Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3)

1250297141-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Everstorm is striking Roshar and a new Desolation has begun as the once docile parshman become conscious gathering to face off against humans who’ve owned them for millennia, however nothing as it seems in the long view of history. Oathbringer, third installment of Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive, immediately picks up where the story left off as the survivors from the clash on the Shattered Plains regroup in the legendary home of the Knights Radiant and attempt to bring together all the humans on Roshar but hard truths and politics stand in the way.

Dalinar Kholin’s actions in the past and those in the present dominate the book like Kaladin and Shallan’s did in the previous two installments, whether through his own eyes or those of others. Setting up base in Urithiru, Dalinar begins slowly and diplomatically piecing a coalition together though his own past is a major liability. Using his connection with the Stormfather, Dalinar has other rulers join him in his visions setting up a connection with Queen Fen of Thaylenah and slowly building a relationship. However his attempts with doing the same with the Azir Prime is complicated by Lift no trusting him initially and the bureaucracy around the young man as well. But its Dalinar’s bloody past which turns out to be his own worst enemy as we see through his flashbacks a different man who loved battle and bloodlust, two traits nurtured by Odium to create his champion for the conflict to come but which turn against the enemy when Dalinar accepts his past and uses it to defend Thaylen City.

Kaladin and Shallan continue progressing through their respective development while Adolin’s slows a bit so as to give time to his cousin Jasnah and the former Assassin in White, Szeth, time to develop into major secondary characters throughout the book. Through scouting and spying, Kaladin first assesses the actions of the newly awakened parshmen though not without gaining relationships with them, a fact that haunts him when he faces them later in battle and creating a moral crisis that prevents him from stating the Fourth Ideal and almost kills him, Adolin, and Shallan if not for Dalinar’s actions. Shallan has her own growing crisis throughout the book, multiple personality disorder, which is exacerbated through her Lightweaving and attempts to not be the “scared little girl” she’s always seen herself as. Though she does not fully overcome it by the end of the book, she has begun dealing with it especially with help from Adolin who is dealing with his own issues stemming from his killing of Sadeas in regards to his place in Alethi society now that the Knight Radiants are reforming. Though Szeth’s progresses through his Skybreaker training with “ease”, his view of the order and of the overall conflict dovetails with the revelations that nearly destroy Dalinar’s fragile coalition. These revelations also correspond with Jasnah’s development and her concern for Renarin, whose own spren bonding is a revelation in and of itself as history and expectations are quickly being subverted.

Unlike the previous two books, Oathbringer is not as action-packed but is more centered in expanding the understanding the various peoples and politics of Roshar. While the beginning of the “overall” story was a bang, Sanderson turned the focus from one main area to many which resulted in building the world he created with different peoples with different cultures and long complicated histories interacting with one another during the beginning of what might be a long conflict. Add on top of this the fact that the ancient history that many believed to be true was not and as a result some are choosing a different side than what is expected of them plus the influence of Odium on everyone, and the next seven books in the series look to be very intriguing. Though the book’s length is once again an issue, around 1250 pages, attempting to do so much in one book it was the only result. And if there were flaws, it was mostly the perceived open-ended ways some events happened that were either a mystery to be solved later either in this book or another or just to be left open for no reason.

I will not say that Oathbringer is a perfect book, but it was a different change of pace after the first two books in The Stormlight Archive which helped continue the narrative while expanding it over more of Roshar. Knowing when to “subvert” the standard grand fantasy narrative is always a challenge, doing it this early in the series right now looks like a good move on Brandon Sanderson’s part and I’m interested to see where the story develops going forward.

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Edgedancer (The Stormlight Archive #2.5)

1250166543-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Traveling from the palace of the Azish emperor to the carved out city of Yeddaw, a young Knight Radiant stalks her would be executioner even as a danger to her world stalks the land. Brandon Sanderson’s Edgedancer is a tale from the Stormlight Archive set in-between the second and third volumes of the main series as it shows the how Lift, the titular Edgedancer, and a long surviving Herald react to the Everstorm.

Feeling confined and unsure, the adventurous theft Lift travels to the city of Yeddaw to find more Radiants before they are murdered by Darkness. The teenager displays her Edgedancer talents to draw the attention of her would be executioner while also exploring the city and trying to figure out its people. Her tactics pay off as Darkness learns she’s in the city and she follows him to discover what he knows only to find out that Darkness has Radiant apprentices of his own including a man in white. Eventually Lift is forced to use her connections with the Azish emperor to find out who Darkness is searching for only to discover that his apprentices had made a mistake and that the unlikeable woman Lift has had several encounters will is his target. But it is during their confrontation that Lift convinces Darkness, the Herald Nale, that the Everstorm hitting the city means a new Desolation has arrived.

