Words of Raidiance Review

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Isa, Mar 26, 2014.

  1. Isa

    Isa Dovie'andi se tovya sagai

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    Caution: This book is 1088 pages that will tie you to a chair and keep you captive even as you beg for more. expect the review to be long winded.

    So most of my friends are aware of the fact that I'm a massive Fan of Brandon Sanderson. The only reason I even picked up his work in the first place was because I heard that he was picked to complete one of my favorite fantasy epics after Robert Jordan decided attempted to create the ultimate cliff hanger by dying mid way through Wheel of Time.

    It's been a treat watching as Sanderson's skill steadily improves. Elnatris was good, the Alcatraz Smedry series is hilarious even for adults despite being aimed at kids, and Mistborn was simply amazing. And his final works for Wheel of time was in my opinion better than the rest of the series if no other reason than that he avoided Jordan's problem of repeating minute details every chapter.

    That said I recently finished his most recent adult book: Words of Radiance. I'll admit why I loved the first book of the Stormlight Archives; Way of kings was hard to get through. Not just because it was so thick it should probably be considered a lethal weapon and makes text books feel anemic but because it had four separate prologues and the first 400 pages serve as a mix between a primer on the culture, nature, and religion of the world of Roshar and a prologue for a series that's planned to span at least ten books.

    But looking at the results I understand. Sanderson has been creating the world of Roshar for more than twenty years and it is suitably unique, he's created at least a dozen distinct religions with two getting a lot of explination and a few more getting fleshed out as suitable. There are a multitude of conflicting cultures- from the swamp dwelling Risi, to the easy going Irali, the peaceful and odd Shin, the warlike Alethi, The red haired Horneaters, the laid back peaceful people of the Purelake and the painfully bureaucratic Azish, and the enigmatic alien seeming Parshendi. And he's built up a history of his own that goes back thousands of years at the least. He doesn't just explain these things he tells them in the nature of a story from the perspective of the people of his world.

    To give some framework we know the Knights Radiant betrayed the rest of the world at least a thousand years ago but nobody knows how or why. We know the mythical Heralds created the knights and led humanity against the demonic Voidbringers but we don't know how. If you've read a lot of fantasy then you've encountered stories of thousand year old stories and prophecies that have managed to survive the ages unchanged, if your looking for more of the same go somewhere else cause frankly nobody on Roshar seems to know the truth. Except Wit but he's an odd duck and I don't think anybody knows what his story is as he's shown up in every one of Sanderson's books.

    He also gives us an idea of what the world is like at the same time. This is not a peaceful or idealistic world and it's not exactly what I would think of as hospitable. Its ravaged by what's known as Highstorms which are the destructive equivalent of a class five hurricanes that sweep across the world from east to west on a at least once or twice a week, the seasons are so inconsistent that summer could last a week one time and then three months the next time it comes around. The only constant weather pattern is what's known as the "Weeping" a period of three weeks every thousand days that is essentially one long constant rain shower. Sanderson goes on to make this more believable as he's created an ecology that has adapted to this weather suitably- plants have rock hard shells they pull into when they get wet, and some animals have thick shells that would make the crustaceans we find in the sea seem soft skinned. Entire forest of trees are able to wrap their branches around their trunks and fold flat to the ground like they have a hinge, and other trees take in the minerals from storm water to grow rock hard bark to resist the wind.

    So now that you have an idea of the setting let's look at the actual people- The series so far has a cast of main characters that makes would make the cast of Friends seem tiny. We have the Surgeon-turned-soldier-turned-slave-turned body guard Kaladin who may be the only gloomy and chronically depressed character I've ever liked in a fantasy book (He comes close to committing suicide more than once, and given the life he's lead the man may be justified in it) even when he steps away from the ledge and tries to make a difference he is still depressed when he realizes he went from one problem to another. Dalinar Kholin, the Kings Uncle, who is plagued with rumors of insanity and is well past his prime is still griving the death of the brother he failed to protect from an assain five years ago. Jasnah Kholin and brilliant scholar and sister of the king whose been branded a heretic because she refuses to compromise her beliefs by following the dominate religion of the world and is the first atheist character that's actually good written by someone religious. Shallan Davar, the penniless noble girl trying to become Jasnah's apprentice who has a pretty messed up home life and a father whose actions have driven the family into bankruptcy as well as a Dark secret in her past. Adolin Kholin, the somewhat spoiled son of Dalinar who is equally frustrated and in awe of his father. Brightlord Sadeas another noble who puts more schemes in play by lunch than Cardinal Richelieu ever dreamed up. Szeth-son-son-Vallano, a man banished from his homeland for speaking truths nobody else wanted to hear who still follows his people dictate that he become a slave and assassin despite his hated of violence. Those are just the characters,We also have more waring fractions than a high school math class and enough dead character by the end of the first chapter to let a mortician retire after a year.

    All in all though Words of Radiance proved to be worth the three years we had to wait for it to come out. If way of kings was slow and plodding Then Words of Radiance was a constant face paced novel. The characters are constantly forced to grow and it's well done. Kaladin Stormblessed is forced into situations where there isn't a good choice and he has to think and discover who he is and what he's going to stand for. Shallan is thrown out of her comfort zone repeatedly and learns to adapt whether this means surviving a ship wreck, belittling nobles or coning bandits. Dalinar is pushed to set aside his sword and become a diplomat and politician or watch he and his brother's life work of creating a united kingdom fall apart while his sons Adolin and Renarin are forced to grow and become adults of their own and learn themselves what it mean to take responsibility. We again see what seems to be Sanderson's personal joke on reality in the form of Wit -or Hoid as he's known in all of Sanderson's other books- as he pops in and out of everyone's lives and uses stories and cleverly and not so cleverly disguised insults to make people question themselves and their motivations.

    There is a sense of dread over the whole book building up to it's climax that I feel pulls the reader in not because of a morbid sense of curiosity but because you want to see how the characters he created and breathed life into are going to deal with it everything. While Way of Kings followed more than a dozen people all over the world Words of Radiance only occasionally jumps away from the shattered Plains long enough to let us know the rest of the world is still getting screwed over by the various factions (I've counted at least 3 though the Ghostbloods seem more like a couple hundred trying to achieve the same things). Words of Radiance focuses on Shallan's past in much the way Kaladin was the focus of Way of kings with frequent flashbacks to a childhood I can only describe as horrible without giving away spoilers. I'm starting to think significant mental and emotional scars are a prerequisite of becoming a surgebinder.


    And the magic system, Sanderson is notorious for creating his own complex and unique magic systems but unlike Elantris, Warbreaker, and Mistborn he's slowly revealing a little bit at a time about the magic of Roshar while Way of Kings focused on the surgbinding used by wind runners to manipulate gravity Words of radiance focuses on a group known as light weavers who could apparently creat illusions at will and also transform one thing into another.

    By the end of the book We've had more questions answered than Way of Kings left us with, but you'll still have more question to ask than you did at the end of Way of Kings. With the completion of the Wheel of Time series and Sanderson having finished the contract to Scholastic for the Alcatraz Smedy books we may be luck enough to see book 3 of the stormlight archives in two years- as soon as he's done taking some time to spend with his family and be a dad to the son that was born during the writing of this book and was walking by the time it was finished.