Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon SandersonWords of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Series: The Stormlight Archive #2
Published by Tor Books on March 4, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Epic Fantasy, Fantasy
Pages: 1088
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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four-stars

In the first volume, we were introduced to the remarkable world of Roshar, a world both alien and magical, where gigantic hurricane-like storms scour the surface every few days and life has adapted accordingly. Roshar is shared by humans and the enigmatic, humanoid Parshendi, with whom they are at war. Among those caught up in the conflict are Highprince Dalinar Kholin, who leads the human armies; his neice Jasnah, a renowned scholar; her student Shallan, a brilliant but troubled young woman; and Kaladin, a military slave who, by the book’s end, was beginning to become the first magically endowed Knight Radiant in centuries.

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 how to fulfill his new role, while mastering the powers of a Windrunner.

Finishing a Brandon Sanderson epic fantasy novel calls for a celebration, both because they’re so good and because you’ve just defeated a monster beast of a book. Words of Radiance is one of the biggest books I own, only outweighed, I think, by my three volume complete annotated works of Shakespeare. If you enjoyed The Way of Kings, then you must continue this series. Words of Radiance definitely satisfies and leaves the reader desperate for more of the series.

Brandon Sanderson’s world building is a thing of beauty. It’s wholly masterful, and I really don’t know how he does it. Pretty much any time I read his epic fantasies, I just stare at the book in wonder, because the physical laws, the magic, the powers, the cultures are all just so unique and fascinating and logical. Basically, my favorite parts of The Stormlight Archive are when people with powers fight and do awesome things, which is happening more and more often. The tension is amping up and, as epic as things are at the end of Words of Radiance, it’s so clear that Sanderson is just getting started. So much pain and badassery lies ahead that I can scarcely even.

Like The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance still isn’t quite balanced enough in pacing for me to reach frenetic levels of fangirling. There are moments where I love this book so much I would hug it if it weren’t so fat and heavy as to make that difficult, but there are other times where my attention would wander a bit, as the focus went to people and plot lines that interest me less. They’ll all become important down the road, I’m sure, and I’m willing to sit through some of that in an epic fantasy, because there’s so much to put into play and that’s nigh unavoidable.

The focus in Words of Radiance shifts more toward the young people. Dalinar’s still a main character, but there’s less time following his third person point of view than in The Way of Kings. Shallan and Kaladin are definitively the stars now, which is great because they’re my favorites. You can also expect to see much more Adolin, who is quite charming himself.

The star of Words of Radiance is, without a doubt, Shallan. She’s grown so much since the opening of The Way of Kings, when I initially was a bit hesitant about her. Shallan’s maturing and getting so much more powerful, but she has not lost one bit of her razor sharp wit. In fact, Shallan banters so well that I basically ship her with whoever she happens to be talking to at a particular time. Seriously, Sanderson writes ludicrously good bantering. Also, who can not love Shallan when, on a first date, she asks a guy how they pee when wearing shardplate? That’s the sort of awkward thing I would always wonder and probably ask in that same situation. She is a girl from my own heart.

The other aspect of Sanderson’s writing that I really, really love is how well he writes women. Shallan, Navani, Jasnah, and others are all shown in such a powerful and flattering light. Though the cultures in The Stormlight Archive are largely patriarchal, women are not treated as worth less than men. There’s a real respect for women and feminism that shines through Sanderson’s writing. In fact, there’s a snippet from one of Jasnah’s articles that sums up feminism as well as I’ve ever seen it described. Epic fantasy often gets a bit too male-dominated, but, if anything, I’d say the women are more powerful than the men, since they’re better educated and can also wield great power, even if that power isn’t punching.

Of course, there are also lots of big reveals and reversals of fortune. Sanderson is amazing at pulling the rug out from under the reader. Just when you think you know what’s about to happen, something else does. Few authors can truly shock me the way Sanderson does. Can you tell that I love his books and think people need to be reading them? If you can’t, here it is clearly: GO READ SANDERSON’S EPIC FANTASY. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.

Words of Radiance is massive in size and scope, and I think that, by the end, this series has fully hit its stride. Now the long and torturous wait for the third book commences.

Favorite Quote:

“I think hanging people is a poor choice of professions for an executioner. Better to be the guy with the axe.”

He frowned at her.

“You see,” she said, “with the axe, it’s easier to get ahead….”

He stared. Then, after a moment, he winced. “Oh, storms. That was awful.”

“No, it was funny. You seem to get those two mixed up a lot. Don’t worry. I’m here to help.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

30 rock banter

3 responses to “Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson”

  1. Anya says:

    The banter! I really love the societies that Sanderson creates since he always comes up with something new and interesting to think about in regards to our own culture. The whole idea of gender roles being very present but differently applied is so interesting! I also love when the different cultures in Sanderson’s worlds meet since they often make some very good comments haha. Also that painting of Shallan in the inside cover!!!
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  2. I’ve got this series on my wishlist right now. I think I added them because of you and because I seem to be in the mindset for fantasy and badassery and just sheer epicness.

    And as I recently finished Written In Red, I want kore Urban Fantasy and Epic Fantasy because they excite me moreso now than contemporary. Plus I like big books. Always have. I remember reading The Fellowship of the ring at like 11 or 12, so yeah, I do like my fantasy.

    Great review Christina!
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  3. Lynn K. says:

    Don’t big and thick books make it easier to hug? Wrap a sweater around it and it’s even cuddlier! 😛

    Ah Sanderson. In WoK, I didn’t expect to like Shallan and Adolin so much and WoR completely turned it around. I can’t wait for the rug to be pulled out from under Szeth in Skybreaker. 2015, COME SOON!!!

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