Book Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (The third time)

Book Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (The third time)
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This image was taken from Amazon.com for review purposes.  Featured image was taken from Fruitlesspursuits.com, no source was listed on the website.

Spoiler Free Summary: Words of Radiance is the second book in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson.  My review for Book One is here. As Shallan Davar prepares to make her way to the Shattered Plains, her plan gets ruined before they even have a chance to begin. She’ll need to find her own way, and in the process, she’ll have to confront her greatest secret and her biggest lie. Meanwhile, Kaladin has escaped the oppression of the light eyes, choosing to align himself with the only honorable lighteyes in the world, maybe. The more he works with them, the more he fears what he thinks is their inevitable betrayal. Just as everything comes to a head, he discovers a plot that puts him on the wrong side of his oaths. What effect would breaking his oath have on Syl?

NOTE: This is my third (if not fourth) read of the book. I usually re-read books in a series like this before the new one comes out. I read this book again after finished Rhythm of War.

Since this is a re-read, I don’t want to give you information that I’ve already provided. That wouldn’t give you any value as a reader, so for this review, I’m going to focus on the characters. This book is already the best in the series (by a long shot). That doesn’t mean the other books aren’t good or even awesome in some cases, but it does mean this one still stands out.

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Photo by Nazrilof taken from Mr. Sanderson’s website.

Kaladin really steals the show here. This is supposed to be Shallan’s book, but for her, this is just the book where I stopped being so annoyed by her. Oddly, some will say Kaladin starts to annoy them in the future books (and I can’t really blame them), but not here. This book is where Kaladin becomes a beloved mainstay character. In fact, for those who feel the later books sort of let them down, I’d argue this book and how Kal progresses is exactly why people are willing to endure Kal’s struggles with him. I’ll talk more about those issues in the future reviews for the next books. For now, I want to express what a great story this was for him.

Kaladin, in this story, is a hero who doesn’t trust his good fortune, and with good reason. Every time he’s done something amazing in the past, he’s had that taken from him and been sent lower than he’d ever been. So how can he not be in a position where he doubts? This journey of a man who doesn’t trust his good fortune is unique because that fear of falling or losing is real despite not being the most overt threat one could see. Indeed most stories would have an identified villain who is in fact trying to take everything from the hero. Not so in this tale.

Shallan however, starts every bit as annoying as she was in Way of Kings. In that book, she pointedly felt like the expositional character. “Oh no, here comes Shallan and another lecture on the economics of Roshar!” However, this story gives us more on Shallan. While she’s still absolutely the characterization of Roshar, its history, and its economics, she’s also a character in her own right. Her history is compelling, and that builds sympathy.

Then we have Adolin, who I will never forget because I get so frustrated with people who do. Adolin doesn’t come into his full potential until the fourth book, but right about here is where we see him start to exist as more than a foil to Dalinar, and Sanderson openly admitted Adolin got more screen time to play that role. In this story, we start to see Adolin as more of an individual. As his goals and earnest charm start becoming clearer, he starts being a more beloved character. After this many reads of the saga, I might actually think he’s my favorite in the who series (though let’s see how Kaladin goes in Book 5). He’s certainly in contention at the moment, and that affection is born here. Adolin should be an arrogant jerk who is only after a new fling and another fight, but that’s just not how it goes. Sure, there’s a duel here where Kaladin get’s an awesome hero moment, but Adolin is all the more impressive because it’s all just him.

This book is the best book in the series because it’s the book that focuses most on the characters reaching their potential. This book shines because the characters grown and evolve, ending with them in a better place. I think the third book falls short because the characters regress. As an overall series, characters need to regress. However, seeing Kaladin regress as far as he does and Shallan do something relatively similar is actually a pretty big letdown because this book ends in a spot where we feel those characters should start to shine. That doesn’t make the future books bad, but it does explain why some may resent them and why this book stands out so well.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Character Study: Adolin Kholin, The Cosmere’s Most Underrated Hero

Character Study: Adolin Kholin, The Cosmere’s Most Underrated Hero

Greetings all,

It’s been a while since I’ve done a character study, and since I’m currently through my fifth read through of Oathbringer, I’ve been thinking about Adolin.

