Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3)by Published 14 Nov 2017
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Alternate Cover Edition can be found here.
The eagerly awaited sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling Words of Radiance, from epic fantasy author Brandon Sanderson at the top of his game.
In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.
Dalinar Kholin's Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.
Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar's blood-soaked past and stand together--and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past--even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.
"Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3)" Reviews
My review probably won’t be able to do this book justice. Well, justice is dead but I’ll see what I can do.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that my expectations regarding Oathbringer were extremely hard to contain. I had heard a lot of fantastic things about this series the first time I went through The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance last year, but I read through them many years after their original release dates. Oathbringer is a different experience in terms of environment and surrounding hype; this time I’m actually in the midst of all the hype, praises, and excitement everywhere. Because of this my expectations were Skybreaking high; especially after reading one of my favorite books of all time: Words of Radiance. Despite my irrational expectations, I’m gratified to say that Sanderson managed to meet my expectations because Oathbringer ended up being another masterwork installment in The Stormlight Archive series.
“This book, the third in the Stormlight Archive, is the most intimate, most tightly woven, and most eclectic book I’ve ever written—all wrapped up into one… I like this book. I really, really like this book.” –Brandon Sanderson
There’s always something in Sanderson’s story that resonates with me. Whether it’s a topic involving religion, oppression, camaraderie, or love, any book he writes will always feature one theme that is expressed articulately, and that is hope. In my opinion, out of every book that Sanderson has written so far, Oathbringer is the darkest in terms of tone. Yet, despite how dark the story gets, Sanderson reminds us that hope will always be there, and it is a theme that I will always appreciate. It’s refreshing, satisfying, and makes me happy to read his books. There’s always something philosophical and positive to learn and apply in our real-life situations from Sanderson’s books, and that remained true here, maybe even stronger than ever.
“The trick to happiness wasn’t in freezing every momentary pleasure and clinging to each one, but in ensuring one’s life would produce many future moments to anticipate.”
The story was unpredictable, full of twists and turns and filled with tons of revelations. Oathbringer managed to build upon every foundation that was prepared since the beginning of The Way of Kings, and in phenomenal ways. In this gigantic book, there are no words wasted. In fact, there is so much plot progression in Oathbringer that it makes both The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance–as epic and majestic as they are already—feel like a preparation for this book alone. With new antagonists who completely raise the stakes for Roshar, along with tons of powerful and memorable moments, Oathbringer is a meticulously structured book that felt like a trilogy or duology on its own.
The amount of action sequences in this book far surpasses both of its predecessors. Sanderson is seriously at the top of his game when it comes to his action scenes here. If you have read any of Sanderson’s books, you should know by now that Sanderson always prepares a fantastic climax sequence to end his book in a memorable way; this applies for all of his books. The fanbase called it the "Sanderson Avalanche" (no idea who named this in the first place) and this time, we didn’t get just one, but two avalanches. This, in my opinion, is a very smart move. Not only it made the book felt like a duology/trilogy, it also made the pacing exceptional. Unlike Words of Radiance, which featured Sanderson’s best close-quarter combat sequences to date, Oathbringer’s final conclusion is more of an epic war on a grand scale. Giant monsters, magical blades, magic clashing and unleashed, dark and cataclysmic situations, heart-pounding, intense, fist pumping and poignant moments, all told in magnificent shifting multi-POV narration; it was action-packed, pivotal, and simply epic in the true sense of the word.
It’s been half a year since I’ve read and reviewed any of Sanderson’s full novels. You know what made me miss his work the most? His characterizations. Sanderson always has a way of developing his characters with his narration to the point where we truly get inside their heads, even when it’s written in third person perspective. I’ve read a lot of fantasy books and there are really only a few authors who can do this wonderfully. The number of characters featured is not small by any means; this series features hundreds of characters. At the same time, it features Sanderson’s biggest cast of POV; yet these characters all remain distinct and unique in their personalities. Tons of characters—both main and side characters—receive proper and significant character developments, but the spotlight of this book undisputedly goes to Dalinar. We have seen Kaladin’s past in The Way of Kings, Shallan’s in Words of Radiance, and finally, it’s time for Dalinar’s. If you have started the first book, most likely you’ll know already what Dalinar past will involves. I need to remind you of this: unlike the previous two books—even though Words of Radiance was meant to be Shallan’s book—Kaladin is not the main character here. Oathbringer is without a doubt, Dalinar’s book.
