Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2)" by Brandon Sanderson

A critique on the first book in the Stormlight Archive can be found here.
This is a review on the second book in the Stormlight Archive series, and if you haven't read The Way of Kings, you should probably read it before reading this review. Be forewarned: these books are massive, 1000+ page tomes. You may end up dreaming about Roshar for the rest of your days...

I must inform you all: I didn't expect this book to be this incredible. As the second book in a series, often  the author often doesn't spend as much time polishing the prose, or is rushed to meet the publisher's deadline. Well, Brandon Sanderson (the Benevolent) is clearly a super-author, because his writing just keeps getting better, his action scenes more fluid, his characters more real.

When I first started the book, I thought Mr. Sanderson (the Benevolent) would end the book with a cliffhanger, as the main plot of this book seemed suited for it. I was wincing with the inevitable pain of not learning the fates of the main characters. Imagine my surprise when I read the ending, and most, but not all, plotlines were neatly wrapped up, to this reader's satisfaction. I became slightly confused. Why didn't Mr. Sanderson (the Benevolent) go the way of all the cruel authors before him, and leave us hanging? How could he be so... nice with his readers, and give us a good, well-thought-out, reasonable ending?

My only rational conclusion to these pressing queries? I can only guess it is because he wants to keep his title, as Brandon Sanderson "the Benevolent".

The Plot:
Jasnah Kholin and Shallan are headed to the Shattered Plains, while Jasnah recommends Shallan study up on a book called "Words of Radiance". Jasnah has managed to arrange a causal betrothal for Shallan to, if everything pans out, wed her cousin, AdolinDalinar's visions become more intense with every highstorm, and rumors about why he is sequestered away from everyone during those times begin to leak out. Adolin strikes up a rivalry with Kaladin, the newest captain of his father's guard, who everyone looks down on because he is a darkeyes, until he proves his merit. Rumor has it a strange man has been seen, flying above the Shattered Plains. An assassin in white continues his reign of terror by killing off leaders of different countries in Roshar. And a pattern emerges, in the most unexpected of places...

Also, I can't help myself, so a minor spoiler if you highlight the following: Shallan kisses Kaladin! And I knew it would happen, but... I must say I am a fan of that pairing. Not so much love with Shallan/Adolin.

As I read the final pages of this tome, I knew Mr. Sanderson (the Benevolent) had truly nailed it with this book. Epic fantasy at its best leads you places where you want to wander, lets you feel its magic as though it truly exists, and introduces you to characters you simply will never forget. Even with his zany multiple point-of-view system, you feel like you've known each of the main characters since childhood, and could actually be friends with them. Roshar feels like it exists, in some faraway galaxy, just waiting to be stumbled upon by modern science. The magic system leaps off the page, fathomable and rational.

How is it that I rated the first book in the series only four stars, while this one surpassed five? I've never had a series where the subsequent entries outranked the first installment, so this is a first, but I suppose it has something to do with the author himself. Brandon Sanderson (the Benevolent) is getting better with age. And I cannot wait to see what he writes next!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars for an exceptional second book to a new favorite series!

Content: Violence, guts, glory, and Stormlight, oh my! Recommended for ages 16+, due to content from the previous book (very harsh slavery).

Page Count: a Behemoth at 1087 pages in the hardcover edition.

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