I’ve had the chance to speak with the author, Brandon Sanderson, who is my favorite in the business right now, and people were talking about Kal and Shallan. I couldn’t help but say, “The only thing wrong with Adolin is that he isn’t Kal.”

Fanboy moment: Mr. Sanderson felt that was a good point.

You see, if Stormlight doesn’t have Kaladin, I affirm that Adolin would be the main character. In fact, Adolin would be a fine main character in pretty much any other fantasy story that doesn’t have Kaladin in it. And yet, poor Adolin is stuck behind this generation’s greatest hero. Kaladin is the greatest main character since Rand al’Thor, and Adolin can’t help but get lost in that shadow. (I’ll probably do a character study on Kaladin later, but I’m still a bit perturbed by his character given what happens in Oathbringer.)

Even in writing a blog praising Adolin, I can’t help but acknowledge why he isn’t the main character, but he is possibly one of the greatest secondary characters ever (I’d put him behind Perrin myself, but Adolin is up there).

So why not take a look at Adolin and try to understand why he’s so compelling.

The simple answer is his sympathy aspect. Adolin is loyal. He’s the picture of a good son and a model of a great big brother. He’s charming. He’s earnest. The most fascinating part of all that is how he sees himself: Not good enough.

Like his father, Adolin is his harshest critic. He’s an acclaimed duelist. He’s the planet’s most eligible bachelor, but he sees in himself flaws that don’t even exist. The flaws that do exist in him are mountains that rest on his shoulders. This leads him to do something beautiful: He tries. He tries so hard to be the sort of man he thinks everyone thinks he should be, and he’s unable to see he’s already so much more. This is what makes Adolin stand out.

When I was first reading Oathbringer, I was afraid Adolin would turn against the team. A part of me still is. How long can a man be just short of good enough before that yearning to be recognized becomes bitter? It would make for a great fall-from-grace arc, but I sure hope it doesn’t happen. I still think it might, and that has me rooting for Adolin all the more.

This is why some of the events of The Rhythm of War made me so happy, which brings me to the other point I wanted to make about this character.

Adolin does all the “hero arc” things others do in a completely original way, and when you compare his arc to Kal’s you can see the parallel. To be honest, Adolin does it all the hard way.

The trade off is Adolin’s suffering (the tool most authors use to build sympathy) isn’t as obvious as someone like Kal. This is probably one reason why I don’t hear people talk about him. Honestly, I hear more people talk about Renarin.

This image by Exmakina was taken from The Coppermind for review purposes. Please don’t sue me.

I think the fact that Adolin doesn’t suffer physically or by the loss of others is the the key, and that makes me sad. Adolin is sort of a caricature for an average person in today’s world, and we do the same thing to him that real people do to others.

We look at him and think, “Well it’s not like he’s been imprisoned or hurt, betrayed or forced to experience loss. What’s he got to complain about?”

Think about it. He’s wealthy, charming, and handsome. He must be fine right?

Except he’s not. He’s fighting every bit to be seen as his own man, a man a father and brother can be proud of, a man a woman can love, as Kaladin fights to protect those around him, but because he’s never been poor or enslaved, people just don’t appreciate him, and that’s tragic. It’s a depressing view of how people treat each other.

Yet he fights on, not so much with his awesome swordsmanship or his spren, who he’s helping to find herself. Instead, he fights on by being a kind, loyal man who does all he can.

That, dear readers, is a character worth putting on t-shirts. That, dear readers, is a main character trapped in a more-compelling main character’s arc.

So the next time you’re reading a Stormlight book, take a moment to give Adolin a bit of love.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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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Things I Hope to See in Rhythm of War

Things I Hope to See in Rhythm of War

Greetings all,

Temporary CoverMost people who follow my blog know I’m a huge Brandon Sanderson fan. Well, his newest book, Rhythm of War comes out Nov. 17, so I thought I’d do a blog about the things I hope to see in Rhythm of War.

