Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson was a behemoth. My edition was an eye-watering 1,400-page sweltering hunk of 1s and 0s (it was an epub version, that is to say). After finishing it I was left with two emotions, both in equal measure. First was the overwhelming sense of awe at what the series has done so far. The second was the blistering disappointment of knowing that the fourth book might not be out for another year or two. Now, not only am I waiting for The Thorn of Emberlain, The Winds of Winter, and Doors of Stone, I now must await the fourth installment of the Stormlight Archive. I suppose though that if I end up with enough series for which I am awaiting the next chapter, eventually one of them will be released…right? I know firsthand how grueling a process writing can be, but still…please guys.
The Long Uphill
I will admit, the buildup in this one was slow. About 1,000 pages of it. But the story never stops. The plot might be long, but each scene is wonderfully crafted. There is growth in every chapter. And every single Chekhov gun is fired by the end. Nothing is superfluous…and in a story of half-a-million words, that is an accomplishment all its own.
I will also admit, that I did get a bit antsy waiting for the climb toward the climax to come to fruition, but holy smokes…it was worth it. The final quarter of the book needs to be read in one sitting. So much is happening, and all the plotlines, which had previously been spread thin across Roshar and Shadesmar snap back into place in a series of explosive moments that got my hands shaking in excitement. No joke.
A Widening Aperture
You get so much in this one. The history of Roshar, revelations about the conflict between the Parshendi and humans, mad character growth. And Dalinar Kholin. We learn his harrowing backstory bit by crushing bit. There are incarnations of emotions, there are skeletal rock monsters, there is a sassy sword that despises evil, someone who calls himself Rock who I get to imagine as Dwayne Johnson with a red beard. It has it all.
But it rarely feels like fantasy. No mysterious chosen ones, no forest-dwelling sophisticated pointy-eared elves, no teenagers proclaiming themselves King in the North (sorry, A Song of Ice and Fire), no dragons…and above all, the conversations between characters mostly feel grounded. Reasonable. Mostly.
Nothing Comes Easy
The reason I can accept the unholy length of this book was because the characters needed 1,400 pages to overcome their struggles. Each character has a arc that is concrete and along which they can be seen to make visible progress. Dalinar, Kaladin, and Shallan all have deep flaws that they work tirelessly to correct, or accept. While Kaladin’s and Shallan’s stories are compelling, they both focus on growth upward, of achieving more and more, gaining mastery over their abilities and understanding their increasingly important roles in the events of the world.
Dalinar though. Man. I don’t want to give anything away, but his arc is well-wrought. One of the most powerful people in the story, but also perhaps the most human.
And Now I Wait
It is not without some imperfections, but perhaps they are only to my taste. I’ll leave it at this: I loved the book and will wait anxiously for the next one. In the mean time, I’ll check out some of Sanderson’s previous efforts and see how things look there.
Rating: 4 out of 5