Folks, get ready, because it’s time for another edition of “praise Brandon Sanderson’s magnificent mind” here on the Warbler. I feel like at this point, I’d give a scribble he made on a napkin five stars, but hey, at least I’m being honest about it. If you’ve read my other reviews you know the spiel. Mr. Sanderson is a powerhouse capable of churning out massive, spectacular novels faster than I can walk from my bed to the desk.
Words of Radiance is book two in what will be the 10-book epic Stormlight Archive series, and if the improvement over the already-fantastic first book is any indication, this will be one of the greatest fantasy series of all time. The best part? Brandon Sanderson is capable of putting out new novels so quickly that My hunger for his work is almost always satisfied. As I type this, a sequel to Steelheart is on the way, a sequel to his novella Legion was just released, he just finished writing another book in his incredible Mistborn series, and he’s already 25% of the way through his prewriting stages of the next book in the Stormlight Archive. I know these things because he has a progress bar on his homepage, which he keeps updated as he ejects words like some kind of thing that ejects other things with great rapidity. An automated press? Watsky? A faulty ATM? Anyway, I digress.
The Stormlight Archive takes place on an incredible foreign world in Mr. Sanderson’s larger Cosmere (his name for the universe in which all of his writing takes place.) It is a world of storms on many scales: there are the Highstorms which regularly assail the lands of much of the world with their powerful passage, there are the stormy personalities of the stubborn, battle-hardened Alethi people (around whom most of the story seems to be taking place,) there are the storms within the new, reforged order of Knights Radiant, who are both viewed as saviors and harbingers of destruction, and storms within the Parshendi, an endangered race of humanoids with a fascinating ability that is at once the key to their enslavement, their empowering feature, and their downfall. The flora and fauna are fascinating to read about, and the short interludes that separate each of the book’s main sections provide a sense of depth and variety to the world which I find exceeds the quality of any fantasy world out there, with the exception of Tolkien. The world of Roshar is living and breathing, and teeming with life and stories.
Brandon often says that his goal in writing novels it to generate honest excitement in his readers, and leave them feeling like “wow, that was awesome!” is what they really want to say when they close the book. For me, his books absolutely accomplish that, as well as providing me with inspiration for my own writing, and a deep, profound respect for his hard work, creative drive, and passion for the written word.
In Words of Radiance, we spend most of the book getting to know Shallan Davar, a complex and energetic young woman, with a dark, mysterious past and a rather bad habit of dishonesty. Sound cliché? It isn’t. Brandon Sanderson has constructed a dynamic character who is easy to love and support, and riveting to follow.
(Almost) all of the characters we came to know in The Way of Kings show up in its sequel, but Words of Radiance gives excellent perspective on some of their subtler idiosyncrasies. There are twists, turns, unexpected deaths, and flashbacks aplenty, all of which come together beautifully to create a riveting read. Brandon has a way of bringing in characters from all over the world into action together, their seemingly disparate stories coalescing into a spectacular, action-packed conclusion that always, without fail, has me reading the latter part of any of his books in one sitting. Words of Radiance is absolutely explosive in its latter third, and as a whole moves with much faster pacing than The Way of Kings, which made the 1200-page behemoth pass by rather quickly. I combined my intake of this particular work with a combination of physical reading and audiobook listening, the audiobook narrated by the fantastic Michael Kramer and Kate Redding, who famously read the complete The Wheel of Time series, and their performance for Words of Radiance is spectacular.
All told, here’s yet another Brandon Sanderson novel that I can’t help but praise as one of my favorite reads of the year. I want him to keep writing forever. Fortunately, it looks like that’s his plan. 5/5