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4.8 out of 5 stars
Words of Radiance: The Stormlight Archive Book Two
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2014
I can offer no other words than to say that this series is simply wonderful. I have not been as invested in any other series apart from the wheel of time and the kingkiller chronicles. Read. This. Series. You will not be disappointed.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2014
Oh my goodness, where to start with reviewing this huge and fantastic book?

I will begin by saying that I loved this book the whole time I was reading it and the ending has made me so excited for the next book in the series. I know now that Sanderson will be able to make this into something completely brilliant because of how wonderfully this has all played out so far.

So, to begin, this book is a staggering 1087 pages long but as I said in my previous review of Way of Kings (WoK from now on), the page count is perfectly justified because truly the story is wonderful. I would highly recommend this series to anyone, especially if you have previously read and enjoyed any of Sanderson's work. It may be a lot of reading, but falling into the world of Roshar again is a fantasy I can't wait to experience in the next book.

The story continues to be told from a variety of different POVs including Shallan and Kaladin. These two have certainly become the main focus of this story which is understandable when you read the things that have happened to them and do happen to the across the course of the book. Along the way we meet some of out other characters from WoKs but we lose some and gain new ones too.

Again the story is divided into sections, 5 main sections and 4 Interludes sections. The main sections are where the real plot of the story is developing and we see our favourite characters conquering evil, battling inner demons and much more. The Interludes act more as context for the rest of the world, giving us an insight into how the actions of our main characters have affected the other areas of the world. We see through a variety of characters eyes in the Interludes including Eshonai who becomes a very key character, Ym, Rysn, Zahel, Taln, Lift, Szeth, who was in WoKs and returns in Words of Radiance (WoR), Lhan and Taravangian. I would say that out of all of the characters we meet through the Interludes the most interesting was Taravangian as his part certainly explained why some of the events in the book have happened and the reasoning behind them. I also really enjoyed meeting Eshonai who I must say I misjudged as a character to begin with. Some of the characters are included in only a short burst of a page or so, others have enough pages to be as long as a chapter from the main sections so it varies a lot. I think that the inclusion of these Interludes is vital to introducing the new characters and the new trials that the world is facing because of what is happening at the forefront of the action in Alethkar.

The plot of this book has developed a fair amount from that of WoKs which is really all about setting up the world and sorting out who everyone is and why the are where they are etc. The storyline of WoR certainly feels like it is always building up to something hugely dramatic at the end of the book (which it is) and so the tension and excitement is mounting the entire way through the read. The realm is constantly being tested and they have entered a new age which no one really knows much about. New magical powers are being discovered all the time and people are changing, whether they wish to or not, into something that they cannot control. Everything is always on the edge of destruction and the whole story is leading up to something greater than we can really imagine!

One of the aspects in WoR that I truly enjoyed was the introduction of the Spren in a big way. I felt like we got a taste of what they could do in WoKs but we really had no idea of quite how everything fit together with them and what their purpose was within the story. I feel like we get to see a lot more of their abilities, morals and power throughout this story and that as their influences are made more clear they become far more intriguing and magical.

Another element which I have to mention is the illustration work which is once again included throughout the book. The style of illustration from Shallon's note book pages and the maps and details which appear to be taken from reference books are just so incredibly beautiful and so intense. The rendering is flawless and I am certain that the addition of the illustrations is why I cannot help but love these books even more.

I would certainly say that there are echoes of the Mistborn Trilogy in here and that the magical systems and the powers are so meticulously worked out that I cannot fault them. I would say that this series is exactly what Sanderson hoped it would be, his best work, and that I know the rest of the books will be just as well received and adored if Sanderson keeps this standard up!

The plot lines sometimes seem to be getting a little confusing but rather unlike The Wheel of Time books (which Sanderson claims inspired this series and you can see influences of within his work) these string are all interwoven pretty quickly and although they raise questions at some points, frequently those questions are answered, at least in part, a little bit further into the book. There is no need to be confused about the names either as they are all pretty distinct and the voice of the characters (especially the main ones) is very easy to recognise if you have put the book down for a while and then pick it back up.

