Stormlight Archive 2: Words of Radiance

My review and the best moments from the second entry in this epic series. Pt 5 of my Sanderson articles.

Stormlight Archive 2: Words of Radiance

This is pt 5 in my articles tracking and reviewing Brandon Sanderson's works. See all Brandon Sanderson articles with the button below:

#2 Words of Radiance

Published: 2014

Read: June 27th, 2023

I actually like this earlier revision compared to the final cover [source]
“Power is an illusion of perception.”

Now this lived up to the hype of the Stormlight Archives. Beyond it's epic scope, Words of Radiance had powerful character moments and ticked along at a far better pace than its predecessor. In fact, this book felt like the exciting second half of one large story.

On the surface, Words of Radiance has some clear improvements on its predecessor. The disparate threads of Dalinar, Kaladin and Shallan's storylines from The Way of Kings are now clearly being intertwined as the plot makes steps for them to reach each other. The looming threat of Szeth's assassination and the Parshendi danger are clearly understood, and chronological pressure increases the book's readability. There is a literal countdown with seemingly supernatural origins that creates clear tension in the Alethi warcamp. Conversely, we are given a glimpse into Parshendi society and understand how dire this drawn out war on the Shattered Plains has become for them.

“Expectation wasn’t just about what people expected of you. It was about what you expected of yourself.”

I now understand the flashback structure of this series. The Way of Kings was Kaladin's book, giving us the detailed and tragic backstory of his upbringing and early combat. As emotional as that storyline was, Words of Radiance employs a similar structure for Shallan Davar. She quickly went from a character whom I was ambivalent towards to being one who I was entirely hooked and impacted by. Her backstory was powerfully painful and admittedly my personal bias has influenced my rating here. I give Sanderson full credit for capturing the nuance and difficulties of such a tough childhood and how it manifests in her witty adult self.

Sanderson's writing also shone in the romance of this novel. I actually believe Sanderson writes female characters better than his male ones (perhaps with the exception of Kelsier from Mistborn), and he really nails the idealistic romance of young adults. Early scenes had me grinning from the humour, then later empathising with the vulnerability. Perhaps I simply relate more to the early twenties romances when compared to the older one of Dalinar and Navani.

The interludes feel much more connected to the main plotline in Words of Radiance, and I actually felt each one did a better job of building out the large world of Roshar. This was because I felt each interlude had a clear impact on the threads we were following. While the world is growing increasingly larger, Sanderson's clippier pacing in the main storyline meant I saw these breaks as added benefits.

There will be people like this in any culture, for every society is made of individuals. You must learn this. Do not let your assumptions about a culture block your ability to perceive the individual, or you will fail.

The themes of Words of Radiance were also much more recognisable and prominent to me. Some of these include understanding yourself and your past, and deciding who you want to be and how you want the world to see you. Truths and lies played a large part, alongside honour which carried over from The Way of Kings. These are perhaps less lofty than that of being a king or leader, but I felt they were even more powerful and applicable to a wider range of readers.  

And finally, Words of Radiance brings the action I was always looking for. There are some spellbinding action sequences here, which feel much better placed between long stretches of dialogue or introspection. The entire climax was a true Sanderlanch of epic scope, the kind that was hinted at throughout The Way of Kings. [Sanderlanch is a term fans have come up with to describe the action avalanche as the plot threads of a Sanderson novel come together in the climax.] There are not just massive armies at play, but fantastical elements as well that converge and cover each other in clashes that will have you flipping the pages. There were multiple moments in this novel where I pumped a fist, and these were balanced by moments of genuine awe at the fauna and diversity of this world.

My next stop in Sanderson's published works will be his standalone novel Warbreaker and the novella that is Stormlight 2.5, Edgedancer. A break from these 1000+ page books will be nice, but I'm also deviating since these two stories have connections to third book in The Stormlight Archive, Oathbringer. I will definitely be powering through this series in the next few months.

The next section has spoilers for Words of Radiance - if you haven't yet read the book, stop here!

Favourite Moments (spoilers for WOR)!

Click on each box to expand its contents

Convincing the ship

A stunning start to the novel. Shallan and Jasnah's seemingly routine naval expedition to the Shattered Plains gets overtaken by rogues who are brutal in their executions. Seeing Shallan in a position of true fear and danger, she uses her limited knowledge of Stormlight, Soulcasting and Shadesmar in a desperate gamble to completely change the ship.

“Change,” Pattern whispered for the ship. 

“If you change, they might escape the evil men who kill,” Shallan whispered. “It is uncertain, but they will have a chance to swim. To do something. You can do them a last service, Wind’s Pleasure. 

Change for them.” 



Another light vanished. 

“I will change.” 

It happened in a hectic second; the Stormlight ripped from Shallan. She heard distant cracks from the physical world as she withdrew so much Light from the nearby gemstones that they shattered. 

Shadesmar vanished.

Eshonai shows Parshendi culture

Basically every Interlude from Eshonai's perspective is a rich brushstroke in worldbuilding. We now get an insight into the Parshendi and how truly alien they are compared to humans. They use emotion-based rhythms to dictate their speech and thinking and their mobility is based on differing forms. Yet they do share similarities with the Alethi in their leadership struggles and compassion for one another.

Reading of Eshonai's descent and her inner screams is disturbing, and I'm glad Sanderson doesn't show an easy way out for the twist from seeking peace to war.


