If you have not read these seven books (even if you have read the other 3 Stormlight books), I highly recommend you do so. I would also add Mistborn Secret History if you’ve finished The Bands of Mourning.
Rhythm of War picks up about a year after the conclusion of Oathbringer with Dalinar Kholin and his newly rebuilt Knights Radiant fighting a brutal war against an unyielding enemy. In the time between books, the new Queen of Uruthiru Navani Kholin and her scholars have made significant progress in fabrial technology and almost immediately the reader is treated to one such large scale invention with far reaching implications. Everyone’s favorite manically depressed soldier with PTSD Kaladin Stormblessed is reintroduced in incredible fashion while walking imposter syndrome Adolin Kholin and Shallan/Veil/Radiant/???? are given their most interesting mission to date. As new more deadly forms of the Fused are uncovered, our heroes must cope with their changing roles and staggeringly bad luck or face total extermination at the hands of Odium.
The stakes have never been higher.
The first thing I would like to comment on is how well Sanderson takes this ensemble we have come to love and just shatters it. Almost every character is given their own individual storyline, separate from their best friends and those they rely on most, and forced to face their deepest fears alone. In some cases, this is an exile of choice, but in others, it is circumstance.
If Oathbringer leaned into, “Journey Before Destination,” Rhythm of War focuses on, “Strength Before Weakness.”
Unlike its predecessors, which feature flashback scenes from one character to tell two stories from that point of view, Rhythm of War has multiple POV flashbacks from at least three different characters to communicate the recent history of the Listeners. This also gives insight into Navani’s relationship with Gavilar, and his involvement with the Sons of Honor. While I found this pacing a bit slower than the previous books, I think it was necessary to further cement the foundation for what will be the final book of Sanderson’s first five-part arc in the ten-book archive.
Rhythm of War also leans harder into the Cosmere with references to and from characters from other star systems. I won’t get specific with who, but it was really incredible to read something and think, “Wait a second…this sounds like…” before discovering several chapters later that it was indeed a character from another series.
I do suppose I should include some kind of trigger warning because Kaladin (surprise, surprise) goes to some dark places. However, I have to say, I love where Sanderson has decided to take his character, and the moments of breakthrough make those dark journeys so very worth it.
So very worth it.
I could go on and on.
For fans of Sanderson, this is probably his best work, even if I had a deeper emotional connection to Oathbringer. To people who dislike his work, this isn’t going to win him any new fans. The fact of the matter is Sanderson’s strengths are on full display here. Rhythm of War features the headiest hard magic entry in any book of his I have experienced. His characters are the most broken and the most successful we have seen them. He leaves a trail of breadcrumbs he hopes you’ll follow into the woods until things get their grimmest, and just when you think you may never see the light again…Boom. Something changes. The area is still dark and terrifying, but all of a sudden there is a way out. It may be a path soaked in blood, mud, and misery. It may be uphill on slick rock in the rain, but these people you have come to love have a way out.
Journey Before Destination.
I expected to love this book, even if I didn’t think it could top Oathbringer. For me, Oathbringer will always have a special place in my heart where I had to be alone with the last 300 pages, but Rhythm of War is the better book. It manages to do exactly what excellent epic fantasy sequel should do: it introduces new complications, takes the characters on a journey, expands the world, and leaves you wanting more. It will never cease to amaze me that after four lengthy books (each a trilogy and novella or two unto itself) and two novellas (one of which is technically a short novel), I just want more of this world and these characters.
Life Before Death.
Strength Before Weakness.
Journey Before Destination.
Speak again the ancient oaths and return to men the Shards they once bore.
The Knights Radiant stand again.
Also, F*** Moash.