Words of Radiance (Book Two of the Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson
Published by Tor Books
Released March 4, 2014
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Note: This review contains spoilers. If you haven’t read Words of Radiance yet, you might want to save the page and come back to it once you’re finished.
I struggled with how I was going to do a review of this massive, 1,000-page sequel to The Way of Kings. Since it’s the second book in what will eventually be a ten book series, I don’t want to give away too many spoilers. However, I enjoyed this book even more than I did the first, which I imagined would be nearly impossible.
This book once again follows the marvelous characters of Kaladin, Shallan, Adolin, and Dalinar. Like the first book, the story is told from multiple perspectives and also includes several “interludes” that involve stories and characters from other parts of Roshar.
Before I delve into the review of the story, I want to quickly mention that Words of Radiance contains a beautiful portrait of Shallan as soon as you open the cover. Here’s a wallpaper you can download of it from Tor.
The story starts off with Jasnah and Shallan on a ship trying to make their way to the Shattered Plans. I loved that it opened on a relatively gentle scene, even if it didn’t stay that way for long. We start to see how much Shallan has grown in both her independence and bravery. Jasnah is helping her learn about Shadesmar and how to become more comfortable with her ability to use stormlight.
Within the first fifty pages of the book, we learn that Jasnah has taken steps to arrange a marriage between Shallan and Adolin. As I was reading this, I was horrified at the prospect of Shallan being entered into the pact without her knowledge. Thankfully, Shallan turns out to be excited at the prospect, which allowed me to become thrilled at the thought of Shallan and Adolin together. If I’m being honest, though, I had thought that she and Kaladin would make an interesting pair, but we’ll see what happens.
One of the most important lessons that Shallan starts to learn with Jasnah’s help is that she can control how others perceive her. I loved how Jasnah explained this to her:
“On an individual basis, in most interactions, this thing we call power – authority – exists only as it is perceived.
“You say I have wealth. This is true, but you have also seen that I do not often use it. You say I have authority as the sister of a King. I do. And yet, the men of this ship would treat me exactly the same way if I were a beggar who had convinced them I was the sister to a king. In that case, my authority is not a real thing. It is mere vapors – an illusion. I can create that illusion for them, as can you.”
As the story progresses a bit further, Shallan has to put such lessons into use to save her own life.
While the novel focuses on all of the main characters, it does have a slight leaning to focusing on Shallan’s story, which is great, since The Way of Kings did the same with Kaladin. I enjoyed finally getting some insight into her past and the troubles she’s had with her family.
We pick up where we left off with Kaladin, as he and the bridgemen are learning to be soldiers and guards for Dalinar. Kaladin is still struggling with his ability to control stormlight while his spren (think of something like pixies or fairies), Syl, tries to convince him to tell Dalinar of his abilities.
One of the new perspectives we get in Words of Radiance is that of Eshonai, the Parshendi shardbearer. I was thrilled at this inclusion, as I always love reading from the perspective of the supposed “enemies.” It’s a wonderful insight into the organization and personalities of the Parshendi, especially where it confirms the different forms they can take for different objectives.
One of the interludes concerns a character named Lift, a young edgedancer. There is a novella called Edgedancer that tells more of her story and falls between Words of Radiance and the third book, Oathbringer. I hated Lift’s character in this interlude, however, so I’ve been toying with the idea of skipping the novella. I’m still undecided, so if you’ve read the novella, let me know if I actually need to read it.
There is simply too much in this book to mention every aspect to it, but I will end the review with this: There are two scenes that made this book even better than the first. The first scene involves two characters who are forced to fight a chasmfiend and face a highstorm. The second involves a character finally embracing their ability to wield stormlight and their battle with the assassin in white.
Despite having only read two of Brandon Sanderson’s books at this point, he has easily become one of my favorite authors. His ability to create complex worlds and characters is unparalleled. I just received the third book in the series, Oathbringer, and am looking forward to reading it. The only problem is that when I finish that book, I’ll have to learn how to have patience and wait for Sanderson to finish the other seven books in the series. That’s not going to be easy!