Book Review: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

03 Jul 2014

Before I began this book, I read the first two again. Not because I’d forgotten anything: I’ve read them enough times now to be able to quote from them. Instead, it was simply to savour the whole story again.

Stephen King, when he was writing the Dark Tower asked his readers to enjoy the journey and not anticipate too much from the climax of the series itself. That is how I feel about the Stormlight Archive. And funnily enough, it is also a part of the first ideal: “journey before destination”.

The story picks off within hours of the previous book. Before anyone has time to congratulate themselves on surviving the Everstorm, there are new problems to address. Some huge and some mundane. There is even a whodunnit - that isn’t as simple as it first seems. The still-fragile coalition of highprinces starts fracturing. Dalinar & Navoni have to hold together Alethkar while also trying to forge a larger coalition of the rest of humanity against the Voidbringers.

This is made difficult because of Dalinar’s own violent past - which becomes clearer as the book progresses. Everyone assumes the worst of him - including Dalinar himself. This book is mostly about his journey, while simultaneously navigating the treacherous waters of diplomacy and preparing to defend against a much better organized, motivated and efficient enemy.

I liked the book. Not as much as the first two but still enough to consider it amongst my favourites. The emotion I felt most reading this book was surprise. Most of the plot twists were completely unexpected: not something that usually happens to me these days. Highly recommended.


First, a few aspects I didn't like.

Unlike the first two books which had crests and troughs, much of this book felt like it was just building up to the climax.

Some characters disappeared for most of the book: Mraize, who showed so much interest in Shallan is seen in ONE scene. Gaz and the rest of Shallan's guards and Rlain, when we see them, lament that they are ignored and are then put aside. Even Jasnah is relegated to the sidelines despite having literally come back from the dead. Elhokar, I thought was only used to move the plot forward.

At times, I thought there was more tell than show in places. One stark example was in the depiction of characters and personalities in Shadesmar.

The jokes I enjoyed in the first two books and in this one came, not from Shallan's wit and wordplay (which I thought felt awkward - just not in the way the author intended), but from characters like Lopen and Lift. And in scenes where humour stemmed from a juxtaposition of the ludicrous with the serious.

Now to the aspects I liked.

As in the first two books, the Knights Radiant all go through crises of faith - this aspect is tough to pull off without being predictable: even more so when your reader already knows what to expect. I still didn't see most of the plot twists coming.

As in the first two books, the emphasis is on one character's growth. And in this one we finally see Dalinar's. Finding out how Dalinar is broken is heartbreaking. That it comes in the middle of the book is unexpected and is so well done that you don't know till the end if he will be able to recover.

The revelations about Odium, the heralds, the Recreance and the voidbringers themselves were unexpected in more than one way. The revealed truths were shocking in themselves but I also couldn't help wonder why Mr. Sanderson was revealing so many secrets so soon in the series. I thought some, like the reason for the Recreance, would have been unguessable even by the end of this book.

Two short journeys which I thought were particularly well written were that of Sergeant Teft's (journey of self discovery) and of Kaladin as a spy amongst Parshmen. I thought both were genius - especially in the context of the things happening around them