Words of Radiance
Book 2 of the Stormlight Archive
Wow. I don't know where to even start with this one. Admittedly, though Brandon Sanderson is my favorite author, I wasn't the biggest fan of The Way of Kings, the first book of the Stormlight Archives. I mean, the story was good and the world was interesting, but for some reason it did not hook me the way his other books had.
Now, with Words of Radiance, I may have a new favorite fantasy novel(and optimistically, new fantasy series).
Words of Radiance mainly continues the storylines of the major characters from Way of Kings - Kaladin, Shallan, Jasnah, Dalinar, Adolin, and Szeth, the assassin in white. The way that these characters eventually come together is nothing short of genius, culminating in an ending that the word "epic" doesn't seem to begin to cover. Basically, what Way of Kings made me think this series was ultimately building towards served only as the climax of book two. Out of a planned ten. Yeah.
The world in the Stormlight Archives is rich, unique, and awe inspiring. Sanderson has crafted a world which has been shaped by violent storms called highstorms. All facets of life and the evolution of plants, animals, and humans are tied to the deadly power of these forces of nature. It may be cliche to speak of the world within a fantasy book being a character in itself, but that truly applies here. I cannot imagine the amount of work Sanderson put into crafting the adaptation of life to live in this storm-torn existence. The magic in this world, powered by stormlight(basically an energy that originates in the highstorms) is complex and creative, a Sanderson staple.
There are enough interweaving plots to potentially tie your brain into knots, yet Sanderson pulls them off deftly, throwing twists and surprising revelations at the reader left and right. Even predictable plot points are given an injection of Sanderson ingenuity. And never do these twists feel as if they exist to further the story or to simply throw off the reader. Each is crucial to the story, and completely believable in the context of the story. I know I'm a little biased in this regard(as I've mentioned, Sanderson is my favorite author), but he has really outdone himself with the story this time.
The characters all possess an amazing amount of depth(Sanderson seems to have evolved past the criticism of having two-dimensional characters in his prior works . . . maybe an effect from finishing Roobert Jordan's Wheel of Time series). Every main character is wholly believable(in a swords and sorcery fantasy sense), each with their own personal demons and motivations. Not one of the dozens of main and side characters blend in with another. Each is unique and interesting.
The action in this book, as with any Sanderson book, is exciting, fast-paced, and brilliant in its creativity.
Now, I know I haven't said much about the plot, and I don't feel I can without giving more than I'd like away. Instead, I'd like to express that this is an AMAZING epic fantasy novel. The hardback version is over a thousand pages(I read that it's the biggest book published by TOR page wise . . . not 100% sure if that's true)and 300K+ words, yet it reads like a book a quarter of its size, keeping you glued to the pages from the first to the last with little to no filler. Some of the biggest names in epic fantasy(Tolkien, Jordan, Martin) are/were unable to pull off such a feat. When I finished the last page, I wasn't ready to put down the book. I wanted more, so much so that I found myself actually hating the thought of the series coming to an end 8 books from now. Yeah, I enjoyed it that much. I can't remember the last time I was this satisfied with a book in a series. The end is still stuck in my head as I write this, and probably will be until book 3 is released a year or more from now.
Again, I know I have a bit of a Sanderson bias, but I still feel that this is a book that needs to be read by any fan of epic fantasy. Heck, just fantasy. I do not recommend going into it without reading Way of Kings, but know that if you even sort of enjoy Way of Kings, I guarantee you'll LOVE Words of Radiance.