Review: Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, #2) by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Words of Radiance
Series: The Stormlight Archive, #2
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: March 14, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Rating: ☕☕☕☕☕ (6/5)
Content Warning: *highlight to view* {depression, PTSD, war themes, violence}

BLURB

The Knights Radiant must stand again.
The ancient oaths have at last been spoken; the spren return. Men seek what was lost; I fear the quest will destroy them
It is the nature of the magic. A broken soul has cracks into which something else can be fit. Surgebindings, the powers of creation themselves; they can brace a broken sould, but they can also widen its fissures.
The Windrunner is lost in a shattered land, balanced upon the boundary between vengeance and honor. The Lightweaver, slowly being consumed by her past, searches for the lie that she must become. The Bondsmith, born in blood and death, now strives to rebuild what was destroyed. The Explorer, straddling the fates of two peoples, is forced to choose between slow death and a terrible betrayal of all she believes.
It is past time for them to awaken, for the Everstorm looms.
And the Assassin has arrived.

THOUGHTS

Words of Radiance is a tricky book to review – I read it right after The Way of Kings, when I was still riding the high of a first book that definitely delivered on all fronts. And by the time I was finished with Words, it felt like I was too invested in the series to even give an objective review: and maybe I am, viewing it in a biased lens, I mean  – but at the same time, it is also a testament of how this book, and this series, managed to capture my attention to a really impressive degree.

This book takes place immediately after the events of The Way of Kings. The book was told in the same three major POVs: Shallan, Kaladin, and Dalinar. Though in the middle of the book, Adolin‘s POV keeps on appearing more and more. In the same fashion as with Kings, Words is divided into 5 parts with Interludes in between parts – giving us glimpses of a couple of other surprising POV characters as well. From what I saw in the pattern and from the other reviews that I’ve read while writing this, each book is supposed to spotlight a character. And while Kings is Kaladin’s book, Words of Radiance is Shallan’s. Words was able to spotlight so much of her past – and what a tragic, sad thing it was.

Words of Radiance cover by Michael Whelan // Related: ‘Cover Reveal for Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance by Michael Whelan’ where Michael talked about the process of conceptualizing and creating the book cover

I know I was caught up with the story and plot surprises back in Kings, and for a time, I thought Kings was a better work than Words of Radiance. But after mulling over things and while writing this review, I can now see clearly how much of Words of Radiance relied on an exploration of resilience and human’s will to survive. Especially with Shallan’s story in the spotlight. Words of Radiance – actually both books in The Stormlight Archive, so far – is so unapologetically character-driven, that for a second, I could dismiss how incredible the plot and world-building is.

“I warned you that I was broken, Syl”
“No. You’ve been reforged. It can happen to men.

The spotlight on mental health is insane. Shallan and Kaladin are characters that have both been through a lot. I like how the effects of those events on how they decide to live their lives and the emotions that they feel were painfully explored and put on-page. The way Kaladin is always afraid that everything will be taken from him – again. The sheer amount of dissociating that Shallan does, to the point that it’s not even conscious anymore because of how often she does it. Kaladin and his Bridge Four never fail to create emotional, hard-hitting moments – that for me, despite the plot twists happening outside of their group, their scenes, and the parts where they display true loyalty and camaraderie are still some of my favorite moments in the book. On the other hand, I didn’t expect to like Shallan this much in Book 2. She is honestly the major character whom I have the least attachment to after I finished Kings – but the way her story was explored in this part of the series is so heartbreaking and incredibly inspirational in a way (“Then she smiled. Oh, storms. She smiled anyway.“). Though she took it to an almost unhealthy level, it is a nice reminder that no matter the storms, you can still find a thing to smile about – and it was such a nice reminder to read.

To be human is to seek beauty, Shallan. Do not despair, do not end the hunt because thorns grow your way.”

I don’t know if it was a truly accurate representation, because obviously I don’t have these experiences myself, but I can’t deny the fact that there are just things that Brandon Sanderson executes so well. It was good representation, to say the least. I love how grounded and realistic his characters are. It was not ‘pain/torture porn’ just for the sake of justifying the ‘chosen one’ trope – it involved characters: imperfect and broken and slowly working towards being better; surviving, and living up to the Ideals that the whole Knights Radiant stands for.  It’s not ‘right for the sake of being right’. It’s not black and white. There is context to it and it was such a believable journey  – the fantasy elements aside. And isn’t that what makes fantasy relatable? The struggle, the reality of life, the “human-ness” of its characters? Those are the stories that stick – and Words of Radiance is a paragon of such standard.

Same with Kings, the plot twists in this book came in waves. It’s like having stories within stories – and finding yourself surprised in every turn, with its relationship to the grander scale of things equally making your head explode. It was just pure awesomeness. This is maybe mainly because of how Brandon Sanderson makes brilliant use of pacing. It starts with ripples, then shallow waves until it culminates in an avalanche right at the very last pages. You won’t even have time to get bored.

Honor is Dead by Ari Ibarra // Honestly? My favorite scene in the book, hands down. RAFO!

This book – THIS SERIES – is just so freakin’ good it’s hard to fault it for anything else. I loathe how long these books are but while reading it, there’s a sense of it still not being long enough. Yes, these are massive – but not unnecessarily so. I feel like everything is important, even the freakin’ epigraphs have a stake in the story – which probably explains how obsessive I was in putting tabs to any remotely interesting thing I read in this book.  With a book this scale and with lore so immersive, a world so complex, it’s hard not to obsess around details. These books are something I cannot forgive myself for speed-reading – and so, I took my time. I recognize the seeds planted and the amount of groundwork laid out in these earlier books is just insane that, I am expecting, would be important in the next few books or later in the series.  This is just pure writing and planning masterclass.

“Expectation. That is the true soul of art. If you can give a man more than he expects. then he will laud you his entire life. If you can create an air of anticipation and feed it properly, you will succeed.”

This is the sort of book that you need to let yourself soak in. It is not meant to be just some book in a reading challenge that you struggle to finish for the number and the page count. This is the kind of book that you savor for the heck of it. And even in this size, I can still see myself rereading it to milk every bit of story/hints/clues I could get once everything makes sense. IT IS AN EXPERIENCE. Words of Radiance is a brilliant follow-up to a first book that already delivered on all fronts to an astonishing level – cementing The Stormlight Archive series as one of my favorite fantasy series of all time. I’m glad I finally came across this series and this universe. My only regret is that I haven’t discovered it early enough.

RATING

I am rating it – 6/5 – AGAIN! And honestly, I am so scared to read anything else outside of this universe – for fear of unfairly rating them, because I am just so shook with what I subjected myself to.

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QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Do not let your assumptions about a culture block your ability to perceive the individual, or you will fail.”

“A woman’s strength should not be in her role, whatever she chooses to be, but in the power to choose that role.”

“Words are where most change begins.”

“Power is an illusion of perception.”

“All stories told have been told before. We tell them to ourselves, as did all men who ever were. And all men who ever will be. The only things new are the names.”

“We all die in the end, you see,” Kaladin said. “So I guess what truly matters is just how well you’ve run.

“Expectation wasn’t just about what people expected of you. It was about what you expected of yourself.”

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Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at https://pagesandcoffeecups.com/ .

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