I don’t think I’ve ever read a book precisely as good as the previous one before. Normally, with sequels, it’s to be praised if they’re not too much worse. But this… this was just as good. Not better, I think, because I’ve too much love for Way of Kings to say such a thing, but by god it was no less. I am still buzzing, and grinning like a loon. That probably makes this a bad time to be writing a review, too. I may have to come back to this tomorrow. Unfortunately, because I’ve been so desperately keen to read Words of Radiance, and to keep on reading it, I’ve fallen out of my acquired habit of thinking about what I think about the book I’m reading, as I read it. If that makes sense. I was so absorbed, so engrossed in the book that I had no time for thought about anything else. Which is another reason I probably shouldn’t be writing this now. I’m thoughtless and horribly biased at the moment.
That said, I think that bias is worth presenting in this case. With almost any book, there’s a feeling of elation on reaching the end. It’s a lovely rush. It’s sad that it’s got less and less as I’ve got older, but it’s still there, even with books that weren’t really worth the effort. But finishing WoR wasn’t just a pleasant contentment; I am genuinely excited by having got to the end. And that sort of passion for a book is worth sharing. While it erases much of the reasoned critique, it balances out by belying an overall quality that I don’t think my reasoned critique could adequately convey. Sorry, I’m just quite hyper right now.
Getting more to the point, the thing I really want to pick out about my experience of reading WoR is how Sanderson managed to make me feel like the plot was wrong for quite a large section of the narrative – he made it feel as if what was happening was not the story he should be telling, and it felt kind of uncomfortable, making me dislike characters I previously enjoyed – and then managed not only to rescue the story from the wrongness, but to turn it around and build that wrongness into making everything amazing. I should probably explain better what I mean. Sometimes, when you read a book, something that happens just isn’t quite… right. It isn’t the way you feel the plot is meant to be, or that character is meant to act, because it doesn’t fit with the perception you’ve managed to build of the world the author has created. It’s not the same as “oh no, my favourite character died, this is dreadful” or other distasteful things. They often fit perfectly well and feel right (if awful). This is more subtle than that. And I don’t think I’ve ever read anything where it’s happened and had it resolved, before today. I’m honestly not sure how to explain it. All I know is that yesterday, WoR was making me unhappy and uncomfortable because it was just wrong, and today, everything is fantastic and I love it.
It’s very hard to explain this without spoiling, but I really shouldn’t, because it’s only been out a week or so.
I’ll try talking about something else, instead, perhaps, like the pleasing way that Sanderson manages to defy expectations, while still giving us the satisfaction of seeing the endings we want happen to the characters we love. Or the fact that I still have very little understanding of the distant-past backstory he’s worked into over 2000 pages of book now… it’s still just… what the hell? I mean, bits make sense, but it’s still a mystery, and that is really really annoying in the absolute best way. The wait until the next book (so probably another two years) is going to be torture. But it’s worth it, because between the end of Way of Kings and the end of Words of Radiance, everything has changed. The people we had, the places and the threats they all faced, they’re all completely different, but everyone has moved forward in exactly the right way and it’s just so perfect.
Raging fangirl etc. etc.
I do have one criticism. It’s a very small one, I admit, but it is there. Spoiler warning first, though. It’s nothing major, and I’m not giving away plot specifics, but still, you are warned. Sadeas. He’s just a conventional baddie now, with his evil, scheming wife. Once he was stripped of the pretense of trust, he lost all complexity of characterisation. And that’s so sad. Where everyone else, even the bloody magic assassin, gets glorious depth of character, Sadeas is left boringly evil. There are some glorious character personality twists in WoR, one of them was just stunning, and yet Sadeas stays… just plain evil. I wish he had something else to him, other than just the desire to lead Alethkar, because it would make everything perfect.
That aside, the book is wonderful. I could not have hoped for a better sequel to Way of Kings, a-
Okay never mind. I just looked something up. The Stormlight Archive is planned as a TEN BOOK SERIES. How- I mean. What. Really? That’ll be over 10,000 pages of this. And will probably take another sixteen years at the very least before we reach the end. If he does two years between books (which I believe was the original plan), we won’t be at the end until 2020. I’ll be forty.
I’m going to stop thinking about that. It’s not a good thought. And I’ll probably come back and post something more coherent tomorrow.