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Aug 13

(Not A Review) Words of Radiance – Brandon Sanderson

About the Book

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.

1088 pages (Hardcover)
Published on March 4, 2014
Published by Tor
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

I got Words of Radiance in the mail a pathetic amount of time ago. I read it slowly, because some books you just have to savor. Then I finished it, started writing a review, and gave up after about three sentences. I haven’t had the courage to try again until now.

How on earth am I supposed to review something this big? This epic?

I don’t really think I can. The more I sit here and drive myself crazy about how I can possibly go about summarizing the various aspects of this weighty tome, I realize that I just can’t. I’ve given up. I don’t think it’s possible to review a book this big, and the fact that it has sold umpteen million copies (rough guesstimate) should tell you enough about the quality of it.

There is absolutely no way that Words of Radiance can hide its epic qualities. Sanderson has already established the fact that his map is large, and his cultures are diverse. I don’t need to go into that again. What I will, however, say is how impressed I was with just how personal he managed to make all of the various conflicts throughout the book. While he managed to make his characters and their struggles shine in the previous book, I felt the intimacy keenly in Words of Radiance. Part of this is due to the fact that I already got to know the characters pretty well in Way of Kings, the other part is because so much happens regarding character evolution in Words of Radiance that it is impossible to not feel their journey as keenly as though it was your own.

Kaladin and Shallan are the characters that, as expected, stuck out to me the most. However, for various reasons, they both surprised me. In the previous book, Kaladin really hooked me. His plight was one that I was absolutely addicted to. In this book he disappointed me a little bit. While his chapters were interesting, they didn’t get my blood pumping like I expected them to. Kaladin, however, is one of those people who is going through a serious adjustment phase. He is changing, and his world is changing, and he’s caught in the middle of it. Given all of the things that he is dealing with and the various mental and emotional struggles he is facing, it’s really understandable that the man might have some self-doubt and uncertainty that might bog down his chapters a little.

Shallan in Way of Kings really left me kind of unimpressed. I enjoyed her culture. I thought she had the potential to be interesting, but she never really zinged me. She never made it past a character in a book. In Words of Radiance that changed almost instantly. Shallan really comes into her own in this book. She’s forced to become her own woman, and she changes in some dramatic ways. She’s no longer a character in a book. Shallan really blazes. She takes on a life of her own, and I actually was surprised by how incredibly addicting her portions of the book were. She seemed to take center stage, and I was happy to allow her that space. Shallan is a fascinating character and her growth, and the situations she’s embroiled in, are absolutely addicting.

Sanderson has a way with world building that really works for me. I read so many books a year (about 200), and my memory isn’t what it used to be due to my three rounds of cancer treatments. However, Sanderson’s world building always feels so effortless and easy without losing any of the complexities and nuances that I love so much. The magic system is incredibly unique. In fact, I’m still getting my finger on the pulse of Sanderson’s magic system. However, I actually remembered so many key points of the world, conflicts, cultures and characters despite the (ton of) books I’ve read between Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. That impresses me. Usually I have to do a crash course before I start the next book in an epic fantasy series, but I didn’t have to with Words of Radiance because Sanderson seems to know how to world build in a way that sticks with readers. It’s a skill that I admire.

I had a sort of “Ah ha” moment with Words of Radiance. The same thing happened early on when I read Steven Erikson’s Malazan books. There’s a point in epic fantasy where a series either makes it or breaks it for me. Usually pretty early on I can tell if a book is being epic because it can be, or if it is epic because it should be. This is obviously a series that should be epic. Already I can see, much like Malazan, how all of these events are slowly coming together to form some huge something that will absolutely blow my mind. It might not make sense to me now, but I know it will eventually. No words are wasted, an if, in some ways, the brances of the plot tree keep getting uh… branchier, then I know there’s a reason for it.

I trust Sanderson to take me on this guided tour of his world. I know he can do it well, and I know that this series is building up to something incredible. I can tell, because already the Shattered Plains are a place where there is so much mystery, so much history (hey, that rhymes), and so much conflict. This is a place where cultures clash, and history is uncovered. Regardless of what is happening in the book, it is absolutely wonderful to see all of the subtle plot clues that are pointing me in one direction, even if I don’t know why quite yet.

That’s the thing about good epic fantasy. It doesn’t reveal all of its secrets at once. In fact, with books as long as this, a reader has to be pretty determined and impressed to want to stick around long enough to learn the secrets and find the answers to the questions Sanderson is deftly planting in our minds. However, if an author is successful, he or she will be able to just that – to let their readers wonder, and feel fulfilled by having answerless questions for (insert mind boggling number of very long books here).

And when I really think about it, that’s what Words of Radiance does far better than (its already very impressive) predecessor. Events really started to hint at a much larger picture whose frame I can’t quite see yet, but I know its there, and I know that Sanderson will guide me to it in due time. The questions don’t have answers, and in many ways I am just starting my journey down the rabbit hole, but I’m okay with that. Sanderson is taking me on a mind-blowing journey, which, so far, has been just as impressive as any conclusion or answers I could find. That’s what I love about good epic fantasy authors, and that’s probably the best part of this series so far. It is complex, and just getting more so with each book, but it’s also addicting, shocking, emotional, raw and so very real. I don’t have any answers, and I’m not exactly sure what the bigger picture is yet, but I’m okay with that.

Because with Words of Radiance, the journey is something to savor and slowly consume. I don’t want to know the answers yet, and I don’t want to see the bigger picture, the journey is just too incredible.

 

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