The Stormlight Archive

Reflections of Radiance: Spoiler-Free Reactions to Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance

Closer and closer it comes… Words of Radiance arrives in less than two weeks! Are you excited? Are there anticipationspren around your head right now? Are you enjoying those Glimpses of Radiance? Is Carl having way too much fun? Are his fingers stuck in that steepled position? Do you have a burning need for MOAR?

Today’s tease takes the form of a brief spoiler-free review, accompanied by a list of reflections and reactions to various scenes and events. Cruel torment (but no spoilers) ahead. Enter at your own risk.

Someone asked on the earlier post, “If Way of Kings was my favorite book of all time, do you think Words of Radiance will become my new favorite book of all time?” It’s rather the obvious question, isn’t it: Does Book 2 live up to the expectations?

My answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

The Way of Kings, as the first volume in The Stormlight Archive, not only had the task of engaging us in a new story and making us care about new characters—it also bore the burden of primary world-building for a non-intuitive ecology, complex political and religious systems, and half-buried but important historical context. You’re reading this, so I assume you found it sufficiently engaging; it did its job. It left us with Kaladin rescuing Dalinar, Adolin, and what was left of the Kholin army from certain death; Dalinar rescuing Kaladin and the bridgemen from Sadeas’ tender ministrations; Shallan staying with Jasnah after all; and the pair of them proposing to go to the Shattered Plains.

Words of Radiance, while continuing to build on the framework laid out in The Way of Kings, is much more free to focus on plot development. What’s the deal with the Everstorm? What new villainy will Sadeas furnish? Will Shallan and Jasnah make it safely to the Plains? As expected, those questions will be answered, at least in part. As expected, there are more revelations about the Knights Radiant, both past and present. As expected, the Parshendi receive some… illumination. Questions are answered, and new questions are raised.

As The Way of Kings was Kaladin’s book, this is Shallan’s book. I’ll give you a little freebie here: none of the reflections below involve Shallan’s flashback sequence. I found that I couldn’t take my thoughts out of context of the entire experience, so I’ll save that discussion for the spoiler review. I’ll just say that after Words of Radiance, I can almost guarantee that no one will look at her the same way, whether you loved her, hated her, or anywhere between. I won’t promise that you’ll love her. I won’t promise that you’ll even like her. But I promise you won’t see her the same way you did before.

On that note… here’s the list. I surprised myself by coming up with nearly 70 items the first time through; I’ve cut that in half (partly by cutting out everything to do with Shallan’s flashbacks!) but it’s still a long list. I hope you enjoy it.

I should note that I don’t know how well this will work. When Leigh Butler did this for the last books of the Wheel of Time, we all knew some of what had to happen. We knew the characters, and had some pretty good ideas of what they “ought” to do. With The Stormlight Archive, we don’t have that level of expectation built up, so this might be more in the line of cruel teasing. Sorry…

