I continue my The Stormlight Archive re-read with Words of Radiance, which is one of the finest fantasy novels that I’ve ever read. Everything that The Way of Kings did well, this book does better, and I was so engaged and entranced that I devoured these 1000+ pages in under a week.
The main point of view perspectives in Words of Radiance are those of Kaladin, Shallan, Adolin, and Dalinar. There are no weaker viewpoints this time, all are a joy to follow, and I found myself racing through each section. With all being so addictive and thoroughly enjoyable, the “just one more chapter”-feeling easily turned to another ten chapters before I finally admitted defeat and put the novel down. Even when I wasn’t reading or listening to Words of Radiance, the book was in my thoughts and even infiltrated my dreams. Unexpectedly the interludes are appealing to read this time, especially the insights into the minds of Taravangian, Lift, Szeth, and Eshonai. The latter had a chapter during each interlude section and it was great to follow the views of one of the enemy: the Parshendi.
I think Kaladin is an incredible character, and the majority of many standout moments feature him. His relationships with the members of Bridge Four, the way he tries to train with his Stormlight powers, his bond with Syl, and his relationships with other main characters, specifically Adolin and Shallan, are some of the elements that make him such a delight to follow. A lot of terrible things have happened to him in his past, and although times are looking up for him at the beginning of Words of Radiance with him being appointed Captain of the King’s Guard, things don’t stay that rose-tinted. Kaladin goes on a hell-of-a journey throughout this book, sometimes, with some of the dire things that happen, it’s not always enjoyable, but it’s never dull.
“Honor is dead. But I’ll see what I can do.”
Shallan really steps up in Words of Radiance from a supporting player, to one of the main and most interesting characters in The Stormlight Archive. She develops an intriguing bond with a cryptic spren called Pattern, and we view new and exciting possibilities that her art and drawing presents her. Shallan also gets the flashback treatment here, in similar fashion to how Kaladin did in the first book, which adds a great amount of depth. Certain parts of her past haunt her to this very day. To say that she is multilayered and full of potential almost feels like I’m underselling her complexity. In The Way of Kings, Shallan’s moments were in isolation to the rest of the main players, but now they cross over as she and Jasnah aim to travel to the Shattered Plains.
“He saw it in her eyes. The anguish, the frustration. The terrible nothing that clawed inside and sought to smother her. She knew. It was there, inside. She had been broken.
Then she smiled. Oh, storms. She smiled anyway.
It was the single most beautiful thing he’d seen in his entire life.”
Words of Radiance is extremely well-written, with brilliant pacing and dozens of standout moments. The world Sanderson has created is detailed and immersive. It is a thrilling and sometimes unpredictable read that features duels, epic battles, betrayals, a detailed history and backstory, an original fantasy backdrop, and a great magic scheme. As readers, we learn about the possibilities and potential of the magic by the wielders as they learn themselves which creates great affinity to these characters. The dramatis personae is bursting with incredible characters, both major and minor too. To conclude, Words of Radiance is a 10/10 read and I’m comfortable stating that this novel is epic fantasy at its finest. Now, onwards to Edgedancer and then to Oathbringer. As an additional note, I’d like to compliment Michael Kramer and Kate Reading on their delivery of the audiobooks. Exceptional work by the narrators.