This is going to be a long series. I usually like to stick to the trilogy length due to the commitment one needs to make in order to finish a series of this magnitude, but on occasion I am willing to make an exception. The Stormlight Archives is one of those exceptions.
Continuing where the last book left off, the armies of Alethkar are still entrenched in a siege against the Parshendi on the Shattered Plaines, but events are beginning to unfold which could lead to a much greater war. For Dalinar his dreams are continuing to unfold, but the clock is ticking and he doesn’t have much time to prevent an unknown disaster from covering the land of Alethkar. Kaladin, now the head of the royal bodyguard, is continuing to struggle with his past while attempting to master the powers gained from his honor spren. While internal conflicts are rising between the war camps, Shallan and Josnah are trying to make their way to the Shattered Plains, where it is believed the entrance to a hidden city can be found that may be the one thing to save mankind from the destruction that will come. However, the Parshendi are growing nervous. Their numbers have been greatly diminished and their desperation has led them to attempt a desperate plan to turn the tide of the war; a plan that, if successful, could bring about a war, which the world has not seen for thousands of years.
As a sequel, Brandon Sanderson has outdone himself by furthering the world-building that he created in the first book, delving deeper into the history of the characters, and creating new tension to build on the conflict introduced in The Way of Kings. One thing that is commonly misunderstood about multi-perspective novels is that all the characters do not need to be developed with the same level of excitement. It’s not a bad thing if you can pull it off, but it can commonly cause the story to become flat or tiresome. Sanderson continued to mix scenes of excitement with those of development in a smooth and continuous flow, which created a natural feel for the audience. As much as I love a book of high-octane action throughout, it’s nice to have the breaks for character and plot development.
When it comes to the most important part of the book (in my opinion it’s the characters), I believe that this book excelled beyond the first. The back-story that Sanderson adds to each book was more entertaining in this segment of the epic (no offense to Kaladin’s history, but Shallan’s was more interesting). As was mentioned above, I found the internal conflict to be deeper than before. Kaladin especially faces many demons that he must face and conquer if he is to be the man that the world needs him to be. This, to me, was the best part of the book. The actions scenes are awesome, the plot advancements were intriguing, but the internal conflict was what made Words of Radiance the book that it is.
My one complaint with the book was the ending. That sounds like a big complaint, but it isn’t as bad as you might think. My beef with the ending was that it happened too quickly. Within the last several chapters each main character experienced something huge for themselves and the plot. By the time I turned the last page it felt like the stream of water pouring into my mind became a waterfall and then abruptly turned off. After speaking with a friend who is also reading the series, I acknowledge the fact that Sanderson had a lot of loose ends he needed to tie off before the next book, but the result was a somewhat rushed feeling.
This is the last book in a long stream of Sanderson’s books that I’ve read in a row. So for the fans out there I will be taking a break and exploring some other genres. I will always come back to fantasy, probably sooner than I anticipate, but for now I think this is a great book to leave off with for the present.
As one final word on behalf of Brandon Sanderson, his writing has helped inspire me to become a better writer and storyteller. His grasp of these arts is inspirational for me, giving me something to aspire to. Farewell to fantasy for now!