Such a tense moment. I felt the build-up like the grey clouds blotting the light in a highstorm's riddens. The larger forces of the Stormfather and Odium can be felt by Kaladin, and especially Syl, and the threat of the assassin in white finally manifests in Dalinar's warcamp.

Syl spun about, twisting this way, then that. Her small eyes opened wide. “He’s coming.”

“Who? The storm?”

“The one who hates,” she whispered. “The darkness inside. Kaladin, he’s watching. Something’s going to happen. Something bad.”

Kaladin hesitated only a moment, then scrambled back into the room, pushing past Adolin and entering the light. “Get the king. We’re leaving. Now. ”

The tension and the entire fight sequence was gripping. This continues to the discussion afterwards where Adolin suspects Kaladin's powers, and when Kaladin and Dalinar silently acknowledge that King Elhokar was not the intended target.

Shallan and Tyn

“Shallan growled, thrusting her hands forward. Mist twisted and writhed in her hands as a brilliantly silver Blade formed there, spearing Tyn through the chest. The woman barely had time to gasp in surprise as her eyes burned in her skull.”

Shallan finally summons her Shardblade (but what a twist later, that her shardblade is in fact her spren Pattern)! The unexpectedly quick offing of Tyn was evidence that Shallan's character was developing quickly, in need of no mentor before reaching the Shattered Plains.

Honor is dead

Adolin's duels are already a highlight of the book at this point. He is going to try a 2 v 1? Pfft, it will be tough but an achievable challenge for him. Then FOUR shardbearers walk out to face him... he does admirably, but the expected outcome of the situation quickly emerges. Even worse, Renarin's untrained blade gets involved. I am going to let this passage speak for itself:

Please… Almighty…

Dalinar turned upon the stands full of spectating lighteyes. “You can watch this?” he shouted at them.

“My sons fight alone! There are Shardbearers among you. Is there not one of you who will fight with them?”

He scanned the crowd. The king was looking at his feet. Amaram. What of Amaram? Dalinar found him seated near the king. Dalinar met the man’s eyes.

Amaram looked away.


“What has happened to us?” Dalinar asked. “Where is our honor?”

“Honor is dead,” a voice whispered from beside him.

Dalinar turned and looked at Captain Kaladin. He hadn’t noticed the bridgeman walking down the steps behind him.

Kaladin took a deep breath, then looked at Dalinar. “But I’ll see what I can do. If this goes poorly, take care of my men.” Spear in hand, he grabbed the edge of the wall and flung himself over, dropping to the sands of the arena floor below.

Just know that when I read this at 1:20 in the morning, I pumped my fist and felt a rush of exhilaration like nothing else. Definitely the book's best moment, as Kaladin does his bodyguard duty and goes to save the half-bully Adolin from cripplement and death.

Ym, Rysn, Taravangian and Lift

These four interludes were practically perfect. Really interesting characters, grand world building, clear tension within the chapters and tangible impacts on the story and Roshar.

Then the island ahead of them moved.

Not in the drifting way she’d imagined. The island’s very shape changed, stones twisting and undulating, a huge section of rock rising in a motion that seemed lethargic until one appreciated the grand scale.

Rysn sat down with a plop, her eyes wide. The rock—the leg—lifted, streaming water like rainfall. It lurched forward, then crashed back down into the sea with incredible force.

The Tai-na, the gods of the Reshi Isles, were greatshells.


Shallan was definitely in over her head here, but was able to get by with Pattern and her Stormlight abilities. The Ghostbloods, alongside Taravangian's faction, really increased the brutality in this entry. There were also some exciting Cosmere connections, particularly with the final book of Mistborn era 2!

Wit's two stories

Wit/ Hoid has two absolutely brilliant sequences in this novel. The first is with Shallan, a reflective passage on beauty and pain.

The messenger whispered. “Two blind men waited at the end of an era, contemplating beauty. They sat atop the world’s highest cliff, overlooking the land and seeing nothing.”

The second is Fleet's Run. At first, I thought this story was marvellous but would be similar to the story of the Wandersail from The Way of Kings - a spellbinding but ultimately unimportant tale. However, it comes around in Kaladin's conclusion and wow, what an inspiring story it ended up being!

“All stories told have been told before. We tell them to ourselves, as did all men who ever were. And all men who ever will be. The only things new are the names.”

Shallan's pairings

Shallan's romantic planning and conversations with Adolin made me chuckle. Her vulnerability and conversations with Kaladin made me feel.

Passionate, with an intense, smoldering resolve. A leashed anger that he used, because he had dominated it. And a certain tempting arrogance. Not the haughty pride of a highlord. Instead, the secure, stable sense of determination that whispered that no matter who you were—or what you did—you could not hurt him. Could not change him.

He was. Like the wind and rocks were.

The entire climax

Basically everything that occurs from the moment Dalinar finally sets out for the heart of the Shattered Plains was fantastic. From the larger moments like Kaladin's realisation in the warcamp after wrestling with questions of revenge and honour, to the smaller ones such as Shallan revealing herself as a Knight Radiant and Adolin having terse flashbacks to first bonding his Rhyshadium.

The king was Dalinar's Tien.

Don't even get me started on the epic action. The initial battle between the Parshendi and Alethi forces, the epic clash of the Everstorm and Stormfather despite it being the Weeping, the insane sky chase between Kaladin and Szeth.

A truly awesome ending.

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