Friday, October 17, 2014

Review: Words of Radiance

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
The Stormlight Archive #2
Published March 4th 2014 by Tor Books

In the first volume, we were introduced to the remarkable world of Roshar, a world both alien and magical, where gigantic hurricane-like storms scour the surface every few days and life has adapted accordingly. Roshar is shared by humans and the enigmatic, humanoid Parshendi, with whom they are at war. Among those caught up in the conflict are Highprince Dalinar Kholin, who leads the human armies; his neice Jasnah, a renowned scholar; her student Shallan, a brilliant but troubled young woman; and Kaladin, a military slave who, by the book’s end, was beginning to become the first magically endowed Knight Radiant in centuries.

In Words of Radiance their intertwined stories will continue and, as Sanderson fans have come to expect, develop in unexpected, wonderfully surprising directions. The war with the Parshendi will move into a new, dangerous phase, as Dalinar leads the human armies deep into the heart of the Shattered Plains in a bold attempt to finally end it. Shallan will come along, hoping to find the legendary, perhaps mythical, city of Urithuru, which Jasnah believes holds a secret vital to mankind’s survival on Roshar. The Parshendi take a dangerous step to strengthen themselves for the human challenge, risking the return of the fearsome Voidbringers of old. To deal with it all, Kaladin must learn how to fulfill his new role, while mastering the powers of a Windrunner.
Words of Radiance is the mind-blowingly epic follow up to the brilliant The Way of Kings. I've been craving to get back into the world of The Stormlight Archive pretty much since the moment I finished the first book...but I held off a bit.  I already knew that once I read this one, I'd be left with a massive book-hangover and the absolute NEED to read on. Which is hopeless, for the time being of course, since book 3 doesn't even have a cover or an official release date yet. *sobs* Nonetheless, I simply could not resist Words of Radiance any longer. Short version: Words of Radiance is absolute perfection in a sequel.  It took the already epic setting, concept and characters from TWoK and brought them to a whole other level! I have no words except to say that fans of high-fantasy owe it to themselves to get into this series.  There's simply no excuse why everyone is not gushing about these books just as much as I am right now!

*Warning: there will be gushing and fangirling in this review. Proceed at your own risk.*

The world of The Stormlight Archive is unlike any other magical world I've ever come across. It's detailed, multi-faceted and so amazingly complete that I almost think that if there was a way, we could search the cosmos and find Sanderson's Cosmere across the stars somewhere. You know, just existing; like an actual, proper thing!   The world-building is never heavy-handed or obvious.  You just sort of find yourself discovering it as you go.  Being the second book in a planned ten-book saga, it obviously didn't answer all the questions one has when reading these - BUT, there is a tangible progression when it comes to discovering this strange world with it's unique power sources, weather patterns, animals, plant life...not to mention the different species, social classes, kingdoms and mythology. Everything fits together in such a way that I can't help but (once again) sit back in amazement at Brandon Sanderson's sheer skill at weaving such an epic tale! The man is a wizard, there's no other explanation for all of THIS.

The characters are obvious highlights for me, being the huge character reader that I am. Where The Way of Kings had my beloved Kaladin front and center, Words of Radiance is definitely Shallan's book. We are treated to flashbacks from her dark, mysterious past and I have to say that her character growth surprised me more than any other.  I never expected her to take the direction she took here, nor did I expect her to evolve the way she did throughout this book.  Her skills grew in leaps and bounds compared to what they were, but that was nothing compared to how she grew on the inside. Despite the switch in perspective, Shallan had no problem keeping my attention throughout her parts of the story.  Like TWoK though, Words of Radiance is told in alternating perspectives, so we also got to enjoy quality time with all our other favorites like Jasnah (feels!!!!), Adolin, Dalinar and of course, my perennial favorite, Kaladin Stormblessed ♥.

