Saturday, March 8, 2014

Words of Radiance: The Stormlight Archive, Book 2, by Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance, Stormlight Archive,
Book 2
, by Brandon Sanderson. [1]
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY, Saturday, March 8, 2014!

Book Review by: Sharon Powers.

UPDATE: 07-09-14: References converted to numerical format for ease of finding sources.

     Last week, I reviewed Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings, Stormlight Archive, Book 1. I also reported that book 2 of the Stormlight Archive, Words of Radiance was to be released to book stands on Tuesday, March 04, 2014. I promised to try and get the book read and the blog post written for this week's review--well, I am happy to tell you that I made it. Here it is.

     Way of Kings was a best seller, and an award winner, and obviously well-loved by many, many readers. Words of Radiance, its sequel, has been long awaited by many readers of this brand new and very popular series. My blog post book review of Way of Kings was quite extensive, and I included many, many spoilers. I did this because the book had been out for so long (3 1/2 years), and, of course, the plot and substance of the book were already widely-known. 

     For my review of this book, don't expect major spoilers. I don't want to ruin the enjoyment of reading the book...being surprised by the big reveals...and I certainly don't want to take away from you any "screams," "squeals," "Oh my Gods!" "No, No, Nos," or "What? What? Wait...What just happened?" moments of enjoyment. And let me tell you now, up front, there are tons of those moments in this book. I am so excited to be reviewing this book, today, so let's get started.

FIRST, WHAT DID WE BRING WITH US FROM WAY OF KINGS
INTO WORDS OF RADIANCE?:

     Book one of any epic fantasy series is all about building the world and introducing the characters for the story; then some piece of action is used to get the story moving, to propel the story forward.  In, Way of Kings, Sanderson introduces us to the world of Roshar. The people we meet are strangers, at first, and we become acquainted with them in the early pages, as they take their first steps on a journey. We gradually learn more and more about them as the story begins unfolding. It's a journey, during which, they permit us to accompany them, flowing along beside them, unseen, watching their every movement, like the invisible Spren Sanderson describes in the book. I almost feel as if we, the unseen and silent readers of the story, could be "Reading Spren," flitting alongside the characters as they move through the pages of the book.

The world of Roshar. Looking at the map you can place Alethkar in relation to Jah Keved; see the small city/state of Kharbranth; Shinovar, far to the west--Szeth's country of origin, as well as "The Purelake" (just about center on the map), mentioned by several characters in the book, and other locations utilized in the Way of Kings (Book 1). I am particularly interested in Aimia (far left)--the location of the Voidbringer in Interlude I-3, where "Rysn" meets a Voidbringer with blue fingernails and deep blue eyes; he brought the fell curses of "Improper puns...and a stench from something [he] ate that did not sit well with [him]" (p.187). [2]
     In any event, in Sanderson's World of Roshar, we see the worst of a culture: its racism, the stratification of peoples in the extreme (from Kings to slaves), sexism, requiring women, for example, to wear "modesty sleeves/gloves," to cover one of their hands, and no female warriors. [Although...Dalinar was quite shocked to see female Knights Radiant in his "visions."] We observe the lust for power in all its forms (political, financial, spiritual and physical), the vengeance underlying the actions of characters, due, in large part, to legal and moral injustice, and, of course, the big one, the use (or abuse) of others through religion.

[3]
     Contrasting these injustices is the effort, by some, to live a better life, to do what's right and to serve others in a selfless way. There are many great examples of this throughout Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, but I have to say my favorite example is how Dalinar faces death with love, beauty, and dignity as the assassin in white, Szeth, comes for him (This isn't a spoiler: The end of The Way of Kings indicates that Szeth was given the assignment by King Taravangian to kill Dalinar, so we all know Szeth was coming for Dalinar.); also, I'm not going to give away how this scene ends (you must read it to find out).

TheTen Heralds, one of which is
Talenel'Elin, Stonesinew, Herald
of the Almighty. [4]
     By the end of Way of Kings, we have learned that something bad is coming to destroy the world--we don't quite understand what that is, yet. In fact, in the very last pages we see Wit, who "Welcome[s] [the] lost one," Talenel'Elin, Stonesinew, Herald of the Almighty, and the Herald announces the "Desolation has come."