Picture: Dalinar Kholin by vargasni
It's truly an incredible experience to have witnessed Dalinar’s growth throughout the passage of time. Three chapters into his past and I can say that it was already better than all Shallan’s flashback chapters in Words of Radiance. I was completely captivated by Dalinar’s character development and history here; Sanderson truly did a superlative job in integrating Dalinar’s past into the main storyline. It was emotionally rewarding to read the culmination of all his experience in this book; making him one of my favorite characters of all time.
“Dalinar Kholin was a connoisseur of death. Even since his youth, the sight of dead men had been a familiar thing to him. You stay on the battlefield long enough, and you become familiar with its master.”
If I have to choose only ONE thing that Oathbringer did better than its predecessors, it’s definitely the lore and world-building. The world-building is already masterfully done in the previous two books, but somehow, Sanderson successfully made it even better. The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance storylines were heavily centered on The Shattered Plain, whereas Oathbringer finally diverts its attention from that place and visits many other major cities in Roshar. It’s epic in scope and, combined with intricate maps and astounding revelations in the lore, this is once again Sanderson at the top of this game. If you’re not a fan of intricate world-building, I seriously think you’re going to have a hard time enjoying this series because that is definitely one of the main strengths of this series.
I’ve talked about Sanderson’s prose several times now, and I don’t think I need to state how well written his books are. His prose is simple, immersive, vivid, (Oops, I did it again) but the most important thing to me is that it always feels like coming “home”. Sanderson shows us that fancy words and purple prose aren’t necessary to create a masterpiece of an epic fantasy. His writing never felt forced, it’s like all these words came to his head naturally. A sign of an amazing book is when you’re reading and never felt bored with any page. Oathbringer is in fact the biggest single installment I’ve ever read in my life, and I was completely enthralled with every moment of it. Some much smaller book could make me feel like homework but for Oathbringer, despite its staggering size, I still craved more. This is all due to the extremely well written and well-polished prose style that Sanderson employs.
Let’s talk about the book’s value. When people told me they don’t want to start this series because it’s too monstrous, I honestly can’t agree with that. The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance were too short for me; with each book’s conclusion I always ended up craving more, and that’s still true here. Oathbringer is a staggering 450k words or 1243 pages and somehow, it’s still not enough. Plus, each book in the series feels like a special limited edition. Starting from the beautiful endpapers by Dan Dos Santos and Howard Lyon, then the gorgeous chapter icons and twenty-two interior artworks by amazing artists such as Miranda Meeks, Kelly Harris, Ben McSweeney, Isaac Steward and once again, Dan Dos Santos, we are given so much in order to enrich our imagination and experience. Oathbringer is truly a MUST HAVE book. At the time of writing this review, I have around one hundred physical books and only three of them—Words of Radiance, Oathbringer, and Arcanum Unbounded—are hardcovers. I won’t go into full detail on why I dislike hardcover, but to explain it as simply as possible, they’re heavy, uncomfortable to read, and super expensive. However, I have to make a special exception for this series because of its gorgeous artworks and satisfying value. I spent $45 to buy the HC of Oathbringer, (it is that expensive where I live) but it was truly money well spent and I’ll do it again for future installments of the series.
Picture: Thaylen Female Fashion by Dan Dos Santos.
I have talked a LOT about this book. Let’s get to the most important questions:
-Is Oathbringer a worthy sequel? Absolutely
-Is it better than the previous books? Sadly, I have to say no.
It’s definitely better than The Way of Kings but not Words of Radiance. In my opinion, it’s inferior to Words of Radiance in terms of quality. There are some things that Words of Radiance did better, especially when it comes to intimate and evocative scenes, and there are also some ways in which Oathbringer surpasses it, such as plot and world building. However, this will be the first time I actually have some cons—though they are minor—with any installment in this series.
