Goodreads: Words of Radiance
Series: The Stormlight Archive #2
Published: March 4, 2014
Six years ago, the Assassin in White, a hireling of the inscrutable Parshendi, assassinated the Alethi king on the very night a treaty between men and Parshendi was being celebrated. So began the Vengeance Pact among the highprinces of Alethkar and the War of Reckoning against the Parshendi.
Now the Assassin is active again, murdering rulers all over the world of Roshar, using his baffling powers to thwart every bodyguard and elude all pursuers. Among his prime targets is Highprince Dalinar, widely considered the power behind the Alethi throne. His leading role in the war would seem reason enough, but the Assassin’s master has much deeper motives.
Expected by his enemies to die the miserable death of a military slave, Kaladin survived to be given command of the royal bodyguards, a controversial first for a low-status “darkeyes.” Now he must protect the king and Dalinar from every common peril as well as the distinctly uncommon threat of the Assassin, all while secretly struggling to master remarkable new powers that are somehow linked to his honorspren, Syl.
Brilliant but troubled Shallan strives along a parallel path. Despite being broken in ways she refuses to acknowledge, she bears a terrible burden: to somehow prevent the return of the legendary Voidbringers and the civilization-ending Desolation that will follow. The secrets she needs can be found at the Shattered Plains, but just arriving there proves more difficult than she could have imagined.
Meanwhile, at the heart of the Shattered Plains, the Parshendi are making an epochal decision. Hard pressed by years of Alethi attacks, their numbers ever shrinking, they are convinced by their war leader, Eshonai, to risk everything on a desperate gamble with the very supernatural forces they once fled. The possible consequences for Parshendi and humans alike, indeed, for Roshar itself, are as dangerous as they are incalculable.
Words of Radiance continues to immerse readers in the world of Roshar that Sanderson set up in The Way of Kings. All the best characters are back and, even better, their paths truly begin to converge. This is really just the beginning but it is clear that eventually, the most powerful people from across the world will meet and things are going to be epic–if the world doesn’t end first.
I will admit that the opening of Words of Radiance is a bit slow. Sanderson loves to describe things in exquisite detail, and while that means his world building and magical systems are incredibly well-imagined, it also means the story can get bogged down while Sanderson tries to perfectly set things up. I also found Kaladin–my favorite character from The Way of Kings (after Syl?)–to be insufferable for the first half of this novel. His determination to be perpetually disgruntled is certainly part of his character development, but it also reminded me a lot of Harry in Order of the Phoenix, lots of irrational anger and unnecessary angst. Thankfully, Kaladin eventually pulls himself together. The other characters also continue to find themselves and transform.
And, in the end, the characters are really the main draw. The overarching plot certainly progresses–but it is also difficult to judge what it is progressing toward. The Stormlight Archive is a projected ten-book series, and from what readers know now, I can really only predict the plot for two additional books. Sanderson, of course, is a master of pulling off twist endings (see the Mistborn trilogy), so I’m certain he’ll eventually pull off something wild and unexpected. For now, however, all I know is that the Voidbringers will probably come back and there is no way Dalinar and company are going to spend eight books trying to defeat them. The journey of this series is fascinating, but it’s hard to feel as if you’re really progressing if you have no idea what the end goal is.
I will, of course, continue to read the series anyway. I love the characters and the world and am dying for Sanderson to surprise me! Sanderson usually shines with the structure of his writing, and I’m sure I’ll be impressed once I figure out what the structure of the Stormlight Archive is. I can’t wait until 2016 and Book 3!