Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War photo

Information

Goodreads: The Rhythm of War
Series: The Stormlight Archive
Source: Purchased
Published: November 17, 2020

Official Summary

After forming a coalition of human resistance against the enemy invasion, Dalinar Kholin and his Knights Radiant have spent a year fighting a protracted, brutal war. Neither side has gained an advantage, and the threat of a betrayal by Dalinar’s crafty ally Taravangian looms over every strategic move.

Now, as new technological discoveries by Navani Kholin’s scholars begin to change the face of the war, the enemy prepares a bold and dangerous operation. The arms race that follows will challenge the very core of the Radiant ideals, and potentially reveal the secrets of the ancient tower that was once the heart of their strength.

At the same time that Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with his changing role within the Knights Radiant, his Windrunners face their own problem: As more and more deadly enemy Fused awaken to wage war, no more honorspren are willing to bond with humans to increase the number of Radiants. Adolin and Shallan must lead the coalition’s envoy to the honorspren stronghold of Lasting Integrity and either convince the spren to join the cause against the evil god Odium, or personally face the storm of failure.

Star Divider

Review

Rhythm of War is one of those books I feel are almost not worth reviewing: it’s book 4 in a proposed 10 book series, and you’re either committed to reading the series at this point or you’re not. (Or you may not have started the series at all, but then why are you reading a review of book 4 and not book 1?) However, I can say with confidence that Rhythm of War is excellent, as complex and imaginative as the previous three books in the Stormlight Archives, yet highly readable, as all Sanderson’s book tend to be.

I did throw all caution to the wind and decide to read Rhythm of War without so much as reading a recap of the first three books, and I have to say I was not nearly as confused as I’d thought I would be. It did take me a while to remember some of the finer details of what had happened in the story before, especially because SO MUCH is going on, but I managed to piece most of it together eventually. I would still recommend reading a summary online, but if you’re too lazy like me, you can probably get through Rhythm of War without one.

Part of the reason trying to remember everything that has happened previously is that there is so much growth and movement in this series. From book to book, Sanderson expands the world of Roshar. You start book one really focused on the characters and their personal lives, and then suddenly all kinds of legends are coming to life and magic is growing, and things are just so much bigger than before. Somehow, Sanderson manages to do that again in Rhythm of War. One might have thought there was nowhere else to go, that all the secrets had been revealed, that the stakes couldn’t get any higher– and yet Sanderson pulls it off.

However, the story does stay grounded in the characters, which I love. Sanderson really delves into their questions and insecurities in this book, even while highlighting their strengths and letting readers keep believing they are amazing, new legends for Roshar in the makin. I also really love that the characters disagree with each other on topics, and it’s really very subtle, and the book never stops to tell the reader who is right. For instance, one character might a confident assertion about the nature of honor, and it sounds good and all, but then many chapters later a different character says something about honor that conflicts with the first statement–but also sounds pithy and quotable. Who is right? It’s up the reader.

If you’ve been reading this series, book 4 does not disappoint. If you’ve not been reading it, I recommend starting before all 10 books are published and it seems too daunting!

Briana
5 stars

Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson

EdgedancerInformation

Goodreads: Edgedancer
Series: Stormlight Archives #2.5
Source: Purchased
Published: October 17, 2017

Official Summary

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, a special gift edition of Edgedancer, a short novel of the Stormlight Archive (previously published in Arcanum Unbounded).

Three years ago, Lift asked a goddess to stop her from growing older–a wish she believed was granted. Now, in Edgedancer, the barely teenage nascent Knight Radiant finds that time stands still for no one. Although the young Azish emperor granted her safe haven from an executioner she knows only as Darkness, court life is suffocating the free-spirited Lift, who can’t help heading to Yeddaw when she hears the relentless Darkness is there hunting people like her with budding powers. The downtrodden in Yeddaw have no champion, and Lift knows she must seize this awesome responsibility.