Although this book comes in at roughly 270 pages, the first 58 being a reprinting of Lift’s Interlude in Words of Radiance, the small hardback volume that it appears in makes it seem longer than it is. In a postscript, Sanderson wrote that this novella was needed before both characters appear again in Oathbringer thus meaning for that anyone reading the series this short little story is something they might want to quickly read. Given it’s short length, Sanderson packs a lot into it as he wants to describe the city of Yeddaw as well as continue to develop Lift—who he is not shy in saying he enjoys writing—in both her understanding of who she is and in giving readers hints about what the “Nightwatcher” gave her instead of her request to remain 10 years old.

Edgedancer is a quick, fun read about young adventurous character looking to figure herself out and in the process helping an age-old hero begin to regain his focus on what the world of Roshar needs. Even though you’ll need to have read earlier volumes of the Stormlight Archive to understand the magical system and world it take place in.

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Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2)

WoRWords of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The world of Roshar thought it had survived its great cataclysm four millennia ago, but days are slowly counting down for when the next Desolation begins. Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy series’ second installment, Words of Radiance, brings numerous characters together in the middle of the Shattered Plains as Roshar faces the beginning of the apocalypse as well the rebirth of it’s great heroic warriors that fought to save life.

Although the four main characters are once again front and center, but unlike the previous The Way of Kings it is Shallan Davar who dominates the majority of the book’s narrative either through her own point-of-view, flashbacks, or through the eyes of other major characters. Shallan and Jasnah are headed to the Shattered Plains by ship when it is attacked, Jasnah murdered, and Shallan dissolves the ship to save the crew and herself using her recently discovered Radiant abilities. Shallan continues to learn her new abilities as she travels through the Frostlands towards the Shattered Plain meeting several interesting people including Kaladin and the ringleader of Jasnah’s killers then takes her place as the agent of the group that killed her to learn what they know of the things Jasnah has been studying. Once at the warcamps, Shallan juggles multiple balls that eventually leads her out into the Plains at a critical moment to save the Atheli army.

Kaladin, Dalinar, and Adolin take up the vast majority of the rest of the book, essentially interacting a lot with one another or with Shallan once she gets to the camps. Kaladin’s is the major secondary arc of the book as he transforms the bridge crews into a guard force to protect Dalinar and his family while also continuing to deal with his issues with lighteyes and the responsibilities of his Radiant powers. Using his new position as Highprince of War, Dalinar along with Adolin attempt to combat the political intrigue of Sadeas and attempt to end the war either through peace or crushing the Parshendi in battle. Interlaced throughout the book are interludes that were dominated by the Parshendi general Eshonai and the Assasin in White, Szeth, whose own arcs help give an epic feel to the overall story while adding to the book’s main narrative flow.

While the length of The Way of Kings and the repetitive descriptions during scenes were my main complaint, Sanderson’s Words of Radiance were and wasn’t the same. The length of the second book is something to give pause (1300+ pages), the repetitive descriptions during the same scenes were cut out and narrative replaced it. Honestly, with more narrative then descriptions the length of the book becomes less noticeable especially once you’re a quarter of the way through the book but it’s always in the back of your mind.

Overall Words of Radiance is a very good book, building upon and improving over its predecessor and setting up anticipating for the read to see where Brandon Sanderson is going to take this series next.

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The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1)

WoKThe Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Way of Kings is Brandon Sanderson’s opening volume in a new epic fantasy series, bringing his unique world building and ability to construct magical systems to the land of Roshar.  Through the viewpoints of four primary characters, Sanderson opens his epic with a wide view of his new world however seemed to let the story more than what was necessary.

The majority of the book revolves around Kaladin Stormblessed; though first seen through the eyes of a young soldier, his point-of-view begins with him as a former soldier and now a slave on his way towards the battlefield he had always wanted to go to while a soldier.  Kaladin’s struggle as a slave bridgeman that looks to save himself and then his fellow bridge team members takes up most of the book, but interwoven are flashback chapters relating events in Kaladin’s life that led to his eventual slavery.  Sanderson slowly develops Kaladin’s leadership of his bridge team as well as his slowly growing “magical” powers that come together at the end of the book to bring one phase of his character development to completion.

Two other major characters at the same battlefield are highprince Dalinar along with his eldest son, uncle and cousin to the King in charge of the army.  The two lords deal more with politics than battles until later in the book and when they do turn to the war; their life-and-death situation brings them into contact with Kaladin and setting the stage for the next book.  Away from the other three characters is Shallan, who ventures to be the ward of Dalinar’s scholarly niece Jasnah and steal the magical soulcaster that she possesses to save Shallan’s family from ruin after the death of Shallan’s father.  All three characters are in for surprises in their own story arcs.

While Sanderson opens his epic series in grand fashion, the main problem with The Way of Kings is frankly the length of the book.  While information and telling action is generally good, there can be too much of a good thing and this opening volume unfortunately suffers from that.  Repetitive descriptions during the same action sequence could have better edited without losing the intensity of what was happening, numerous internal thoughts did no need to be repeated over and over in a character’s chapters several times each.  It was the little things that were easily correctable that harmed this book that makes it really stand out.

Overall The Way of Kings is a good, though lengthy, read and made me want to see where Sanderson goes next in the second volume.

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