I did it. I finally fought my way through Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer.
Man, was that a slog. After the other wonderful books of the Stormlight Archive, it was a letdown.
I come not to praise Brandon Sanderson, but to complain lovingly about his latest release.
Well, not only to complain. Sanderson is one of the best fantasy authors out there these days. I’m actually not a big fan of the original Mistborn trilogy—it’s okay—but the man is a master of the short story art form. The Emperor’s Soul in particular is a gem. Out of the novels of his that I’ve read, I think his second Mistborn set, the Wax & Wayne books, are the best.
I adored the Stormlight Archive up to this point, though. The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance were amazing. Full disclosure, my favorite character so far is Kaladin.
Oathbringer moved slow. Up until the admittedly spectacular climax, I was wondering if any progress was going to be made or we were simply beginning the descent into the old Star Wars EU’s Yuzon Vong territory (tedious misery and loss upon tedious misery and loss). This is book three (3) out of ten (10). Learning what’s actually going on and character development are going to have be slow, even if he does plan on splitting the series in half.
I never read the very long epic that is The Wheel of Time (which Sanderson finished) and I refuse to touch A Song of Ice and Fire until I know if I’d be wasting my time or not. The longest series I’ve read is The Dresden Files, which are all part of a continuous series of events, but the primary problem of every individual novel is finished by its end, at least thus far. Neglecting that one part (my mom hasn’t gotten there yet), I guess, but it was well done and solved in the next book, so shut up.
So I guess world, character, and plot development are going to be moving at a crawl in the Stormlight Archive, because that’s how these very long fantasy series work. Very important things did happen on every level. Shallan decided to go crazy. Kaladin’s depression nearly killed him several times. Dalinar had major character and superpower developments. We sort of understand the world of Roshar better. Odium was pleased to meet us and asked if we could guess his name. The human alliance collapsed as soon as it began. Alethkar has been wiped from the map. And lots of other things came to light and/or happened.
Most of this happened in the last quarter of the book. It was a long haul to get there.
Dalinar’s flashbacks got tedious, as action-filled as they were. The payoff was great, but Saints and Angels defend us did it take a long time to get there! I wonder, however, if they were included to break up the genuine boredom of the human kingdoms’ politicking as they tried to build an alliance. It was like the worst thing in the Star Wars prequels.
Well, the second worst thing in them. Something else was like the worst thing in the Star Wars prequels.
Listen, I like Adolin. Shallan is interesting and likeable, too. Together, however, they’re like Anakin and Padme, and I’m not talking about the cartoon versions. They are just…they had a paraphrase of the infamous ‘you’re so beautiful’ conversation from Revenge of the Sith! I didn’t think they were bad before, just uninteresting, but now they’re just awful together. You’d think Shallan deliberately developing Multiple Personality Disorder would add something, but it really doesn’t.
I guess it’s resolved, too, since they get married off screen at the end of the book. I found the whole relationship really unsatisfying. What’s more, the way the whole thing played out made me realize that Sanderson has a thing about arranged marriages becoming true love. It works out the same in a lot of his books. Lonely girl gets into an arranged marriage with prince/nobleman for one reason or another. It’s all business for her, but they end up falling in love despite that and the many obstacles thrown in their way. They get married. Also, the guy is always more or less the same, a bland sort of perfect. This happens in both series set in the Mistborn world, Warbreaker, and Elantris. It is getting repetitive (also, I really like Kaladin).
Also, the end of Words of Radiance, Adolin killed one of the noble lords. He was a bad man, but it was also murder. The big reveal of this to Shallan and to his father Dalinar means…nothing. You’re led to believe it was a big deal when it happens as well as throughout the first half of Oathbringer. And it doesn’t seem to be important. Nobody cares.
I know, I know, book three of ten. Or maybe three of five, I don’t know. Maybe all these issues will be resolved or at least made interesting in the coming books.
What I do know is that unless I hear really great things about the next book of the Stormlight Archive, I’m not paying full price for it. It took me so long to get through Oathbringer that my physical to-be-read book pile got to be more than a foot tall (granted, one book is maybe two inches thick; VDH’s The Second World Wars).
Okay, I’m done ranting. I do enjoy the Stormlight Archive and Sanderson is a really great writer. Oathbringer was just more of a disappointment than I was expecting. I wasn’t really all that hyped in the first place, but the marks were missed by a pretty wide margin.