Book Review: Words of Radiance

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson, The Stormlight Archive #2

In Words of Radiance their intertwined stories will continue and, as Sanderson fans have come to expect, develop in unexpected, wonderfully surprising directions. The war with the Parshendi will move into a new, dangerous phase, as Dalinar leads the human armies deep into the heart of the Shattered Plains in a bold attempt to finally end it. Shallan will come along, hoping to find the legendary, perhaps mythical, city of Urithuru, which Jasnah believes holds a secret vital to mankind’s survival on Roshar. The Parshendi take a dangerous step to strengthen themselves for the human challenge, risking the return of the fearsome Voidbringers of old. To deal with it all, Kaladin must learn to how to fulfill his new role as leader of the restored Knights Radiant, while mastering the powers of a Windrunner.

Last month I finally gotten around to tackle the first tome in Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive and I was hooked from the first page. As I mentioned in the review of The Way of Kings I have been a big fan of his other books but The Way of Kings is for me his finest piece of art yet. I have read my fair share of Epic Fantasy and I have to be honest that a lot of books do fall into the same regime, however I did find that the start of The Stormlight Archive with The Way of Kings proved to be very refreshing and interesting. You can clearly see that Brandon Sanderson has a creative mindset, there are some pretty cool new idea's that he introduces the readers to in his adventure of EPIC proportions! I think I did have a lot of luck when it came down to having the chance to pick up the sequel, where others had to wait a few years for Words of Radiance, I had it already lying and lurking to me on my shelves. I do however feel sad now that I have finished the book. I. Need. Book. Three. Now! 

Just a small summary of The Way of Kings: Brandon Sanderson introduced a multiple point of view character cast. Though there were many different character the emphasis was on a handpicked few. The main protagonists Kaladin and I reckoned also Shallan. Highprince Adolin and his father Dalinar and lets not forget the Assassin in White: Szeth! In the beginning of the book King Gavilar was assassinated by Szeth and this changed a lot of things. On the Shattered Plains the battle has been ongoing between the Alethi and the Parshendi, claiming the hearts of creatures that dwell the Shattered Plains and defeating each others army and shardbearers to gain new Shardplate and Shardblades. Meanwhile Kaladin was introduced as a main protagonist who has gone under quite some heavy strains and eventually wound up as a soldier on a bridge sqaud. To pave the way for the armies to maneuver over the the Shattered Plains. However what Kaladin didn't know is that he is much more than a simple soldier and surgeon student. He is growing to become a leader for many men, the "rock in the burning" so to speak and he also gains some pretty cool powers... Powers that should only exist in the past times... This is a very short summary and doesn't at all do justice to the book, you really have to read it for yourself. But this is more or less where the story was left.

Words of Radiance picks up directly from the events that happened in The Way of Kings. Kaladin and his bridge squad four are now under the reigns of Dalinar Kholin, who has bought their freedom. With Kaladin's exceptional skills he has gained a new role as bodyguard as assassin threats remain imminent around each corner. The most important aspect of Kaladin's character is undoubtedly the development. Well at least for me. He now is one of the legendary Knights Radiant, who only should exist in the old history books. With being the main protagonist I always find important that he remains dynamic, especially when you consider that there are now already 2000 pages written in The Stormlight Archive. I do have to give a big hand to Brandon Sanderson for keeping Kaladin on top of his game. In terms of what happens to him in Words of Radiance it's growing into his powers. He doesn't know much about what it entails being a Windrunner and perhaps to quote a certain comic book. With great power, comes great responsibility and this is directly the nature of Kaladin. He wants to protect everything and everyone that he holds dear. It's was great to read about how Kaladin had to learn and understand to use his new-found powers and that even now that he is powerful, he isn't immortal. I really like Kaladin's character and is by far one of the best that I have read about so far in my fantasy adventures. He is well rounded, determined and doesn't boast about his powers and to top it all off he is compassionate and understanding towards other and never ever puts himself in front of others. I already had high hopes for Kaladin but Brandon Sanderson raised the stakes even more for the coming books.

Besides Kaladin there is now a pretty big focus on Shallan's characters. There were also some other big reveals nearing the ending of The Way of Kings, in Shallan's point of few one of them regarding the Voidbringers and what they really are... In order to learn more about this Shallan and Jasnah both set out to travel to the Shattered Plains and try to locate the Urithiru. However Shallan's and Jasnah's travel isn't without perils. It was mentioned that this second book, Words of Radiance, would have more focus on Shallan's character and that is clearly notable and I enjoyed reading about Shallan's character a lot. Just like what Brandon Sanderson did with Kaladin's character in The Way of Kings, showing flashbacks of his past, he does it similarly for Shallan when she was still with her father. These short flashbacks add a lot of flavor to the story itself and just with the magnificent worldbuilding that Brandon Sanderson show, he doesn't make these flashbacks feel like an information dump but they all come naturally and really keep a nice flow to the story. In the end, you really get to feel for Shallan's character, mainly through all woes that she had to go through in her earlier years and the perilous travel she had to undergo. 