To me, the main character of the series is Kaladin. This is almost completely a Dalinar and somehow, Shallan’s book. I know, I know, it was meant to be written that way, and I have no complaint about how it’s written. However, Kaladin’s storyline didn’t truly begin until halfway through the book, which took 600 pages; before that, his POV was scarce and close to nonexistent despite him making an appearance in other character’s POV.
Picture: Grumpy Kaladin by botanicaxu
It’s just a matter of preference; Dalinar’s, Shallan’s, and everyone’s storyline are incredibly compelling in their own way, but Kaladin and Bridge Four will always be special and remained one of the most illuminating parts of the series for me. Secondly, I mentioned in my Words of Radiance review that I fell in love with Shallan’s character there, but Oathbringer changed my mind on this. Shallan’s growth—though fascinating and making the plot more interesting—occurred in ways that made me dislike her character. Shallan is, in fact, the first female character written by Sanderson that I dislike at this point, and I sometimes even found her infuriating. Lastly, there are two scenes that I wish didn’t happen off-screen.
“Accept the pain, but don't accept that you deserved it.”
Do know that these are minor cons and that the three books in The Stormlight Archive totally stand above almost all books I’ve ever read in the genre. Oathbringer is not a perfect book by any means, but just like true love, I absolutely love this book with all my heart despite some flaws it had. Diving into this series is like diving into a long-term relationship, and one I’m glad to partake in. Call me selfish but right now, I’m at the point where I’ll be completely happy if Sanderson decides to drop all his outside of Cosmere universe works. I just can’t bring myself to care about his other books outside of Cosmere when in fact, I already know that the Cosmere and this series comprise his magnum opus.
This will probably be my last epic fantasy novel review of the year. I binge reread and read the series so far within three weeks and now I’m in a major “Stormlight Archive’s hangover”, I will need at least a month before starting another epic fantasy series unless I’m willing to risk rating them unfairly. That said, I’m going to end my review here, this has become the longest review I ever wrote so far and trust me, there are a myriad amount of things I left out for the sake of making this review as spoiler-free as possible for your maximum reading experience. Oathbringer is not just a book, it’s a grimoire that’s filled with magical power capable of transporting me to the best kind of escapism experience. It strengthens the reason why I read, why I love epic fantasy, and why The Stormlight Archive is my number 1 favorite series of all time. (I haven’t read Malazan Book of the Fallen yet so this might change in the future.)
The Stormlight Archive has always been one of the series which I urge anyone to start as soon as possible, and this is still true. Waiting for the completion of this series before diving into it is ridiculous; not only are you going to have to wait at least twenty years before its completion, but we don’t even know what the future holds for this series, and for each one of us. Do. Not. Wait. Start this masterpiece series now and let us speak the ancient oaths together!
“Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.”
Picture: My Cosmere collection
Side note: I need to remind you once again to please read Warbreaker before diving into this series; same as Words of Radiance, one more character from that book appears here.
You can find the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
UPDATE: $2.99 on kindle US today! 10/30/18
CHECK OUT MY FREAKING PICTURES AFTER THE GIFS Y'ALL! OMG! ♥
Let simply start with the book itself before I show the freaking freaking freaking awesome inside pictures and map on the dust jacket! I'm am freaking happy!
I got the pre-order from Audible BUT I was waiting to read this beautiful book and listen at the same time. ♥
PART ONE ~ UNITED ~ DALINAR * SHALLAN * KALADIN * ADOLIN
I'm going to do a series of excerpts from each person. I'm not going to say what is going on or from what year. I want to keep it a little mysterious. Although, there will be some funny parts. There will probably be *****SPOILERS***** in some of the excerpts so if you haven't read the book just skip this or if you don't plan on reading the book and want to read the randomness, then be my guest. I decided to only do this for the first part of the book and the rest will be my regular review. So, lets crack on with it!
Dalinar Kholin appeared in the vision standing beside the memory of a dead god.
Only six days had passed since their discovery of Urithiru. Six days since the awakening of the Parshendi, who had gained strange powers and glowing red eyes. Six days since the arrival of the new storm--the Everstorm, a tempest of the dark thunderheads and red lightening.
"And the Voidbringers?" Dalinar asked.