SPOILER WARNING! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

1. An end to Kal’s trauma: It’s perfectly understandable that Kal had a traumatic life. That trauma came to a head in Oathbringer. I think I’ve reached my limit on Kal’s struggle to save everyone. I’d really like to see him accept that sometimes you lose people you love, and sometimes you don’t.

2. Hoid do something awesome. A while back, we heard, “Hoid would do something awesome.” I believe that was originally intended to be in Book 5, but I hope it’s in this one. What I hope is to see Hoid do some sort of cross-world magic stuff. Like using biochromatic breath or allomancy against some of Odium’s peeps.

3. I want to see how Nightblood got to this planet! Obviously we know where Vasher is but I really want to know how they came to be there and how they got separated. I’m thinking Vivenna had something to do with it. This is probably the thing I’m most interested in at the moment.

4. More intimate battles. The last book, the scope of the battle was huge, and that’s cool, but I’m more a one-on-one kind of guy. I’d really like to see a few of those. I’d also like those fights to display more of the other radiant abilities. I have a good handle on Kal’s abilities, but they currently seem to be the ONLY offensive radiant abilities. Lift I suppose has some abilities that are more visual, but even they seem more defensive in nature, but at least they’re active.

Oathbringer5.  I want to see Odium throw down. With how powerful everyone else is, I think it’s time for a threat. I want to see Kal get his but whipped (which might contradict what I mentioned above, but if it’s to make Odium a threat, I’m all for it). It doesn’t have to be Kal, but now that the knights had a huge victory, we need to see the Odium and those he’s working with or manipulating show their stuff. Now Sanderson usually does this through subversion. If you look closely at all his books, the good guy hardly ever gets beat. It happens, but it’s rare. I’m hoping to see some bad guy flexing.  I need this personally because Kal (and his order) are pretty much OP at this point. Lift is all but impossible to kill. I’m not asking for a body count, but I wouldn’t be against it. The minimum for me is to see the threat posed. I get Odium’s situation, so I don’t really expect him to do much, but I need someone on team Odium to show that maybe Kaladin and Dalinar aren’t up to the task.

6. I ALMOST FORGOT! I want to see Adolin awaken his shardblade. He knows its name now. He can hear it. I really want to see him become a knight by brining his spren back to life. I almost forgot that because I expect it, but I EXPECT it, so I really want to see it happen.

7. A reunion of Vivenna, Vasher, and Nightblood. Do I need to go farther?

That’s pretty much it. I mean there are several other things I’m looking forward to, but those are the highlights. I don’t necessarily want to see all of these things happen in the next book. (Otherwise, what would be the point of the other six?) But I’d really like to see maybe two of them. If I had to pick which two, I’d say number 6 and 3. Those are the ones I really want, but any of the others in any combination would already make Rhythm a great addition to the saga.

What about you? What would you like to see out of the book?

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Second Read)

Book Review: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Second Read)

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Image taken from the book’s buy page on Amazon for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary: Oathbringer is the third book in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson.  My review for Book One is here. My review for Book Two is here. Dalinar Kholin has reached Urithiru. The Voidbringers have returned. However, Roshar isn’t united. While Odium’s forces gather, Dalinar must strive to find a way to get the nations to work together. But as he works toward his goal, his past begins to haunt him all over again. Kaladin returns home to face his past and learns the Voidbringers aren’t what he thought they were, in fact, they’re not what anyone thought they were. Shallan’s secrets mount against her, but the only way for her to progress is to continue to face them. Each role she takes fractures her mind again, and she must take control before she faces the challenges before her.

 

I wanted to do something different for this review since it wasn’t so long ago I did the original review. First off, I’m a huge fan of Sanderson. I’d read a napkin he scribbled on if he cared to sell it to me. So I wanted to point out some things I think are quintessential Sanderson using this book as an example.

The endings: Dear goodness this man knows how to write endings. They’re always fast paced and satisfying. This book is no different. To quantify it, I read the last fight in a night, maybe three hours. When I listened to it (additional readings are always done via audiobook), it turns out that’s seven hours. He drags you through. From the formation of the army at Thalen City to the last scene of the book, I couldn’t put it down, and every single event was total fan gratification. I count three “hopes” my brother and I had which were all met during that last portion of the book.

