Words of Radiance

Brandon Sanderson
Words of Radiance Cover

Words of Radiance


I am giving this epic fantasy a grudging four stars. I gave the previous book the same, teetering towards five stars because of the exciting finale, but this book is a much slower burn and there were many elements that I did not enjoy.

First of all, I will remind you that I am not a fan of epic fantasy for the sake of epic fantasy. This book is HUGE. The previous book was HUGE. And I expect the next books to be—wait for it—HUGE. I have no idea how Sanderson fits all of his worlds, theologies and magics in his head. Each of his realms are richly detailed and complete, to the point of perfectionism, and Sanderson works hard to deliver ALL of that information to the reader. It goes against the "show, don't tell" writing policy, especially when pages are spent on things like how-to magic, back story, or the tiniest bug is described in detail. Once again, I mostly listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading, and I believe that helped me get through what may well have been too much for me to handle, what with my constant distractions of late.

Words of Radiance follows directly on the heels of The Way of Kings, with Kalladin and Bridge Four now firmly in place as the bodyguards of Dalinar Kholin and his family, including the whiny king of Alethcar. Dalinar's former BFF continues to harry Dalinar's efforts to unify Alethcar against the Parshendi, bringing an end to the greedy squabbles between the highprinces and ultimately ending the war that was originally intended to avenge the death of their previous king, Dalinar's brother.

While I enjoyed some aspects of the internal politics, a lot more of it was just annoying because of how childlike it was. I certainly understand that it is intended to be so, as the nobility fight over baubles and pride, but this became most disappointing when it came to Sadeaus using such childish means to undermine Dalinar. I felt that Sadeaus' character was done a great disservice in this book. He went from a stalwart general, fighting alongside Dalinar, and eloquently expressing his grievances when they did not see eye-to-eye, to a man who didn't want to share. That can be an understandable transition for many reasons, but I felt that his stubborn refusal to consider Dalinar's proposal and his juvenile attempts to discredit Dalinar were not well portrayed in a character that initially was better written and seemed above such pettiness. I suppose that is a true enough reflection of reality, but, as with many things in the book, the repetition of Sadeaus' foils grew tedious and ultimately disappointing.

I will also add Shallan's tongue to my collection of annoyances. She is a young woman with a sharp mind who, against protocol, tends to speak it, often in witty commentary. Only, her commentary is not particularly amusing, and as she keeps pointedly using it to spar, it just became an irritation, especially when dealing with Kalladin, who seems to have been set up as a potential second love interest for Shallan, as they bicker in true kindergarten playground fashion.

I also got tired of Shallan's back story. I didn't enjoy this form of interjecting pieces of the life altering moments of Kalladin's life in The Way of Kings, and I liked Shallan's back story even less as it dragged on and on. It is meant to give the characters depth, and help us understand why they come to certain pivotal decisions, or undertake certain actions, but I find this storytelling process tedious. More so because the climax of these past events had become glaringly obvious several hundred pages earlier.

I ought to be subtracting points for what I want to proclaim are extra pages, but damn it, I can't. Because, while there is more than necessary and it does bog the book down, all the detail comes back around to serve a purpose. Nothing is forgotten. There are no loose threads left dangling in the storm, and no meandering subplots to be excised when the author (looking at you, GRRM) can't figure out what to do with them. Sanderson seems to know exactly where everything is going, and has everything neatly packaged in his mind. For this reason, I am cautiously willing to forgive all of the things I complained about above, and even the introduction of a few characters over the course of the two books, who appear and seem to be of importance, but are not mentioned again for a long time, if at all. I'm sure they will return, but perhaps their introduction would have been better served later. Ultimately, I'm sure that in the next however many books the Stormlight Archives will take, Sanderson will unravel and connect everything for us.

Plus, any of the blah blah blah is balanced by these rich characters and plots. I particularly loved being able to see this war from the side of the Parshendi in this book and to better understand why they are fighting against the humans. There is still much to be revealed there, but I was pleasantly surprised to be offered the opportunity to meet the "enemy" so soon, and I loved the insight into their sing-song forms of communication (which, incidentally, reminds me of elcor—because Bioware ruins everything…).