Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson is the second book in the Stormlight Archive series. As you can imagine if you’ve read or even just seen the first book, Way of Kings, Words of Radiance is huge in both page count and scope, building a fantasy world and characters that continue to amaze. Way of Kings introduced several main characters with their own plot lines and Words of Radiance brings those three plots together as the end of the world rapidly approaches. Words of Radiance avoids second-book syndrome so successfully that I think I’m now spoiled for every future second book I read. While you’ll need to devote a fair amount of time to reading Words of Radiance, I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The ending of the Way of Kings promised crazy epicness and Words of Radiance delivers 100% on that promise. There will be some spoilers below if you haven’t read Way of Kings yet, so I suggest you get to reading :D. Also, I’m struggling a bit with this review due to the sheer amount of things I want to talk about regarding Words of Radiance, so I’m sure I’ll miss something. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments as I’d love to gush with you :D.
Note: I received an eARC of Words of Radiance in exchange for an honest review. Some things may have changed in the final version, notably, I didn’t get to see the fun illustrations and chapter heading text for the first half of my reading, though I have since caught up ;-).
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (The Stormlight Archive #2)
Published by Tor Books on March 4, 2014
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Page Length: 1088 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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Roshar is shared by humans and the enigmatic, humanoid Parshendi, with whom they are at war. Among those caught up in the conflict are Brightlord Dalinar Kholin, who leads the human armies; his sister Jasnah, a renowned scholar; her student Shallan, a brilliant but troubled young woman; and Kaladin, a military slave who, by the book’s end, had 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 to how to fulfill his new role as leader of the restored Knights Radiant, while mastering the powers of a Windrunner.
- The first thing you’ll hopefully notice about Words of Radiance is the gorgeousness that is this book. Even though the hardcover is expensive, I very much recommend getting it. There is a full-color illustration of Shallan in the inside cover and it is so beautiful. The cool sketches from Shallan of wildlife continue along with maps and fashion spreads. I frequently found myself just staring at the illustrations every few chapters because I didn’t want to miss any of the gorgeous detail. I also really need a poster of that painting of Shallan!
- I absolutely love Sanderson’s ability to build complete places and peoples for his books and Words of Radiance is no exception. While the Parshendi were painted rather one-dimensionally in The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance quickly fixes this problem by giving us a perspective of a Parshendi as well as characters from all over Roshar. I love the deeper understanding I have of the Parshendi after reading Words of Radiance and am once again astounded at the creativity that Sanderson brings to his fantasy writing.
- Words of Radiance is so funny! All of our favorite bridgemen are back of course and telling sometimes hilarious and sometimes horrible jokes ;-). Wit also continues to develop and live up to his chosen name. Words of Radiance is just filled with secondary characters to love and laugh with, including a few spren that are just too funny as they try to learn the art of human joking!
- There is a much darker element of foreshadowing in Words of Radiance, especially with the text beginning each chapter and some writing in the illustrations. Some of the events that are hinted at of course come to fruition because they refer to the main plot of Words of Radiance, but some things are just starting to develop and have me exceedingly curious for the next book *grabby hands*.
- Words of Radiance makes some very interesting philosophical points on a number of deep issues, which I absolutely love to find in speculative fiction. There are some great lines on the art of storytelling that I think all of us readers will appreciate, but there are also some really interesting observations on the nature of honor and the morality of class divisions in Words of Radiance. I’m actually kind of jealous of those of you who will be reading this book with others, since there is so much to discuss.
- While all the major plot lines pretty much come together in Words of Radiance as you’d expect, there are also a bunch of smaller connections between characters to discover. I can only imagine the charts that Sanderson had to make in order to keep track of who ran into who along the way and this also makes Words of Radiance excellent for rereading!
- For those of you who have read other books by Sanderson, you’re in for at least one fun surprise. I really love the tendency of authors to throw in connections between books that seem to be set in different worlds and I was really pumped to see one particular connection. I can’t wait to see what comes of this in book three!
- At about half-way through Words of Radiance, most of the characters are traveling or training and I got a bit bored. The first third is exciting since we’re finding out lots of new stuff, but then things get a bit slow for a little while off and on between exciting action scenes.
- While I love the number of characters in Words of Radiance, the names of the side characters started to become difficult to keep track of. When all those interesting connections started forming, I especially found myself needing to pause and try to remember what I knew about a character’s past in order to understand the significance of the current scene. This means that you really can’t speed through Words of Radiance and setting it down for too long could also be troublesome. I’m thinking a glossary of characters from Way of Kings might be good to have on hand.
- Words of Radiance had an annoying habit of switching to a different character’s plot just as soon as things got exciting for one character. I found myself wanting to hurry through or even skip a section so that I could find out what happened to the character in the previous section and then come back to this new character. While I get that this is a device used to keep the reader engaged, I found that it interrupted my engagement in one character’s plot line more than it kept me reading, ya know?
If you love epic fantasy, you’ve probably discovered Brandon Sanderson already, but you should read this series in any case. It took me a while to get to Way of Kings because I was so intimidated by its length, but it is 100% worth the time investment. Have no fear that Words of Radiance slows the pace with second-book syndrome, because that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The world and characters that Sanderson continues to develop in Words of Radiance are quickly becoming one of my favorite fantasy worlds to escape to and the wait for book three is gonna be a bit torturous….
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
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