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Edgedancer: Workable but Flawed

Posted July 4th, 2023 at 06:22 PM by TGRF
Updated August 3rd, 2023 at 12:55 PM by TGRF
TGRF Reviews: Edgedancer

I generally read whatever introductory material there is before a story, and I'm glad I do so, because the introduction to the third book in the Stormlight Archive, Oathbringer, contained a suggestion to read a short novella which took place between books two and three. That novella was Edgedancer.

I did some research on how required the story was. One review said that it dealt with an important plot point, which Oathbringer otherwise skimmed over. I didn't want to unjustly find fault with anything I planned on reviewing, so a few days later, I acquired Edgedancer from the library and settled down to read.

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: Edgedancer
Author: Brandon Sanderson
My Rating: 2.5/5

Spoiler-free opening: So far in the Stormlight Archive, Sanderson has divided his books into parts. Between these parts, there are three chapters (styled 'interludes'), all of which feature different characters than the main characters. A few of these are important. Szeth and Eshonai are primary villains, for lack of a better word. Some characters seem to have no connection to anything going on, but have cropped up at least twice. Most have only been there once. Some of these have even died by the time the chapter is up.

I've critiqued the inclusion of these 'interludes' before, so I won't go over it again. The upshot is that I don't know why they exist. A few are important, but these could be related within the parts themselves. The rest seem to contribute nothing, and actively pull me out of the story.

One of the characters featured in a single chapter in book two was Lift, a 10-13 year-old (her age seems to be up for debate) who has powers. Edgedancer features Lift in a city. Normally, I would tell you what she's doing, but the simple fact is that she isn't really doing much of anything. And I'll get to that in the review.

Edgedancer feels to me like a book which should not exist. It is required in the series as a whole, but only because Sanderson has been including the Interludes. If he hadn't done that from the start, there would be no need for Edgedancer at all, and I feel that the series would have been better off for it. Admittedly, I don't know Sanderson's master plan, so I'll have to review based on what I do know.

Let's get on with it.

Character Investment: 3
Lift is a serviceable character. And for once, Sanderson doesn't shoot himself in the foot by introducing a plethora of PoVs. In fact, there's only one chapter in the entire book which isn't from Lift's PoV.

Lift kind of works, but doesn't do anything else. The way she sees things and interacts with people is fun to read. On the surface, she's a self-serving survivor. There are hints that she cares for people and actually has a moral compass, but they remain mostly just that: hints.

Nothing really drags me into or away from Lift. She's there, she works, and that's really about it. I feel like with some minor tweaks, Sanderson could have really elevated my investment in her. Sadly, it just never happens.

Plot: 2
Honestly this was a strange book. As I neared the end and started to analyze it, I came to the conclusion that it shouldn't work, and that I should like it a lot less than I did. Except it did work - sort of - and it was at least enjoyable enough to stick with. Honestly the whole book is just kind of there. Nothing really happens except towards the end. And I know why:

Edgedancer is, by some witchcraft, a book without conflict. I define conflict as a goal the main character hopes to attain, and an obstacle preventing them from doing so. That's the essence of conflict in any story, and it just isn't there in Edgedancer.

The only goal Lift has is to remain Lift. Stay wild, stay free, eat a lot of pancakes. All of which she has successfully done. There's no obstacle. There isn't even any real goal.

In retrospect, you could argue that the goal is for Lift to realize some important life lessons, and that the obstacle is herself. And I think that's true. The problem is that the goal isn't established until the end of the book. This means that while there might be conflict, I as the reader never felt it, because I never knew what the goal was (or even that there was one). Instead, I was just watching things happen and Lift react to them.

And really that's what most of the book comes down to: reactions. Lift has a very simple goal of just being Lift, and she never really runs into any situation where she can't do that. Stuff happens, she deals with it, scenario-reaction.

Now it would be unfair to say that Lift doesn't change by the end of the book, because she does. There is the shadow of a character arc. But I feel like it only emerged towards the end. If I had to strip out everything except what I felt was important to the book, I'd be left with probably two chapters. Maybe three. The rest is just Lift doing... Lift stuff.

Now, does this mean the book is a complete bust and a waste of time? Probably not. There was an Author's note explaining why the book was necessary, and having read that, I would say you probably should too if you read the Stormlight Archive.

But can I say Edgedancer is a good book? Honestly, no. It was a fairly boring read, with zero sense of direction, low tension throughout, and bland characters. Honestly the most interesting parts were the mentions of the effects of the ending of Words of Radiance.

Ultimately Edgedancer was made necessary by Sanderson's inclusion of the Interludes. He established a character with them, and in Edgedancer that character changes. He had to show that change before book 3, otherwise it would come out of left field. But that need wouldn't have existed if he had simply never shown the character in the Interludes. If he had just stuck with the four main characters - which would have made the two previous books stronger anyway - there would be no need for Edgedancer.

Having finished the book, I feel like Edgedancer was a product of Sanderson shooting himself in the foot, finding himself in a corner, and doing what needed to be done to get out of it. The result was a bland, mostly boring book, which I feel the series could have done easily without.


Man, that sounded negative. For all of its flaws, I managed to get through Edgedancer just fine. I've now started Oathbringer and look forward to getting back to the main characters.

Until then, keep writing.

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