Title: Words of Radiance [1, 2]
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: High Fantasy
Size: 1088 pages!
Read: 6/30-7/8 2014
Summary: Great followup
After a 3+ year hiatus, I return to Brandon Sanderon’s epic fantasy world. And if any new fantasy can be considered epic, it’s certainly this one. Planned at 10 books the first two are each over 1,000 pages! But don’t let that scare you off. For fantasy lovers this is some serious entertainment.
As I mentioned in my review of the first volume, that book possessed some (minor) structural problems partially addressed in this excellent followup. Two point of view characters (Kaladin and Shallan) dominate the narrative, and while last time the ratio was about 70/30 it’s now closer to 50/50. This improvement feels more balanced. Both stories are gripping and don’t let up — during those parts I didn’t want to put the book down even for a minute. There is a small percentage of the story told from the POV of other major players. While not quite as good, these at least remained in the same theatre of action. Unfortunately a few “interludes” with one-off stories from people all over the world remain. These stand outside the main narrative flow and are a tad annoying. As an editor I probably would have cut/shortened most — but they aren’t too long.
I loved these books, but be aware this is no Game of Thrones with a fairly realistic world. It’s alien. Full of strange creatures, terms, politics, magics and a dizzying and complex mythology that is as mysterious to the characters as to us. Therein lies one of Sanderson’s many strengths as he doles out the answers to the mysteries at a satisfying rate without giving away the whole kit and caboodle. The writing itself is clear, confident, and polished. Not literary exactly, but quite first rate. And for a book with such a byzantine plot and titanic length, highly engaging and fast paced. There is a good amount of action and it’s very well described. The powers of the Shardbearers and Surgebinders are pretty epic and you can really imagine them whirling through the air in complex battles. During the most exciting parts (usually near the end of the various “books” that break up the long story) the various narratives converge and alternate back and forth more rapidly in a tense and well engineered way.
All and all, I’m not sure these books are for everyone as they are imaginative to an extreme, but if you like made up worlds this is one of the best. It’s highly complex, well designed, elegantly plotted, well told, and just a darn fine fantasy read. Few writers have the imaginative scope required to create such an exotic beast. The Stormlight Archive harkens back to Eddings, Jordan during their glory days — but somehow much more modern.
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