For his part, Adolin definitely grew on me this time around. I liked him well enough in TWoK, but that was it.  Now I feel like I understand him much better and I respect him more as a character too.  I did feel a distinct lack of Dalinar's presence though, compared to the first book...but that's probably because I looooove Dalinar so much. Nonetheless, his parts were compelling and satisfying. And then there's Kaladin.  Man! That guy brought ALL.THE.FEELS.  AGAIN.  His evolution throughout WoR seemed slower compared to the first book - or even compared to Shallan's in this book -  but it was no less satisfying. He's come a long way from when we first met him at the beginning of this series.  He almost seemed more flawed as Words of Radiance progressed. All the damage he's suffered since the beginning weights on him and clouds his judgement at times but his character arc was phenomenal!!! Gods, I LOVE HIM SO MUCH *fangirls*  BOTH Dalinar & Kaladin are such admirable men of Honor - decisive men who are flawed yes, but inherently good. In TWoK I longed for the two of them to join forces and seeing them together in action here was everything.

The magical system in The Stormlight Archive is, as it is in every high-fantasy I've read by Brandon Sanderson: Stunning. Mind blowing. Amazing. EPIC. See, there's this thing called Stormlight. Basically, it's like this glowing energy that comes from these colossal storms. They use it to charge glass spheres for lighting and the like, BUT, Stormlight can also be inhaled or absorbed by certain people. Which gives them magical, super-human abilities. The best part is that those select few that can absorb Stormlight don't all get the same sets of powers/skills.  I'm not going to get into classifying the different sorts of magic but suffice it to say that all of it is amazingly well put-together.  And with the sequel, we see those powers growing in new and exciting ways! It was both fascinating and thrilling to read about.

The action in Words of Radiance does NOT disappoint.  Spectacular showdowns are abound and there's one in particular that had in the making since the beginning of book one.  Needless to say it was all kinds of epic.  That, combined with thrilling battles had me literally sitting on the edge of my seat frantically turning the pages throughout this bad boy. The pacing was your typical high-fantasy fare. With such a huge book, there was bound to be some world-building and some plot setup but once it got going, it could NOT. BE. STOPPED.  That last 100 pages should have come with a warning: 

DANGER: THIS WILL CONSUME YOUR EVERY WAKING MOMENT. FEELS ABOUND! ANY ATTEMPT TO PUT THIS BOOK DOWN BEFORE THE END WILL CAUSE YOU ACTUAL PHYSICAL PAIN.

So... here I am. Right where I knew I would be: in the midst of a MASSIVE series hangover with nothing to do but bask in all the feels -of which there are MANY. (OMG KALADIN!! ♥♥♥) Well that, and wait. Wait for Brandon Sanderson to finish up with Skybreaker. Gah! O.O And of course, I have no one to blame for the situation I'm in but myself for all of this.  Well. Me and Sanderson, the evil genius responsible for my suffering. Seriously though, if you're a fantasy reader and had any doubts about reading this series. Take my fangirling straight to your nearest bookstore. You'll thank me later.

(infused with Stormlight!)

14 comments:

  1. YES YES YES TO ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL OF THIS. Especially that warning at the end.

    One thing I am always amazed at (and I really need to stop being surprised by this) is how seemingly "minor" characters are later developed into new favorites. There's always these characters you don't see too much of *cough*Adolin in WoK*cough*, and they're ok, or even downright annoying sometimes, and you're like "who is this guy and what is his issue", and then Sanderson spends more time with them and you're like OH OK I GET YOU NOW, EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU MAKES SENSE, YOU'RE KIND OF THE BEST EVER. As if we shouldn't have been expecting that since the moment we met them, just waiting for Sanderson to give them some more page-time. (This is one reason I am super freaking NEEDING more time with Renarin because holy crap he's had so little page-time BUT I ALREADY LOVE HIM omg.)




    Also, yeah. Kaladin. Just. Kaladin. Always and forever my favorite character ever.

