Book Review: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Book Review: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
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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.

This cover image was taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

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.

This image of Mr. Sanderson was taken from his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

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!

Thanks for reading

Matt

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Story Review: The Thrill by Brandon Sanderson from Unfettered II

Story Review: The Thrill by Brandon Sanderson from Unfettered II

The Thrill is honestly nothing more than the flashback sequence from Oathbringer by Sanderson. You can read my review on the full book here.

I was a bit bummed seeing this. It’s not new content. It’s not an alternate universe. It doesn’t provide new information. Sanderson is my favorite author in the game these days, and I’m always excited for new material. I don’t even mind re-reading it. I’m currently re-reading The Way of Kings as a way to get ready for the new Stormlight book. For people who haven’t tried any of his work (if they exist), this is a nice introduction. I’m a huge Dalinar fan, and this arc is wonderful. I just wish I had new Sanderson rather than stuff I’ve already paid for and enjoyed.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Character Study: Dalinar Kaolin from The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Character Study: Dalinar Kaolin from The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Greetings all,

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This image was taken from Audible.com for review and study purpose in accordance with fair use doctrine.

I’ve missed doing character studies, and since I’m reading Way of Kings in preparation for the release of Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer, I thought I’d study one of those characters. Since I’m waiting for Oathbringer, I thought Dalinar deserved center stage.

 

NOTE: I’m doing this study only on Dalinar in his role in WoK. Please read at your own risk. While I won’t intentionally reveal every plot item I can remember at the moment, I may discuss some things that might take some of the fun out of it for you.

Dalinar is a sympathetic character. He does a lot of things to make people like him. He’s honorable, which is interesting for his arc, and he’s also a loving father and man of pride. Sanderson does a great job showing Dalinar’s efforts. None are more obvious than his interaction with his oldest son Adolin and his dead brother’s widow, Navani. When these characters are together, we see how Dalinar struggles with his conflict. We see how much he wants to be a man of honor and how much strain it puts on his old life.

This is what I want to hone in on for this character study. A character’s interaction with other characters can be 1) a point of conflict and 2) a way to display a character’s personality.

A point of conflict: I think this is the most fascinating aspect of Dalinar’s story in WoK. Dalinar’s desire to follow the code and unite the princedoms is a big shift from the drunken, unconscious man we meet in the beginning of the book. With Adolin we see the conflict Dalinar has to face on his own: Is he crazy, or are his visions really from the Almighty. We also see a strained relationship between a father and the son who idolizes the man his father used to be. Adolin loves his father, but he’s afraid Dalinar is losing (or has lost) his mind. He wants his father to be the mythic warrior, but his father seems to be pulling further away from that old part of his life, and Adolin grows concerned. Even when Adolin finally gets his opinion heard, he then regrets how his father reacts to that information, thus showing us more how much Adolin idolizes Dalinar.

Display a character’s personality: With Navani, we see a different aspect of his struggle. Navani is aggressive in her pursuit of Dalinar, and Dalinar wants her, but at one point in the book he explains that he can’t expect more of his men if he succumbs to his own (arguably inappropriate) desires.

Dalinar_Kholin
Fan art by ex-m.

Throw in the visions and the mystery of their origin, and Dalinar shows himself to be an incredibly sympathetic character, who proactively works to resolve his conflicts. Navani is an exception to this. Through most of WoK, Dalinar avoids that conflict. This displays his weakness and how much he wants to give in. He’ll fight dozens of armed opponents. He’ll face his former friend in a unforgiving political arena. He’ll even face his oldest son, and that son’s sadness seeing a respected man possibly going insane. But, if Navani so much as walks in a room, he’s looking for the nearest escort or exit he can find. This shows us it’s harder for him to deny his affection for her than it is to even discuss his sanity or trust an old friend.

Dalinar has what K.M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs calls a neutral change arc. Dalinar doesn’t fall into despair (though he’s tempted) and he doesn’t learn a perception altering truth. (For those who’ve read the book, yes, he learned an important secret, but it didn’t change his personality). Dalinar is a pillar. His dedication to the code and honor change those around him (his son and even Kaladin). Neutral arcs are frowned upon these days (in my own egotistical opinion), but I think that’s because they’re so very rarely done correctly.  You see, Dalinar doesn’t change, but his (as Weiland would put it) “belief in his truth” makes him an example for others to follow.

This arc is effective not just because of an interesting opponent (Sadeas), but also (and in my opinion more so) because of Adolin and Navani, who provide the most stress and challenge to his known truth (his faith in the code and adherence to honor). This arc is made sympathetic because they care about Dalinar. If everyone was against Dalinar (as Sadeas is), he’d look like nothing more than some jerk being high and mighty. Sadeas points this out near the 70-percent mark of the book. However, Sanderson gives us two compelling characters who love Dalinar and want to believe in him. Their doubts are what show his strength, and as their faith in him grows, so does the reader’s.

If you haven’t read Way of Kings or Words of Radiance (the first two books of the Starlight Archive), you’re really missing out on some great reading. I like taking a step back and analyzing a character, but I’m reading this book for the third time because it’s just that good.

Thanks for reading,

Matt