Narrator: Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
Length: 48 hrs and 15 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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So, after 48 hours of audio, here is my full review of Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. This is volume two in the planned 10 book series of The Stormlight Archive and is the sequel to Way of Kings. There be spoilers ahead so please join me after the cut if you’ve read the book.
I really enjoyed Words of Radiance. However, it was by no means perfect. For once I’d like to start with what I didn’t like about the book.
What I didn’t like
The dialogue. Not all the time, but on many occasions I found the dialogue too… modern. Every time I heard “yeah” or “guy” or “awesome” I cringed inside. I imagine Sanderson was trying to convey a sense of informality and friendliness between the characters, but for me I was immediately thrown out of the world of Roshar into modern day North America. Perhaps that’s a purely personal reaction, but it did spoil the experience for me. it was especially jarring in the audio version.
The pacing. I don’t mean the pacing within the book itself – I didn’t have a problem with that. I’m referring to the fact that we’re only at the end of book two and already we have the Everstorm about to turn back and cause major destruction as well as turn all the parshmen slaves into Voidbringers. Most fantasy series tend to have such destruction towards the end of the series. Wheel of Time’s Last Battle was in book 14. We still haven’t seen the threatened zombie apocalypse in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and we’re on book five of seven. I just have to wonder where Sanderson has left to go in the Stormlight Archive. Now, it could be that the Everstorm turns out to be only a minor threat to Roshar and that Odium is the equivalent of the Last Battle. We’ll have to see. Sanderson is well known as an Architect type writer in that he has everything planned out meticulously rather than a Gardener like George R.R. Martin who allows the story to develop more organically, so I will have to trust that he knows what he is doing.
What I liked
The structure. Words of Radiance follows the same structure as Way of Kings. This involves a prologue, then switching between three or four tightly focussed viewpoints, one of which expands a character’s story with flashbacks. Additionally the main sections of the book are broken up by Interludes from minor characters to provide information otherwise not available to the reader. This worked very well. It kept the pace brisk, allowed us to really get to know the main PoV characters but added new insights through the Interludes.
The Radiants. This book focuses on the re-establishment of the Knights Radiant which is a major story arc throughout the book. This provided a wonderfully cohesive theme across all the PoVs and interludes. Naturally, we expected our main characters Kaladin, Shallon and Dalanar to be well on the way to becoming Radiants and we were not disappointed. What was nicely done though was the path by which they are working towards that goal. There was some wonderful character development in this regard. I was also interested in the sort of anti-Radiants being collected by Darkness; we see this through the Szeth and Lift Interludes. This looks to provide some interesting conflict in books to come.
Worldbuilding. Sanderson continues to build upon his world of Roshar. I enjoyed his development of the Radiant/spren connection, although I’m still not quite certain I understand about the various types of Shardblade (live spren? dead spren? bonding?) so if anyone can clarify that for me I’d be very grateful. I particularly appreciated the development of the Parshendi through Eshonai’s Interludes – I found it fascinating and moving. Such a pity about the timing. I imagine the story would have been very different if Eshonai had met with Dalinar before going into the storm.
The narration. As usual Kate Reading and Michael Kramer do a wonderful job narrating the books. Given that the book is over 48 hours, it’s nice to have a switch up of narrator. I was amused that both seem to consider the Herdazians British!
Despite the few flaws I mentioned, I did enjoy Words of Radiance. I wouldn’t’ say I loved it, or that it’s the best book I’ve read this year, but I gave it a solid four stars out of five.