The magic system(s): Sanderson has a comic book nerd level of magic in his books. I love this because I remember being a kid and arguing who would win in a fight. I have a lot of fun theorizing what could be done with certain ability or how it might be used later. This book has a few cool new tricks, and hints at more cool stuff to come. I think anyone who loves X-Men or other superpower comic books should check out his work.

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Photo by Nazrilof taken from Mr. Sanderson’s website.

 

The characters: I’m simultaneously impossible and easy to please. I need sympathetic, proactive characters. Even the guy pouring the tea in this book has some degree of motivation and sympathy. I genuinely believe Sanderson has this wiki-document, and every character in it has an entire life story we haven’t seen. I don’t personally take that much effort.  I’m like, “Dude, I just need someone to pour the tea.” This level of care is what separates the great from the rest, and frankly, I need to start respecting that. Dalinar and Kaladin are two amazing characters. I’m also personally a fan of Adolin, who I feels like the Dangerfield of the series. “I get no respect at all!”

The potential: What I mean by this is my favorite thing about a series (any long-format story) is the ability to theorize and guess. As I mentioned above, my brother and I had a lot of fun 1) trying to guess who Odium’s champion would be and 2) Rooting for Adolin to…well…do something he did. For the record, Ben was right, and I was wrong, but I’m very happy I was wrong. This sort of conversation starter is why shows like Walking Dead and Stranger Things are so popular. They generate conversation and fun.

Worldbuilding: Ok, this honestly isn’t something I personally love, but he’s great at it. The history, scope, and detail of this world (and the Cosmere) make a beautiful spiderweb look like a 2-year-old’s rage scribble. I don’t dislike it, but I think there are times when he’s just showing off (look how expansive this planet is). But I love the fact that I know there’s a rich history. Much like Wheel of Time, I’m interested in so much of the history. I’d rather not get that history lesson right in the middle of a book, but I’d honestly read a book about the ancient history of Roshar. Honestly, I’d read the book Way of Kings (not the actual book, but the one referenced).  I’d read Dalinar’s Oathbringer, and I’d really love to get my hands on Hessi’s Mythica. I mean, I’d honestly buy those books if Brandon writes them or makes them available.  I won’t read a textbook on grammar, but I’d read Mythica to learn more about the unmade (shows why my priorities are jacked).

Some of these items are things I review every time, but I want to expand on them a bit to better articulate why I feel Sanderson is simply the best in the game.  I hope it adds a bit of spice to my usual Wednesday reviews.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

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Image taken from the book’s buy page on Amazon for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary: Oathbringer is the third book in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson.  My review for Book One is here. My review for Book Two is here. Dalinar Kholin has reached Urithiru. The Voidbringers have returned. However, Roshar isn’t united. While Odium’s forces gather, Dalinar must strive to find a way to get the nations to work together. But as he works toward his goal, his past begins to haunt him all over again. Kaladin returns home to face his past and learns the Voidbringers aren’t what he thought they were, in fact, they’re not what anyone thought they were. Shallan’s secrets mount against her, but the only way for her to progress is to continue to face them. Each role she takes fractures her mind again, and she must take control before she faces the challenges before her.

NOTE: If you follow my Goodreads account, you’ll notice I have this marked as “currently reading.” That’s my second read through (I won’t review it again so soon). I tend to reread books like this right away to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Character: If this book was JUST about Dalinar’s arc, it would be the best book I’ve read in 2017. His story is simply amazing! It’s such a great blend of tragedy and heroics that I can’t really name a rival for it in all my memory. Shallan is improved. Her arc with a certain reoccurring character is as inspiring as it is charming. I must admit a certain grudge with Kaladin’s arc. I think I’ll talk about this more in a different post (no spoilers there either). Something happens with him, and I believe it had to happen for a few reasons. But this plot point felt rushed and then explained. It was very UN-Sanderson.  This explanation was done via flashback, and it felt to me like Sanderson saying, “You see, he would struggle with something like this.”  I think it’s a fairly significant knock, but even with this issue, I feel like Oathbringer is an amazing book. Keep an eye out for more on this subject, but I don’t want to dwell on the issue because it didn’t hurt the book beyond reason.

