First Impressions: Brandon Sanderson’s Rhythm of War
I had the pleasure of reading the first hundred pages or so—seven chapters in all—of Brandon Sanderson’s latest chapter in the Stormlight Archives: Rhythm of War. Here’s wot I thought!
I am fascinated by Sanderson’s continued return to the night of Gavilar’s assassination, that inciting incident that threw Alethkar into chaos all the way back at the opening of The Way of Kings. It’s difficult to believe it’s been ten years since the first time I read the scene—its events are still clear in my mind. Little wonder, too, as each of Sanderson’s Archives books adds a piece of a puzzle we might not have known was there at all. Sanderson does expert directing, building this scene up, as if we’re the members of a novice orchestra and he—the experienced conductor.
This prologue follows Navani and offers a starkly different look at her relationship with Gavilar, compared to all we’ve heard so far. I’m loath to reveal why, but a conversation between the two of them sent shivers down my spine; it complicates these two characters even further than before and burdens Navani with a weight that will, without a doubt, play a part in the next twelve hundred pages.
What follows this prologue is a solid eighty pages worth of adrenaline rush owed to Kaladin, his Windrunners and several dozen Fused. Interwoven in-between the combat is some exciting Shallan/Veil/Radiant sleight of hand nonsense back in the Alethkar war camps on the Shattered Plains. For all the action, the opening is hardly devoid of superb character moments; Lirin, Kaladin’s father, struck a chord with a display of sickened disillusionment with war, the concept of heroism, and the cost of death. His position as a dejected pacifist grants him a unique perspective on the newly awakened parshmen:
Lirin sensed a search for identity in the way Abiajan and the other parshmen acted. Their accents, their dress, their mannerisms—they were all distinctly Alethi. But they grew transfixed whenever the Fused spoke of their ancestors, and they sought ways to emulate those long-dead parshmen.
It’s not a new observation—Oathbringer made sure to bring to attention that the parshmen’s newly awakened personalities mirroring those of their former masters, but it shows a detached mindfulness that makes of Lirin an interesting minor character whose viewpoint I’m excited to return to.
The onset of Navani’s arc promises to prove her deceased husband wrong in the most delightful ways—There you are, Filip, being intentionally vague all over again—yes, I know, but if I gave the game away, Gollancz would beat me black and blue! Trust me when I say, get excited about Navani’s point-of-view chapters throughout this one…they promise a whole lot of worldbuilding, conflict and good humour.
If you disliked the rhythm of Oathbringer—and I know some did—I’m happy to assure you, this opening should do much to allay that worry. The pace so far is excellent! True, what I read is less than a twelfth of the novel, but it was an explosive pick-up several months after last we left off Sanderson’s epic, larger-than-life protagonists. It’s the sort of opening that sucks you in and keeps you well into the night.
Rhythm of War’s opening chapters are nothing less than enchanting—I hadn’t realized how much I missed this world of Shardbearers and Fused, of humans and parshendii and spren, until I picked this sample up. Reading it is a lot like coming home—a feeling I’m all too grateful for, as this year seems intent on keeping me far away from the homestead indeed. I look forward to reading on!
This is but the first step of the Rhythm of War blog tour! Check out the schedule below for the next few stops: