Genre: Epic Fantasy
Synopsis: As some cataclysmic event most don’t even know the nature of threatens, powers long lost to legend are making it back into this world. Among the wielders are Shallan, a young scholar with a surprising talent for intelligence gathering and a hidden past, who must put together the clues about what the world is facing and find a way to put that knowledge to use. Kaladin, an apprentice surgeon-turned-soldier-turned-slave-turned-officer with a hero-complex, who must decide who he is and which battles he’s going to fight. And Dalinar, formerly a vicious warrior who now seeks to become a more just and worthy leader, who must bring his people together to face the oncoming threat.
Series: Second in a series with two books out (projected to ten books).
POV: Third person multiple, mainly (though not exclusively) focused on four characters–Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar, and Adolin (Dalinar’s son).
I recently read and gushed about The Way of Kings, the first book in this series. Unsurprisingly, I went straight into the second book. I actually finished it weeks back, but wanted to put a little space between talking about the series.
I loved this book. I was really looking forward to Shallan being the focal character, and it was better than I had imagined, possibly better than I had hoped.
It’s wonderful, following Shallan’s story as she comes into her own–I liked her before, but I love her now. In the previous book, she stumbled about her plans more clumsily, being totally new to this kind of thing–though she still did manage to achieve moderate successes, especially using her skills of persuasion. In this book, she transforms fairly early, starting to make bigger accomplishments and to expand her skill set. And it grows from there, with Shallan gaining more skill in subterfuge, to the point where she has a much better idea of what is actually happening than most of the other main protagonists.
Since she’s very motivated by the pursuit of knowledge, using both scholarship and espionage to obtain information, that isn’t too surprising.
Her storylines often follow a heist or con, and I love how she has to exercise her intelligence to solve all her problems, whether she’s conning a con artist, convincing assassins not to kill her, or even taking advantage of local politics to get control of her circumstances . And I really appreciate that she gets to stand on her own in this book, without being subject to the wills of other protagonists in more powerful positions than she is.
She’s also a wild card in the story. I never really know what she’s going to do next, whereas the goals and alliances of other protagonists are more straightforward. But Shallan wants to learn whatever she can about the situation, and she’ll use any resource to get the truth. She’ll become mixed up in the kind of things that it’s hard to imagine Dalinar or Kaladin even considering.
And that’s not even mentioning that Shallan’s been keeping a few huge secrets from herself, which are lightly hinted at in the previous book, but are explored in this one. When we first meet her in book one, I was not expecting her backstory to be anything even remotely like this. Woah. I do appreciate a good dark backstory, so this works for me. So yeah, love her character and her story line.
Kaladin, while no longer the character whose history is center stage, is still a major hero of the story, and the go-to guy for big, climactic fights. He’s going through quite the emotional crisis in this book as well. His identity has been an issue for him for a while, and it comes to a head here. The poor guy never does seem to get a break, but I hold out hope. I’m still very fond of him.
My favorite side characters, who will hopefully get more focus in the future, are Sabarial and Palona, no question. They have two great scenes where they really shine as hilarious and quirky characters, and that’s all so far. I’m waiting for more.
It was also fantastic to get so see a lot of the characters who we got to know in the previous book interact with each other and get to know one another. And to see them from each others’ perspectives instead of only their own.
In terms of a few subjects which are more up in the air, the parshmen and the Parshendi seem to be the punching bags of this series, so far. What’s happening to them now, and what’s been done to them before, is horrifying. Since one of them is a main character, and another an important secondary character, I suppose we’ll see where that ends up going later in the series. I should also note that Lopen’s arm is making me a little nervous, but again, we’ll see where that goes.
Overall, I really loved this book. The characters have completely captured my imagination, and I haven’t been able to read another book since, because I’m still living in this one.
“Stupidity is a function of one’s surroundings…After my ship was lost, I found myself ashore but unable to make a fire to warm myself. Would you say that I’m stupid?”
“I honestly can’t believe you brought home a random girl because you thought it would annoy one of the other highprinces.”
“You have an odd sense of morality…”
“Don’t be stupid…Every sense of morality is odd.”
“I know some field medicine.”
“Field medicine…for epilepsy?”