Rhythm of War (Part One) by Brandon Sanderson
Published by Tor, 2020
Rhythm of War is the fourth entry in the massive epic fantasy series The Stormlight Archive. As we did with Oathbringer, we’ll be doing part-by-part reviews so you can read along and discuss with us.
Spoilers ahead for Rhythm of War Part One!
Pete: Brandon has said that the beginning of RoW is intended to be the climax of the year’s worth of events we missed since Oathbringer, and it certainly feels like it. The mission at Hearthstone (complete with the massive airship The Fourth Bridge) was fantastic, and it was a lot of fun to see what this world looks like when there are hundreds of Radiants fighting the singers instead of a half dozen.
Indiana: It was an interesting way to start this massive tome. Readers are just dropped in on all the action. My only complaint was that I felt like I’d somehow missed a lot and was sprinting to keep up, though that’s probably a good thing in a 1,232 page book.
Pete: I felt that way too, but it makes me excited to find out why Sanderson felt the need to fast forward a bit. One of the biggest revelations for me was Kaladin being relieved of duty by Dalinar. It was shocking, but it also makes a lot of sense given the trauma he has endured. Kaladin’s path being unclear in this book is a bit of a breath of fresh air.
Indiana: Right, it’s a break from his character arc that we’ve seen in previous books. I also feel like we got a lot more of Navani’s perspective this time around, which has also been a welcome change.
Pete: Yes, it’s interesting that we’ve gotten so little of her story (and Jasnah’s) when she is so central to everything that’s going on, particularly given her past relationship with Gavilar. Though Dalinar is my favorite character in the series, we got a lot of him in Oathbringer and a shift to Navani would be interesting.
Indiana: I also like that Kaladin’s family seems like they’re going to become more important characters in this one, especially as he searches for what his next move will be, though we both think he’ll eventually become the ambassador to the Listeners.
Pete: Having his family back in the story really keeps everything grounded. This is still epic fantasy, but I love that Kaladin (and Shallan) still has to focus on his relationships with his family. Just because he’s a hero doesn’t mean he’s without social responsibilities and stresses.
Indiana: Exactly. Speaking of Shallan, her multiple personalities caught me off guard at first (probably because it’s been so long since I last read Oathbringer). While I’m still confused as to how they work things out with Adolin, I think Sanderson does a good job with it, both in terms of making them actually feel like distinct characters and in explaining how she switches between them.
Pete: I had trouble with it too until I started researching dissociative identity disorder as a result of some comments on Tor.com’s discussions. I knew very little about the disorder beforehand, and I imagine (and hope) Brandon did a ton of research and beta reading on Shallan, Radiant, and Veil’s chapters in particular. It’s no small feat to introduce massive character development this far into a series, and I think it’s fascinating that he has chosen to explore his characters’ mental trauma. Given that Radiants are nearly invincible, this is a very interesting direction to take the story in.
Indiana: Absolutely. I’m looking forward to diving into this one, and not having to wait around each week for new chapters.