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    1. HAHAHA Yeah, it's bad. I'm pretty messed up, too many feels. Need more pages!!

      Yup! Sanderson is a master at misdirection with his character sometimes. He sort of nudges you in one direction and then, when he gives you context, or a backstory, you're just floored and instantly have ALL THE FEELS. And OMG YES I want to know ALL about Renarin nooowwww!!

      But yeah. Kaladin. Too much love, drowning in feels. Epic hero is made of epic ♥

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  2. I felt the lack of Dalinar compared to the first book keenly too, as he's my favorite. Kaladin's awesome too, and of course the totally sweet interactions between Adolin and Shallen in this book. I'm looking to see where that goes. Loved this book!

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

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    1. Dalinar is SUCH a fantastic character! I've heard book 5 is going to be 'his' book and I can't wait :D I did quite miss him this time around though! I'm also REALLY looking forward to seeing how everything develops from here....such a long wait though. *sobs* Glad you loved this one too Mogsy :)

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  3. Dang, looks like I need to pick up something by Sanderson soon! I've heard of him and all the praise for his work but still haven't picked up anything by him. That needs to change soon though but these sound AMAZING. Love your warning about the last 100 pages, I could definitely get into an epic series like this!

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    1. You absolutely do Alise, he's one of my top three favorite authors of all time! I can't recommend him enough and you know as soon as you do I'll be right there stalking your progress and ready to dish about everything afterwards xD

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  4. I'm really, really, really glad I picked up The Way of Kings when it was a Kindle freebie! I think I'm going to hold off reading it for now, though, because Mistborn has been on my TBR for so long and I'd like to read that first, plus I also find it painful when you arrive at a standstill with a beloved series because there's no word on the next book yet (*glares at George R. R. Martin*). But, we do have Blue Lily, Lily Blue to look forward to very, very soon! :D

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    1. Oh Lee, I am really, really, REALLY glad that you picked up TWoK too, you have no idea. Well, scratch that, actually you probably do :D I started with Mistborn too of course so understand your choice. I'm honestly not sure which series I prefer between the two...both are absolute favorites but I feel like this one might have a slight edge. At the moment, at least ;) The next book for this one has a 2015 expected pub date but tbh I'm not sure it'll be out till 2016, with all the other series' he's working on. Anyways yes, at least we have Blue Lily, Lily Blue coming our way soon!! Eeeeep :D

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  5. Wow. Why haven't I read this series yet Micheline?! WHY!!! Like you, I'm all about the characters when I read, so I'm excited to meet everyone in this world. Plus, I'm on a major fantasy kick at the moment and this one sounds way too good to pass up. I also REALLY need to meet this Kaladin you speak of ;-)

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    1. I don't know Jenny but you NEED to get into it as soon as possible!! ESPECIALLY if you're on a major fantasy kick atm!! I'm a huge characters and Sanderson crafts some of THE BEST characters I have ever come across in any kind of fiction. I'm already excited to gush over Kaladin some more with you if/when you get into these :D

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  6. All-consuming books and gushing reviews are my favorites, Micheline! Can you believe I hadn't even heard of this series yet? And now, I know I really need it. I might just hold off on reading until the third book is out, that way, I can stay immersed in this amazing world for longer :)
    Great review!
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

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    1. hahah well I'm glad Lexxie xD Oh I am so, SO excited that you will be getting into this series!! And I like your plan for reading through books 1-3 back to back like that - sounds like heaven to me ♥ Thanks girl xx

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  7. Oh noes, why must you torture me by featuring fantastically epic and life-changing books that I have no time to read?! Arggh so frustrating. But I'm definitely making it one of my primary goals for 2015 thanks to you: read some Brandon Sanderson! Finally!!

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    1. Awww, I'm sorry Aylee! But hey, if you add the series to your wishlist AND vow to read some Sanderson in 2015 then it's all worth it for me :D I can NOT wait to gush about his books with you! ♥

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