Words of Radiance – A Review

Words of Radiance is the latest novel by Brandon Sanderson. It is the second, following Way of Kings, in his Stormlight Archive sequence.

WoR follows its four main characters as they struggle with new magical powers, new relationships, new responsibilities, a changing political situation and the fight to prevent the return of the Voidbringers and the Desolation that follows.

Long sentence above. That is suitable because it was a long novel. I’ll come back to that.

The characters are Adolin, a prince and warrior, Dalinar, his father, Kaladin, the head of their bodyguard and Shallan, Adolin’s betrothed.

In the first book of the series the arcs of the four characters are separated with little interaction. This novel slowly brings them together. Kaladin and Shallan both acquired powers in the first book. In this one those are further developed and work out whether to reveal those powers to their new allies.

Sanderson is very up front with his goals for the series. He wants to write epic fantasy. He wants it to be long. He wants the characters to drive the story. He is only partially successful.

It is a compulsive read. I couldn’t put it down. It is filled with detailed world building, interesting magic systems and a mythical plot. It has a variety of races. It has scenes of high adventure. It fulfills the epic fantasy remit.

It is long. Over 1000 pages long. So success? But it feels padded. Words of Radiance has more important items happen than Way of Kings did. The main characters meet and form relationships. The true threats of the series emerge. But we are 2000 pages into an epic and it is all act I material – establish characters and establish conflict.

Sanderson has developed some interesting characters, but it remains a plot driven book. The characters try and plan, but mostly they react to the machinations of those around them. If it was character driven each chapter would have outcomes dependant on the actions of the protagonists.

Also, Sanderson is overtly hiding information. Sprens conveniently forget all useful information and then recover it as the protagonist does. (Sprens are the living embodiment of magic.). There are minor characters walking around who know far more than the core cast, but they reveal nothing. It is the only aspect of the book I find truly annoying.

Hmm. This is a good book. I quite enjoyed it. I say come for the adventure, interesting and well realized world and the cool magic – these are always Sanderson’s strengths.

But for a current true character driven epic fantasy look to Rothfuss instead.

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