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.’
You may remember I reviewed Dawnshard back in December 2020 when the ebook was first released. Well since then Titan Book UK has released the novella in hardback and were kind enough to send me a copy. Honestly, the cover on it is amazing, the red and white palette matches with the rest of the UK Stormlight Archives covers perfectly and the gold shards really shine! I thought I would share a review again for those of you who may have missed the first one or haven’t read it yet.
A little note: Dawnshard, is a novella set months after the cataclysmic ending of Oathbringer, and is recommended to be read before the second new instalment – Rhythm of War.
Prior to the initial release, I knew Dawnshard would feature two of the minor characters from the previous books in the Stormlight Archives 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 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 I still thoroughly enjoyed the opening chapters.
In fact 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 accurate thoughts and insecurities 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 people with paraplegia 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.”
Nevertheless, I also appreciated that Rysn doesn’t have a snarky attitude towards others either, she does not treat others with resentment or bitterness, nor does she wallow in self-pity. Sanderson may realistically portray her hardships but he never allows Rysn to be centred on her disability, her limitations and weaknesses are not what defines her. She is far more than her disability, she is a talented merchant, a trade negotiator, she keeps the queen’s ledger’s in order, she’s extremely observant and intelligent. Rysn is also a person who genuinely appreciates others effort to help even when she’d prefer to be independent. Her loneliness is apparent though, yet her bond with Chiri-Chiri, her animal companion, softens her heart, and ours.
To counteract Rysn’s more serious and ‘professional’ 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 to others. This growing affection for one another really allowed both character’s personalities to shine, and well… It also led to some rather comical chapters which 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 made 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. Now that I am more than halfway through the Mistborn series, I shall reread this novella after finishing Mistborn era two, and Secret History so that I can finally understand how all the connections fall into place.
I believe the magic within Dawnshard’s pages resides in Lopen and Rysn, as together they embark upon 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.
Review copy provided by Sarah at Titan Books. Thank you for the copy!
Dawnshard is out in hardback now!