Spoiler free review for Rhythm of War.
“Honor is not dead so long as he lives in the hearts of men!”
Shortly after I finished reading Rhythm of War I told myself that I should write a review, even though I don't even know how to write those anymore, but this book has left me with so many feelings and the impression it made on me is so big that I had to find a way to express how I feel.
To be honest, what I was compelled to write was something like: omg i loved this book SO MUCH and you all should read it!!! The characters are AMAZING and I LOVE ALL OF THEM WITH MY SOUL and the magic is the best thing ever and my mind was blown away with all the Cosmere lore and new connections and AAAAAH, Syl is too CUTE i'm gonna dIE but guess I could write a sort of serious review so here we go...
art by: Ahsley Coad
I started reading Sanderson 4 years ago, I've read almost all of his published books and since reading Oathbringer in 2017, like every die-hard fan, I was looking forward to the fourth installment in his master piece, the Stormlight Archive series and let me tell you that I was not disappointed. After pondering it for a few days I can conclude that this is my favorite book by the author so far and it is part of my favourite books of all time.
Rhythm of War kicks off with a one-year time jump after the events in Oathbringer, this can be a bit disorienting but Sanderson manages to catch us up with the current events. Unlike the first installments, this one begins quite action packed, it's a way of letting us know what has happened during the previous year and a sort of conclusion to said events which then give way to the main plot and the role that the different characters will play throughout the book. It could be said that it's a mini sanderlanche at the beginning of the book that feels a lot like an end-of-the-book sequence.
The structure is the same as in the previous books: a prologue recounting the events of Gavilar's death from a new point of view, followed by five parts with a series of three interludes between each one. In part one we start with all the characters in the same place and then they are split into three main groups with arches distributed in the next four parts of the book. Some have more prominence than others and more importance is also given to characters who have had a minimal role in the first three books. I have nothing negative to say about it, I have faith in the decisions that Sanderson makes when deciding what and who is going to tell the story. The interludes have been progressing in their function, because unlike in the first book where they seemed to cut the flow of the plot, although I always found them interesting, since Oathbringer we can appreciate more cohesion hehe between these and the main story, giving us a look at other characters and their motivations and I have to say that some of the interludes in Rhythm of War have been my favorites so far.
“He hated that to every one of them, he was some kind of representation of an entire people. He wanted to be seen as a person, not a symbol.”
To avoid spoilers, I won't talk about the plot itself, for that I think the synopsis is enough; so I will move on to the main objective of this review which is, of course, to yell to talk about how much I liked this book.
The progress made in terms of character development is very noticeable, this book is one of the darkest that I have read by the author, many times I felt hopeless with the events the characters were going through, my poor babies were in Damnation itself. I feel very emotionally attached to most of them so the pain I felt with what was happening was A LOT and I often had to stop to scream into the void process what was happening and there came a point when I refused to continue reading for several hours because I couldn't stand it anymore.
One thing I appreciate about Rhythm of War is the way Sanderson represents and develops mental health topics such as depression and dissociative identity disorder, of which I am not an expert but I know that Sanderson has sought feedback from readers who know or identify with the characters to approach these issues in a better way and that makes the reading experience more realistic. This is one of the most character driven books I've read by Sanderson so far although this doesn't mean that the world or the main conflict is relegated to the back, but the development of the characters is the main point and it's brilliant. I think there isn't a single one that has not advanced even a little in their growth and as this is a book with many characters, it's something to admire.
I also can't leave aside the antagonists, old and new and especially one of the new ones, who I can affirm is one of the best and most intriguing antagonists that Sanderson has written, because it made me feel all the emotions and it was really a pleasure to read about them and discover their motivations which, like with most Sanderson villains, they aren't just cartoons that are bad for their own sake.
“And you know, I’ve listened to ardents talk. I’ve been poked and prodded. I’ve been stuck in the dark. None of that worked as well as knowing this one thing, sir. He still gets up. He still fights. So I figure … I figure I can too.”
Another topic of importance was the world-building. If you tought this was already sufficiently developed in the previous books, Sanderson continues to surprise us with more information about the spren, the nature of the world and the magic system. Added to this is the quality and the care with which the book was made. It contains several illustrations representing maps of different locations, spren, various fabrials and new inventions. The magic system stands out even more thanks to new technological discoveries and I was fascinated by the way in which the author unites magic with real science and even with music (!!!). I'm not going to say I understood all of this, because I'd be lying but still, I found myself enraptured while reading about fabrials and the science behind it all and I'm excited to think about the implications the new discoveries will have in the future.
Speaking of implications ... it's been a few days since I finished the book and my mind is still buzzing with that ending, which has me terrified excited for what is coming in the fifth installment that we know will be the end of the first arc in the ten book series. Also, the connections with other worlds in the Cosmere are expanding more and more and it was a delight to be able to understand the references to characters and magic systems from other worlds and books. Rhythm of War gives a lot of information about the Cosmere which makes it a fantastic experience. I'll add that, for those who have yet to read other cosmere books, you shouldn't worry yourselves thinking that you won't be able to understand or enjoy because even though it's very exciting to know what these details refer to, for the reader who doesn't know any of that, it creates mystery and the story is perfectly understandable and Sanderson gives information in case it becomes necessary.
Art by: conjchamberlain
Something that I love about this series, apart from the character development, are the social issues that the author touches in terms of cultural diversity, colonization, racism, gender roles in society and the changes these need to have. As Sanderson said at some point, the story is not only about a specific group of characters but about the world, in this case it's about Roshar and this is demonstrated in each book. It has been fantastic to learn more about the different cultures and species that populate the rosharian continent and the moral dilemmas faced by the characters on each side. It is not only about saying these are the good guys and those are the bad guys, but for us, as readers, I think it's important to know the motivations and the different aspects of the story and it leaves us with a lot to think about.
To finish this already long review, I'll say that Saderson prose is as easily readable as always, it sucks you in and the moment I started reading I was deeply inmersed in the world. The pacing was perhaps slower than previous books and the Sanderlanche wasn't what we have come to expect but still, it was exilarating and the entire book has some of the most devastating emotional moments but also beautiful ones that I know I'll be constantly rereading until the next book comes out.
That’s stupid. The story is really long. He needs to hear the ending so he’ll know it’s worth listening all the way.”