Sunday, February 4, 2018

#CBR10 Review #3: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

The third book in Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive, hit a bit of a slower pace for me than the previous two instalments. Which is not to say that it’s bad, it is still very detailed and impressive and engaging! Just, a little bit of a different mood here. There are a lot more politics involved with different nations which sometimes went over my head, and I found that the pacing was quite slow until the last 200 pages or so, where it finally exploded into fast-paced action.

Oathbringer begins right where the previous novel, Words of Radiance, leaves off, as the people of Alethar have been transported to the lost city of Urithiru: a new storm threatens the land, and the nations need to figure out how to survive this new natural threat, as well as the new army of Parshendi people who had previously been slaves of humans. Basically, everything is a mess, so it makes sense that there would be a lot of nitty gritty details and governance that needs to occur now. And really, the length with which Sanderson goes into determining these details really makes the world feel rich and complete. Again, the scope of this story and the world created is truly outstanding! But also, takes a bit to get through, and with most of the action in this one occurring in such a quick spurt at the end made the leadup seem like it dragged a bit more than the last two before the pace started to pick up. I always enjoy these novels but this one, really felt a little bit like work to get through. Though, it doesn’t help that I was in fact also reading it while at my place of work.

So first, some good things: first and foremost, one of my complaints for the previous two novels were the interludes between bigger sections of the novel, always dealing with smaller, different characters and often in different lands. I always found these a little disjointed from the rest of the novel, and soon forgot about them, but in this case they worked well with the progress of the story, were shorter, and didn’t feel as out of place. I was also worried that there were the brewings of a love-triangle that was going to drag on for books and books with little progress or reason, but that was dealt with nicely (and SPOILERS: didn’t end with someone dying or doing something inexcusable so the decision was essentially made for the person in the middle without them actually sitting down and making the choice, which always seems to happen, at least in most of the books that I’ve read). Additionally, there were added roles and points of view given for more strong characters, which I think added to the story overall, such as Navani, Jasnah, and Teft. However, I do worry any more additions to points of view during the “main character sections” may start to bog the whole thing down a bit more.

But of course, being myself, there are also some things that I need to nitpick about. The first is that, while not always bad I do find some of the gendering or attempts to write differences between genders as based on this society’s culture to be… let’s say, a little awkward. Or seemingly meaningless besides the fact to remind us that this is a different world, which, yes obviously we know that. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me. The other biggest thing is that while the previous two novels each had a focus on the background and history of either Kaladin or Shallan, this novel focused more on Dalinar, and I have to say I didn’t find it as engaging as the previous two major characters’ backstories. I think a lot of this has to do with how much Dalinar’s focused on old, long-gone, battles of conquest, and they all sort of blurred together or I couldn’t follow exactly. I typically find Sanderson’s writing of action sequences and battles to be very exciting and engaging but for some reason these ones lacked something for me. Not only that, but a lot of Dalinar’s backstory presented here focused on his wife and her role in his life before she died and I honestly found her character to be quite one-note: so soft and delicate and a pacifist and also somewhat exotique™ because she’s from a different country and had a different culture and way of seeing things. I don’t know, but it annoyed me. But maybe that’s also because I’ve been getting annoyed with all the movies/shows/books I’m consuming that have a female characters whose sole existence is to die and therefore progress the story of the man. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good revenge thriller from time to time, but it’s just been a lot and so often these women seem like all they do is whimper and make the man sad because of something they did. This is not to say that Evi, Dalinar’s wife, is not a good character, but so little was done with her beyond having children and making Dalinar sad because of what happened to her (which of course he feels guilt for, as they always do in these kinds of tales). But I’m rambling now, time to get to the end of this

All that said, I am still enjoying this series, and Oathbringer is a solid addition to it, despite maybe being a little tougher to get through than the previous two novels. Though, that may also have a little to do with the fact that I haven't really read any epic fantasies on such a large scale before. There are good things and not so great things here, but overall this is a good series and I will indeed continue with it. Hopefully I don’t forget a lot of major details that end up being important before the new book comes out though!

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