Thursday, December 10, 2015

Words of Radiance Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Stormlight Archive Book One
Pages: 1,080

Buy on Amazon!

Words of Radiance is nearly as good as Way of Kings … and it’s even longer.  Brandon Sanderson’s magnum opus turns its focus to Shallan Davar while still incorporating its other major characters: Kaladin, Szeth, Dalinar, etc., in interesting ways.

At this point I would expect people to have read Brandon Sanderson’s other books, or at least Way of Kings. So his strengths and flaws as a writer should be known to the reader. On the upside, there’s great worldbuilding, a great magic system, and an action fueled plot. On the downside, their are struggles with developing varied character personalities, dialogue, and prose. Nevertheless these negative issues, although irritating, don’t undermine the story.  Words of Radiance is an excellent sequel that should please fans of the series that had to wait four years for it.

Like its predecessor Word’s of Radiance follows many different major narrators and characters.  Bullet-pointed below are summaries from each of these major characters’ plots.
  • Shallan Davar accompanied by her mentor Jasnah Kholin begins to head to the Shattered Plains where they look to stop the return of the Void-Bringers. Their journey turns out to be more difficult than imagined.  Flashbacks in this book are told from Shallan’s perspective and they describe her tragic family life.
  • Kaladin takes command of all the former bridge units, turning them into guards for Dalinar and the King. He also begins to hone his powers in preparation for the assassin in white.
  • Szeth-son-son-Vallano has been tasked with assassinating Dalinar Kholin, he heads to Shattered Plains to fulfill the task.
  • Dalinar Kholin continues to work on uniting the Highprinces of Alethkar.  His son Adolin attempts to help him by dueling other Highprinces for their Shardblades, while Renarin begins to train to be a Shardbearer.
  • Eshonai the lone Shardbearer for the Parshendi resorts to desperate actions to save her people and their ever dwindling numbers.

Shallan’s back story is the most emotional part of this book. Her tragic relationship with her family yielded the most powerful surprises in the first book and continues to do so in this sequel. Where as the relationship between Kaladin and his family could feel contrived at times, Shallan’s does not. To say the least it’s very much like a George R.R. Martin story – there’s very little happiness to be had.

Shallan can be whiny at times, but no one’s perfect. This is the book where she really grows the most as a character.  Most of the conflicts she finds herself in have to be solved intellectually as she learns how to play politics and more interestingly become a good liar.  The lying aspect of her story creates a lack of trust in narration as well as her intentions.  Although a lot is revealed about her in this book, she along with Szeth, continue to be the most interesting and enigmatic characters in this series right now.

A lot of the action in the book focuses on duels or small groups of combatants.  Where as Way of Kings focused on many large military battles and bridge runs; here the individual is the focus.  The benefit of this is that the reader gets to see more of Sanderson’s magic system.  I can’t help but notice how Sanderson has chosen to reveal his magic’s workings in way similar to how it was done in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Books of the Fallen.  The key difference between Erikson and Sanderson is that the magic in Stormlight Archives follows specific sets of rules.

Kaladin faces some tough internal conflicts with how he feels about the lighteyes that he’s sworn protect.  Why keep an inept king alive? Why not get revenge on the recently arrived Amaram? Why continue to be disrespected by lighteyes like Adolin? Kaladin was my least favorite character in the last book, and he continues that trend in this book.  At points he improves as a character, especially as he starts looking at some of his darker qualities, but his “holier than thou” attitude continues to prevail … and that irritates the hell out of me.

Preachiness is a problem for Brandon Sanderson.  The author tends to insert his own beliefs in the book, rather than creating beliefs for that character.  Kaladin is the character that’s guilty of this most often, which is why I like him the least.  Dalinar is also guilty of this, and later on in the book so is Shallan.  The characters’ personalities sit on the borderline of all being the same. In truth they aren’t the same, but there isn’t much difference between the narration voices and this can create a kind of character personality blandness at times.

I was pretty sure Stormlight Archive was meant to be an adult fantasy, but the tone can be so juvenile at times that this could just as easily be classified as a young adult book. The thing is, Brandon Sanderson’s telling a story that would really benefit itself if he told it like it was meant for adults.  There is a realism I feel Brandon Sanderson is going for, but between the juvenile tone and the preachy idealism – the writing style can really undermine the authors effort there.
I had fun reading Words of Radiance – enough to where I can overlook the flaws I personally found with it above.  Despite my concerns with the writing, this is a book that I would recommended to fans of high epic fantasy.

Score: 9.1

No comments:

Post a Comment