Sunday, May 31, 2020

Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, #2)

This is the second book of the Stormlight Archive, following The Way of Kings. It has some of the failings of a middle book, being somewhat slow moving and largely preparing for the following novels, but certainly stands on its own. Heck, Sanderson kills off a major character from the first book not even 10% of the way through! The most interesting thing here is that the protagonists and antagonists aren't entirely clear. The war between the humans and the Parshendi heats up, but it is revealed that the Parshmen were enslaved centuries ago so is this truly an unjust war? The Radiants and the Voidbringers are basically gods and seem to be the ultimate factions of the conflict, but it appears that tools from each are used by both humans and Parshendi. And division is rife within the human cabals as well, with some trying to gather power to preserve humanity from the assumed arrival in the flesh of the Voidbringers while others are trying to destroy that same power, fearing that it is what is drawing the Voidbringers in the first place. A book of contradiction and ambiguous motives, this is setting up to be a very interesting opus.

The length is a bit of problem here again, weighing in at over 1300 pages. Several sections felt like they dragged on when I was reading them, but on reflection I'm not sure which ones I'd edit. The curse of good writing, I suppose! Speaking of good writing, one line has stuck with me since finishing the book. A main character defines a good life as "A day of honest labor, followed by an evening at the tavern with friends." That strikes me as a wonderful description and resonates deeply with where I find myself these days.

Many of Sandersons novels take place in a shared universe, called the Cosmere. Occasionally characters cross from series to series, but usually play only a minor role. However, in the closing pages of Words of Radiance a sword oozing black smoke is found. "Hello, a cheerful voice said in his mind. Would you like to destroy some evil today?" I can only hope this is Nightblood from Warbreaker, another novel that takes place on another world in the Cosmere. Things are about to get entertaining here...

First Sentence:
Shallan pinched the thin charcoal pencil and drew a series of straight lines radiating from a sphere on the horizon.

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