We have also learned, through Dalinar's visions, that time is running out and that the "Voidbringers," and something called the "Everstorm," will soon return. We have been shown a number of people who have growing abilities that look suspiciously like powers a Radiant might have. And we have learned that assassinations have been taking place throughout the known world--they appear to be politically motivated assassinations--but the reader is not so sure.

So, we bring with us into Book 2, knowledge of the World of Roshar and its peoples, what is beautiful about them, and the problems with which they are plagued. Now let's take a look at Book 2, Words of Radiance, to see what's been happening since we last had contact with the World of Roshar.

THE BOOK--A BRIEF SYNOPSIS:
     The "Assassin," or "Death in White," has been sent out into the world with an assignment to assassinate more than two dozen dignitaries and world leaders. The master assassin is unbeatable, and no matter what traps have been set for him, he eludes them, and his target ends up dead. Shockingly, we learn that one of the people slated for assassination is noneother than Dalinar, King Elhokar's Uncle. Importantly, he is the true power behind the throne.

Sylphrena, nicknamed, Syl, bonds with Kaladin to give him
the ability to take in stormlight. She, in some ways also men-
tors him and chides him to do what is right. Syl is an honor
spren and was attracted to Kaladin because of his honorable
behavior in the face of betrayal and defeat. In the book,
Words of Radiance, Kaladin has a severe crisis where he
has to come to grips with himself. Kaladin loses his way and
I just couldn't help feeling sad with Kaladin's choices. The
question is, will he continue on this destructive path, or
will he find his way back? He allows himself to be seduced
into looking for vengeance and falls prey to his own biases
and self-interest. Will he make his way out of this morass?[5]
    Tasked with his protection is Kaladin, whom we saw in Book 1 of The Stormlight Archives. A former slave, Kaladin and his men, Bridge Team 4, rescued Dalinar, his son and fellow brothers-in-arms. Now, Kaladin struggles to get his men trained, to keep Dalinar, the King and his family safe, and to try to come to grips with his increasing responsibility and with the new found powers he has been experiencing.

     Kaladin struggles with societal prejudice against him being a "darkeyes," and former slave while trying to fill the role of Captain of the King's Guard. "Syl," a spren with whom he has bonded and from whom he can access the power of stormlight, tries to help him make better choices. Will Syl be able to help him, or will she have to abandon him because he has lost his honor?

     To make matters worse, the Parshendi continue to battle Alethi forces at the Shattered Plains. The Parshendi, led by Eshonai, make a breath-taking decision that could cause the anahilation of the world as the Alethi peoples know it and unleash the Voidbringers. Shallan and Jasnah rush from Kharbranth on a ship, racing towards the Shattered Plains to raise warning about the secrets they have discovered about the Parshendi. Will they make it in time to warn everyone?

WHAT I THINK ABOUT THE BOOK:
     Oh, my, my, my...pure deliciousness!

A diagram of how the Bridge Team 4 operated
to get the bridge over one of the chasms in The
Way of Kings
. Shen was a part of Bridge Team 4.[6]
       Parshmen/Parshendi: Since I was just talking about the Parshendi, let's start there. I don't want anyone to forget about Shen. You do remember Shen, don't you? He is a Parshman, which is a kind of Parshendi-type tribesman, or cousin to the Parshendi--Parshmen appear to be docile or easily controlled. Anyway, Shen is one of Kaladin's Bridge Team Four members. He was put on the bridge crew originally to see if he could be trusted to work on the team and carry bridges; the bridge crew highly distrust Shen, but Kaladin insisted on treating him with equanimity.

     The Everstorm: Rescued with the other bridge team members, now, Shen is a part of Kaladin's team of body guards...will they trust him enough to put a weapon in his hands? Or, is Shen quietly going about his work, waiting to be "activated?" Just who is Shen, and what is he doing in the King's Guard? What part does Shen have to play in the prophesied True Desolation (also called the Everstorm and the Night of Sorrows), where the forces of Odium with the Voidbringers, will attack Roshar to destroy and exile mankind? If you recall from The Way of Kings, Jasnah and Shallan theorize that the Parshmen (and the Parshendi) are the Voidbringers waiting for the Day of Desolation to begin.

