Reviewed by Bryce Moore (aka Bryce Cundick)
Another Sanderson tome in the record book. This one was a bit of a different experience for me, and I’m not sure why. There’s a chance that I’m changing as a reader. In the past, I’ve loved diving into Brandon’s worlds. I remember with Way of Kings, I loved just hanging out in Roshar, finding out more about the world and its cultures and creatures. Words of Radiance was also a blast.
In a typical Brandon book, there will be a fair amount of set up as he lays the foundation, getting it ready for the huge payoff at the end of the book, where all the dominos fall into place, and Awesome happens. Oathbringer definitely had that cascade of events at the end, and it was most certainly awesome. But the foundation-laying section at the beginning felt like it went on too long for me. Enough so that I would give this 4.5 stars instead of the full 5, if I could. I rated it a 9/10 in my personal records.
But then again, it also took me a long time to finish the book. I started it at a busy time, and it’s long. 1200 pages is a lot of pages. It’s at the end of the year, and I’m trying to meet my goal of reading 52 books this year. So I have to wonder if I didn’t start to get impatient in the first two thirds of the book. There were sections I felt like things were dragging, but was that because I was worried about how long it was taking me to get through them?
And on the other side, if those sections weren’t there, would the payoff at the end suffer? I have to think that it would.
But really, this is a book for Sanderson fans. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to pick it up who hasn’t already read the first two books. And I also can’t help feeling like I would have had a better experience if I’d read the first two books more recently. But I don’t have time to do that, so I had to just read the summaries and try my best to remember. That inevitably makes some of the sections, with more obscure characters and plot arcs, suffer.
Some of this is the nature of epic fantasy. It feels like more and more, big fantasy books are tunneling into online message boards and fan forums, as people devote tons of time to figuring them out. They’re giant puzzles, and authors deliberately hide nuggets in there that will make fans debate events for months, if not years. I don’t think I’m that kind of a fan. I don’t think I ever was. I’m not a person who reads all the histories of Middle Earth. Until Game of Thrones was adapted, I had a hard time telling the myriad characters apart. I loved The Wheel of Time. It had a fair level of hidden things, and plenty of things to debate, but it didn’t feel overwhelming. They were more like sidequests that I could think about if I wanted to.
Epic fantasy these days seems to be swinging further into the side quests, and if you’re going to understand and enjoy them, you’re going to have to reread the books at the least, or dive into fan forums. In some ways, it feels like epic fantasy is going all TS Eliot on me, where “good” fantasy requires big time investment. Time I just don’t have.
This review has gotten a bit too cerebral for me, and I apologize. Let me sum up. Adored the ending. Really enjoyed most of the novel. Felt like some of it went too long or else got too into the weeds for me. If you’ve read the other two, why in the world aren’t you already reading this one?