‘He fought as he wished he had all those years ago, for the chance he had missed. In that moment between storms–when the rain stilled and the winds drew in their breaths to blow–he danced with the slayer of kings, and somehow held his own.’
A few weeks ago I posted to rave about the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, The Way of Kings, and I’ve now read the second book, Words of Radiance and loved it even more. So expect further ranting!
In this second instalment (I say instalment as if it’s a small episode, and not an over 1000 page book!) the war between the Alethi and the mysterious Parshendi continues to rage on the Shattered Plains. Following the betrayal of his old friend Sadeas, Brightlord Dalinar Kholin is fighting to unite the Highprinces of Alethi in order to win the war and finally avenge his brother Gavilar. Helped by the newly promoted Captain Kaladin, he must navigate a tricky political landscape, all the time threatened by dangerous assassins and intrigue. Meanwhile, overseas his niece Jasnah and her ward Shallan are fighting to reach the Shattered Plains with vital information before it is too late.
One of the main things I loved about The Way of Kings was the richness and detail of the world it’s set in, and I continued to love this in Words of Radiance. Particularly through the regular interludes which follows various different characters around the world of Roshar, we got to see even more places and cultures, all of which were incredibly interesting and different. I particularly liked getting to learn more about the Parshendi people through these interludes, as they had previously been only a mystery, although I still can’t quite gather the reasoning behind them killing King Gavilar, and starting the war.
I also continued to adore the main characters, although the standout for me in this book was Kaladin. Although I liked him in the first book, he did seem to have a lot of cliched hero characteristics, and whilst these were still evident he seems a lot more torn between good and bad in this book. He is forced to make many tough decisions in this book, the main of which involves deciding whether it is right to murder one man in cold blood for the good of a nation.
I also liked the relationships that grow between himself and Dalinar and his son Adolin; Dalinar’s unconventional decision to promote a dark-eyes (who are considered second-class citizens after light-eyes) to the Captain of his guard shows a lack of prejudice in Dalinar, and the mutual respect that grows between the two men was something I really liked. Meanwhile the outward hostility between Adolin and Kaladin grows into grudging respect and even possibly friendship. Although this is of course doomed thanks to what I think could be a growing love triangle between the two of them and the third main character Shallan…
Which brings me to my least favourite main character. I don’t dislike Shallan, and I really liked getting to know more of her back story through the flashbacks (she has had a seriously hard time of it!), but I just can’t take to her quite as much as I have to Kaladin and Dalinar. Perhaps it’s to do with the juxtaposition between the way she comes across in her sections compared to the way she seems to be viewed by the other characters. To me they just don’t seem to gel, although this was perhaps intentional on the part of Sanderson seen as her abilities as a Lightweaver are all about disguises.
I also liked getting to know some of the secondary characters better in this book, such as the grumpy Teft (“I ain’t grouchy. I just have a low threshold for stupidity.”), loveable Lopen, suave Adolin (it certainly was interesting to know just how many times he’s shit himself in his Shardplate!) and reserved Renarin. I also liked the twist with Moash’s back story, and the strain its revelation puts on his relationship with Kaladin, and I also enjoyed seeing more depth to the whiny King Elkohar, especially when he admits that he is jealous of Kaladin’s leadership skills and ability to inspire love and respect in his men.
It was also interesting to see more of the magic of the world of Roshar in this book, as Kaladin learns how to use his abilities to become a Windrunner to rival the Assassin in White who murdered Gavilar, and Shallan’s full capabilities as a Lightweaver are revealed. Her ability to change her appearance is pretty cool in my opinion, and certainly meant she had much more to do than just be scholarly in this book, what with all the sneaking about meeting Ghostbloods and breaking into different Highprinces palaces.
One thing about this book I wasn’t too keen on though was the one-time characters featured in some of the Interludes. Every few chapters there was a section of ‘Interludes’ which often featured characters that were then never seen again throughout the book. Presumably these will prove to have some significance later in the series (which seems likely seen as a lot of these characters seem to have surgebinding abilities), but when reading them I got a little bored and just wanted to return to the main characters and main story (even if they did offer a nice insight into some of the other places in Roshar).
However, this was just one little niggle I had with what was otherwise an amazing book. Unfortunately the next book in the series isn’t out yet, but I seriously can’t wait for it’s release as the explosive ending of Words of Radiance has left me anxious to know what happens next!