Right off the bat I’m just going to admit this review is full of spoilers. I try to write my reviews without spoiling things as much as possible, but this is one of those books where if I’m going to talk about it, I want to talk about all of it, and I want to talk about specifics. So, if you do not want to know specific details about major events in Words of Radiance I suggest you stop reading this book review right now and bookmark it for after you’ve finished the book. You have been warned. I feel no guilt if you keep reading.
I’ve waited so long to read this book, just over three years if I remember my dates correctly, and it was worth every single excruciating moment. Words of Radiance is about 100 pages longer than The Way of Kings, which meant more juicy action for me to sink my teeth into during my epic 48 hour reading session. My brain was so frazzled after finishing the book that I took about three days off from reading anything when I was done. The thing has so much packed into it that my thoughts were spinning.
Words of Radiance features Shallan, Kaladin, and Adolin as the primary viewpoint characters, but it does have a few chapters from Dalinar’s point of view thrown in for good measure when necessary. There are also interludes with Szeth once again, along with a few other characters I think we’ll see much more of in future installments. I was most interested in the Parshendi interludes, but they did not have as much meat in them as I was hoping after the first one. They did provide some very useful information about the nature of the Parshendi though, and for that I’m very grateful.
A large majority of the book, excluding the interludes for obvious reason, takes place on the Shattered Plains, which is not what I was expecting. For whatever reason I thought going in that Shallan was going to spend a lot more time getting to where the army camps were than she did, but it was a pleasant surprise that she got to interact with characters like Adolin and Kaladin to a greater extent because of it.
The plot revolves around Dalinar’s quest to reform the Knights Radiant and his decision that the armies are going to take the fight to the Parshendi once and for all. No more back and forth across the Shattered Plains, it’s time to end this war. Of course, not everything goes according to plan in that regard, but it’s still a big shift in course compared to the status quo. Kaladin spends most of the book training his new battalion of soldiers/guards made up of former bridgemen, which presents him many challenges. Shallan tries to uncover as many secrets about Shadesmar, the spren, and the Parshendi as she can manage, and Adolin focuses on trying to win back as many Shardblades and pieces of Shardplate as he can for his father’s endeavors.
Brandon Sanderson is a notorious third-act author who tends to leave the meat of his action and excitement to the final third of the book. With this book, he took it to an even greater extreme and waited until the last 150 pages or so for the big reveals.
The showdown I wanted between Amaram and Kaladin never came to fruition, but an epic throwdown takes place between Kaladin and Szeth near the end. Kaladin has reached his full potential as a Windrunner just like Szeth, except for the fact that Kaladin is a much more powerful one as far as I can see. Kaladin defeats Szeth after a long battle and Szeth is sent to lick his wounds.
As it turns out, Dalinar is also a Radiant, something called a Bondsmith. Shallan is a Radiant as well, of the Lightweaver order. Even Szeth is revealed to be a member of one of the Radiant’s orders, the Skybreakers. The return of the Knights Radiant is in full swing by the final pages of Words of Radiance, and I’m hoping it picks up right where it left off in the opening pages of the forthcoming third book. There were even hints that the members of Bridge Four might be in some fashion related to the Radiants as some type of squires, but I’m not entirely certain on that point.
Oh yeah, and Vasher shows up. Yes, the same Vasher from Warbreaker. Which then makes you start to think…
Wait for it…
Szeth is defeated by Kaladin as I mentioned previously and then something interesting happens where he receives a visit by one of the ten Heralds. At the end of Chapter 88 you read the following, which I’m just going to quote so that I don’t mess it up:
“This is not a problem,” Nin said, looking back. “I have brought a Shardblade for you. One that is a perfect match for your task and temperament.” He tossed his large sword to the ground. It skidded on stone and came to a rest before Szeth.
He had not seen a sword with a metal sheath before. And who sheathed a Shardblade? And the Blade itself . . . was it black? An inch or so of it had emerged from the sheath as it slid on the rocks.
Szeth swore he could see a small trail of black smoke coming off the metal. Like Stormlight, only dark.
Hello, a cheerful voice said in his mind. Would you like to destroy some evil today?
THAT’S RIGHT! NIGHTBLOOD SHOWS UP!
I cannot even begin to explain how much that blew my mind. I was sitting on the couch next to my wife as I read those paragraphs to end that chapter and I started dancing around the room. My heart rate increased, I got chills, I was freaking out. Some of the more intense Brandon Sanderson fans might have seen that reveal coming, but I definitely didn’t, and it got me all sorts of worked up with excitement. Seriously. I had to put the book down for a few minutes because I could not focus on reading for a bit.
Soon enough I managed to finish the book, but I was completely amped the entire time. Words of Radiance was filled with everything I wanted and more. Sure, it was long, and sure, it probably doesn’t need to be that long, but it is what it is. If you are a fan of Brandon Sanderson you are likely going to love this book. If you aren’t a fan of his writing, that’s okay, it’s not for everyone, but I’m sure glad I read his books.