Sanderson is well known for his 400 000-word epic fantasy tomes, which I’m a huge fan of. Because of this, I’ve always been intrigued by his shorter works, like Legion, The Emperor’s Soul, Snapshot, and now, Sixth of the Dusk. Sixth of the Dusk comes in at about 18 000 words – barely 5% of something like The Way of Kings. Just because it’s short, however, doesn’t mean it’s not good.
Sanderson brings his trademark knack for magic systems to an interesting place, developing birds which warn characters of their death by showing future versions of their corpses. Likewise, there’s a real sense of menace from the psychic monsters that hunt by sensing fear. There’s almost a horror-movie-esque feeling to this story, and I loved it.
Likewise, the Polynesian-inspired world of Sixth of the Dusk was a refreshing delight, with the story focussing almost exclusively on two characters. This really was a welcome change from your standard epic fantasy fare, where the cast can run into the thousands. This small cast of characters allows for an excellent focus on the surrounding world, which felt rich and suspenseful. I haven’t read many fantasy books set in deadly tropical forests, but Sixth of the Dusk makes me want to read more.
Therein lies my main issue with Sixth of the Dusk. When it ended, I simply wanted more. Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t me complaining that his novella was only the length of a novella. Speaking as an author whose first published book was a novella, I know how frustrating it is when reviewers judge shorter works using the same metrics they apply to novels – which inevitably leads to complaints about length. A novella is a different medium to a novel. In the same way you shouldn’t complain about a movie only being two hours long, it feels disingenuous to complain that a novella only took two or three hours to read.
That’s not my gripe. My gripe is that – even considering that it’s a novella – the story itself lacks a satisfying third act. There’s a modicum of resolution, but it feels like we end on the kind of cliff-hanger that would normally signal the end of act two, and as a result the story feels like it cuts off before we see how the implications of the plot are resolved. Yes, the main character arcs get a satisfying conclusion. However, the plot feels like a few threads were left hanging at the end. Perhaps this is for potential sequels (which I would love to read), but as far as I know, there’s nothing in the works at the moment.
Saying that, Sixth of the Dusk is still an fun read if you’re looking for the kind of fantasy book you can devour in a single sitting. If you want fantasy set outside your stereotypical medieval European worlds – or you’re a Sanderfan like me – give Sixth of the Dusk a try.
Overall verdict: 4/5.