Warning: this post may contain spoilers for Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer, and other books in The Stormlight Archive
If you’ve been following along over the past few reviews, you probably won’t be surprised by another rave review for a Stormlight book. To be honest, I probably have a somewhat unhealthy obsessions with these books. There are plenty of books that I enjoy, and stories that I will happily reread and have a new experience with each time, but my experience with this series is on a different level. Maybe it’s the philosophical questions it confronts, or maybe it’s the incredibly imaginative and vividly detailed world, or maybe it’s the compellingly flawed, fascinating, and terribly relatable characters. Whatever the case, Oathbringer continues to be, to my mind, the gold standard for what epic fantasy ought to be.
That being said, I consider this book to be weaker than the first two. Of course, weaker is a relative term. This novel still tugs on me in all of the right ways, and is still head and shoulders above most other pieces. It’s certainly head, shoulders, torso, and legs above anything I’ve managed to write. Yet despite all of that, I do think that it has some flaws. So much is happening and changing at such a rapid pace in this book that it feels rushed and less satisfying in some ways than the other installments. There are so many characters doing so many things that the result feels somewhat diluted.
My biggest problem, though, is with Odium’s role. One of my favorite things about this series has long been that there is no clear good and evil. As much as I enjoyed Wheel of Time, I was glad that this series didn’t have a version of The Dark One, which I think is overused in epic fantasy. Although I know that Odium is a little more complicated than that, it’s closer than I had hoped for with this series that gets so much right. Still, I understand the reasoning: it’s hard to make grand events happen on a huge scale without some kind of potent, malignant force to strive against the characters.
This book brought some major answers to a lot of the outstanding questions in the series, and actually leaves one wondering what is in store for the next installments. As much as there is certainly plenty of fighting to do and problems to solve, there is a feeling at the end of this book that a lot has been answered, that a certain level of understanding has been reached. Maybe it’s just that the sense of wonder has started to go down as the world becomes more familiar. The human-parshman relationship is fascinating, and I like forward to seeing how the sides of this conflict evolve (I predicted that particular “twist” way back in book one, by the way. Like Renarin says, they don’t fit).
For this reread, I had reread Warbreaker not long before, which allowed me to confirm some things that I had only suspected previously about the several crossovers that exist in this novel. Though I think what Sanderson is trying to do with the Cosmere is fantastic, it does worry me sometimes. It would be easy to slip. Oathbringer doesn’t, but it does come close in a few places, where it seemed that the crossing over was detracting some from the majesty and grandeur of Roshar. Yet at the same time I find those glimpses of the larger picture to be fascinating.
As with the previous reviews, I really can’t recommend Stormlight Archive highly enough. To me, this is among the very best series ever written, and I highly encourage you to read it. I eagerly await the opportunity to get my hands on a copy of the newest installment, Rhythm of War, which I’ll be sure to review on the site soon.