Title: Rhythm of War
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Goodreads Rating: 4.70
“Our weakness doesn’t make us weak. Our weakness makes us strong. For we had to carry it all these years.”
FYI: This review includes Rhythm of War spoilers!
Rhythm of War, the fourth book in The Stormlight Archive series, starts off with the usual prologue flashback to the night of Gavilar’s assassination. From Oathbringer’s final scenes, Rhythm of War leaves the prologue flashback and picks up one year later throwing you right into the action with Kaladin and the Windrunners. Following their epic entrance, the story continues as our main characters split up to divide and conquer as they face a new set of challenges. With some at the battlefront, some in Shadesmar, and some in Urithiru, the storyline keeps you fully invested as we dive into one of Sanderson’s most emotionally impactful books so far.
The prologue flashback
The prologue is told from Navani’s POV and it is my favorite so far. She provides details that are disturbing, cruel, and heart wrenching. You’ll look at Gavilar in an entirely new way after reading what Navani has to say about her first husband.
Character development and a focus on different characters
Kaladin and Shallan’s personal journeys are probably the best in this book. Throughout the book, Kaladin struggles with depression and battle shock while Shallan struggles with destructive self-preservation and self-hatred. At times it is hard to read their chapters because Sanderson does such an amazing job at writing about their mental and emotional health. I often felt a sinking feeling as I internalized their pain – especially for Kaladin. Their character development by the end of the book is so gratifying and in a way, them overcoming their struggles is the climax of the book.
I also thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning more about some different characters including Leshwi, Raboniel and the other Fused. After finishing the book, I no longer looked at the Fused as the evil enemies. They are the antagonists of this series but they are complex, emotional characters and you start to appreciate some of their motives and perspectives.
World building that really starts to bring in the rest of the Cosmere
If you were waiting for the book that started to actively incorporate the rest of the Cosmere, this is it! With Zahel, Wit, and the Ghostbloods, we finally get substantial pieces of Warbreaker and Mistborn. As our main characters learn more about the Cosmere as a whole, I am extremely excited for the fifth book and what that will lead to. If you haven’t read Warbreaker and the two Mistborn series, I highly recommend that you read them before the fifth book!
In Rhythm of War, the interludes are no longer about random, unique places and characters. They are plot-relevant interludes that add context to the main storyline. As we head into the fifth book, it makes sense that Sanderson stopped introducing us to new aspects of the Cosmere and is now focusing more on wrapping up the first half of The Stormlight Archive.
Unique ending compared to the first three books
As I mentioned earlier, this book’s ending is more focused on overcoming mental health challenges in exceptionally epic ways. There isn’t a major battle scene like Oathbringer where our Knights Radiant work together and get to show off their amazing abilities. But don’t worry! Sanderson does incorporate a great battle at Urithiru towards the end of the book so you do get your action scenes.
In many ways, Rhythm of War seems to be all about leading into the fifth book of the series with the characters strong, confident, and ready to go. Because of that, Sanderson had to resolve a major issue about how Kaladin and Shallan fight and emerge from their own personal challenges.
The Eshonai and Venli flashbacks
As a whole, I didn’t gain much insight from the Eshonai and Venli flashbacks. Because of the interludes in other books, I felt like I already had a good understanding of what was going on with the sisters. While the last flashback with the Stormfather was brilliant, the rest of them seemed to share information that we already knew.
Not as epic of an ending as Oathbringer
I included the ending of book four as a pro and a con… I’m a big fan of the epic multi-character climax scenes that we had in the first three books. Like I said earlier, this book diverted a bit from that. It felt like this book’s big moments were around individual character accomplishments, primarily Kaladin, Shallan and Navani. With that in mind, their big moments were still phenomenal and we needed them to reach their potential for book five.
Jasnah and Wit’s relationship…
My last con is related to my favorite character, Jasnah. In Rhythm of War, Jasnah is in a relationship with Wit. How we went from Jasnah’s reaction to Wit in Words of Radiance to their relationship in Rhythm of War is beyond me. I really enjoy Wit and I absolutely love Jasnah. But together… I’m not sure if I can fully get behind that couple.
All things considered, I absolutely loved this book. The pace of this book combined with the fantastic character development and world building puts this book on my favorites list. I thought the Fused perspectives were incredible and I’m thrilled that Navani finally joined the Knights Radiant in a completely unique way. I highly recommend this book and this series. The Stormlight Archive is quickly becoming one of the top epic fantasy series of all time.