Book Review: Oathbringer
The books in The Stormlight Archive keep getting longer - and yet somehow they keep getting better too. I picked up Oathbringer right after its release in November, and it's my favorite Sanderson story yet.
Dalinar has rediscovered Urithiru and refounded the Knights Radiant with the help of Shallan, Kaladin, and his son Renarin. But they were unable to stop the creation of the Everstorm, and now the parshmen have risen up in rebellion. While Kaladin, Adolin and Shallan work in tandem to retake Alethkar and combat the Unmade, Dalinar must find a way to unite the fractious nations of Roshar if they want to stand a chance against Odium. And in the process, he might just discover some terrible secrets - such as the reason the Knights Radiant abandoned their vows in the first place.
This book "belongs" to Dalinar, in the same way that The Way of Kings belonged to Kaladin and Words of Radiance belonged to Shallan. It's Dalinar's backstory we're given here, and it's a horrific story. Even better, we learn it at the same time he does, because Dalinar is finally recovering the memory of his first wife and what happened to her. I've been growing to like Dalinar more and more over the course of this series, and this book cements his majestic qualities. He's truly dedicated to making himself a better person, and the book's climax turns on the strength of character he's cultivated over the last several years.
The other surprise winner here is Adolin. I really didn't care for Adolin in The Way of Kings, I started to like him in Words of Radiance (mostly because of his attitude toward Shallan), and here I positively adored him. Adolin is pretty much the only member of his family *not* to be a Knight Radiant, and yet he's never anything but supportive of them. The series needs that. He's almost too perfect, but he never feels disgustingly so. Some of the best sections of this book focus on Adolin, such as his interactions with his Shardblade's "dead" spren in Shadesmar.
The other characters are still moving along their respective arcs. Kaladin struggles to speak the Fourth Ideal of the Windrunners; Shallan develops some split personalities and almost gets lost amid them. Szeth has a fascinating set of chapters as he trains to become a Skybreaker and struggles with the weight of all the murders he has committed. Venli gives us more insight into the parshmen/listeners and the returned "gods" of theirs, who serve Odium.
Speaking of whom, we get to meet him here. And it is terrifying. I won't say anymore, but it's a highlight of the book.
Sanderson is a master of pacing, and the book is well organized to rise and fall at appropriate moments. There are two particularly climactic moments, one of which involves a character death that I'm pretty sure will stick. And there are plenty of quieter, touching moments, such as Kaladin's interactions with the parshmen and realization that they aren't inherently evil, no more than humans.
The ending is a spectacle of epic proportions, and though the perspective jumps around erratically at times, I'm willing to forgive it for the sheer awesome factor. Dalinar, guys. He's the man.
Then there's the worldbuilding. We get a lot of answers here and plenty of insight into lore and characters we've yet to meet. Several of the Unmade feature prominently in Oathbringer. There's an extended sequence in Shadesmar, with many spren interactions. The Nightwatcher AND Cultivation (!!!) make appearances. We finally find out why the Heralds broke their oath, and why the Knights Radiant abandoned their vows. There's a lot to digest, but Sanderson spreads it out so well that you never feel like it's too much, and new revelations are always just around the corner.
It's not a perfect five for me due to little things, but this is definitely my favorite Stormlight book and one of my favorite new books of 2017. Now, to settle down for the long wait until Stormlight #4...