Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

This review will contain some SPOILERS for The Way of Kings, the first book in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. This is a spectacular series and trust me, you don’t want a second of it spoiled for you. Go read  The Way of Kings before you read this review.

Here’s the synopsis from the front cover flap, which was posted on brandonsanderson.com:

words of radiance coverSix years ago, the Assassin in White, a hireling of the inscrutable Parshendi, assassinated the Alethi king on the very night a treaty between men and Parshendi was being celebrated. So began the Vengeance Pact among the highprinces of Alethkar and the War of Reckoning against the Parshendi.

Now the Assassin is active again, murdering rulers all over the world, using his baffling powers to thwart every bodyguard and elude all pursuers. Among his prime targets is Highprince Dalinar, widely considered the power behind the Alethi throne. His leading role in the war would seem reason enough, but the Assassin’s master has much deeper motives.

Expected by his enemies to die the miserable death of a military slave, Kaladin survived to be given command of the royal bodyguards, a controversial first for a low-status darkeyes.  Now he must protect the king and Dalinar from every common peril as well as the distinctly uncommon threat of the Assassin, all while secretly struggling to master remarkable new powers that are somehow linked to his honorspren, Syl.

Brilliant but troubled Shallan strives along a parallel path. Despite being broken in ways she refuses to acknowledge, she bears a terrible burden: to somehow prevent the return of the legendary Voidbringers and their civilization-ending Desolation. The secrets she needs can be found at the Shattered Plains, but even arriving there proves more difficult than she imagined.

Meanwhile, at the heart of the Shattered Plains, the Parshendi are making an epochal decision. Hard pressed by years of Alethi attacks, their numbers ever shrinking, they are convinced by their war leader, Eshonai, to risk everything on a desperate gamble with the very supernatural forces they once fled. The consequences for Parshendi and humans alike—indeed, for Roshar itself—are as dangerous as they are incalculable.

This novel by Brandon Sanderson–actually, both novels in his Stormlight Archive series–have definitely become two of my favorite books. They are both masterpieces of high fantasy, with incredible world building, intriguing and creative uses of magic, leading characters it is easy to fall in love with, and villains you love to hate. My favorite character by far is Kaladin–a bitter, angry, too-young-to-be-so-cynical darkeyes (low class) man who constantly defies the odds and not only stays alive when several people try to see him dead, but becomes a leader and confidant of one of the most powerful men in the land. Watching him grow and change and learn about himself is for me the most interesting part of the novel–and it is just one small part of a novel filled with intrigue, war, magic, technology, and even some romance.

The complete cover image. I LOVE this artwork.

The complete cover image. I LOVE this artwork.

One of the impressive things about Sanderson’s work is how all the characters, from a variety of backgrounds, weave together to create one story. When I started reading, I was sure everything was not all going to fit together, at least not by the end of the (granted, very long) book. But they did, while revealing more of each character’s past, purpose, and even the lore and past of Roshar and the Alethi kingdom itself. All the characters are diverse and speak with their own unique voice, and often tell the same event from very different perspectives. Even more interesting are the occasional interludes narrated by “side” characters who we have often never met before and there were a few whose place in the story I can’t even guess at yet.

Sanderson’s plots, while complex, are easy to follow and understand, and seem perfectly logical and believable. I never see the twists coming, especially those right at the end of the novel, just when you think everything is going to calm down and you finally know what’s going on. Sanderson is a fast writer, which is great news, because I’m already dying for the next book.

5 stars out of 5, and highly recommended to fans of George R. R. Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire series, Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, and Glenn Cook’s Black Comapny series, and Sanderson’s Mistborn series (though I have read the first Mistborn book and I like the Stormlight Archive better). And if you haven’t tried any epic fantasy yet, this is a great place to start. Happy reading!

-Branwen

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