Book Review: The Words of Radiance

I think for starters, I should note that very rarely am I so engrossed in a book that it bleeds into my daily life. I’m pretty sure the number of times such has happened can be efficiently counted using one finger. Maybe two. Here’s a review of one of such instances.

Usually when a book comes out in a series, the first book explains it all. The first book is the one you read to understand how everything falls in place and who does what where and why. That is mostly true. The Way of Kings was an interesting and beautiful book. One that received high acclaim from me, and a stark recommendation. Words of Radiance builds on that success and acceptance and paints a masterpiece over it.

By way of synopsis:

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.

This book is as intriguing as it gets. It is safe to say that Brandon has mastered the art of storytelling. Everything is spot on. There are moments in the book that have me spinning around my bedroom, yelling inaudibly at spren and walls alike. Others have me curled like a furball, overly aware of onions far far away.

The story line is beautiful and would have been unpredictable, had I not indulged in the wikia page related to the series. Or the Instagram page. Or google. Which for some reason, ends up as a testament to Brandon’s ability. Even though much of what happened in the book was expected (because I couldn’t stay away from spoilers), it didn’t take away from its divine moments, with the moments shining beautifully through. I couldn’t get enough of the story.

The characters involved in this particular book were all so endearing. Watching them grow, from not-so-bridgeboy and not-so-thief was just amazing. Most would be surprised at how easily these “random”, “unworthy” people fit into the role of what the entire world has been waiting for.

Anyone who has read more than a handful of chapters would understand that there’s a certain way Brandon has written his universe. The Cosmere is filled with life. Everything just has that speck of life, down to their currency. The plants have life (no, I mean really. The plants “move out of the way” when people pass), the winds have life, every single thing is sentient. We have great beasts so huge that their shells form islands. The Cosmere is beautiful, even in an abstract experience. Imagine what the peoples (yes, peoples) that call it home feel. When they’re not at war, that is.

The book is easy enough to understand as a standalone, although reading The Way of Kings first seems highly beneficial. There’s a lot that comes to light in this second part. It somehow feels brilliant that the length and breath of the books’ universe isn’t a story explained in a couple paragraphs in one book. Brandon has managed to write a story that feels continuous, while escaping the trenches of being uselessly long. Every word is a part of the bigger picture, explaining not just how a person or character got there, but why.

While the first book in the series focused on Kaladin’s growth up until his life as a bridgeman, this book focuses on Shallan’s growth. Much of her past is revealed in a sort of Arrow-esque format, interlocking with the present. And understanding her provides reason for most of her choices, even though she hardly ever seems the boulder broken by waves.

Also, there are so many groups working behind the curtains. There’s the Ghostbloods, Sons of Honor, the Diagram. There might be more, but the fact is that there are so many hands in play, with factions contradicting themselves. It is a game of shadows as much as it is of light.

I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed this book. And in that regard, I can not wait to start Edgedancer – as soon as finals are over. It does have me thinking though, about whether or not I’ll have much patience for seemingly fast paced and shorter novels in the future. I might be getting a little bit too latched on to Brandon’s style and voice. But one cannot deny writing so good, and a story so compelling.

  • If you look closely through this review, you will find that I have included a couple of light puns. Yes, that was also a pun. 1000XP to s/he who finds them all.

This book obviously deserves much praise and high ratings. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s into the genre. It’s an amazing book, one that will surely leave your orientation in a frenzy.

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