"They came to annihilate," Kalami said. "Their goal to wipe humankind from Roshar. They were specters, formless--some say they are spirits of the dead, others spren from Damnation."
A single awespren burst around around Dalinar, like a ring of blue smoke. "Stormfather! Thakka, before today, I'd have bet you half the princedom that such a shot wasn't possible." He turned to the archer. "What's your name, assasin?"
The man raised his chin, but didn't reply.
"Well, in any case, welcome to my elites," Dalinar said. "Someone get the fellow a horse."
"What?" the archer said. "I tried to kill you!"
"Yes, from a distance. Which shows remarkably good judgement. I can make use of someone with your skills."
"They can write?" Navani pressed. "The Voidbringers themselves are sending you contracts?"
Dalinar's shoulder protested as he stretched. He had found middle age to be like an assassin--quiet, creeping along behind him. Much of the time he would go about his life as he always had, until an unexpected ache or pain gave warning. He was not the youth he had once been.
Her name was Evi. She'd been tall and willowy, with pale yellow hair--not true golden, like the hair of the Iriali, but striking in its own right.
"Anyone?" Dalinar said. "You can show them to anyone?"
During a storm, I can approach anyone I choose, the Stormfather said. But you do not have to be in a storm, so you can join a vision in which I have placed someone else, even if you are distant.
Storms! Dalinar bellowed a laugh.
What have I done? the Stormfather asked.
"You've just solved my problems!"
The problem from The Way of Kings?
"No, the greater one. I've been wishing for a way to meet with the other monarchs in person." Dalinar grinned. "I think that in a coming highstorm, Queen Fen of Thaylenah is going to have a quite remarkable experience."
SHALLAN (Brightness Radiant)
She rested her freehand against the map. Stormlight poured off her, illuminating the map in a swirling tempest of Light. She didn't exactly understand what she was doing, but she rarely did. Art wasn't about understanding, but about knowing.
The one knocking would be Palona, who had once again noticed that Shallan had skipped dinner. Shallan sucked in a breath, destroying the image of Veil, recovering some of the Stormlight from her Lightweaving. "Come, she said. Honestly, id didn't seem to matter to Palona that Shallan was a storming Knight Radiant now, she'd still mother her all the--
Adolin stepped in, carrying a large plate of food in one hand, some books under the other arm. He saw her and stumbled, nearly dropping it all.
Shallan froze, then yelped and tucked her bare safehand behind her back. Adolin didn't even have the decency to blush at finding her practically naked. He balanced the food in his hand, recovering from his stumble, then grinned.
"Out!" Shallan said, waving the freehand at him. "Out, out, out!"
"Oh for Damnation's sake, Shallan. Can I come in now? And just so we're clear, I'm a man and your betrothed, my name is Adolin Kholin, I was born under the sign of the nine, I have a birthmark on the back of my left thigh, and I had crab curry for breakfast. Anything else you need to know?"
"Sure. Fine. Anyway, we aren't alone. Pattern, come here please." She held out her hand, palm up.
He reluctantly moved down from the wall where he'd been watching. As always, he made a ripple in whatever he crossed, be it cloth or stone--like there was something under the surface. His complex, fluctuating pattern of lines was always changing, melding, vaguely circular but with surprising tangents.
"Anyway," Shallan said. "Pattern, you're to be our chaperone tonight."
"What," Pattern said with a hum, "is a chaperone?"
"That is someone who watches two young people when they are together, to make certain they don't do anything inappropriate."
"Inappropriate?" Pattern said. "Such as . . . dividing by zero?"
"Very well, you two," Pattern said. "No mating. NO MATING." He hummed to himself, as if pleased, then sank down onto a plate.
Pattern approached and tried to slide up her illusory dress, but then stopped, backing away and humming in pleasure at the lie. "I found him!" he proclaimed. "I found Adolin!"
"I see that, " Shallan said.
"He came at me," Adolin said, "in the training rooms, screaming that you'd found the killer. Said that if I didn't come, you'd probably--and I quote--'go do something stupid without letting me watch.'"
"Your imitation is pathetic," Shallan whispered. "Here. Let me show you how it's done."