On the whole I would have to say I was a little worried about whether Sanderson would be able to keep this series up to the standard of the first and whether he would be stretching it out too much across the 10 books intended, but after having read this I can confidently say that I believe this will become one of the best fantasy series ever written and I believe that I will be hooked into pre-ordering all of the future books as soon as I hear about them. If you love fantasy and epic fantasy in particular, then this is truly the series for you! I cannot recommend this series any more, so many twists and turns, but so well thought out, I would buy it right now if I were you! Highly, highly recommended and I can't wait for book 3!!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2014
This did not disappoint, just as engaging as the first book. The plot developed with many unexpected twists and turns. The characterisation was deeply satisfying. Sanderson has created a fascinating and consistent world. Cannot wait for the next installment.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2014
Read the first book, read this, and then cry with the knowledge that part 3 is still but a mote in Brandon Sanderson's eye. For more fiction of this quality however, I for one will be a very patient man.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2014
Brendan Sanderson combines so many features that fantasy readers will find fantastic, that his books, and especially The Stormlight Archive are difficult to ignore.
The heroic interpretation and development of Gemmel (RIP) the character refinement of Hobb, and the scale and, to be expected and alluded to in this series, of Jordan (RIP), adds up to an irresistible combination that I cannot recommend strongly enough.
The added (quasi) scientific basis of the power that he writes into his characters, the mode of advancement which began with the Mistborn Trilogy, has been diluted her, but the overall feeling and the ability to make you care about the protagonists, is as strong in his writing as ever before.

Perceived scale (only at this point), an excellent pace and characters who you really become involved with, make this my favourite fantasy series of the last five years.

Cracking stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2014
Whopper of a book and almost every page is more than worth it. Very rare that you want a book to go on for longer than 1088 pages! As with all Sanderson books to date, it’s a gripping, immersive ride through a fantastically imagined world.

Picks up right from the end of the previous novel - we find Kaladin forging a new life as Captain of Highprince Dalinar’s personal guard, turning former beaten-down bridgemen into fearless & dependable soldiers. Dalinar continues to try and unite the highprinces against a coming mysterious threat, using his visions as a guide, and Shallan keeps journeying & studying with Jasnah to find out the enigma of the voidbringers & history of the Knights Radiant.

Things take a turn for the fantastic & both powers and horrors from the past come in to play, leaving a patchwork of broken heroes to try and save humankind. It’s really great - read it and enjoy disappearing into a world where you can root for truth & justice and all that!

It was over a year ago that I read the Way of Kings & loved it, and in testament to the strength of character development and an impassioned writing style, I immediately picked up all the previous threads and personalities of the main characters without any trouble (though I may have struggled to remember some of the bridgemen, who slightly merge in to one multi-faced character this time).

Every chapter has something to keep you interested, and it is impressive that Sanderson manages to give so much detail and time to each character arc without it feeling like filler. E.g. even though we started to wonder about Shallan’s past even as early as the Way of Kings, it wan’t irritating that we only discover more gradually throughout this second book - it felt natural & a part of her character that revelations only come slowly and with lots of prompting. Genuinely not sure how Sanderson manages this as it’s the kind of thing that drives me crazy in other authors!!

The world is very detailed, and as others have mentioned, amazingly believable. Without resorting to overly purple descriptions of everything that appears (hello Christopher Paolini!) we get an incredibly filled-out view of the world, and really do believe it has existed for thousands of years with endless cycles of events. Shallan’s scholarly attributes help provide this context without it feeling like a 4th wall issue.

The air of mystery and suspense is excellent, with so many puzzling characters and backstories; almost everyone has mixed motives & demons in their past that leave you wanting to know what happened - personal favourite of mine being the King of Kharbranth, whose overall character is fascinating to me. It’s really the hallmark of a talented writer I think; to be able to create a character who is surreal but imaginable and provokes genuine interest in the reader.

--!SPOILER!--
Only for people who’ve read the book (question included!)…
I didn’t see Adolin’s last scene coming at all - of all the characters he seemed the most predictable & 2-dimensional in the book (not in a bad way, some people are predictable!) - but the last scene where he murders Sadeas was way, way off what I expected and a bit shocking. Anyone else think this is a foreshadowing of bad things to come? I’m guessing he won’t make a Radiant! Perhaps he’ll get consumed by jealousy there?? Certainly looks like he’ll lose Shallan to Kaladin, and even Renarin made the cut…
--!SPOILER!--

I think anyone can really enjoy this book & the series, even if they aren’t a particular fan of fantasy (though you’ll have to buy into plenty of imaginary creatures & settings) - great pacing, intriguing & suspenseful plots, a fascinating & gritty world, and crucially, a great mix of well-layered characters, many with enjoyable redeeming arcs.

If I had to pick some things that stop it from being perfect for me…

THE INTERLUDES

Good idea and for the most part well handled, but some of it just didn’t work that well for me. Eshonai’s chapters aren’t really interludes I don’t think, as she is a part of the whole story & provides a useful foil & tension-builder.

