Brandon Sanderson’s second installment of the Stormlight Archive, Words of Radiance, was easily my most anticipated book of 2014. I’ve read The Way of Kings three times but couldn’t wait to spend more time in the world of Roshar and its compelling characters.
If you like Brandon’s stuff and enjoyed the first book, then Words of Radiance will satisfy your craving as it brings out the best parts of what makes Brandon such a great writer.
Brandon is known as the “magic system guy” and rightfully so. His creativity and uniqueness would make for interesting stories even without compelling characters. The rules that govern Roshar and its supernatural powers grabbed us all in The Way of Kings. But we weren’t quite sure how it all functioned. As Kaladin blundered his way toward discovering his abilities, we too speculated on how everything worked.
That comes to an end with Words of Radiance. Spren are explained early and often in sometimes surprising frankness for a long-form fantasy series. The powers of each order of the Knights Radiant have plenty to explore still, but the shroud that existed after book one is taken off and cast into the nearest highstorm.
While we don’t see as many exotic locations in the world of Roshar, the new Interludes rarely stand alone. The characters that poke in and out of each scene tie in to the story’s unfolding plot in a way that even the most casual of readers will see a connection. Things are happening beyond The Shattered Plains, and numerous factions have violently opposing ideas on how to save the world.
Although many characters return from The Way of Kings, the story focuses on Shallan and Kaladin once more.
It is Shallan’s book since we get her backstory similar to how we saw Kaladin’s backstory. While I found Shallan’s backstory less intriguing, her present story steals the show. She had to grow up a bit in book one, but Brandon throws in an early game changer which forces her to becomes the master of her own destiny very quickly. Shallan surprised me in that she was more than up to the task. And there’s a reveal about her past that no one could have guessed.
Kaladin’s arc is a bit more frustrating. I had only two complaints about the story, and Kaladin’s stubborn pride was one of them. His character doesn’t progress at all, to the point where he does something so tragically stupid that I shook my head and set the book down for the night.
The good news is that his story didn’t end there. When it seems like Kaladin becomes a dud as a character, he does something more heroic than anything I’ve seen in a novel. And in a genre where antiheroes and blurred lines of morality tend to be the norm, Sanderson reminds us there are truths larger than us and our own struggles.
Truths worth fighting for even when they go against everything you want.
If Page — and — of the hardback release don’t move you to tears, then I don’t know if you‘re truly alive. (edited for your discovery)
While Dalinar seems less of a presence in Words of Radiance, Brandon does something I didn’t think possible.
He made me like Adolin.
And as always, the Bridge Four crew provides both comic relief and the “everyman” point of view. Sadeas has a lesser role, but he continues his scheming. One of my favorite new characters is Sebarial, one of the Highprince’s who takes Shallan in when she arrives at The Shattered Plains.
My second complaint about the novel concerns Szeth. Not his arc, per se. He’s just plain absent for much of the story. When he finally shows up, it’s almost anti-climactic because so much has already occurred. If you’re holding your breath to read about him, you might want to place a 911 call beforehand.
I consider myself a curious Cosmere student, but no expert. I tend to find the nuggets Brandon drops into his stories from others rather than discover them myself. Yet, Words of Radiance lobs boulders into the lore of the Cosmere that even I could see.
Hoid makes some late appearances, but unlike Szeth, his are perfectly timed and left me salivating for more. Some theories will be proven true, while other bombs will drop your jaw and leave you scratching your head once you realize what just happened.
Three quarters of the way into Words of Radiance, I told myself that it wouldn’t compare to The Way of Kings. A good book, but not a great one.
Que the “ending”.
The last two hundred pages are filled with tons of wow moments, each one better than the previous. As tired as I was, I couldn’t put the book down until I’d finished. Epic does not describe the ending. When I closed the tome and set it down on the coffee table with a thud, I told my bride, “That’s the best book I’ve read.”
Radiant Words, Mr. Sanderson. Thank you once again.
BRANDON SANDERSON grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. He teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University and lives in Utah with his wife and children. Sanderson had the honor of completing Robert Jordan’s classic The Wheel of Time® series and is the author of the bestselling Mistborn series. For fascinating behind-the-scenes information about all his books, visit him at www.brandonsanderson.com.