Shallan drew in her Stormlight, going alight like a beacon. Things screamed, pulling away from her. As she stepped around the formation of worried bridgemen--wading into the blackness at their left flank--figures extended from her, shapes growing from light. The people from her recently rebuilt collection.
"Hello, Father," Kaladin said.
The guardsman finally caught up, shouldering past gawking townspeople and waving his mace toward Kaladin like a baton. Kaladin sidestepped absently, then pushed the man so he stumbled farther down the hallway.
"It is you," Lirin said. Then he scrambled over and caught Kaladin in an embrace. "Oh, Kal. My boy. My little boy. Hesina! HESINA!"
Kaladin's mother appeared in the doorway a moment later.
"I gave you people an order," Kaladin said. "I'm not fond of repeating myself."
"And what," Roshone said, "makes you think you can order anyone around, boy?"
Kaladin turned back and swept his arm before him, summoning Syl. A bright, dew-covered Shardblade formed from the mist into his hand. He spun the Blade and rammed her down into the floor in one smooth motion. He held the grip, feeling this eyes bleed blue.
Everything grew still. Townspeople froze, gaping. Roshone's eyes bulged. Curiously, Kaladin's father just lowered his head and closed his eyes.
"Any other questions?" Kaladin asked.
Kaladin crept through the rains, sidling in a wet uniform across the rocks until he was able to peek through the trees at the Voidbringers. Monstrous terrors from the mythological past, enemies of all that was right and good. Destroyers who had laid waste to civilization countless times.
They were playing cards.
No spoilers ahead..
I can't believe I just finished the 3rd book and there are, what is it now... 7 more to be written?!
I feel like I feel like I feel drained. I feel like I have come through so much. This book is by far better than the first two books, in my opinion. Oathbringer was filled with so freaking much. And yes, the first two books at 1000 + were filled too but it was just different. I felt like this book had more. I mean I would never not love the first two books and have them on my favorites list but this one just sealed the deal even more. I can't even imagine what else Brandon Sanderson can write in this world. I'm almost scared to know. Although, I don't think I will live long enough to finish the series since there are so many and what 2-3 years in between.
I loved every single character in this book, even more than I did before. Well, not so much the evil people but they were great too.
The back and forth stories, the past, the interludes, they were all perfect. I'm not saying that some didn't go over my head because all high/epic fantasy does that to me. I don't care. I will sort it all out some day with re-reads like I always do. =)
Lord though, the freaking battles! I had to fight off a panic attack! My peeps fought a crazy, bloody battle!
Brandon Sanderson, thank you for this wonderful book. Thank you for the art inside and out. Thank you for putting so much effort into this book. I don't see how you or any other author I love that writes these freaking murder weapon tomes can think up these worlds.
and that's all I have to say. Okay, a couple more things. I know that all Stormlight fans will love this book. If you don't then you fell off the cliff. I don't know. Now, I'm going to shut-up because this is my longest review to date and Goodreads isn't going to let me write much more =)
Happy Reading My Wonderful Stormlight friends.
MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Finishing Oathbringer was both a satisfaction and a disappointment. Satisfying because this book was absolutely astonishing in every way that I expected it to be. Disappointing because I wanted it to be longer (even though it's almost 1300 pgs and it took me over two weeks to finish it).
What can I really say about Oathbringer? Questions that I have waited years for answers were finally answered, all of my favorite characters were amazing as usual and Sanderson still keeps on developing a 10/10 solid epic fantasy world with intriguing and full-fledged characters in a world filled with great magic and despair.
I just......Don't know how to really write a proper review for this without leaving out important bits and things here. All I can say is that this series is looooooooooooong and can be rough to get through at times, but it is so satisfying to read and if you have read some of Sanderson's other books in the Cosmere universe, then Oathbringer will blow your mind with how complex it is within the Cosmere and how it all relates.
My only really critique for this book is that the overall redemption/forgiveness theme in the story could be a tad too much at times, but I see why it was necessary to bring it so much in focus for the overall arc. There are also some expectations that were not fulfilled within the plot, but those might be fulfilled within the next book(s).
Anyhow, Oathbringer is astonishing in a mind-blowing way. Absolutely worth the wait and one of the most memorable books I have read this year.
