While a book titled Words of Radiance feels like its review title should be something much more lofty, “But how do you poop?” was one of my favorite lines in this book because it was so awesome and unexpected. Sanderson’s greatest feat in a series like this is that he and the characters don’t take themselves too seriously. Yes, there are gut-wrenching, serious, dark moments, but Sanderson balances that with a bouncy levity that’s borderline Pratchett in its honesty. At one point, Shallan asks one of the greatest knights of the Shattered Plains how he manages to defecate while wearing a magical suit of armor, and let’s be honest, that’s a question we’ve all always wondered while reading these kinds of books. Sanderson does not disappoint in the answer, and I laughed like crazy for the whole scene. But I digress…..
Words of Radiance essentially picks up right where Way of Kings leaves off, and we follow our favorite cast of characters, Kal, the bridgemen, Shallan, and Dalinar, as they all converge on the Shattered Plains. Everybody’s learning about the depths of their powers. Everybody’s making erroneous mistakes and reading prophecies the wrong way. Everybody thinks they’ve got it figured out right up until the moment it explodes. It’s as epic a cluster as it could be, and because of the way Sanderson structures his books, the reader is very aware of the storm that’s coming (pun intended) while the characters flounder around. It’s the most glorious kind of book tension, and I love it.
Sanderson also breaks a ton of cliches with Shallan, Adolin, and Kaladin. This could have been an awful love triangle in the hands of someone else, but Sanderson never lets it get there. Yes, there’s some lovely quippy dialogue, and you can totally tell on page 12 that Kal and Adolin will become friends, and Kal will have feelings for Shallan as they all lob verbal barbs at each other, but there’s something very real in their interactions. The feelings they feel aren’t because they’re 2 strapping dudes and an attractive woman. They feel what they feel based on circumstances, experiences, and in Shallan’s case, because she orchestrates it. Their epiphanies of feeling are both organic and structured so that while we know that epiphany is coming, there’s enough reason behind it for us to believe their change of heart.
My only gripe about this series are the Interludes. Structurally, I understand why they’re important and they add a lot to the context of what’s going on with the characters I love, but I feel like they disrupt my reading momentum. Overall, though, I’m a full Sanderson convert, and I’ve already ordered book 3 from the library.