CRUISING THE COSMERE: Dawnshard (BOOK REVIEW)
‘What kind of person sought work on a sailing vessel? The type who longed for freedom—who wasn’t content to sit where they were told, but instead wanted to see something new. A person who wanted to chase the horizon.’
One piece of joy Cosmere fans have been clinging onto this year has been the release of two brand new instalments in the Stormlight Archives series. The first being Dawnshard, a novella set months after the cataclysmic ending of Oathbringer, and is recommended to be read before the second new instalment – Rhythm of War.
There has understandably been a lot of hype for both books this year, and so before reading Dawnshard I already knew it would feature two of the minor characters from the previous books in the series. Those being Lopen, a Radiant and member of Kaladin’s Bridge Four, and Rysn who we met during an interlude in Oathbringer. I was actually really excited to have these two become main characters because Lopen has never ceased to entertain me with his eccentric sense of humour, and with Rysn being physically disabled she is a character whom I felt a personal connection with.
The first half of Dawnshard takes place on Rysn’s ship – the Wandersail, as we follow the characters on an expedition to the mysterious island of Akinah. I did find the pace slow going to begin with; considering how short this novella is, I found myself eager for the crew to reach the island quicker as I was desperate to see its secrets uncovered. Yet I’m aware of Sanderson’s style – he painstakingly, and wonderfully, fleshes out each of his characters, so really, I should have expected the detailed character development at the start.
I must applaud Sanderson for his portrayal of Rysn. After a tragic accident she is left a paraplegic, which is a condition almost identical to my own disability except that I have had it since birth. Therefore when I say that Sanderson illustrates the difficulties and frustrations wheelchair users encounter spot-on, I speak from my own personal experience. Rysn faces accessibility hindrances, she reflects upon feeling ignored, feeling a burden, being belittled by others, her need and pleasure to have small amounts of independence, to feel useful and worthy. These are all thoughts and insecurities I have also faced and Rysn’s journey to accepting her condition and learning to live with it the best she can, is something anyone with a disability also goes through. I know that Sanderson consulted paraplegics to help him depict these issues authentically, and I truly commend him for this. Every author should go this extra mile when writing about issues they have not experienced first-hand.
“They can’t see me. They see the chair.”
I also appreciated that Rysn doesn’t have a snarky attitude towards others either. I have come across disabled characters who are portrayed in an unsavoury manner, they are shown to be bitter, wallowing in self-pity or even faking aspects of their disability, which I find extremely irritating. Yet Rysn is pleasant, respectful, intelligent and genuinely appreciates others effort to help even if that help is often unwanted. Her loneliness is apparent, yet her bond with Chiri-Chiri, her animal companion, softens her heart, and ours.
To counteract Rysn’s more serious nature, Sanderson presents us with ‘the Lopen!’ We see an endearing friendship between Lopen and Rysn developing as they both bond over their shared experiences of being different. This made for some comical chapters and heightened my love for Lopen. He entails such a quirky, outlandish personality and can execute the most utterly ridiculous jokes at such tense moments, which easily makes him charming.
“Fine,” Lopen said, pointing forward heroically, with Rua copying him. “Onward we go, to step foot on a land no person has visited in centuries!”
“Except the crew of the other ship,” Huio said.’
A few other memorable characters were Huio – Lopen’s cousin and Cord – Rock’s daughter. They both became more significant characters in Dawnshard with gripping story arcs. Once again Sanderson casts his spell and has made me invested in even more of his characters!
I won’t disclose much about the world-building or any details on the island of Akinah itself, but we do learn a great deal and there are many connections and implications which relate to other Cosmere books. I’ll admit there were parts I didn’t fully grasp, but I’m told that I’ll learn more in the Mistborn series, so hopefully a lot will fall into place once I begin my journey through those books.
I believe the magic within Dawnshard’s pages resides in Lopen and Rysn, as together they create a fantastic journey of unlikely heroes with so much heart and humour. Once more Sanderson also delivers a high-octane ending, one which is full of action and suspense. He leaves his readers with tantalising revelations and copious amounts of questions. This is certainly another crucial book for all Cosmere fans to dive into.
Well, my traverse through the Stormlight Archives is almost at an end with only one more published instalment to go. Rhythm of War awaits me, but am I ready for what awaits inside? Let’s see.