I debated a lot as to whether or not I should do a review of Oathbringer, the third Stormlight Archive book by Brandon Sanderson, because I don’t think critic reviews are going to have an effect on whether or not people are going to read it. I like to spend my time providing people with recommendations they don’t already have, and the third book in one of the most popular fantasy series around isn’t going to have its momentum cut or boosted by what I say. That being said, as I finished up this 1200 page behemoth I found I had a lot (of hopefully interesting things) to say about the book that I did not expect so screw it, let’s talk about this year’s most popular release. This is going to be a bit different from my usual reviews, as I am not going to talk about the plot to try and get you to read it, think of this as a post discussion for a book that you should definitely check out.
Oathbringer is an impressive book on multiple levels. On the surface it is a huge novel that is extremely well paced, which takes a lot of skill. Though there are one or two slower areas, I never got bored as I was tearing through chapter after chapter. The book is filled with all the great things its two predecessors are known for: awesome characters, a cool world, interesting magic, and a captivating plot. However, taking a step deeper what is most impressive about Oathbringer to me is how it expanded the scale of The Stormlight Archive so fluently and naturally. See I had a problem going into Words of Radiance. Each book in the SA is centered around a different member of the cast, making them the focal point of the storytelling while still giving some time to all the other members. When I read Way of Kings, book one, I got really used to the book’s focal protagonist, Kaladin, being the center of attention. This became a problem when I moved to book two, Words of Radiance, where Shallan takes over as the focus as I came out of Way of Kings much more interested in Kaladin than anyone else. By the end of Words of Radiance I was completely on the Shallan train, but I spent a good portion of the start of the book resenting it a little for not giving me more content on my beloved Kaladin.
Going into Oathbringer I found myself thinking about two things: first, now that I was team Shallan was I going to have the same issue I had before as book three moved its focal character to Dalinar. Second, The Stormlight Archive has been built from the start as a series that was going to be about teams of people saving the world, but the first two books had felt like much more personal stories that focused on individuals. Was Stormlight going to be able to make the transition to a team series eventually or are we just doomed to have ten books where our protagonists are swapped out? Well funny thing …
The major theme of Oathbringer is unity, which is appropriate on many levels. Surpassing all my expectations, Oathbringer has this weirdly perfect balance where it elevates Dalinar to the center of attention for his book, but never puts down its expanding cast of other protagonists, essentially managing to have its cake and eat it too. At some point in reading Oathbringer, through brilliant characterization and pacing, I found I had changed how I thought of the protagonists of Stormlight from a group of individuals I loved to the Knights Radiant, all of whom were brilliant for their own reasons. The book makes everything feel like it’s coming together and, to me, it has elevated the story to a place of balance where every voice is heard constantly without anyone talking over one another. On top of all of this, not only does Sanderson find this beautiful balance between his Knights, he also breathes a huge amount of life into all of his side characters bringing the world to life. Oathbringer makes Roshar feel bigger and filled with peoples and places that I want to explore.
Oathbringer manages to expand the scope of the series massively, while also making the storytelling tighter and more fluid at the same time. It does this through brilliant pacing, an edge-of-your-seat plot, lovable deep characters, and a whole lot of emotional moments. Oathbringer surpassed all of my expectations and continues to show why Sanderson has earned his wild popularity. Go check it out if you haven’t already.
Rating: Oathbringer – 10/10
P.S. My editor actually just pointed out to me while writing this, that it is the “Knights Radiant”, not the “Knight Radiants”. Which is ridiculous. One implies a divine manifestation of morally good ideals with a code of honor, and one implies dudes in cans that glow. I am going to stick with Radiants.