Dalinar Kholin and his armies escaped the battle with the Parshendi on the Shattered Plains and now find themselves at the mythical city of Urithiru. Although Dalinar’s forces were arguably the victors, the Everstorm summoned by the Parshendi is wreaking havoc and brandishing chaos throughout Roshar. What’s worse is that when the storm hits the Parshmen – the docile slaves to humans for millennia – something in them awakens and they are not happy at all with their former captors. At the start of Oathbringer, Kaladin Stormblessed is travelling Windrunner-style to inform his parents of what is to come, Shallan Devar is using her Lightweaving talents to investigate the secrets of Urithiru, and the other members of the newly-formed Knights Radiants are getting used to their new powers and the responsibilities they bring.
When I first read Oathbringer I only rated it as 3-stars stating that some parts dragged, especially in Dalinar’s flashback sections, and that it wasn’t as gripping and unputdownable as Words of Radiance. I still believe these statements to a degree but with how much better The Stormlight Archive is that most contemporary fantasy, my initial rating was extremely harsh. I enjoyed Oathbringer much more on my re-read and believe this was because all of the plots, intricacies, characters and their ideals and motives were fresh in my mind. I saw depth, layers and details that I may have missed, misunderstood or not appreciated in my first read, as I read this novel at least a year after I completed Words of Radiance.
Oathbringer is one of the longest novels that I have ever read, clocking in at 1227-pages. A lot happens throughout these pages and if I was being overly critical perhaps the book could have been cut down and streamlined. I am in the headspace now, however, that I find myself completely trusting Sanderson with the scale of and the journey presented here. I get the vibe that what I initially analysed as filler may add to the future books and the overall payoff sevenfold.
Now I’ll do a stream of consciousness style paragraph of parts and elements of Oathbringer that I adored. Minor spoilers may be included here. Certain parts of Dalinar’s flashback were intriguing including his time suffering from alcoholism, details regarding his ShShShShSh wife and about his meeting with the Nightwatcher. Travelling to Shadesmar was one of the few moments that I remembered from my first read and it was just as great to follow those experiences again. Bridge Four’s flying training was fun. Reading about Shallan/Veil/Radiant was interesting as their personalities blur. Her progression throughout Oathbringer is really engrossing. I especially enjoyed a couple of the fable-like past stories that were presented to add depth to this already deep and monstrously detailed world. These tales in isolation would probably win most short story contents. Most notable to me was a short story that Shallan depicted using her drawings to bring it to life for Pattern. With reference to Pattern, I think the Sprens are awesome and their relationships with the main characters are great to follow. Talking to Wit is always charming, crazy and interesting. I enjoyed seeing Lift in this after reading her novella – Edgedancer. It’s great to find out more about the ultimate enemy Odium and his champion’s nine shadows created superb imagery in my mind. I liked finding out more about Szeth and his talking sword in the final third too. The final 25% is marvellous and features some of the best moments in the series so far.
All in all, although not quite hitting the glorious heights showcased in Words of Radiance, Oathbringer is still a magnificent fantasy read. Sanderson is one of the best and most consistent fantasy authors currently writing, and Kaladin is a character that I never get bored of reading about. Now I have finished writing this review I can start Rhythm of War today! I cannot wait.
Thank you to Brandon Sanderson and Gollancz for the review copies of Oathbringer.