Brandon Sanderson – Words Of Radiance

It is one of the greatest joys for a reader when one of his favorite authors publishes a new book and manages to deliver, providing the reader with a story that gives complete satisfaction and a strong desire to keep on reading. This is so the case for Words Of Radiance (2014) by Brandon Sanderson, the second book of his epic fantasy series The Stormlight Archive. I have not read all of his works, but those that I have picked up have proven him to be one of the major fantasy authors of today.

What is it that makes Words Of Radiance so enjoyable? Foremost it is one of the three main protagonists who has center stage in this novel, the only female, Shallan. Sanderson has used female characters as main protagonists in several of his previous novels and he did so well. With Shallan he has made a leap forward. In the first novel, The Way Of Kings, the three main protagonists did not really stand out for me. They were okay, but I did not like them particularly well and had no preference. This has now changed very much for me. While the two male protagonists did not change much, Shallan became someone different. Following the advice of a fellow characters she changes her mindset. She dares, shows smarts and skills and is witty. She still struggles and makes mistakes, but remains headstrong and goes forward with great power. I have read my share of female protagonists over the years and I can hardly think of anyone who I connected so well with.

Another great things about Sanderson is his easy to read prose. He does not use fancy or complicated words. They flow easily and I went through the pages without effort, even though it is almost 1100 pages long. That said, it is also one of his weaknesses. I know he can write concise novels with no fat to spare. Words Of Radiance does not feel like it uses too many words and that every scene counts. Something there does go wrong. The series is supposed to be an epic fantasy. Sanderson has created  a large world with many countries and cultures, most of which we only see glimpses of as his novel has no time for it. I guess about 900 pages of the book are set in the same place, which is strangely enough outside civilization and the center of anything important happening. I complained in my review of the first novel that it was way too long, as it also revealed weaknesses in the story, and I should complain about it here, with some pain in my heart. The story stays too long in the same place and although many entertaining things happen little of it drives forth the greater plot.

There are a few other comments to make. One of the characters undergoes a development that felt rather familiar to a sequence in the final of The Gathering Storm. Sanderson makes another strong point of this, but it is also a sequence that is played out for a long time of which you know how it will turn out, either way

Sanderson also put more fun into his story than the previous novel. To me it shows that he is still improving in his writing abilities. His earlier works had barely much of it. I saw the first changes in The Alloy Of Law, and here he does more where he sees the opportunity. They are not frequent and the plot still holds an ‘end of the world’ theme; it is just not all that gloomy anymore. There are some sparkles to lighten the mood.

Like the previous novel Sanderson added a sequences of flashbacks to tell a background story to one of the characters. In the review of that I was negative on those flashbacks. They added too little and were too long. This is much less the case here. There are several minor revelations in the flashbacks which forced me to pay more attention to them as they had more significance. They were still not that great as an addition to the story although they did have more value.

Although the story holds some darker moments, Sanderson chooses a more positive vibe for his story, which one could say is somewhat unusual for this age, where characters either undergo great ordeals all the time or suffer in a gritty environment. For Sanderson there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and more of it. It is nice to see the change and I kind of like it. One gets too used to a certain approach and atmosphere and one should be open to something different.

Words Of Radiance is not a perfect novel. It is still too long for the story it holds and it is too constrained in one setting with far too many minor storylines that while entertaining do not move the greater plot forward. Much remains on the background with little development. Fortunately events will force things to change in the next installment and I cannot wait to get it. Unfortunately I will have to be patient as such big books aren’t written that easily. Highly recommended.


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