Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson is a book of The Stormlight Archive and, as I’m sure you can gather from the title, this is going to be a massive review, as is appropriate for a book well over a thousand pages. So, without further ado…
The Stormlight Archive is a Cosmere epic fantasy with Oathbringer being the latest installment in what’s (supposedly) going to be a ten part series…this is only the third one. I don’t think I can go into too much background without spoiling the first two books of the series, but I’ll say that the magic system, classically Sandersonian levels of complex, is fueled by mystical stormlight which arrives from each passing of something called a Highstorm. And…I’ll leave it at that. There are already whole essays about how this world works (seriously, look it up).
Anyway, each of the three main characters (there are more, but I’m sticking with the three that have been the main focus since book one) – Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar – are part of something called Knights Radiants who utilize stormlight differently depending on their order. I LOVE it! Complicated and a bit tricky to follow, but absolutely wonderful!
Enough gushing about the magic. Story wise, the first half of Oathbringer was a little…meh for me. I still enjoyed it, but a majority of the first half read more as a mystery novel than an actual fantasy. After reading Sanderson obsessively for quite a number of years, you begin to notice his absolute love for detective-esque plotlines and it kinda gets old after a while. While that arc was a good way for him to showcase character development of Shallan, it felt more like he threw her into a storyline he wanted any excuse to write.
Luckily, it was resolved fairly quickly and the novel shifted focus back to the politics (mostly centered around Dalinar) in fantasy Sanderson usually does which, surprisingly, I haven’t gotten tired of yet. On that note, I did have to take a break from reading this first half. It wasn’t because I got bored with the story or annoyed by the characters, but because some of his choices made me a bit upset. Fair warning that what I’m about to say isn’t necessarily about the book itself, so feel free to skip the rest of the review – I’ll also say that I’m going to save overall character reviews and talking about Sanderson’s writing style until the review of the second half.
Still here? Cool. As much as I love Sanderson, there are two things I don’t appreciate how he handles: queerness and disabilities. Both are part of why I had to step away from the book for a bit. Allow me to explain.
In his most recent books, Sanderson has had a few queer characters, but nearly all of them have been side characters that play such a minuscule role, the reader probably won’t even remember their names. To me, that’s not him being inclusive – that’s him following a political trend to show off how not biased he is. I know he means well, but it would be a lot better if his main characters were (explicitly) queer; otherwise, there’s no point.
Second, disabilities. Let me start off by saying that he makes it pretty clear that Kaladin and Shallan have mental disorders, but…I’m not sure he’s doing it right? I’m no expert, so I can’t say if he’s portraying the manifestation correctly and I’ve even heard praise for how Kaladin’s disorder is written; however, what I’m not certain about is the path of healing these characters appear to be on – just seems too easy, but that’s just me. Even so, those two characters are not what made me upset, it was how he handled physical disabilities in which (slight spoiler coming up) nearly all of them are somehow healed by stormlight, including the regrowing of a limb on a one-armed man. That…just feels like he’s…erasing people with physical disabilities and somehow making less the struggles they go through, even if there is a foundation for it in this world.
Will this make me less likely to read more Sanderson? Absolutely not. I still love his work and I’ll continue reading Cosmere books until there are no more.
Check out the YouTube version of this review here! Warning: video contains spoilers.
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