Next to Kaladin and Shallan there are many different characters that make a reappearance or a new to the storyline. I don't know whether to call Adolin and Dalinar secondary characters as they do a lot for the storyline, but they are great to read about, Dalinar does take a bit of a position in the background but you don't loose sight of him at all, there are some pretty big things happening around his character! Adolin is a very cool to read about, especially given his skills with the Shardblade but it also comes to show that he should perhaps things more about before he acts. It could cause his downfall... One character does does only appear briefly and not with his own point of view is the Assassin in White Szeth. We gotten to know his character in The Way of Kings but now only see him from the point of view of others, I have to say the fighting scene with Kaladin. WOW JUST PERFECT! HOW COOL WAS THAT!! (sorry caps lock was on..) anyway even though Szeth doesn't have a focus, Brandon Sanderson does capture what happens to his faith in just a few second just spot on and produces a very cool entry for continuing the series further. One addition to the storyline of who we haven't seen that much is the youngest son of Dalinar: Renarin Kholin. He isn't the perfect highprince, as he is prone to have seizures. But again the cards have turned his faith in a favorable way and he also proves to be one of the Knights Radiants! Besides these four character there are plenty more that make either a short or longer appearance. Take for example Navani, Wit, Jashnah, Elhokar and many many more, they each continue to develop as the story continues but it is just too much to state in a review. Brandon Sanderson is on top of his game with his character cast. 

As I mentioned above the story of Words of Radiance picks up directly from The Way of Kings and most points of view start of individually but soon Brandon Sanderson starts to merge storyline as most of the characters make their way into the same area on the Shattered Plains. However the main drive behind the story of Words of Radiance is the fact that the days are slowly be counted down to one final unavoidable encounter and only Dalinar can stop this by rallying the mythical Knights Radiant. The Desolation is upon mankind again and with it the return of the Voidbringers. Just as with the story of The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson cleverly introduces these interludes, in one of the characters of the interludes you follow a Parshendi Shardbearer, who explains more about their customs and their "forms" and of course their hatred towards the Alethi. The Parshendi have gained a lot of forms for work, mating etc. But some forms have been lost in the old days, in order to win, these lost one have to be found again, and as luck would have had it for them they gain on powerful form... Stormform, one that will topple the tables in the Parshendi favor. One question remains... are the Alethi ready for such a showdown? Are their Shardbearers plentyful and powerful enough to defeat the new found powers of the Parshendi? There is only one way to find out. Read Words of Radiance. I know you won't be let down when you pick up The Stormlight Archive.

When I wrote the review of The Way of Kings I went a bit fanboy-ish on the whole Shardbearer aspect with the Shardblades and Shardplates. It is just really, really cool. Again in Words of Radiance the shards are a vital aspect to the storyline and Brandon Sanderson integrates them perfectly in his story. As a reader you know just what they can do and how powerful they are. These deadly weapons produces some very action packed and tense fighting scenes, not only when Adolin is dueling other highprinces but also when the armies of the Alethi and the Parshendi collide with each other and when Kaladin takes on a the (in)famous Assissin in White. Just as the edge of your action that Brandon Sanderson managed to create in The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance is just the same. Just with a few guiding words he manages to directly set the story in the right mood, pulling you deeper into the story and really throwing everything in a controlled rapid pacing, and when the fighting is over you will be catching your breath just as the ones who did the fighting. It's really intense, edge of your seat action. And Brandon Sanderson presents it to you on a platter. I can ramble much longer about just how cool these things are. Point being. I want a Shardblade and be able to do Lashings!

With Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson greatly builds up on the success of its predecessor The Way of Kings. What I have come to learn from his writing is that if you pick up one of his books you are in for a ride. Brandon Sanderson writes with a clear confidence and utterly engaging writing style, one that will pull you in from the first page onwards and doesn't let you go when you finish page 1000. The best thing here is that even though his books are tomes and would make for an excellent blotting weight, they don't feel like 1000 pages, more on the contrary, he makes them seem 300 pages and when you finish Words of Radiance you will be screaming for more. It's all over to soon, sadly. One important thing when it comes to sequel is to not let the story falter and this is exactly what Brandon Sanderson shows. He keeps everything exciting and on one hand greatly builds on the world that he had introduced in The Way of Kings, but also keeps on expanding and adding new things to his world. This gives a nice boost to the worldbuilding itself and overall character development. Brandon Sanderson has answered a few question regarding the world and characters in Words of Radiance but as any great storyteller he has raised many and many more. And just as with his predecessor he lets Words of Radiance end on a cliffhanger moment again with the Wit. I really start to enjoy reading about the Wit and I know there must be more to what we have seen so far... could he be a higher entity?? The next book in the Stormlight Archive named Skybreaker has a expected publication in 2015 and will focus on Szeth, YES!! Because stuff happened to him in Words of Radiance that explains some answers! As for the bottom line: pick up this series or... well you will be missing out on one of the best epic fantasy series ever, you don't want make that mistake trust me. 


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