Thank you, Brandon Sanderson.
BEFORE READING OATHBRINGER
Edit: 9/12/2017: ONLY TWO MONTHS LEFT UNTIL I HAVE THIS BOOK IN MY HANDS, WHAT A JOY!!!
I NEED THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW WHO DO I HAVE TO SACRIFICE TO GET IT IN MY HANDS?!!?!?!
ugh the wait will be so long
The Storming genius has outdone himself. Again!
Words of Radiance was easily the best book I've ever read, which naturally resulted in some pretty high expectations going into Oathbringer. As much as I've tried to smother it after waiting for over 3.5 years, I just had to accept that it was futile.
Who am I kidding? Sanderson has completely smashed all expectations by offering yet another best book I've ever read.
Is Oathbringer a literary masterpiece? A classic that will stand the test of time and be remembered in the same vein as Lord of the Rings? That might stretch it a bit too far, but only time will tell. I wouldn't also call it flawless, as it is not. As far as I am concerned, however, it is a singularly brilliant creation which is both epic in its scope and intimate in its soul.
Art is about emotion, examination, and going places people have never gone before to discover and investigate new things. The only way to create something that nobody hates is to ensure that it can't be loved either. Remove enough spice from soup, and you'll just end up with water.
The worldbuilding in this book, to put it mildly, outshines its predecessors. We finally leave the confines of The Shattered Plains to traverse the other parts of this vivid and alien world. The events from the end of Words of Radiance precipitated the need to extend the reach of the political narrative to other monarchies in Roshar. Urithiru, Kholinar and Thaylen City are all impressive and fascinating in very distinct and unique ways. I appreciate having the large full-coloured map of Roshar behind the dust jacket that came in handy when trying to understand the relative location of one country to another. The interior art is, as usual, stunning in illustrating the worldbuilding elements.
An endpaper depicting in-world Heraldic art. By Howard Lyon
Oathbringer is a dense book. Much to my delight, the lore and histories of Roshar, which so intrigued readers in The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, are deeply explored. With each deftly handled exposition or revelation, one cannot help but wonder at the mind that did not merely create but also balance and manage such complexity (not only of Roshar but the Cosmere); the skill to weave that complexity into strands that teased and yet seemed almost apparent on hindsight. It is like seeing tiny unconnected parts of a massive painting, each giving you a small clue, its implications only dawning upon you once the larger picture has been revealed. Even then, I am sure that I am only seeing a fragment of a whole - one which is, more or less, complete at this stage. Or so I've been led to believe.
After three books in, one thing that I kept marvelling at is Sanderson's naming convention in this series. Using the term Radiants to denote knights who adhere to specific Ideals and who glow with Stormlight is so fittingly epic. The names of the Ten Orders of the Knights Radiant, those of the Heralds and the Unmade, and the pivotal historical events such as the Desolations, Aharietiam and the Recreance - it all just sounds so appropriate in its own context. I don't usually pay much attention to this aspect while reading (unless it's really bad). In this series, it is too good not to do so.
As for pacing and plot progression, it is close to perfection. Oathbringer felt even more like a trilogy in a single book than the previous two instalments. The narrative ebbed and flowed with a slower start followed by mini-climaxes and little lulls as the events gradually escalated to a mind-blowing, heart-stopping and breathtaking climactic ending. When the final chapters start to switch into multiple POVs, you will know that you have arrived at what has come to be known as the "Sanderson avalanche". In this book, it is an avalanche to end all that had come before – to think that this is only the third instalment.
For all the worldbuilding, lore and action present, this novel is sublime in balancing between a grand sweeping tale and personal character growth. And this is where the book transcended from great to spectacular.
I've watched a recording of the BYU launch party of Oathbringer, where Sanderson said that the first magic system he developed for Stormlight was that of soulcasting; an allusion to transformation, which is the theme of The Stormlight Archive. It is about the change and progression of people through their conflicts, both internal and external, and experiences. As such, the series is ultimately character-driven, despite all the fantastical elements wrapped around it.
The past is the future, and as each man has lived, so must you.