  • Okay, I sure hope someone can decode this, because I’ve tried, and tried, and tried, and I’m clueless.
    (How’s that for a way to start the list? Cryptographers, prepare! Or possibly, beware.)
  • Oh, Teft. You make me so sad. So very, very sad.
  • Oh, my. Bravo. That was a fantastic scene. It was perfect, and disturbing, and saddening, and encouraging all at once.
  • I found it quite painful to read this—his mind flickering between the little flashes of memory, the battle going on around him… and then “Move. Grieve later. Move!”—to the reader, almost as much as to the character—you can’t stop here! And I loved his obedience to his own command.
    (I was disagreeing with other beta readers here, some of whom felt that we didn’t know enough for this to hurt as much as it should. Obviously I felt I did…)
  • Wow. He was right after all. I still don’t like him, but now I pity him. So many questions answered in two short sentences.
  • I’m beginning to think that this is the essence of Lightweaving. Amazing concept.
  • Gah. I finally had to quit copying every sentence that gave me a thrill—there are just so many. Oh, so many lovely things happening. ______ laying down his burden was superb. ______ charging was brilliant. _______ dying (sad face)—he died well, but how terrifying that death would have been! _______’s return was breathtaking. _____ crashing… (I’m running out of superlatives!) Ah. It was hard to remember to breathe during this chapter.
  • Oh, like that’s not going to come back and bite you or anything. This whole conversation was a crazy blend of hilarity and trepidation, thinking about the probable consequences.
  • I really need a glyph for ambivalence. I loved so much about this chapter. That’s what was getting boring? LOL! And that reconciliation is made of win. On top of that, he believes _______, which is very insightful of him. But… I don’t trust ________ as far as I can throw a chasmfiend, not with power like that. And just who do you think you are, dude, to decide what’s “best” for the whole storming kingdom? I have a bad feeling about this…
  • Dalinar, no! No, no, NO! Oh, wait… … … What? Really? BAHAHAhahahahahah! Oh, yeah!
    (And there was fist-pumping.)
  • I have no words. I’m sitting here shuddering. I’m going to keep reading now…
    (That was quite literally true. I sat here in this very chair and silently shuddered for about five minutes, posted that comment, and started reading again.)
  • I rather like these folks. They’re funny and intelligent.
  • Well, that was a chilling combination of comedy and terror. From the immersive perspective, I’m surprised and sad that it didn’t work. From a more detached perspective, it’s better this way; things don’t come readily and the consequences are severe.
  • YESSSSSSS!!!!!! (Sorry for shouting… No I’m not.)
    (That was, word for word, what I put in the google-doc. There was also fist-pumping and arm-waving, which I didn’t attempt to document.)
  • Well, he seems to have unexpected depths… And so much for unexpected depths. But I’m glad he died a soldier. That actually made me tear up: “You were a fine way to ____________.”
    (I never, ever would have expected to cry for him.)
  • Heh. No wonder they call her a heretic. Outrageous!
  • Oh, YES! This has been questioned so, so much. Well, it appears that our questioning was both valid and invalid—valid because it was a good question, and invalid because we simply didn’t know as much as we thought we did. Now we again get it drilled into us how very little we actually know.
    (Chew on that one for a while. Neener neener.)
  • Part of me wants to shriek that this is NOT the same man we’ve seen before … but at the same time, I love it. He has actual, multiple layers (as he should, being who he is) but this particular layer completely took me by surprise. I never expected that he would—or even could—make a decision like this. Stunning.
  • Well, isn’t that a fascinating way to look at speech… No wonder they’re called “Cryptics”—the way they think is completely non-intuitive for a human.
  • “I hate reading books on computer. This is where I should have the satisfaction of chucking several pounds of book across the room. Stupid stupid stupid! Is he ever going to learn to think before he acts?”
    (This was borrowed from Bob, another beta reader, but it was just too well said. And he spoke for most of us, judging from the comments. I certainly felt the same way!)
  • This brought tears to my eyes. Oh, that was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.
    (I feel like I should give you more to go on, here, but I can’t think of much to say. It was such a character-defining moment.)
  • Well, there’s one theory proven right.
    (I honestly don’t remember if I thought it was valid or not, but I remember thinking that some people were too thoroughly convinced on insufficient evidence.)
  • I’m sure I must have breathed during the first part of this chapter, but once Shallan started drawing… I can’t guarantee it. I was certainly holding my breath when Jasnah walked in!
  • Very big grin, small happy dance. I loved this. First the callback to… whenever it was that Shallan asked _______ the same thing, and then the segue to _______ using it elsewhere at the same time. (Also? Nice to have a moment of pure fun tossed into the tenseness—it doesn’t actually break the tension, but it does let the reader grab a gasp of air.)
  • “So… _______ is ________. And, ‘Of course, there wasn’t one. Hadn’t been one in years.’ Oh, ________, what happened to you?”
    (This is unabashedly borrowed from Eric, another beta reader; I didn’t make this connection at all, and didn’t even believe it at the time. My big question was, “What Heralds are going to be on the chapter icons here?” Peter, of course, merely said, “That is an excellent question!” Him and his Aes Sedai answers.)
  • No. Just… no. I will not accept this.
    (I’m not going to give you any more. I’m betting most of you will recognize it when you read it.)
  • This may be the single most hilarious line in all of fantasy. Or maybe it’s the fact that I was reading way past my bedtime last night. … … No, it’s still hilarious this morning, after rereading the conversation. Seriously, though, one of the things I adore about this scene was that it’s a moment of crazy, incongruous humor in the midst of some fairly intense stuff, and yet it still fits perfectly into what’s going on, so in a way it’s not incongruous at all.
  • ::stunned silence::
    (Seriously. It took me several days to find anything coherent to say about this scene.)
    Please tell me it’s not true. I don’t know what I dare hope for; it won’t surprise me if it’s true, but I still want it not to be. I’m trying not to hope anything in particular, but this is tough.
  • Oh, yes. Oh, yes. OH, YES. There’s so much vindication here!!! I’m not sure whether that’s applicable to choices, worth, theories, or what—but it’s STUNNING!
    (And there was dancing, and fist-pumping, and crying, and then I had to keep reading because it wasn’t over yet.)
  • This whole chapter made me giggle. “You monster.” Lying in wait for grass. And hey—COSPLAY! That would be fun, practical and comfortable. Also “…flapping in the wind, like the Stormfather’s own ears.” ROFL!
  • Even the second and third time through, this moves me to tears. Maybe especially the second and third time, knowing what the results will be. Oh, you fool. You fool. You fool.
  • Oh, my. Ohmyohmyohmyohmy.
    (I know that’s not much to go on, but… All I can do is suggest a visual of extremely wide eyes. This was not a dancing or fist-pumping moment—it was wide eyes and a slack jaw, as something I’d never even imagined… happened. I was all but incoherent.)
  • And… there’s the painting. Sah-weet.
    (There was much delighted squealing and arm-waving going on when I read this scene. You’ll love it. Promise.)
  • This chapter title was perfect. It gave me shivers. And it’s oddly far more effective here than it would be on the earlier chapter, which is… pretty amazing in itself.

Well, there you have it. A still-too-long list: reflections of Radiance. Out of courtesy to those who are trying to avoid spoilers, please try to keep them out of the comments as well. If you really want to say something that could be a spoiler (think pre-released materials), please white out the text; remember that if you preview your comment, the white text will revert to black, so you’ll need to make it white again just before you hit Post. Once the book is out on March 4th, of course, everything is fair game—but until then, let’s try to keep this a spoiler-free zone!


Alice Arneson has been a fantasy lover since the age of eight, when her third-grade teacher loaned her his copy of The Hobbit. (Thanks, Mr. Hamilton!) The most amazing place she’s ever visited (aside from growing up next door to Glacier National Park) is Iguacu Falls.

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