Spoiler Free Summary: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson is the fourth story in the Stormlight Archive series. The war on Roshar is in full bloom. Dalinar leads a desperately needed assault to take back territory the humans need. Kaladin is still struggling with his desire to fight. Shallan and Adolin must travel to Shadesmar to negotiate with spren who would rather avoid them. Navani is learning secrets about the tower that could change everything. Odium has his plans as well. Everything comes together as the contest of champions takes shape.
Character: I’m happy to say that Adolin and Kaladin have my favorite arcs. A while back, I wrote a blog about things I hope RoW does, and this delivers on 1.5 of them. Sanderson has wonderful and charming characters. Interestingly, at least two (and perhaps as many as four) arcs deal with specific mental disorders. I wonder if Sanderson meant this book (and maybe this series) to parallel so many mental health issues. Regardless, these characters are all awesome. I must, however, disagree with Navani’s arc. It just felt kind of stupid to me (spoilers). Not all of it was by itself stupid, but there was a final part near the end of the book that didn’t come together for me. I get the plot point, and I understand the implications of what she did, but the way it came together felt forced. Even accepting this as what I honestly feel is a weak arc, it’s still a fantastic story. It’s only in hindsight that I consider these issues, and the most important aspect of evaluating character is in the heat of the story, not days after I’ve had time to pick it apart in my mind.
Exposition: Since everything really is coming to a head, there isn’t a lot of exposition here. I imagine people reading that book before others might feel lost, but I never understood reading a book in the middle of a series. I kind of think that’s on the reader. This story is huge (about 1,200 pages), but it reads fast. The last two hundred pages flies by! There are some parts that drag as Sanderson expands on his magic system (another demerit to Navani’s arc), but all epic fantasy has some deep exposition to go over the magic system.
Worldbuilding: This has been and remains where Sanderson shines. This book expands on Roshar and, more interestingly, the Cosmere. Everything in this story is vivid and immersive, and it just gets better and better with every book. I can’t say this story hits a home run, but I can absolutely say that anyone who’s been waiting as long as I had been for this book was (at worst) satisfied with it’s arrival. This book puts the larger arc in context. For those who don’t already know, the ten books that comprise this series are actually two, five-book arcs.
Dialogue: This is actually better than I’ve come to expect. The dialogue in this story is on par with Oathbringer (or better) for the same reasons. The relationship between Dalinar and Taravangian harken to Xavier and Magneto. It’s a wonderful arc that I hope continues in this vain. This is amplified (a credit to Navani’s arc) in Navani’s story. There’s some beautiful dramatic prose delivered via dialogue that kept even the exposition meaningful and interesting.
Description: This has all the wonderful traits of any Sanderson novel: expansive worlds, immersive scenes, and awesome fight sequences. If you like any Sanderson book, this one delivers as always.
Overall: I’d probably argue this is the second best book in the series so far (Words of Radiance). This book delivers on a few promises it has made early in the series, and it provides a thrilling plot twist that completely shocked me (in a good way). This book already has me chomping at the bit to get to Book 5!
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