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.
Where do I even start with a Shannara review? Shannara is epic fantasy in the very literal sense of the word, spanning hundreds of years of in-world history across myriad series and trilogies and stand-alone novels. Perhaps Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere may eventually be larger in literary scope, but even that will likely not sprawl so much as Shannara. Where a series like Wheel of Time covers a single story arc, Shannara has era, ages, and dozens of independent arcs. Sometimes, one has to wonder if Terry Brooks can bring himself to write anything that isn't Shannara: supposedly his Knight of the Word trilogy began as something new, and morphed into a prelude to Shannara.