Exposition: As I mentioned above, we get a little of this, and that’s not common for Sanderson. However, there’s only that one slowdown as Sanderson patches up things in order to move the plot going. Other than that, this is his usual stuff. The book is HUGE, but it didn’t take very long at all to read it (I’m thinking 12-24 hours). The pages fly past, especially when you get closer to the end. When that happens, make sure you’re well rested and don’t have to use the restroom; you won’t want to put the book down for anything.

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Photo by Nazrilof taken from Mr. Sanderson’s website.

Description:  A few of the more critical plot points rely on the description here. It gives the book a lot of life while also letting Sanderson show off his world. I’d recommend you keep your eyes wide open for all of this book, you don’t know what you might miss.

Overall: I want to celebrate a bit. My brother and I had a theory heading into this book. It’s one of those, “Wouldn’t it be cool if!” theories. We also had a list of who we think might turn out bad. We were thrilled that the cool thing happened, and the “bad” thing we expected, well, as usual with Sanderson, it wasn’t how we thought it’d go. Sanderson is the master of rewarding readers. He has so many fan pleasers in this book. I couldn’t even keep track. I’d recommend this book JUST for the last part! The book as a whole is just like one giant bonus.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (SECOND READ)

Book Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (SECOND READ)

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This image was taken from Amazon.com for review purposes.  Featured image was taken from Fruitlesspursuits.com, no source was listed on the website.

Spoiler Free Summary: Words of Radiance is the second book in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson.  My review for Book One is here. As Shallan Davar prepares to make her way to the Shattered Plains, her plan gets ruined before they even have a chance to begin. She’ll need to find her own way, and in the process, she’ll have to confront her greatest secret and her biggest lie. Meanwhile, Kaladin has escaped the oppression of the light eyes, choosing to align himself with the only honorable lighteyes in the world, maybe. The more he works with them, the more he fears what he thinks is their inevitable betrayal. Just as everything comes to a head, he discovers a plot that puts him on the wrong side of his oaths. What effect would breaking his oath have on Syl?

NOTE: This is my second read of the book. I usually re-read books in a series like this before the new one comes out.  I was still working up to this blog site, so I don’t have access to the original review.

Character: Kaladin is one of the most awesome characters in epic fantasy fiction today. His arc is amazing, and his role in this book is a big reason this remains my favorite book in the series. However, this book focuses on Shallan, who I found came into her own a bit here. When I first read the series, I couldn’t stand her. I’ll admit, this second time through, reading more carefully, her arc was satisfying, if not the type of story I normally look for.  Her past and intrigue are fascinating.

Exposition: Sanderson doesn’t tend to rely on this too much. He avoids most of it via flashback sequences that coincide with the plot. Each time something happens, we usually see a flashback that helps put the action we just saw into perspective. I’m sure he had some, but I don’t honestly remember much.

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Photo by Nazrilof taken from Mr. Sanderson’s website.

\Description:  This flowed well. I love a book that gives me the details I need and then lets my imagination do the rest. I have a cast in my imagination and a HD visual dreamscape made for this kind of book. I can’t say it enough, Sanderson creates something here that’s stunning to imagine.

Overall: Even better the second time around. I can’t believe how much I missed the first time I read it.  Honestly, it’s embarrassing the number of things I just whiffed on. I’d be reading something in Book Three, and I’d be like, “Oh MY GOD!” Then my brother, who also reads this series would say, “Dude, Matt, they learned that in the last book.”  I’ll confess, it took a while for Shallan to grow on me. It feels like I just skipped her chapters entirely. I didn’t do so intentionally, but I’d forgotten pretty much everything she learned in the book.  I got most of it down now though! Even after reading Book Three, which I’ll post a review here for next week, this is still the best book in the series. It’s simply perfect in any way that matters to me (although I’m sure someone out there can gripe at it). This is the book that made me commit to this series. (Who am I kidding?  I’d read anything Sanderson writes, but this is the book that has me frustrated at the wait for more. Frustrated, but understanding.  I’ll also post about that (the wait for new books in a series) later on down the road.)

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