I remember having several English teachers, especially early in my schooling, who spent a great deal of time talking about how important a good opening line is. As they likely did for many of you, they called this opening line a “hook,” and explained how the entire fate of the universe, or at least my essay, rests on having a “hook,” a first line that will draw readers in and make them desperately excited to learn more about what I have to say on such fascinating topics as Lyme’s disease, Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home, or the intelligence of dolphins.
I have made it a policy here on the site not to post reviews for books that I read in the past. That is, while there are many books that I read before starting this site and before starting weekly reviews on the site, I only intend to post reviews for those books if I actually sit down and re-read them. In some cases, like for books that are a part of ongoing series, that means that reviews for the older books will likely be posted eventually as I re-read to get caught up for a new release (like we did for the Stormlight Archive books). There are a lot of books that I would like to add to the review collection that I've already read, but with a reading list as long as mine is, it is increasingly challenging to justify spending too much of my time re-reading books.
As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I suspected that I was going to enjoy it. I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but when you read enough in a given genre you start to know what styles of covers tend to be associated with the books that you particularly enjoy. This book’s cover evoked the fantasy and science fiction of the 1980s, like Dragonriders of Pern, or Xanth novels; in other words, it reminded me of a lot of the books that I read in middle school, usually by my dad’s recommendation (in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if, upon research, I discovered that the cover artist is the same for some of these titles). By the time I had finished the first chapter, I was enjoying it as much as anything I’d read in a long time.
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.
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.
Technically, this is not a new book to me. In fact, this is at least my fifth time reading The Way of Kings. It is one of my go-to books when life looks particularly bleak, or when I need to remind myself of what epic fantasy should be. This time, my excuse for rereading was the release of the newest installment in this series, Rhythm of War. I don't do that for all series, especially not ones with which I am already as familiar as I am with Stormlight Archive, but these books are simply so good that it makes a great excuse. Since I have not yet reviewed the books here on the site, I decided it was also an appropriate time to rectify that gross negligence.