Review: Words of Radiance
The second book of The Stormlight Archives, WORDS OF RADIANCE (Amazon), comes crashing down on us after a near four year absence. And ooh boy, does book 2 deliver on what it’s promising. If you haven’t read the first one, THE WAY OF KINGS (EBR Review), go read the review and then buy the book at the link at the bottom of the page. Finishing the last Wheel of Time book kept Brandon Sanderson busy, and it’s obvious that he picked up a few things from Jordan, both good and bad.
Let’s start with the good, eh? This book clarifies and answers a lot of the questions the first book left us with. Questions about the Knights Radiant and where they went, how they came into be, and more are all explained very well here. Explanations about lashings, magic, and creatures permeate this book, letting you know why certain things are the way they are in Roshar. All of it, literally every scene is painted in a way that grabs your attention and demands you look closer at the world.
The fight scenes are beautifully realized making them quite easy to picture and visualize. Some of these scenes highlight what Sanderson learned from the combat scenes in MISTBORN (Amazon), (can’t say too much, spoilers). But unlike his first book, his descriptions serve us well in envisioning his heroes. In the first novel, it seemed like Dalinar was the only character I really got a solid feel for. This time, the dialogue has improved dramatically, and I found myself enjoying some of the other characters much more. Shallan and Jasnah in particular leapt off the page in a way that I felt the first book failed to deliver. The interludes showcased different characters, including new viewpoints that brought the world into sharper focus.
Brandon added a time-bomb to this book and it drives his story. The idea of the deadline kept most of the pacing quick and focused around the shared threat, and the fact that most of the characters eventually end up in the same location helps to keep his story on track in a way the first book lagged through. (I’m looking at you, Jasnah).
Brandon has really dug his teeth into this epic fantasy and his careful world building helped to keep the readers on track. When Brandon stays on track, this book is great, and when it’s great, it’s really showing why Brandon has such a following and why he was picked to finish one of the most popular fantasy series of all time. This is his best work to date.
But, no one is perfect, and a tome weighing in at over 1000 pages has a lot of room for errors. There were times when Brandon left the pacing behind and gets distracted enjoying his own characters (this time I’m looking at you, Kaladin). The setting is great and his detailed worlds is what drives Brandon’s success, but there are a few points where he wanders into unnecessary details–he could have trimmed 100 pages off this book, maybe more.
And the cover art. I’m a huge Whelan fan. I hunted down his Stormbringer book cover just to own it, and I loved his A MEMORY OF LIGHT (EBR Review) and THE WAY OF KINGS covers. However, this cover just doesn’t do it for me. It turned me off on the book before I even started reading it. I am very disappointed and I know Whelan can deliver a much more epic and heroic-looking piece. I hope he does the third book and gets a chance to show off. That being said, there is some bonus art from Whelan as the endpapers for the hardback novel, and it’s awesome.
Brandon learned a lot from Jordan and picked up some great habits… and some very bad ones. Long-winded exposition pushed me away from the stories a few times, while some dialogue jarred me out of his characters. A lack of conflict and action bogged the book down a bit in the middle.
All of these issues pale when you get to the final tenth of the book. Suddenly, the first 1900 pages of this series make sense, and you get a pay-off that’s two books in the making. And man, oh man, oh man, oh man, is it one heck of a payoff. That end section alone should cement Brandon in the halls of epic fantasy for all time.
If you like epic fantasy, Sanderson, or awesomeness in book form, you should probably read WORDS OF RADIANCE. In fact, who am I kidding? Everyone should read this book. And the first one. You won’t regret it. I promise.
- Recommended Age: 13+
- Language: In-universe cursing
- Violence: Not as much as the first book, but it's there, especially at the end (one scene was particularly brutal)
- Sex: Nope