Review

I get the impression that Edgedancer is going to prove its value primarily after I read Oathbringer.  As I was reading the story, I thought that it was entertaining but not necessarily as special as a lot of Sanderson’s other work.  However, the book made more sense to me after I read Sanderson’s postscript: he wrote it because he realized he needed to offer more character development for two characters who will be prominent in Oathbringer.  In one sense, then, I’m not sure I can fully judge this before continuing to read the Stormlight Archives, but I’ll offer a few thoughts anyway.

Protagonist Lift is, admittedly, annoying, but I think one of Sanderon’s strengths is that he writes a wide variety of characters, and they are often realistically flawed.  In Lift’s case, she’s a bit hard-headed and determined to believe in her own vision of the world, no matter what other people say to her or what evidence she sees to the contrary.  Part of this, we learn, is defensiveness, which suddenly makes it more understandable.  So while she’s not necessarily my favorite book character of all time, and we certainly wouldn’t be BFFs, she’s interesting, and I think a lot about her is very real.

Plot-wise, the book is fairly straightforward with just enough small twists to remind me that Sanderson is generally a master of taking me by surprise.  This isn’t quite as mind-blowing as some of his novels, but since it’s a novella meant to fill in some gaps of the main series, I think the amount of surprises is fair.

Mostly I appreciated this book for prodding my memory about some of the primary events that happened in The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance.  I’m probably still going to need to read a more detailed recap of the first two books before jumping into Oathbringer, but before reading Edgedancer I remembered practically nothing about the start of the series, so it was nice to get some reminders about what the major developments are and what a couple of the major characters were up to.  (So, yes, Edgedancer is going to be spoilery if you have not read the first two Stormlight Archives books yet.)

I purchased this because Sanderson is basically an auto-buy author for me now, and even though it’s fairly short and not 100% on the level of most of his other work, I think it was money well-spent, and I think it’s going to be worth having read before I get to Oathbringer.

4 stars Briana

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

words of radianceInformation

Goodreads: Words of Radiance
Series: The Stormlight Archive #2
Source: Purchased
Published: March 4, 2014

Official Summary

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.

Review

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!

Briana

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of KingsInformation

Goodreads: The Way of Kings
Series: The Stormlight Archives #1
Source: Gift
Published: August 31, 2010

Official Summary

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soiless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

Review

Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings is the start of an epic fantasy masterpiece. A shrouded past, a world at stake, and a plethora of character who barely realize their own power make the world of Roshar a frightening, fascinating place to visit. Sanderson’s characteristic attention to detail and insight into human nature add to the immersive experience.

The book is complex, divided into multiple points of view. There are, of course, the four main characters, but intermittent chapters are also narrated by other characters, some of whose perspectives obviously are not going to be of primary importance until later in the series. Personally, I did not find the number of points of view overwhelming; however, the book does suffer from the usual annoyance that as soon as I would get into one character’s story, the book would be off to another. The perspectives switch chapter by chapter and it is rare to stick with any one character for any length. Also, I enjoyed some characters more than others; it was not until nearly the end of the book that I was particularly interested in Shallan’s chapters, though she did grow on me and I would like to see more of her in Words of Radiance.

The sheer number of characters and plot lines, which begin to converge only in the final chapters, also mean the pacing is slow. Again, however, I have no issue with this. I am deeply invested in most of the characters, their stories, and their struggles. Sanderson does a masterful job of creating characters of great nobility and great potential who still have fears and flaws. So while the overarching plot progressed somewhat, the main attraction of this series is going to be watching it unfold slowly from many perspectives. As the saying goes, journey before destination.

The pacing also means that there are not quite as many wild plot twists in this particular novel, something I have come to expect from Sanderson’s books. There are a couple unexpected turns—again, near the end of the book—but I suspect the series will have to get a bit further before Sanderson really throws my predictions on their heads. Right now, I know some things are not quite what they have seemed, but do not really know what the implications of these revelations are. Of course, this is not a bad place to leave readers at all, if an author wants readers to keep reading the series!

Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors, and The Way of Kings does not disappoint. Vivid, imaginative, wild, and wise, it is all the things I could hope for from an epic fantasy—or just a good book. Highly recommended.

Let Discuss!

Have you read The Way of Kings? Tell me who your favorite character is in the comments!

Briana