Today’s my stop on the Rhythm of War blog tour! I’m thrilled to be bringing you a somewhat unusual review – my thoughts on the first hundred pages, which I had a chance to sample early!
Book: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
Read before: No
Publication date: 17th November 2020
Ownership: E-ARC sampler sent free of charge by Gollancz. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: Mention of murder and description of victim; violence and injury.
The Stormlight Archive is a truly epic fantasy with a huge scope, weaving together large-scale fantasy elements (a catastrophic war, the return of the fabled Knights Radiant) and more personal stakes into one engrossing, if slightly complicated, saga. Rhythm of War is the fourth book in the series – there are ten planned in total, but split into two arcs of five books, so things are really starting to build up to a dramatic finale. I’ll try to avoid too many spoilers, but I won’t be able to write anything at all if I don’t assume a certain amount of knowledge of the series – so if you’ve yet to begin the series, you should probably click away, but if you’re ready, then read on!
As with the previous books, the prologue is a different character’s view of the assassination of the previous king, Gavilar, this time from his wife Navani’s perspective. Navani’s one of my favourite characters, with her complex position in the court and her obvious smarts. The tangle of her romance with Dalinar has been fascinating to follow, given that he is Gavilar’s brother, and I love the insight we get here into how the conflict between her and Gavilar during their marriage feeds into the way she interacts with Dalinar now. Through Navani’s eyes, we get to see shades of his cruelty, in how he deliberately stops her from pursuing her academic interests, and also of how unsuited he is to being king, palming off his duties on other members of his family. Navani’s frustrations with him as a king and as a husband are clear, and as well as the new perspective on the assassination, I think this short chapter offers a huge amount of insight into both her character and the tensions in Gavilar’s family and court. It’s probably my favourite of these prologues so far for just how much it packs in.
I’m reluctant to go into too much detail about the rest of the sample that I read, because it flips back to the main timeline, so for those who aren’t invested in the series, it won’t mean much, and for those who are, you’ll want to discover everything for yourself! However, I will say this: around a year has passed since the end of Oathbringer, there are viewpoints old and new, and the action kicks off right away… I’m not generally one for big action scenes in fantasy novels, but something about the way Kaladin fights keeps me turning the pages. I seem to remember being equally invested in the fights in the Mistborn books, so I think it might be the way that magic is woven into the fights – it satisfies me more than just who’s hitting who. Certainly there’s one particular scene here that had me very nervous for how it was going to turn out! Interesting things are also happening to Shallan (and her other personalities), in a sequence that really shows off how far her talent for subterfuge and investigation have come since The Way of Kings, and I was delighted to find more viewpoint chapters from Navani, whose scholarship I find fascinating. For me, as much as I like Kaladin and Dalinar, it’s the female characters that make this series so great for me – Sanderson, more than any other male fantasy author, I think, has a real knack for complex, realistic women that I find utterly compelling.
Though the sample I read is only the first hundred pages or so, it’s a section that really shows how this series goes from strength to strength. If you’re looking for an intense, epic fantasy and this is the first time the series has crossed your radar, you should definitely check it out – and if you’ve been waiting eagerly since Oathbringer to return to the world, then you should probably drop everything from your TBR to get stuck in. It’s certainly made me super keen to carry on with the series, and I can’t wait for my copy of the full book to arrive!
I’m the last stop on the tour, so don’t forget to check out the other stops to see what the other bloggers thought!