“Power is an illusion of perception.”
Expected by his enemies to die the miserable death of a military slave, Kaladin survived to be given command of the royal bodyguards, a controversial first for a low-status “darkeyes.” Now he must protect the king and Dalinar from every common peril as well as the distinctly uncommon threat of the Assassin, all while secretly struggling to master remarkable new powers that are somehow linked to his honorspren, Syl.
The Assassin, Szeth, is active again, murdering rulers all over the world of Roshar, using his baffling powers to thwart every bodyguard and elude all pursuers. Among his prime targets is Highprince Dalinar, widely considered the power behind the Alethi throne. His leading role in the war would seem reason enough, but the Assassin’s master has much deeper motives.
Brilliant but troubled Shallan strives along a parallel path. Despite being broken in ways she refuses to acknowledge, she bears a terrible burden: to somehow prevent the return of the legendary Voidbringers and the civilization-ending Desolation that will follow. The secrets she needs can be found at the Shattered Plains, but just arriving there proves more difficult than she could have imagined.
Meanwhile, at the heart of the Shattered Plains, the Parshendi are making an epochal decision. Hard pressed by years of Alethi attacks, their numbers ever shrinking, they are convinced by their war leader, Eshonai, to risk everything on a desperate gamble with the very supernatural forces they once fled. The possible consequences for Parshendi and humans alike, indeed, for Roshar itself, are as dangerous as they are incalculable.
TW: slavery, murder, suicide mention, domestic violence, graphic injury, gore (including eye gore), gambling, animal fighting, implied animal abuse, animal death
After being so impressed by The Way of Kings, I was really hoping Words of Radiance would keep the momentum going. I got a little worried, too, since one of my housemates said she didn’t like it as much, and said she was really disappointed with Oathbringer. That’s scary, going into a book when someone whose opinion you trust says they’re not thrilled!
Thankfully, I felt like Words of Radiance delivered. It was a different book than The Way of Kings, with fewer interludes of one-off characters who are meant to open new plot threads, as well as less political maneuvering, but it was an excellent book in its own right.
For starters, I absolutely ADORE Shallan Davar. She’s curious and clever and just a bit scared, and I love her willingness to adapt to the situation at hand, no matter how demanding it may be. I also love the glimpses into her past, and the slow unraveling of the things that brought her to Jasnah in the last book. It complicates her character in delightful new ways, ways I didn’t really guess until they were right on top of me in the text.
Also? The interactions she and Kaladin have are A DELIGHT. Those two are constantly sniping at one another when they’re in the same room, and yet when it comes down to it, in a pinch, they make an exceptional team. If they end up on the grouchy friends to lovers track…well, let’s say I wouldn’t really complain about it. That said, if that does happen, there are some EXPLOSIVE secrets between the two that could pop up, and that could be a huge problem but also a well of character development. Either way, I’m excited to see how these two interact in the future.
And on the topic of dynamic duos, Syl and Kaladin are SO GOOD. About 75% of the way through the book, some things happen between those two that just broke my heart, and the resulting plot points were so well done and so true to their respective characters. There’s an emphasis of choice and honor where these two are concerned, and it’s offset in a really lovely way by Syl’s ability to be both wise and playful at once. They’re never too tense with one another, and yet they don’t slack off or get too goofy. They’re balanced together, and it makes their interactions a joy to read.
Kaladin on his own is still one of my favorite characters too. I will never not love the protector type, and in this book, there’s a greater impulsive streak to him than ever, one that complicates the ideals he holds himself to. He has to ask some important questions of himself this time around, and I love his POV almost as much as I love Shallan’s.
This, of course, means that the only other major POV I haven’t sung the praises of is Dalinar, and that’s simply because he’s not my favorite. He’s interesting, there’s no doubt, and some of his scenes near the end of the book are incredible for the information they reveal and the stakes that are raised. Dalinar is a man trying to juggle far too much in the face of impending doom, and I appreciate what he’s doing. It just hasn’t been his book yet, and I haven’t gotten a glimpse of him beyond the present that properly endears me to him. Hopefully this will change in Oathbringer, which is supposed to be Dalinar’s book the same way this was Shallan’s book and The Way of Kings was Kaladin’s book, but at the moment, I just don’t have quite enough to really be attached to when his POV rolls around. He’s important, but not yet special to me.
Of course, I suspect that will change when we start to learn more about the deal he must have made with the Nightwatcher, and the things he sacrificed in making that deal. That, and his new status as of the end of this book, represent the bulk of the intrigue I feel about his character, and I can only hope the coming payoff will be worth it.
As for the plot, I’ll be brief, hard as that is to do for something 1.1k pages long: it’s phenomenal, but a bit on the slow side. Since this is meant to be a ten book series, even as it answers a couple questions, more and more keep popping up, and it’s clear we’re in it for the long haul. It’s my one major frustration with the series, and it’s hard to shake even though I know it’s perfectly acceptable for the genre and audience. Reading so much YA makes me want faster plots, and this is definitely not fast. It’s deliberate and well-plotted and clever, but not fast, and there’s a corner of me that wishes it were a little quicker. But there’s a very, very large story to be told here, and somehow, I think I can muster the patience to get through it one
brick book at a time. I want the answers, and I have enough wells of patience to draw on that I can wait to get them. And I’ll have to wait, since the fourth book isn’t out yet, even if I do finish Oathbringer soon. Nothing like the slow churn of publishing to cool things off, huh?
Altogether, though, I really enjoyed reading Words of Radiance, and loved the extra emphasis on Shallan in particular, the light of my life and clever character of my dreams. It was enjoyable, even if it took time to finish, and it’s made me look forward to Oathbringer, which is what books probably should do when they have sequels, you know? Worth every bit of the 4.5 stars for sure.
So, are you a Stormlight Archive fan? Have you read Words of Radiance yet, or are you gearing up to soon? If not, think you might just try it now? Let’s chat!