The other parts definitely contribute to the world & plot, if a bit indirectly, but I think the style suffers. As it’s not truly a part of the novel (otherwise the author wouldn’t call them interludes), I think Sanderson allows his standards to slip a bit. The style & tone are often different, best example being the Lift interlude - the dialogue made me cringe & was a shame, standing out from the rest of the book. Perhaps that’s because it was actually provided as a teaser for the novel & was written early on, but I just didn’t really like it that much.

Similarly, because they are often essentially very short stories, the arcs stand out in a book that’s major style is to draw out plots to give plenty of time for immersion. It makes the events seem quite rushed, and you have to believe quick character portraits & even a character u-turn over just a few pages (best example of this is the one with the merchant girl visiting the giant turtle island - that one was a bit indulgent, as it was quite obvious what the narrative was doing. I found myself thinking ‘just get to the point where this matters to the plot and let’s move on!’)

JOKES

Maybe I just have unrealistic standards, but I thought an editor might have stripped out some of the witty comments from Shallan - they are actually a cut well above many attempts at humour & banter in fantasy novels, but the problem is more the role they play in the story. Everyone reacts to Shallan like she’s some kind of quirky comedy genius (she even gets hard bitten traitorous soldiers on her side with an impassioned speech & mere confidence, then keeps them uber-loyal with her ‘spunky’ character), and so to believe that, we have to feel the same way… and it doesn’t always work. I think the jokes work best when she is in the chasms with Kaladin (I genuinely chuckled at the part where she throws something at him in annoyance and he catches it, to her much greater annoyance). Shallan on the whole ran the risk of succeeding too well and too often for me, but the line is definitely towed excellently and she makes for a very entertaining read.

GOT THE T-SHIRT...

Sadly, I have come to the opinion that Kaladin’s arc is actually exactly the same as the one he had for the previous story. This is a shame I think, as the tale of perseverance in brutal conditions without any hope, leading to self-realisation and a miraculous rescue was so brilliantly told in the Way of Kings; it didn’t need to be re-told here. I was waiting to see the new chapter in his story, of his moral dilemmas as a no-longer mythical superhuman, dealing with expectations from the court & conflicting responsibilites. Instead we get the same struggles with the past, the same relationship issues with Syl, and sadly the least believable self-discovery arc in the novel.

--!SPOILER!--
I don’t think the Kaladin / Elhokar arc worked: Kaladin had already come to a self-realisation and is supposed to be past this kind of thing - it’s even slightly acknowledged by the author as Kaladin talks about how surprisingly fast he goes back to his caged-animal feelings when in prison for 2 weeks - and it’s not clear that killing the king would even make that much difference. Everyone talks about how Dalinar is practically king already, and people just ignore the King’s edicts anyway. In other words, Dalinar being king is just the same thing; no extra authority and a proven disdain for rules from the high princes. So why does Kaladin care? If it’s revenge then I don’t think that fits his character well enough, especially not when he allows Amaram to just walk away after he’s been in prison, but before the assassination attempt.
--!SPOILER!--

But anyway, ignore those comments - it’s a really great read and I demolished it over a few days (stupidly staying awake till 2am even with early work the next day) - can’t wait for the next one. It’s good of Sanderson to give us such a long book, because I could easily have read another 1000 pages!

Grab a copy and have fun.

--!SPOILER!--
Why bring Jasnah back? I kind of enjoyed her not being in it, gave Shallan a much more interesting story. Maybe the place that she went to will have some significance… *spoiler*
--!SPOILER!--
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2014
‘Words of Radiance’ written by Brandon Sanderson is the second installment in his ‘The Stormlight Archive’ series and if my impressions can be summarized in one sentence after its reading - it was worth the wait of 3 and half years for this sequel to come out.

A world that Brandon Sanderson in his first novel ‘The Way of Kings' so brilliantly conceived and brought to life is back and the novel continues exactly where its predecessor ended. If you're a fan of the author and first part of his series then you certainly did not mind the epic size of his novel; the good news for readers is that its sequel is coming out even a bit longer, although reading again will pass as fast and exciting as was the first time.

The author once again manages to create the convincing heroes with which reader will easily identify while fearing over their destinies; he offers an incredible story and brilliant turns that will arouse the reader’s will to turn the pages until the final one that despite the novel extensiveness comes too soon. Brandon Sanderson skillfully interweaves the stories of several main characters while maintaining equally exciting action throughout the novel; and although some writers are better known for their dialogues while the others excel in their descriptions, Sanderson succeeds to hold readers in tension both with his great dialogues and extraordinary sense of action.

It is widely known how difficult is to write the second parts of the trilogy or saga because they do not begin nor end the whole story, but the fact is that the author with ‘Words of Radiance’ managed to not only pick up where he left off with ‘The Way of Kings' retaining all of his fans, but he raised the series to a new level. This will provide his works even greater popularity in same time subjecting him to even greater public pressure to write a sequel as soon as possible.

