Review: ‘Oathbringer’ by Brandon SandersonPosted: January 5, 2018
In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.
Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: the enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awaken the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.
Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand together — and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past — even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.
I read the first two books in the Stormlight Archive back-to-back in the middle of last year, and I didn’t have to wait too long, relatively speaking, for the third book to come out. But, according to Goodreads, this is a ten book series. So I’ll be over here, crying. I have the mother of all book hangovers, you guys. I need a sixth star in my rating system for books like this one. It’s everything that the first two books were, only more so. As a result, I’m sure this review is going to be all AAAAH and NEEDS MORE!, and probably not very coherent.
Bear with me.
I say it with every review of a Sanderson book, but he is an amazing builder of worlds. This series puts the epic in epic fantasy. As I said the other day, I listened to this on audiobook and the download was available in five parts. FIVE. For those playing at home, that’s fifty-five hours of listening time. (Goodreads tells me the hardcover is more than 1200 pages. The first two books clock in at over 1000 pages too.)
As well as using that space to build up a cast of characters that I love (and sometimes loathe), Sanderson also uses it to detail a word that is strange and unique in its plant and animal life. Plants retreat from predators and storms like crabs into shells. Animals are mostly shelled, as well, with gems for hearts, as are the parshmen former slaves that the blurb mentions. Occasionally, we see glimpses of familiar animals, especially horses, but also including “chickens” (a term for any feathered bird).
It’s all wonderfully detailed, and — as this is a Brandon Sanderson novel — the details are important to the story, to the whole. I can’t say more than that without spoilers, but that’s been my experience of all his fantasy books so far; I think he is perhaps being self-indulgent, but it turns out, OMG, it was all relevant. He is a genius. (Have I reached my gush quotient yet?)
In terms of the characters, familiar faces from the first two books are here. My favourites are still Shallan and Kaladin (who I still ship, not gonna lie — a weird combo for me, as I usually dismiss the brooding character as a love interest), with Dalinar coming in a close second. Wit, surprisingly, is third.
I adore Kaladin so much I drew fanart of him while listening to the book the other day. It’s below, because apparently I have no shame. Don’t laugh too hard.
In terms of the plot, this book actually ties things off really nicely, and it could have been a good finish to a trilogy if that was the way Sanderson had wanted to go. Of course, there are still dangling plot threads, some of them huge — and I’m glad I get more Stormlight Archive.
But there’s something that really came to the fore for me in this book, something that pushed it onto a whole new level. I mentioned in my review of the first book in the series, The Way of Kings, that Kaladin suffers from depression; Shallan also had issues to do with suppressed memories. It becomes apparent throughout this book that almost all the heroes are broken. I won’t name names, but various characters struggle with (among other things) alcoholism, drug addiction, sensory processing disorder, PTSD, and multiple personality disorder. And there’s no magic cure for any of these things, like you see in some books. The characters are broken and they strive and fail and succeed and are so authentically human.
I loved it.