Our spoiler-free Words of Radiance review


(This special prerelease, spoiler-free review is specifically approved by Team Sanderson.)

It's safe to say that Words of Radiance has the most pre-release hype of any of Brandon's solo works to-date. And it makes sense. The Way of Kings was Brandon's best work at the time, and so everyone is wondering, will Words of Radiance live up to the high bar set by book one? This is a sequel that has a ton riding on it. After all, despite the first book's length, there's still so much more of Roshar to explore. There's so many places that The Stormlight Archive can go from here, that it has been hard to predict what would happen in this book, much less a few books down the line. Words of Radiance could fall on its face. So, does it live up to the hype?

Storms yes it does.

"Of course you'd like the book," you immediately say. "You're a 17th Sharder, you'll love anything Brandon writes." I'd say this is somewhat true. None of us would be here if we didn't like what Brandon's done, but when you are a hyper fan, you set these books up to a high standard. You can see flaws that no one else sees, simply because you are so invested.

For a while, I worried that Words of Radiance would end up like The Well of Ascension, which I have some problems with to say the least. I loved Well's ending (which made it entirely worthwhile), but rereading it is a slog for me. Well of Ascension was Brandon's first true sequel, and it shows a bit. Obviously, Brandon has grown a vast deal from almost a decade ago when that book came out, but it was still a worry. Sequels are not easy, to say the least, but it looks like finishing up The Wheel of Time really honed Brandon’s sequel chops.

I also worried because--and this may sound like absolute heresy to many of you--I didn't immediately love The Way of Kings when it came out. I've come to love it after rereading it, but the first time I read it, well, while the Battle of the Tower was awesome, I had expected Part Five to be more. In all the Mistborn books the final part of the book contained even more awesomeness, but Way of Kings's final part was admittedly more of an extended prologue to the rest of the series. It took me a while to adjust to The Way of Kings and learn to love on its own merits instead of comparing it to Mistborn, which is a very different type of novel.

I say this to convince you that no, we don't believe Brandon Windruns on water. So when I say Words of Radiance is absolutely phenomenal, an amazing achievement, and my favorite Brandon book to date, I'm not being a hyperbolic fan. It really is that good. It takes everything that was great about The Way of Kings and takes it up at least five notches--maybe ten or fifteen notches, even, depending on how you measure your notches. No matter which way you slice this massive tome with a Shardblade (in which case, can I have your Blade? Actually, that might be a bad idea), Words of Radiance is incredible.

And when I say that everything is taken up a level, I'm again not being hyperbolic. Did you enjoy the interludes in book one? They are better and more plot important now. The epigraphs here are similarly more awesome and terrifying. The interior art? When you hold the book in your hands and see the gorgeous Shallan endpapers, you'll fall in love. Dan Dos Santos (artist extraordinaire, who did the beautiful US Warbreaker cover) does some art work and it is oh so excellent.

You might think that Words of Radiance, being longer than The Way of Kings, would be a chore to get through, but you couldn't be more wrong. The plotting is so much better here. You'll be amazed by how much actually happens in this book. Every part of the book is focused and tight, and it has incredible, thrilling moments all along the way.

Do you want to see more magic? Oh, we see more. Words of Radiance expands on the world and characters in such a natural way that you'll be thinking, "of course this is how it should have been. There was no other way." Brandon weaves together character development, tight plotting, and the world and magic of Roshar in a way that I can only describe as masterful.

Brandon reveals so much in Words of Radiance. Things I expected to have to wait at least two or three more books to find out are explained in full by the end of the book, which leaves me to wonder "If he’s giving us this information now, what is he holding back?"

Not only is the story great, it also has some of the most beautiful writing I've read--I teared up more than once, and that's rare for me--and it also has some of the most haunting writing I've ever read. And it manages to be hilarious, too (let me say that two characters meet in a rather unexpected way and leave it at that). It pulls at your emotions the entire way. It's relentless like that. You can tell how much he has grown as a writer in the years since he wrote The Way of Kings.

And then, that ending.

That ending.

Guys, I'm not trying to deliberately hype it up for you, but you haven't seen anything yet. I had thought of giving you a summary with the spoilers heavily redacted, as in: "Then REDACTED REDACTED with REDACTED, because why not?" But I decided even that was too spoilery. All you really need to know is that there were four separate moments where I screamed "REDACT YEAH!" (insert your favorite storming swear here) in my empty apartment. Note, this was at Very Late O'Clock. So, to my poor neighbors, I would say that I'm sorry, but when you read it, you will understand the awesomeness. It was totally justified for me to scream and wake you up in the middle of the night. Pinky swear.

And when the storm passes, after you think days, weeks, and months after you finish as you try to sleep "Wow, that was incredible" (I did this five times that I'm aware of), does Words of Radiance still hold up to a less hyped up mind? It really does, and there's so much depth in the book to dissect.

There's also a deeper reason for why it has stuck with me. I love The Stormlight Archive for a lot of reasons, like its deep world and extensive magic. I'm a sucker for that, as many of you on 17th Shard are. But there's something more. As a genre, fantasy, with George R. R. Martin and others, has been trending towards darker, more "realistic" worlds. Stormlight Archive is not that.

One criticism I hear about Brandon's works is that his characters aren't gritty or real enough. Well, you know what? I like heroes being heroes. Brandon writes about heroes. When you think about it, that's what the Knights Radiant and the Stormlight Archive are all about. What does it mean to truly be a hero? Having people try and struggle to do the right thing is fascinating, and allows for opportunities where you literally scream with joy (as I did) and just stand up and cheer. I'm so glad Brandon bucks that dark fantasy trend and gives me something to love.