Therefore, if you consider its reading I can only say that I envy you that you still have not read the novel - you will truly enjoy it from the first to the last page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This series has to be one of the best fantasy series written in a long time .... That is till the ending. Unfortunately the end of the the book seems a rushed and not in keeping with the rest of the series; that said it is still better than most. On the whole this book and the previous one are well worth a read with strong characters and plots.

Update, I have the book (bought for me) and had purchased the Audio CD's to listen to in the car. Unfortunately the CD's seem to skip the last tracks on each CD in every CD player. A shame as I was enjoying listening to them.
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on 14 October 2014
This is a massive volume. This may produce some apprehension about whether it is worth the time investment to read this. Of course, if you are considering this book, you’ve already invested nearly as much time reading book one, and the short answer to this question is, yes, it’s worth the time, the reward is commensurate with the effort.

This book is very tightly plotted. Bits and pieces that seem minor and unrelated in the early sections show up later as significant pieces to the entire puzzle of this created world. This applies not just to the murky, mainly unknown history of this world, but to each of the major characters, pieces that round each character out, make them real and full-bodied. Unlike some other major fantasy epics, many of these characters are out-and-out heroes (although they are heroes that can fall off their pedestals), the presence of which I think is one of the reasons many people read fantasy as opposed to other genres of literature. The characters do change and evolve over the course of this volume, and there is quite a verisimilitude of different character types, all adding to the general satisfaction of reading a story that feels real, regardless of just how different this world is from the mundane world we live in.

While not everything has a resolution in this volume, a great deal is resolved and answered, so you don’t feel cheated by cliffhangers and threads left hanging, very refreshing in a planned multi-book series. The climax of this book is truly climactic; major events do happen in stellar fashion, worthy of Hollywood blockbuster treatment. And there is a certain amount of philosophizing happening within these pages, questions about the purpose of life and how you live it that add substance to this story.

About the only negative I had with this is that I wanted more description of the scenery, especially those sections not set on the Shattered Plains. There were some sections where I just couldn’t quite place myself in the local environ because of this. This is a minor quibble; after all, the thing is already a thousand pages.

An absorbing read, worth the effort.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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on 24 April 2014
I hope people read this review as honest and hopefully constructive.
I knew that after Way of Kings the "can do no wrong" Brendan Sanderson would have legions of fans claiming this book to be the "best ever." The reality is this is a good book, not a great one...certainly for me Way of Kings was far superior. Sanderson has essentially fallen prey to being so powerful now as a writer he can do almost as he pleases - some critical editing would have sharpened this book up for the better.
For the best part of 700 pages I was considering this to be the most disappointing sequel I have read in a long time...BUT the final quarter or so saves the day and Sanderson regains his usual élan and tempo.
I see what he is aiming for - the ultimate in traditional epic fantasy his "own" Wheel of Time, Song of Ice and Fire or Malazan book of the Fallen. He is trying to be epic in all senses...which should be praised but Tolkien if anything proved that epic vision, scope etc can be done in one overall book of 1000 pages. Words of Radiance alone is over that. I wonder had this book come earlier in Sanderson's career whether the editors/publishers would have been more brutal. Anyway ifs and buts.

So I think many fans new to fantasy will find this book difficult to get through - the pace, tempo and interest is laboured and meanders a touch through the various threads. You can't help but feel some of them are simply taking away from the power of the main characters/intrigue/plot - Kaladan/Dalinar/Adolin/Sadeas/Shallan. But once they all end up together (geographically speaking) things start to pick up. The culmination of the book is genuinely powerful...dare I say it even epic. Where I had forced myself through the majority of the book I could not tear myself away from the last 100 pages.

Whereas Way of Kings for me was superior in all aspects of fantasy writing and I would have recommended it to those new to fantasy in instant - this is not quite the same (obviously it is not a stand alone novel but I am trying to review it on its own merits). Long time fans of Sanderson and Fantasy will proclaim this to be the next great fantasy series...

I sincerely hope it is. There is a lot to admire in the book and in Sanderson generally...but as a reader who feels that any series that goes further than a trilogy risks becoming stagnant (see Wheel of Time and Song of Ice and Fire!) I really hope that Sanderson can keep a grip of all his ideas. I am thoroughly looking forward to learning more about the Heralds and Knights Radiant.

So overall 4 stars for imagination and daring, particularly in the final part but ultimately (and sorry to use trilogies as a guide) this is more Attack of the Clones than Empire Strikes Back.
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