We know very little about, "Wit." When
we first saw him in, Way of  Kings, he was
called, "Hoid." He appears and disappears
suddenly in the story, gives advice to
people, and uses his acerbic "Wit" to poke
at people with pointed sarcasm. He is a
"Worldsinger," and Sigzil's master and
teacher (until he tells Kaladin to tell Sigzil
that he has graduated and is now a full
Worldsinger). We also learn that he is
good at traveling to Shadesmar and is a
master of disguise. He can use "Light-
weaving (as he did in his story-telling to
Kaladin when he met him in the desert).
He seems to care about Dalinar, and
warns him, but also indicates his
interests may differ in important areas.[7]
     Title of the book: O.K. The title of this book is, Words of Radiance. The title is a reference to a book that Princess Jasnah gives to Shallan to read. The book contains information about an order of the Knights Radiant known as "Lightweavers," (p.113) that Princess Jasnah wanted Shallan to read about. But before she can read the book, it is lost. (No, I won't say how.) Shallan goes to quite some lengths to obtain another copy. And once she gets it...her eyes are opened.

     Shallan's Story: This book, this story, is very much Shallan's story, just as Way of Kings was Kaladin's story--there we saw flashbacks that took us to Kaladin's upbringing and experiences. Here, we see many flashbacks featuring Shallan's back story. We see her grow up and find out what motivates her, what causes her dysfunctionality, and we find out why the book is titled, Words of Radiance.

     As you read the story, pay attention to all the references to the Lightweavers. [By the way, Hoid, AKA, Wit, has abilities similar to those of a lightweaver--you might want to look for parallels, here, too, as you read. Since Wit doesn't appear often in the story, just make a note of what he does and his apparent abilities.]

     Focus on Bias: The Way of Kings shows us not only the stratification of society into classes of privilege down through to slavery, but also sexism, racism, and other one up, one down relationships of people in society. We carry that over into Words of Radiance. Sanderson, even more than in Way of Kings, draws pictures and vignettes of injustice throughout Book 2 of the series. His characters interact in a way that, to us, as readers, seems true-to-life. This has the effect of making Sanderson's world building, far more realistic.


Truth and Lies. [8]
     Truth/lies: Examples of truth and lies abound in Words of Radiance. As "Pattern" tells Shallan, "Truth is individual" (p.308). Shallan, throughout her story tries to figure out what the truth is; yes, she is a scholar and a seeker of truth--but things hold her back...lies. She has a murder to figure out, and the truth about herself...about what she is. She also looks for the truth about the Parshendi, and the Knights Radiant. And, of course, she seeks the truth about what she needs to do. Quite often though, lies seem to get in the way.

NOTE: I would really love to talk with you more in depth about Shallan and her story. I can't do that because it would just give too much away. Perhaps, after the next book has come out, we can revisit Shallan for a more in-depth analysis of her, specifically. I'm pulling my hair out on this one, folks (I really want to tell you, but it just wouldn't be right.)! I think that just about the only thing I can get away with, here, is that I think Shallan is both courageous and cowardly. She seeks the truth (courage), but she also avoids it (cowardly) because she is so afraid of what she is--I think that underneath, she already has the answers and just can't face herself--unlike King Elhokar. Her spren friend, "Pattern," says to Shallan, "Humans can see the world as it is not. It is why your lies can be so strong. You are able to not admit that they are lies" (p.947).

This beautiful image of Shallan can be downloaded as wallpaper for your computer from Tor.com. Just click on this link:
[9]

    I also like Shallan's comment to Kaladin while admiring the chasmfiend's beauty, but being oblivious to the present reality of its danger: "It frightens me," Shallan said, "because we all see the world by some kind of light personal to us, and that light changes perception. I don't see clearly. I want to, but I don't know if I ever truly can" (p.947). Truth and lies.