Wrap Up

Words of Radiance is truly an achievement. It expands on its predecessor, fulfilling the promises it sets up, and manages to surpass it. There is no question about it: this is my favorite Brandon Sanderson novel. When I read The Way of Kings, I had thought that while it was (at the time) Brandon's best written novel, it wasn't my favorite, but that The Stormlight Archive series absolutely had the potential to be Brandon's best series. Well, that was entirely right. There's no doubt about it. Out of five stars, this book is ten heartbeats, with a 2:1 stars to heartbeats ratio.

If you adored The Way of Kings, you will be blown away by Words of Radiance. Even if book one didn't thrill you, however, I can't see how you won't be enthralled by this volume. It really is that good. You'll be sold on the entire series with this.

Fire and hammer forge a sword; time and neglect rust it away. And the same is true for The Stormlight Archive. Yes, we have seen the time and maybe even felt some neglect, but what Brandon was out of sight doing tempered his skill as a writer, and this book is the reward. The Knights Radiant will stand again, and this book is proof that they will stand for a long time.

Thanks to Josh for his contribution to this review.

Words of Radiance comes out in the US on March 4th, 2014, and in other territories on March 6th, 2014. Talk about the book in our Words of Radiance board.

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Love it!  I am so darn excited and all the reviews being posted are making me even more excited.

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This is perhaps the best spoiler-free review of a book I have ever read. From what I can tell, that is very appropriate.

I love how you gave it 10 heartbeats. 2:1 stars:heartbeats = 20 stars:10 heartbeats. That's 20 stars out of 5 folks :)

Oh, and for 'regular' schmucks like me that don't get to be beta or gamma readers...

 

 

1 week.

 

One Earth week.

 

7 days. Yessssssss...

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This spoiler-free review just wrenches a feeling of pure envy out of me, since we may not get the book here in the Philippines at the same time everyone in the US will. *sigh*

10 more days.

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You addressed my main concern - that the length would leave it a slow read at times. Glad I can put that idea to rest.

 

I was hyped before...now I'm somewhere beyond that. A very calm confidence that I'm in for a really good time. It doesn't make sense, but that is where this review just put me. Thanks!

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I completely agree. I enjoyed The Way of Kings, but I also felt like I was peeking through a key hole, viewing a nice story, but just skimming the surface.

 

I was worried the Words of Radiance would only give us a little more, perhaps opening a porthole into Roshar, but Brandon flung a window open instead. While I know there is even more left to be discovered, I felt like this story had so much more depth. As you said, Brandon answered questions I thought would be left for books 3, 4, or 5.

 

Words of Radiance was definitlely worth the wait!

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Wow! That was a great review and I am super excited to read the book!!! Another week - how I wish I could turn the clock. I have taken the day off so I can read the book :D.

 

I rarely read a book from cover-to-cover more than once and I have already read Way of Kings three times. I cant believe it and even more surprising for me is that I am on my fourth re-read (just to shore me up until March 4th) and I find myself still trying to get through the scene/chapter/book as quickly as possible even though I know what would happen. This is by far my most favourite book and I cant wait for the next!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am looking forward to it even more then I thought possible.

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Well. That was intense. I'm glad this review did not come out earlier. I'm contemplating tracking down those who mistakenly got an early copy and swapping it for a clean, new 50 dollar bill. If nothing else detective work would distract me from the roughly 168 hours 27 minutes and 34 seconds I have left until I may read my own personal copy. I will be calling out of work, and reading it all in one massive session. YAY!

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Wow, I thought I am one of the few Brandon-fans who appreciated the Way of Kings as a well-developed work with a lot of merits but somehow did  not manage to really like it.
However, this began to change as I re-read it. :)

Waiting for WoR (I hope that Bookdepository have already shipped it)

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I'm pretty much dying at this point and you've only made it worse.

Next week probably won't be good for my grades.

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when you are a hyper fan, you set these books up to a high standard. You can see flaws that no one else sees, simply because you are so invested.

This "hyper fan" magic system sounds majorly underpowered. In Warbreaker, the heavily invested get to perceive all sorts of cool things with colors. You just get to see flaws? Can you at least fly or something? Or maybe getting ARCs is part of it.

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...Chaos, I'd say you're preaching to the choir, but it's more like dangling a fat, juicy, roast pig just out of reach of a mosh pit of starving hyenas, then eating that pig. And dropping in the TOENAILS for us to fight over. Did I say us? I meant the hyenas.

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skaa

Posted

One week left! REDACTED, I wish we had five days in a week like on Roshar.

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FANTASTIC review. Best one I've seen. Instead of being all hyped/angry/envious, I'm now perfectly happy to hold on a few more days when I know it's going to be that good. I'm going to agree with BloodFalcon here: "I was hyped before...now I'm somewhere beyond that. A very calm confidence that I'm in for a really good time."

 

Which is awesome. I was a little worried the book won't live up to my WAY inflated expectations. Now I'm only worried I'll finish it too quickly to really savor the read. Or not have enough time to read to find out what happens. Or will be in public reading and make a fool of myself yelling at the book.....but maybe that'll just give me a chance to reccommend it to someone else.....:D

Can't wait to see which character's randomly meet.

(verbosely) SO EXCITED! :D 

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Thank you for all the kind words! It made my week.

You won't have to wait much longer!

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Oh man, don't tease me with all the things being revealed leaving even more significant stuff in the future. ;_;

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All I can say now is that the review is absolutely right.

The book gave me a 28 hour reading marathon, then I had to go to bed - and not because I grew tired.

Still I am a little confused, that I got my copy in Germany on February 26th while it seems to be out on March 4th in the US.

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I'm about 300 pp. into the book right now..... It really is fantastic, and even better-written than TWoK so far. I'm excited for the "ending" you' were so stoked about!!!! 

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