The question is not whether you will love, hurt, dream and die. It is what you will love, why you will hurt, when you will dream, and how you will die. This is your choice. You cannot pick the destination, only the path.
Most of you would know this if you follow the series and its updates closely. Oathbringer is Dalinar Kholin's book, as the previous two were Kaladin's and Shallan's respectively - from a backstory perspective. And it very much feels like Dalinar's book. With a longer history given his age relative to the two younger main characters, there are a lot more flashback chapters of Dalinar - an enlightening, powerful and highly relevant backstory to the events unfolding in the present timeline. The manner in which the story of his past is woven to lead into the climax is absolutely masterful.
Accept the pain, but don't accept that you deserved it.
The development of the characters - both main and supporting ones - continues to be most compelling and excellent, taking the story in a direction that is not entirely expected, but still wholly satisfying. It is an understatement to say that Sanderson does not make it easy for his characters. The path towards being a full Knight Radiant demands an embodiment of the Ideals, each being more difficult than the previous. In this, we see our beloved characters going through significant internal struggles and learning acceptance, which makes any transformation more realistic and gratifying when it happens. More importantly is how Sanderson enabled readers to feel as if they are part of the inner turmoil and eventual evolution of these characters, instead of being a mere bystander to the events. And by staying steadfast to an existing core cast, this only further fuelled my empathy and emotional investment for them, favourites or otherwise.
Ten spears go to battle, and nine shatter. Did that war forge the one that remained? No. All the war did was identify the spear that would not break.
Allegorically, the story deals with both big and abstract world-spanning issues and small and personal real-life matters. I respect the effort he took to understand and then write about mental health issues, as well as his openness in dealing with discrimination and prejudice, whether it's challenging individual perception, societal norms or even religious doctrine.
Now, I need to touch upon the prose and dialogue. Personally, I have always enjoyed Sanderson's dialogue and writing, and find him quite talented in delivering simple, direct and succinct phrases that truly make an impact, without having to go into long and rambling philosophical discourses. The in-world texts in The Stormlight Archive demonstrate that he is capable of writing in a more ‘elegant and poetic' manner, but perhaps that is just not how he wanted to tell his stories. Just as I can admire long beautiful passages of introspection and philosophy, I can also equally appreciate the simplicity of unembellished prose which distils the verbiage. Given how dense these Stormlight books are, I prefer this style of writing as it allows me a more thoroughly immersive experience. Notably, his writing skills are noticeably improving with every book he releases.
All that said, the primary reason why this is the best book I've ever read is that it gave me the most emotionally charged reading experience I've ever had. I cried and laughed. I squealed and screamed. I felt my heart turning to mush. It brought out joy, tears, sorrow, pain, fear, anger, excitement, anticipation, shock, wonder and awe, so strongly that I'm sure emotionsprens surrounded me. This is also, in my opinion, the darkest book that Sanderson has ever written. There are moments, which made me think that the series is treading into the grimdark territory.
Admittedly, I did wish for my favourite character of the series (and possibly of all-time) to have more presence in this instalment, but I accept that this might not always be the case given that the story is not going to centre around one main character (as much as it might seem to be in the past two books). There are also a few storylines which appear to be given too much of a light touch in the narrative, possibly in compromise for the momentum of the overarching story, or even perhaps to fit into future books. These are a few of the issues which, I am all too aware of, may not be entirely well-received by some existing fans.
Oathbringer can be treated as Book 3 of 5, out of a larger 2-part series of 10 books, with the second part of The Stormlight Archive heading in a new direction. As with each volume so far, this novel is a self-contained story that concludes most satisfactorily, while teasing the reader with more questions and leaving some loose and new threads for future instalments. Even after reading over 1200 pages, I wanted more and almost flipped back to the first page to start over again. There can be no other testament to the magnificence of Sanderson's magnum opus, where every book so far had succeeded in perpetuating such an obsession from me.
Fantasy fans, allow me to reiterate - if you haven't started reading this fantastic series, seriously, what are you waiting for? A fair warning though – be prepared to suffer from a hangover once you have finished reading these masterpieces.
NB: For maximum reading enjoyment, one should read Warbreaker before Words of Radiance and absolutely must do so before Oathbringer.
This review can also be found at Booknest