     King Elhokar: As Shallan struggles with truth and lies, King Elhokar has his own truth to come to. Eventually, the king comes to Kaladin asking for help to be a better king, confessing that he is a bad king. (The king confronting his own truth.) Kaladin rejects the king at this point, and the king walks away dejected--ah, Kaladin. You make me feel so sad for the way you treated the king, there.

King Elhokar seems to run every
day, just like this runner--but,
he keeps running! [10]
     Kaladin and Truth: Later, Kaladin confronts the truth about himself being judgmental. In a story that Kaladin alludes to (as told to him by "Wit"), he tells the king, "We all die in the end...[s]o I guess what truly matters is just how well you've run. And Elhokar, you've kept running ever since your father was killed, even if you screw up all the storming time" (p.995). I really love how Sanderson weaves this theme throughout the story, incorporating "truth" and "lies" in the character's behaviors.

     A second Herald appears in Words of Radiance, Nin, Nalan, or Nale, the Herald of Justice. I think this Herald is one scary dude. The Herald wants to teach "_____" the "path of one uncorrupted by sentiment" (p.1063). I can't help but remember Nin in Interlude, I-2, entitled "Ym." Ym believed that all beings were "One being" (p.174). Ym also worked as a cobbler making shoes for homeless and poor children, never charging for his work.

Hoid, AKA, "Wit," often gives advice and tells
stories...since he is a Worldsinger. Wit has done this
in both books of the series, so far. [11]
      Ym teaches a poor boy that all peoples are "the same in the end." Ym heals the boy and the boy describes Ym as being kind. Then Nin came and accused Ym of being an accomplice to murder and killed him with his shardblade saying that though Ym lived a good life for forty years, "Justice does not expire" (p.177).

     Justice executed without mercy or compassion is one really scary way to judge humanity. This kind of justice does not look to see if the person has been redeemed or how much the person has already suffered. Nin is just scary. I think we will be seeing more of him in the future.

MY FAVORITE QUOTE:
What is a woman's place in this modern world? Jasna Kholin's words read. I rebel against this question, though so many of my peers ask it. The inherent bias in the inquiry seems invisible to so many of them....I say that there is no role for women--there is, instead, a role for each woman, and she must make it for herself....Do not mistake me in assuming I value one woman's role above another. My point is not to stratify our society--we have done that far to well already--my point is to diversify our discourse. A woman's strength should not be in her role, whatever she chooses it to be, but in the power to choose that role. It is amazing to me that I even have to make this point, as I see it as the very foundation of our conversation. (Shallan thought:) Highlady Kholin talked about the nobility of choice, as if every woman had such opportunity...compared to a life of fear in a house seething with anger, depression, and hopelessness. (p772) 
[12]
     We can see in this quotation from Jasna Kholin's book, the societal attitudes of people regarding a woman's place and even whether or not she should be permitted to have the right to choose what she is to be. Much of the book focuses on the acquisition or retention of power or control. Though Jasna Kholin writes about a woman's "power to choose," this right is not to be just for women, but for all peoples, as Shallan indicates when she talks about living a life of fear in a house of anger, depression and hopelessness. The bridgemen in Sadeas's army and slaves, the poor, Shallan's brother's desire to wed the woman he loved, the right to choose a life away from fear, intimidation, and violence. We should also include the right to go into the priesthood if desired, or the right to be a warrior instead of a cook as a third son's responsibility dictates. I loved Sanderson's discourse, here.

[13]
     Final Words: Many beautiful themes and motifs grace the pages of Words of Radiance. Beauty is one of the major themes I have not covered (See a nice quote on page 527). One topic I would like to have addressed and couldn't because it just gives away too much, is "Vengeance and Murder." Then, there is the hot topic of religion; in Roshar, it is Vorinism--with that topic, alone, I could do one whole blog post. The ardents are a very juicy topic--and, of course, we have a very interesting question about whether or how much the ardents are involved with the Ghostblood group and their efforts at trying to bring back the Voidbringers. Are all of them involved, just those associated with Taravangian, or just a zealot-like few groups?

