Book review: “Oathbringer” by Brandon Sanderson
While trying to compose a review that will do this series justice, the question becomes not whether “Oathbringer” was an amazing installment in the Stormlight Archive series but how to explain how fiercely I loved it without gushing like a fangirl. Suffice to say that it’s on a pedestal. I can see so many of the brilliant ideas within it shaping fantasy works for decades to come. It truly is the next evolution in the genre similar to that brought on by the likes of Jordan and Tolkien. At least, that’s how I feel about it.
Expansive world building always wins me over, and I can think of very few worlds as impressive as Sanderson’s Roshar. Stormlight Archive is a series that encompasses many different cultures across this island continent. Sanderson provides a constant infusion of these races by highlighting their differences (and celebrating their similarities). This variety of humanity is easily my favorite element. I’ve experienced so many exotic places in this series alone — it truly is a wonder. It is world building like this that makes me ecstatic to be a reader.
I especially loved learning more about each culture through the diverse cast of characters within Bridge Four (even if I am just an “airsick lowlander”). I’ve always loved the characters in this series, but I think “Oathbringer” is the first book in which I’ve also appreciated their complexity and duality. They’re definitely not cookie-cutter profiles with mildly interesting backstories but rather deeply flawed individuals with more than just the external conflicts to overcome. If the first two books delved into Kaladin and Shallan’s past, respectively, then book three was an exploration of the events that shaped Dalinar. Even minor characters in this series are rich and interesting, and I eat up all new information revealed about every single one of them. There were a few new characters that got to share the limelight in “Oathbringer” (brought in from the interludes in previous books), and I delighted in how they changed the dynamics of the story.
If I’m honest, I’ll admit that there were a few moments throughout “Oathbringer” when I wondered if the pacing was a little too slow (keeping in mind that I didn’t have a single issue with pacing for the first two more than 1,000-page novels). It had me considering if it was enough of an issue to take away from my enjoyment of all the other amazing elements. Ultimately, it wasn’t because every time I thought it, something profound would happen to reel me back in. Then the snowball climax of the story hit, and all of my hesitations were swept away. The book felt different than the first two, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was weaker. My friend Liam at Thoughts of a Thousand Lives summed up my internal debate perfectly: “… each of these books is different enough that it’s extremely hard to compare them. All three of them sit pretty equally with me because of that, and the quality of the writing, worldbuilding, and character development never varies at all.”
And that’s the crux of it. All of the things I’ve come to expect from a Sanderson novel were there in abundance. Overall, “Oathbringer” contained all of the plot advancement and amazing moments I’d hoped to get out of it. Multiply that by the fact that the tome itself is a gorgeous piece of art filled with sketches and diagrams that enhance the story and you have a reading experience unlike no other. I applaud Sanderson’s ambition and commitment to this project as I could see how he could have easily wrapped it up in this third book and left a few things unresolved (as many authors have done). What a delight that one of my favorite series on the market continues strong with many more novels to come. If you haven’t ventured into this series yet, you are sorely missing out!
I want to say a huge thank you to the publicists at TOR/Forge and Brandon Sanderson for sending me an early copy of “Oathbringer” for review. You made my year!