The title translates from Sanskrit to mean The Song Celestial, and the original was a poem or song featuring a discussion between Prince Arjun and an entity called Krishna, which is a deific being. It has been cited as influential and/or inspirational by many who study or come from India, so I decided a few years ago to add it to my reading list, and am finally getting around to it. One of my goals for some time now has been to familiarize myself more with the culture and history of this region, as it is not something I have previously studied extensively, and reading this poem seemed a better place to start than with the entirety of the Mahabharata.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect going into this read, as I make something of a point not to read too many reviews before I start a new book so as to not bias myself one way or another from what other people thought. Whatever it was I expected, I found something very different. After I finished it, I did see a review that aligned this book with something like The Iliad, which I think might be the most apt comparison of which I can think. This has a very mythical feel: all of the characters are larger-than-life, both they and their enemies are exaggerated in their powers and personalities, and character arcs are largely absent...
I'm glad that Stormlight books don't come out too often. For one thing, I want to savor the experience and thrill of new books in this amazing series. For another, I would be much less productive at any task besides reading them. Rhythm of War, the newest installment in the series, was full of just as much emotional poignancy and compelling storytelling as the previous books in the Stormlight Archive. It broadened the scope of the world and the conflict in entirely new directions, it was full of twists (a few of which even I didn't predict), and just as it went about answering key questions about the plot and the world, it raised even more.
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.
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.
Supposedly, that's the end of Shannara. Terry Brooks claims that The Last Druid was the latest he intends to go in the in-world timeline. This series was supposed to radically alter the Four Lands forever, and I was expecting something big. The first couple of books were promising, with the Skaar invasion and the fall of the current Druid Order (the Fifth?); the Skaar were such a compelling, dominant force that it seemed certain that they were going to be in the Four Lands to stay.
As I mentioned in my other Fall of Shannara reviews, it is difficult to separate out a single book to discuss it when that book is a part of a series that is part of a saga stretching over decades of real world time and dozens of installments, but I will do my best. This book, quite frankly, had enormous shoes to fill: it had to be a good book in and of itself, it had to be a satisfying conclusion to the Fall of Shannara series, and it had to be a pleasing ending to the entire Shannara series. Next week, we'll do a review that covers how it did in the latter two categories, but I will do my best in this post to constrain myself to looking just at this piece.
If you've been following along for the past few weeks, you know that I've been rereading the existing books in the Stormlight Archive before I read the newly released Rhythm of War, which I've been eagerly anticipating since I finished Oathbringer for the first time back when it came out. When I finished Words of Radiance, I realized that I should probably also read Edgedancer, which is a Stormlight novella, and part of Arcanum Unbounded. Since I haven't posted reviews for any of these stories before, it seemed worthwhile to also post about them here on the site.
So yes, I've gone on a bit of a Sanderson kick recently, with the excuse of wanting to derive maximum enjoyment and satisfaction from my first (and likely subsequent second) read of Rhythm of War. I would have left Warbreaker out of that, and settled for just the other three books in the Stormlight Archive, plus Arcanum Unbound, except that I am fairly certain that the peculiar black sword that appears in Oathbringer is tied to a certain sword in Warbreaker. Plus, it has been quite awhile since I've read this novel, and it's worth rereading every now and then.
We may have talked about "second book syndrome" before on the site. If you've read, or even watched, many series, you've probably noticed it: the first installment comes out strong, and then the second falters a little before things improve again in the third. By no means is this universal, but it is common enough to be remarkable, which is why we're remarking on it. Whether it's the result of the author trying too hard to replicate the success of the first book, or the fact that the pacing of a second book can feel a little like the pacing of the middle of a novel, which is always the hardest to keep interesting, second books often falter. Not Words of Radiance, which takes what made The Way of Kings fantastic, and built upon it to create a sequel worthy of the Stormlight Archive.