Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Cosmere, Stormlight Archive
Rating: Highly Recommended if you want to read a Massive Epic Fantasy
Here’s the TL;DR for my review (SPOILERS!):
- Good characterization
- Ultra-Strong worldbuilding
- Strong plot
- It’s long. If you’re in the mood for a long book, that’s great! If you’re not, you’re going to be bored. It’s a 1007 pages long.
- Occasionally cringy dialog
- Too. Many. Flashbacks.
This is a re-read for me, coming back to this book after reading several hundred Fantasy books and several dozen ultra-long Epic Fantasies. Upon re-read and reflection given the insight of reading a lot, I think this is the pinnacle of modern Epic Fantasies. When I first read this years ago I thought it was a bit overwrought and way too long. Now that I have read some of this book’s peers and read the next two books, I have to say that in comparison this is really quite good… but I’m biased. I have bought into the Cosmere, and this is one of Brandon’s best Cosmere books
I love the biology and ecology of Roshar. Life on Roshar is freaky; instead of earth-like plants and animals, you have plants and animals which look and behave like corals and crustaceans. Plants and trees retract into limestone shells when under stress, while animals have shells which they hunker-down into. Instead of horses and mules, on Roshar civilization uses giant domesticated crabs to lug stuff around. Life evolved weird because of the devastating ‘High Storm,’ a massive magical storm which is constantly orbiting the planet (think the Red Storm on Jupiter). The High Storm breaks mountains and renders boulders to dust, so life had to adapt by hiding away.
The characters are good too. Kaladin is a soldier-turned-slave who’s suffering from trauma after the death of his brother. Shalan is an aspiring scholar who’s conflicting loyalties forces her to to sacrifice her passions for her family. Aedolin thinks his father is going nuts because Dalanar is seeing mystical visions, while his father Dalanar is an old soldier struggling to peacefully unite his nation in accordance with his visions. Now I’ll admit that the characters here aren’t as good as they get later on in the series, but you’ve got to start somewhere!
I can see and understand people’s complaints about this book: it’s too long and it has too many flashbacks. As for the complaints about it being too long: long length is a genre convention, and this book takes it to an extreme. However I do think the complaints about flashbacks are correct. While none of the flashbacks in particular are bad or out of place, I think at least 1/4 of the book was flashback. 25% was way too much, and whenever the book did flashback the overall pace of the story suffered. The flashbacks did an good job of fleshing out Kaladin’s personality, but in the end there were too many of them. They slowed down the pacing by a ton.
The Stormlight Archive is the centerpiece of the Cosmere series, and they are very well done by pretty much any Fantasy Genre standards. I think pretty much any Fantasy fan would like this, but this book most certainly has a massive barrier to entry in the form of it’s extreme length. So I Highly Recommend this. Anyone can try it, see if they like it, and if they don’t they can just drop it.