Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson proves that not all follow-up books in a series are worse than the original. This is the third book in The Stormlight Archive series and I would say Oathbringer is my favorite so far.
This is apparently not the stance most other reviews I have read take, but I stand by my opinion. I mean, it is mine after all, right?
I read the first in the series, The Way of Kings, way back in 2010 when it was first released. I was already pretty well-versed in Sanderson’s writings at this point and recall grabbing the book solely based on that. I had read other books by the author and even my least favorite of them was still a good read so why not? I was captivated by the story within a couple of chapters. Sanderson has this knack for creating completely new ways of bringing magic and mysticism into his stories that leave the reader asking “How in the hell did he even think of this?” over and over with each series he writes.
The Stormlight Archive series is no exception to that track record. In this series, there are extremely strong storms called high storms and, when they happen, special spheres can become full of light. A subset of people then find they can absorb that light, essentially breath it in, and it will grant them varying abilities. In the first book, The Way of Kings, we learn this along with Kaladin, the first person we are aware of that learns of this ability. The rest of the book takes us along on Kaladin’s journey to becoming a bit of a hero in the lands all while introducing myriad other characters and setting up their storylines as well. We are also introduced to spren, who are spirits that are drawn to (or perhaps cause, it was never fully clear to me which) conditions or emotions. For example, if someone is really happy joyspren will appear around them.
There are differing levels of intelligence within the spren, with Honorspren and Liespren being the most intelligent. If they so choose, a spren may form a bond with a human which will grant that human a power known as surgebinding. Surgebinding, simply put, is a way of combining two forces to create a new reaction. The most prominent example in the book is using gravity and physical attraction between objects (think adhesion or maybe even cohesion between molecules) to fly or to run up a wall or to pull a moving object down. That sort of thing. Kaladim is bonded by an Honorspren known as Syl and she is his constant companion throughout the books. So far.
The second book, titled Words of Radiance, still keeps you involved in Kaladin’s plot but shifts the main focus to Shallan Davar. I loved this shift, as Shallan was a personal favorite of mine from the first book. Shallan has a troubled past and uses both her artwork and her ability to channel Stormlight to run away from her past. We also get to learn a lot more about Dalinar Kholin, the highprince of Alethkar, and brother to the now-dead king of Alethkar.
The third book, Oathbringer, satisfyingly continues the evolution of Shallan while bringing the complex leader of Dalinar Kholin to the forefront. We learn what drives him, what his plans are for the land, including those beyond Alethkar. We share in his triumphs and more than a few failures. We get to watch him learn from each mistake and lead not just a nation but also to guide his family in rethinking the ways of the past and daring to believe things can, and should, be different. And, most importantly, we learn what it really means to be a Knight Radiant.
Clearly, I enjoy the mystical concept of the spren and using Stormlight. But where this book, as well as the prior two, really shine is in the complex character development. Every character has strengths as well as weaknesses. Every character makes mistakes and pays for them. But every character is at least given a chance to redeem themselves. Some take the chance and others let it go, but I love that aspect. Just like real humans, these characters are the sum of many parts. Some of those parts are good, some are not so good, and some are downright terrible.
I recommend this book highly. You can pick it up on Amazon in physical or audiobook format. I actually used a dual read/listen approach since this book clocks in around 450,000 words. That is not a typo. The audiobook alone is over 55 hours to complete. Michael Kramer is the main narrator and is one of the best in the business. I would read a few chapters each night before sleeping then skip forward on my audiobook in the car the next morning. When I got into bed that night I’d flip forward in the book to where I left off on the audiobook that day.
A copy of Oathbringer was provided to GeekDad for this review. No payment was received in exchange for my very positive review. I just absolutely adore this book and the series. And Brandon Sanderson.
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