Tag Archives: The Stormlight Archive

Words of Radiance

51RoBAb1oyLThe problem with your website being down for two months is, you can’t remember what happened in between. I mean, no. I’m fully aware that I thought Words of Radiance was a good book, that it did another good job of being largely self-contained[1], that it did a great job of throwing a lot of new information and a lot of really cool new magic- and world-building, that I stayed invested in the characters.

So all in all, I still have the sense of the thing. But themes? Discussion of specific plot points I might want to put behind spoiler space? I sincerely got nothing. The good news is, I haven’t read any other books in the meantime, and I’m bound to read this again, so probably you’ll get a replacement review which will be good, someday? And more importantly, no other shoddy book reviews!

Shoddy movie review(s?), though? Probably.

[1] That’s not what I mean, but I don’t know how to pithily encapsulate what I do mean. Which is that I felt like it told a complete chapter within its larger story, and did not leave me feeling cheated out of getting more Right Now. In short, it’s doing a good job of maintaining its place in third-wave epic fantasy.

The Way of Kings revisited

51WC999OnyLOn the one hand, there are so many new books I want to read right away, and I kind of resent the need to go back and read a book I’ve already read just to remember what would be going on in the sequel, now that it’s finally out three and a half years later. And then I think about other books I want to reread also, actively because I haven’t in a very long time rather than passively so that I’ll remember what’s going on as per that prior sentence. Not to mention just how much rereading I’ve done over the past couple of years.

All of that to say that (despite all my complaining), wow, The Way of Kings is still extremely good. Intriguing characters with real problems (I mean, besides the end of the world), highly alien setting with reasonable extensions of human societal development as a result[1], moral dilemmas, secrets to be explored, and of course exciting combat and magic sequences. I don’t think it would hold up to the kind of attention I paid Jordan’s opus, but that’s a reflection of how I’ve changed more than anything else. Which is why it’s nice to have followed along on the Tor reread as I dug through this one. Well, it was up until the last quarter of the book or so, when suddenly the authors and a lot of the commenters had read the new book and I had not yet. Bleah.

Because, seriously? It’s not all the details they teased out of this book that astonish me, although there are some pretty astonishing things being teased out. Someone translated runic script on a couple of the late book drawings? Someone else identified who all of the faces are in the chapter icons, associated them with thematic elements laid out in the otherwise bare glossary, and then proved how those faces / themes fit the chapters?! Are you kidding me? So, yes. Pretty meaty stuff, and kudos to Brandon Sanderson for that much depth and attention to detail at every turn. But then there’s all the connections they have drawn to his other works, which are all set in the same universe[2] and contain a same wandering character as well as the same pantheon of cooperative and opposed gods, some alive, some dead, spread out in the various corners they have decided to stake out and world[3] around with. Although I’ve read like 3/4 of his output, I would never have had the faintest clue about any of these interconnections. Which just makes me want to go back and reread all the rest of his books too, and if I resented the time for this, how am I supposed to find time for that?

Curse you, Sanderson!

[1] And if it seems like this alien of a world shouldn’t have humans in the first place, I’m nearly positive that’s by design and may well be addressed, implicitly or explicitly.
[2] Cosmere, they call it, and apparently the people on this book’s world, Roshar, are aware of said Cosmere and aware that travel to other places is possible. Answering how that can be is another missing piece I look greatly forward to acquiring somewhere down the line!
[3] Plausibly, world is not a viable verb? Then again, maybe it is. I’ve never Mormoned, so I can’t be sure.

The Way of Kings

51WC999OnyLTruth be told, I finished The Way of Kings days ago, during the weekend. (Don’t worry, I’ve been reading only loose comics since, so it’s not like I’m getting backed up or anything.) I guess the reason there’s been no review is because it’s a very large book. Physically, too, but I mean it’s a very large story. I mean, it’s referenced on the cover as Book One of The Stormlight Archive, and it’s being written by the guy who stepped in because Robert Jordan was crushed under the weight of the Wheel of Time.[1] So you can see why this is tricky; I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed the first book of a doorstop fantasy series without having read other books in its series prior to any review. Still, since I keep thinking about the physicality of the book, it’s a good place to start, particularly during a month in which a lot of the chatter I see in my corner of the internet is about the migration to Kindles or other electronic book-reading devices.

Whether because Tor is also thinking about the e-book revolution a lot lately or simply because they’ve been sufficiently satisfied with Sanderson’s output over the past few years to want to splurge or maybe it’s something Sanderson wanted out of this book in the first place, but The Way of Kings is probably the prettiest modern book I’ve ever seen. The cover art is nice but not all that noteworthy; the inside is where it’s at. The inner covers have multiple different maps of the same continent, in startlingly fine color detail. The paper is heavier than I’m used to, not quite to the way I imagine vellum, but definitely of superior stock. There are any number of drawings and diagrams scattered throughout the story, each also of excellent quality. It’s the kind of book you’d expect to buy a special edition version of, years later, to get this many goodies. I know that has no real relevance to whether it has a good story, but it strongly informed my initial impressions, and even filtered through my distaste for non-physical books, it would be a pity to be looking at this on a screen. (Or even a paperback, almost certainly.)

So, was it a good book? I will say unreservedly yes, because a) I otherwise had nothing to complain about and b) my favorite part of any good-sized tale, the characterizations, was masterfully drawn. There are about four main characters and a handful of important secondaries, and another handful of very minor characters adding world flavor and possibly highlighting Important Facts that are not yet clear to me but will seem painfully obvious upon some future mythical reread. And except for those last few, I really do care a great deal about what’s going to happen to all of them. Of course, things will happen to them, as Sanderson doesn’t innovate the fantasy tropes: the world is falling under a long shadow for the first time in millennia, a shadow humanity has all but forgotten, and our heroes must figure out their own shit if they have a hope of doing anything about the worse shit coming. But Sanderson innovates like nobody’s business on sense of wonder, and he got it all over me. Still, that wouldn’t be enough to leave me excited[2] without how well he writes his characters and without the attention to foreshadowing and as yet unsolved mysteries and the promise of more that lie ahead.

I guess, after all is said and done, my excitement comes from the fact that this is the best kind of doorstop fantasy: the kind that leaves me wanting more and at the same time willing to pause and digest and discuss and (yes, someday) re-read. And while there are several series I’m in the middle of that leave me with some portion of those desires, this really is the first one since I finished Jordan’s The Shadow Rising and was officially caught up on Wheel of Time publications that has left me with all of them at once. That’s a heavy expectation to leave on a book, but I can’t really lie about it, right?

[1] I have a saidin-poisoning joke floating around in my head, but it would almost certainly be in bad taste. Well, worse taste.
[2] As opposed to merely entertained.