This is it. The review that I’ve been scheduling and cancelling in turn for three months. I will keep this short, because if you have been looking for Oathbringer review, surely you have found one or…1,998 reviews to read first.
Oathbringer is book three in Brandon Sanderson’s planned 10-book Stormlight Archive. I reviewed book 1, The Way of Kings, here, but if you are a Sanderson newbie, I think his Mistborn trilogy is better, to be honest, and it is more accessible.
Oathbringer isn’t my favorite Stormlight book, but, structurally-speaking, the series remains remarkable. The hugely ambitious epic continues to feature multiple storylines that are satisfying at the volume level but that build as the series progress, and Sanderson has continue to lay on new twists and a truly impressive amount of worldbuilding.
Oathbringer is heavily driven by the events at the end of Words of Radiance, primarily the implications of Sadeas’ death and the coming of the Everstorm and the awakening of the parshmen.
Sanderson is sticking to each volume devoting considerable page space to flashbacks for a single character. This volume it is Dalinar. I remain deeply skeptical of flashbacks, but Dalinar’s flashbacks really grew on me. They show us a very different side of a character we thought we knew, explain a lot of what is happening in the book, and, along with Dalinar’s present day storyline, build to his storyline’s climax.
Perhaps it is a symptom of reading too many of those slim 1970s paperbacks, or of trying to read too many other books at the same time, but Oathbringer dragged for me, especially in the first half. The worldbuildling is great, but there is so much of it, and so much is so weird that it sometimes slides right off the brain.
As I mentioned in my last Tolkien 101 post, epic fantasy rewards close reading, rereading, and whiling away hours on Internet forums. And, to really appreciate the Stormlight Archive, you have to appreciate Sanderson’s Cosmere, which requires reading a bunch of other Sanderson books. I am finally getting to the point where I’m getting compound gains from Cosmere books, but I am not really in the right head space for epic fantasy right now (and if the Wheel of Time TV show gets off the ground, the Cosmere is getting chucked right out so my epic fantasy brain cells can focus on more important things).
The worldbuilding can be a challenge, but it really is worth it. We learn way, way more about Shadesmar, as well as Odium and Cultivation. The Unmade are introduced, sort of evil superspren. The worldbuilding involving the Parshendi is very, very cool.
In addition to a slow start that is of dubious utility to the second half of the book and the climax, I hated Shallan’s growing “split” personality.
Oathbringer has maybe my least favorite Stormlight Archive cover, although The Way of Kings wins by a mile regardless (I have a huge print of The Way of Kings artwork hanging in my home office).
4 of 5 Stars.