Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books (US), Gollancz (UK)
Date Published: March 2014
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Blurb (from Goodreads):
In the first volume, we were introduced to the remarkable world of Roshar, a world both alien and magical, where gigantic hurricane-like storms scour the surface every few days and life has adapted accordingly. Roshar is shared by humans and the enigmatic, humanoid Parshendi, with whom they are at war. Among those caught up in the conflict are Highprince Dalinar Kholin, who leads the human armies; his neice Jasnah, a renowned scholar; her student Shallan, a brilliant but troubled young woman; and Kaladin, a military slave who, by the book’s end, was beginning to become the first magically endowed Knight Radiant in centuries.
In Words of Radiance their intertwined stories will continue and, as Sanderson fans have come to expect, develop in unexpected, wonderfully surprising directions. The war with the Parshendi will move into a new, dangerous phase, as Dalinar leads the human armies deep into the heart of the Shattered Plains in a bold attempt to finally end it. Shallan will come along, hoping to find the legendary, perhaps mythical, city of Urithuru, which Jasnah believes holds a secret vital to mankind’s survival on Roshar. The Parshendi take a dangerous step to strengthen themselves for the human challenge, risking the return of the fearsome Voidbringers of old. To deal with it all, Kaladin must learn how to fulfill his new role, while mastering the powers of a Windrunner.
Why I read it: I’m a big fan of Sanderson’s work, so I was always going to get around to his new book eventually. But I ended up finishing it sooner rather than later because my brother also just finished reading this one, and I wanted to discuss it with him.
My review:I should start this review by admitting my (not-very-guilty and not-very-secret) preference of stand-alone novels to long series. This is something that definitely impacted my enjoyment of this book, for while the second book of the Stormlight Archive has a strong plot, there’s also a lot of setup – manoeuvring characters into situations that don’t seem to matter now, but presumably will in later instalments.
The Way of Kings featured Kaladin as its central protagonist, and I was looking forward to his chapters most. Here, Words of Radiance doesn’t disappoint. The former bridgeman gets some nice growth in this novel, while remaining the wilful character I loved from book one. His dislike of lighteyes combined with his new-found proximity to them was especially fun to read.
However, it is Shallen – a fairly minor character from the first book – who takes centre-stage in this novel. She comes into her own while travelling across the Shattered Plains; once there, she navigates lighteyed politics and her proposed betrothal with entertaining competence and wit. Watching her get her flirt on was great (although the shippy scenes made me yearn for some queer romance. Given Sanderson’s views on homosexuality, this seems unlikely).
Also, the scene where Kaladin and Shallen first meet is a gem. I won’t spoil it for you, but it was hilarious.
There are other things that I liked about this book - there are some unexpected twists and epic fights, all described in Sanderson’s workmanlike prose. But I was pretty disappointed with the magic system. Simply put, I don’t really understand it. The role of spren remains unclear, as do the many uses of stormlight. Don’t even get me started on fabrials and soulcasting! I don’t think Sanderson is making it up as he goes along; I'd be surprised if he didn't have it all mapped out. I just wish we could find out now, and not several books down the line.
All in all – a good book, not a great one. I’ll read the next, but I won’t go crazy waiting for it.
The Cover: Gotta admit that I'm not a fan of either cover. The British one is boring! Oversized sun, generic warrior... yawn. The US one is better, simply for the textures (although I'm not too keen on the old-fashioned style). But my main problem is that Words of Radiance is Shallen's book - would it be so hard to feature her on the cover?