in on the Shattered Plains, with all the main characters and their plot threads finally weaving together to become more cohesive. There’s a countdown to something huge, and while this is the main source conflict in the novel, I like how the side themes continue to play a role. Factors like the infighting between the Highprinces or the social class disparities between Lighteyes and Darkeyes or humans and parshmen only add to the immersion and world building.

I have to say that with Sanderson, you don’t often get “epicness for the sake of being epic”. Others may disagree, of course, but all I know is with 1000+ pagers like these I always tend to forget a lot due to information overload. However, three and a half years after The Way of Kings, I still find myself remembering almost all the details of Roshar, of its peoples and cultures, lore and magic, the different creatures and spren. My memory’s not the best either, so the fact I can remember even the little things means that they really stuck with me, and that simply does not happen with fluff or filler. It tells me the details in The Stormlight Archive are there for a reason, and not just to pad a book. Even the Interludes, which I don’t really care for, I can still appreciate because something tells me they will be important at a later stage.

Honestly, sometimes I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that I’ll probably be well into my fifth decade by the time the last book of this vast, sweeping series comes out. It’s an accepted reality for epic fantasy fans I’m sure, but you can bet your spheres that I’m in this one for the long haul. Premature as it is to say, but I think things are shaping up real nicely, and if you enjoyed the first book then picking up this one will be a must as well. Needless to say, Words of Radiance gets 5 hearty stars from me. Really, was there ever any doubt?

 A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Tor Books!

2 Comments on “Book Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson”

  1. Pingback: [Review] Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson - Dragons & Whimsy

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson | The BiblioSanctum

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