Review: Rhythm of War

Posted: October 18, 2021 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Brandon Sanderson, Epic Fantasy

The fourth book in Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, RHYTHM OF WAR’s installment has some big revelations–less to do with events themselves but more about how we view said events. And in usual Sanderson style he takes his time with those revelations, building on them one piece at a time.

This installment is told mainly from Kaladin, Shallan, Nivani, and the Singer Venli’s point-of-view, with a few others for counterpoint. Except for Kaladin, their contribution to this conflict’s resolution is not necessarily from the front lines. But it is these behind-the-scenes interventions that will have the biggest impact on events.

Navani has spent her life feeling like she hasn’t been able to realize her true calling as a scholar. Instead her responsibilities as wife, mother, and queen has required a more administrative role, which hasn’t allowed her the time to pursue scholarly desires. The result is that she feels like her lack of time as a scholar prevents her from calling herself a true scholar.

Kaladin’s struggle with guilt over Tien’s death, the deaths of those he felt responsible for, his continued conflict with his father, and other sources of doubt and fatigue have led him down a road to burnout. When Dalinar notices and re-assigns him away from the battlefront, Kaladin’s self-doubt only deepens. He tries to find a new path for himself, but every road seems to lead nowhere.

Shallan’s past is never far behind her, and her other selves are a constant reminder of her inability to deal with those issues head-on. Her assignment in infiltrating the Ghostbloods has its successes and failures, providing some revelations that solve another piece of the puzzle. She forges ahead as a new assignment requires her to accompany Adolin to Shadesmar and a visit to the Honorspren.

Venli is the Voice for one of the fused and we learn early on that she is actually a Radiant on the first oath. She fears that if she exposes herself she will be killed, because surely the Fused and other Singers hate the Radiants. So she hides her true self as she serves those would who kill her. When she’s recruited in a plan to take over Urithiru, she believes it may be her chance escape the Fused and take her followers to a place where they could be free from humans and their own kind who would enslave them.

The book is spent exploring these characters’ stories and evolution as they work through their personal conflicts. As well as the conflicts of others, such as Taravangian and his realization about how to defeat Odium but he’s unable to get anyone to believe him; about Dalinar’s deal with Odium that could potentially end the war for good; about Moash’s connection with Kaladin; and so many other stories that have an influence on the novel at large.

If I tell you more than this about what will happen (and ug is it unexpected) then it would be a spoiler. But it’s this very conflict that makes it so many characters come out the other side stronger, more knowledgeable–but also more compassionate and understanding. It is at this point when we begin to see that there is a possibility–however small–that peace could actually happen. I’m not sure how, but I’m interested in finding out.

Brandon Sanderson continues his series with RHYTHM OF WAR, more a buildup for what's to come than a standalone.

There is NO way I can cover everything that really ought to be covered in this review. The discussions about self-doubt, depression, race relations, music, mistrust, betrayal, and all the other themes that weave their ways through this novel. The result would be major spoilers and a multi-page discussion, but I can’t do it justice here. It might be better served on the discussion boards dedicated to The Stormlight Archive, anyway. If you want to learn more of my thoughts about the setting and worldbuilding, a lot of it is covered in previous Stormlight Archive reviews (such as the one for OATHBRINGER, here).

I bought the print version and began but even after being an epic fantasy reader for years I just got daunted. As the mother of teenagers I just don’t have time to sit and read. Fortunately there’s Audible–it saved me. The Audible narrators for RHYTHM OF WAR, Kate Reading and Michael Kramer, were fantastic. I have to admit that Sanderson’s style is written in a way that translates well to dramatizations and the narrators did a great job differentiating between characters and bringing the emotion to the forefront. They really helped me to visualize the story in a way I think would have been lost only reading from the print version. I highly recommend using Audible if reading a 1232 page book feels impossible to you or your teen.

  • Recommended Age: 12+
  • Language: Minor
  • Violence: The book is filled with conflict, but it isn't the bloody gruesome kind; there are on-screen deaths
  • Sex: Vague references

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