Warning: this post may contain spoilers for Brandon Sanderson’s novella Dawnshard, and other books in the Stormlight Archive
I’ve been seeing that Sanderson was working on this novella from his website’s status bar for quite some time now, but I hadn’t been sure what it was (though I could have figured out without too much more research, I know). However, I was not expecting it to come out so close to when the fourth Stormlight novel finally came out, and was very excited to find that, in November, I had not one, but two new pieces of Stormlight literature to enjoy. Since this is supposed to be a parallel to Edgedancer, in this case set between Oathbringer and Rhythm of War, I made certain to read this before launching into my eagerly anticipated read of Rhythm of War.
As always, this was a compelling story. We’ve encountered Rysn on several occasions before, during the interludes, and she has always allowed us an opportunity to see a new part of the world. Her babsk (mentor) has also been notoriously full of wisdom and intriguing ways of looking at the world, which is another characteristic of Sanderson’s stories. Considering that background, I was somewhat surprised to find that less of this story involved exploring new places, and more rehashing mysteries that had already been introduced. While it is interesting to find answers to some of these mysteries, one of the things I like about the interludes is precisely that they leave so much to the imagination, hinting at a much larger world and universe.
In the first Stormlight novella, Edgedancer, we mostly gained insight into what was happening in Roshar. It involved Lift, but otherwise mostly avoided direct interaction or influence by the major characters in the mainline novels. This novella was different, involving an expedition expressly requested by a major character, and using viewpoints that we have also seen repeatedly in the mainline novels. It worked, but I found this story less compelling than I found Edgedancer.
Part of that may have been this story’s implications about the Cosmere. I love the concept of the Cosmere, with its interconnecting magic systems and mythologies, and the underlying mysteries in the background. Yet I am also oddly wary of it becoming too large a part of the individual stories. With the exception of Mistborn: Secret History, this novella is probably the most explicit discussion and insight into the Cosmere thus far. Where the other Stormlight works have offered some peeks and hints into the Cosmere and its larger implications, this novella comes close to directly confronting the core event of the Cosmere mythology: the shattering of Adonalsium.
Now, I am not saying that this is a bad thing, and the part of me that is fascinated by these mysteries and questions loves these tidbits. Yet there was something about it in this particular piece that I found jarring. It almost didn’t feel like Stormlight, but rather like something different entirely. Set in the same world, but telling a different story. Read in that light, this is a very good story. Unfortunately, I was reading it as an appetizer to Rhythm of War, and in that light it was not as good as it could have been.
I’ll probably go back to read this again at a later date, and read it removed from Stormlight. It has everything that I ordinarily like about Sanderson novellas, so I have every reason to think that I will enjoy it. In this case, I just think it was too overshadowed by my anticipation of the next full length installment in the series to enjoy it properly. If you’re up to date on Stormlight, I certainly recommend giving this latest piece in the Rosharan story a read.