[14]
     What does the Stormfather have to do with the coming Desolations? What of Kaladin's vision of the Stormfather? If Sigzil is a Worldsinger like "Wit," will he play a more important role in future novels? What will happen to the shardblades after the new Knights Radiant is founded? What does Kaladin have to do with riding a "Dreamstorm?"

     And by the way, how will Kaladin tell Shallan about having killed her brother Helaran? With all of Kaladin's medical training why didn't he recognize that "______" didn't have epilepsy, but that something else was going on with him/her?

[15]
     Questions: We haven't even gotten to the "Cryptic Spren," the "Nightwatcher," Roshone, why Taravangian wants to track the "Mollach," why was "____" in the cult called the "Envisagers" (see p. 840), and what's up with the game of "Michim" (the word, "Michim" is suppose to be a holy word!), the one played with colored stones by Sigzl and Teft and the Ardent Swordmaster ____? What is up with the "Voidspren?" Who is that woman behind the mask who identifies herself as "Iyatil?" Are "_____" and "_____" going to get together--is a romantic liason in the works?

     One Thing Not Answered: In the first book, Way of Kings, Sanderson had a scene where  a "small crystaline sphere tied to a chain (p.33)"  was given by Gavilar (as he lay dying) to Szeth (Gavilar's murderer) saying, "You must take this. They must not get it."? I waited anxiously for the answer to the mystery of the crystaline sphere on the chain. Unfortunately, the question goes unanswered. 
[16]

     Oh My God! And there is more. The climax and final pages are nothing short of chaotic, exciting, and definitely thrilling. It took my breath away--I found myself crying at one point to see how Dalinar faced his own imminent death at the hands of Szeth, the assassin. I loved his courage, the love he felt for his son, the grace and beauty he exhibited as looked at his last moments. He thought of others. In those moments, he became my hero.


[17]
     So much happens in the final ten percent of the book. One big reveal after another! And even when you think it is all over--it's not! The moments are soooooooo delicious! Sanderson has been building, one brick upon another to get us to this point. Does he ever deliver! And, although many, many questions are answered in the ending pages, Sanderson holds back a little something to give us something to look forward to in the next book.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS AND RATING FOR THIS BOOK:
I loved this book! [18]
     For sensitive readers and the young, this book contains material that may be disturbing. For adult readers of action fantasy, this book is wholly appropriate and will be a well-loved book. I absolutely loved this book and for all the above wonderful reasons, give this book 5 stars out of 5.


     Thank you for joining me this week as we finally got to look at a much anticipated novel, Words of Radiance, The Stormlight Archive, Book 2, by Brandon Sanderson. Please join me next week for a look at another book. I hope you take some time to read this week and if you like fantasy novels, this book would be a wonderful one to pick up and read. My love to you all.




Until next time...
White Rose. [19]
...many happy pages of reading!

All my best to you.

Sharon.








________________________________________________________ 
REFERENCES
[1] "Words of Radiance: The Stormlight Archive, Book 2." amazon.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[2] "Map of Roshar." [Isaac Stewart] stormlightarchive.wikia.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[3] "Way of Kings: The Stormlight Archive, Book 1." amazon.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[4] "Heralds." stormlightarchive.wikia.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[5] "Sylphrena." [Dixon Leavitt] stormlightarchive.wikia.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[6] "The Side Carry." [Inkthinker] 17thshard.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[7] "TWoK-The King's Wit." [BotanicaXu] botanicaxu.deviantart.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[8] "Truth and Lies." iwucha.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[9] "Download a Words of Radiance Wallpaper Featuring Shallan." [michael whelan] tor.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[10] "...Right Foot...." ubctriathlon.blogspot.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[11] "The Purpose of a Storyteller..." pinterest.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[12] "Jasnah." [ReaderAt2046] 17thshard.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[13] "Vengeance!" 1formation.e-monsite.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[14] "Murder." en.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[15] "Questions." edn.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[16] "OMG." evilenglish.net. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[17] "Delicious." borderstan.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[18] "Passed 5 out of 5 Stars." bettingsystemtruths.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.
[19] "White Roses." fanpop.com. Retrieved 03-08-14.