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Oathbringer: Long but Decent

Posted October 15th, 2023 at 08:13 PM by TGRF
TGRF Reviews: Oathbringer

Yesterday, I finished Oathbringer, book 3 in the Stormlight Archive. Since book 4 is already in my possession, I didn't want to waste much time getting to the review of book 3. So let's hop to it.

Ratings:
5: Amazing, above flawless.
4: Flawless, but doesn't really stand out.
3: Might have some issues, but works fine.
2: Has some issues which might detract from the media.
1: Flawed, bring the media down noticeably.

Title: Oathbringer
Author: Brandon Sanderson
My Rating: 3.5/5

Phase 1
I've opted to forgo my usual summary and my breakdown of the story into parts. The book is so massive that it's almost like trying to review separate books in one. Therefore, I'll break the book into what I see as it's defining 'parts'. I will attempt to avoid spoilers, though this won't be 100% possible.

Phase 1 is - as is becoming typical with these books - the weakest part of the story. Sanderson seems to reach genius levels at the climax of his stories, while the beginnings are often slow and meandering, and Oathbringer is no different.

I think I know why. At the end of book one, character A is directed to kill character B, which we know will throw him into a confrontation with character C. That's how the book ends. We then spend the first fourth of the next story eagerly waiting for that confrontation. It does wonders to speed along a section which otherwise doesn't have much going on.

Something similar happens at the end of book two. Character D reappears suddenly without explanation, and sets off to rejoin the rest of the cast.

The difference? Character D is an ally, and the circumstances around how they have reappeared are a complete mystery. Far from creating tension, this creates a void. There's nothing to latch onto, no details to wonder over, no confrontation to look forward to. As a result, we have to take phase 1 at face value.

And unfortunately there isn't much going on. Phase one focused almost entirely on Shallan, with Kaladin and Dalinar only getting a few chapters. There is no central conflict. Shallan grapples with her feelings over matters, practices her powers... all in all not much happens. I feel like the entire phase is just killing time, and could have been drastically cut down. There just isn't much need for a lot of what's there. I give this section a 2.

Something else which repeatedly bugged me was how several details felt tacked on. At the end of book 2, character E gains magical powers. No one really comments or thinks on this in book 3. It's a huge deal, but everyone acts like it's old news and kind of just ignores it. We aren't even told exactly what his powers are, even though everyone clearly knows that in the story. There were several things like that which didn't sit well with me - really odd details coming from Sanderson. This was a minor thing however, and doesn't really deserve it's own rating.

Phase 2
In Phase 2, the main characters depart to gather intel on a city which has fallen into enemy hands. There's a main conflict, we know everything that's going on, there are clear goals and obstacles which keep Shallan from spending so much time in her head. These are all good things, and allow this section to probably be the second-strongest in the book. There really isn't much more to say about it: It's there, it works, things are tight and well executed. 4.

Phase 3
In Phase 3, our characters leave the city and enter a world of magical beings, which they must traverse to get back to their world. Meanwhile, character B tries to get a coalition of the world's leaders going to prevent the apocalypse.

This was a strange section. Once again, Sanderson's endless pov shifts worked against him here, as for once the things happening back in Roshar were far more interesting than the crew traipsing across a shadowy land which - despite being proclaimed as 'dangerous' - was basically a walk in the park with some minor inconveniences. I could have used more time on Roshar and less with the crew.

This section is dangerously close to a 3, but I'll give it a 3.5 just because there wasn't really anything wrong with it. It was just a bit boring. I could tell we were building up for the finale, and that definitely helped. Still, this section seemed very long.

Phase 4
Phase 4 sees our heroes reunited as the enemy assaults a major city. This section was definitely the best. However, weirdly, I feel it was also the weakest of Sanderson's climaxes so far. There was the normal game-changing twist, but it didn't really effect the ongoing battle, so it was kind of brushed to the side for the immediate needs. The rest of the battle progressed with almost no twists, although it carried on absolutely forever. There were so many named characters to watch, so many PoV shifts, that honestly I felt like the power of the climax was diluted some.

Now the climax was interesting, fun to read, and fast paced. It just could have been better. But keep in mind this is Sanderson we're talking about. For most any other writer, this climax would have been amazing. For that reason, I'll give this section a 4.5.

---

The overwhelming impression I got from Oathbringer was it's length. That isn't particularly a good thing, when you consider it isn't that much longer than your typical Harry Potter book, and I thoroughly enjoy every page of those stories. Still, it was a good read. I intend to start book 4 tomorrow.

Until then, keep writing.

~TGRF.
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