Genre: Epic Fantasy
Synopsis: A tenuous apocalyptic event is on the horizon, but few people have any hint that it’s even coming. As events slowly begin to unfold for the worse, Kaladin, a young soldier who’s lost too much, struggles to keep the people he’s chosen to protect safe, while an odd power rises in him. Shallan, a scholar and impoverished noblewoman, brushes against the coming dangers in her struggle to save her family. And Highprince Dalinar tries to make sense of visions that others view as madness, warning him of some great danger, while in the midst of a years long war spearheaded by his nephew, the king.
Series: First in a series with two books out (projected to ten books).
POV: Third person multiple, mainly (though not exclusively) focused on three characters–Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar.
This book, as a the first in a long series, is setting up a disaster to come and placing the characters into place–and yet, it’s already a fantastic story. Kaladin’s journey to where he ends up by the end of the book is especially satisfying, which makes sense as he’s the main focus for this volume. But all of our main characters grow and develop to a new stage in their lives, in preparation for the next leg of their journey.
Kaladin was instantly likable. The quality that drives all of his actions is how much he cares about other people. So of course I love him. It’s not about his pride, it’s not about being right, it’s all about saving lives. That’s all he cares about, and it’s amazing. He’s up there with Keladry from Protector of the Small as one of my ideal people. On top of that, he takes responsibility for his actions and he’s pretty smart.
His flaw is probably a sense of tunnel-vision. He has a tendency to claim a group and consider them to be his people, and who ends up in his group can be somewhat arbitrary. But protecting his people may come at the expense of others. That’s not intentional, but it still happens. To Kaladin’s credit, when he realizes the consequences, he tends to carry that with him. So I’m deeply happy with his character.
It wasn’t long before Shallan grew on me, as well. I really appreciate her total lack of appreciation for social niceties. The kinds of things that people say without really thinking about, she just takes apart. As someone who thinks some of the things taken for granted as being “normal” are actually pretty silly, I could kind of relate. Sometimes you just don’t want to play that game.
That said, she did grate on me a bit in her earlier segments–she misinterpreted things on purpose. Not because she was literal-minded and that’s honestly the first place her mind goes, but just to engage in witty word-play that doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s a good, realistic characteristic for her to have, and one that many people consider clever–I don’t. I’m a substance over style kind of girl. Still, part of what her mentor is teaching her is to how to say something both clever and meaningful, so that part of her is changing. And overall, I like her, and appreciate her character.
Of course, Shallan’s mentor, Jasnah, really stands out for me. That doesn’t mean I agree with all of her logic, or think that she’s always selecting for the results she wants. But she’s a fantastic character. A scholar with a practical side, who understands that the popular ideas of morality aren’t always true or even real. The type of person who does things, maybe even things others would find awful, because inaction would lead to more people being hurt, even if it would technically absolve her of any responsibility.
And best of all, she doesn’t ask others–specifically Shallan, her student–to agree with her. She wants others to truly think about these questions and come up with their own conclusions, even when they don’t agree with hers. Because being right isn’t the point. The point is for everyone and anyone to be able to think for themselves, and to question, and to come to their own informed conclusions, instead of accepting the narrative someone else has handed over to them. So yeah, I kind of love this character.
Dalinar is interesting in that he’s spent his entire life being a warrior and even a warmonger, and only now is he coming to change as a human being and disagree with his former self. He’s in transition, and it’s not one that’s considered culturally acceptable. This brings up all kinds of problems for him as he’s not supposed to want peace. He’s supposed to live for war. But he’s gotten to the point where he’s done with that. And yet everyone around him, up to and including his son and heir, think he’s losing his edge or possibly even going mad as a result of his visions. Making it harder to change into a better person when no one else will accept that, and no one will allow him to work effectively as the person he wants to be. And he’s in the middle of a war.
I have no idea where the series is going, with all the pieces it’s put into play, but I’m so excited to read the next book. Shallan is the central character for that one.
Also, this book is imminently quotable. I have the kindle version of it, and there are so many highlights in it.
“To lack feeling is to be dead, but to act on every feeling is to be a child.”
“The older we grow…the more we question. We begin to ask why. And yet, we still want the answers to be simple. We assume that the people around us–adults, leaders–will have those answers. Whatever they give often satisfies us.”
“Am I a monster or am I a hero? Did I just slaughter four men, or did I stop four murderers from walking the streets? Does one deserve to have evil done to her by consequence of putting herself where evil can reach her? Did I have a right to defend myself? Or was I just looking for an excuse to end lives?”
“You will find wise men in any religion…and good men in every nation. Those who truly seek wisdom are those who acknowledge the virtue in their adversaries and who will learn from those who disabuse them of error.”
“I know that look…Why is it you always have to help everyone?”