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: 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