Of course the Parshendi wanted to play their drums.
– Rhythm of War, opening line –
I did it, guys! As far as The Stormlight Archive is concerned, I am finally all caught up! I mean, maybe not all caught up, since there are still the novellas, but I have now read all of the main four books, and, let me tell you, I’m OBSESSED. This has definitely become one of my favorite fantasy series, and I don’t even know how I’m going to survive the wait until the next book comes out. I still have so many questions! And I need more time with all of these precious characters, especially Kaladin! How am I supposed to survive two whole years without any new Kaladin content? 😫
Anyway, needless to say, I loved Rhythm of War. I loved being back in this world and with these characters, I loved getting so many more answers, and I loved being reduced to an emotional wreck time and time again. Hasn’t Bridge Four been through enough already, Brandon? How can you crush our souls like this?! 😭
However, despite loving Rhythm of War, it is still my least favorite currently existing book in the series. Because as epic as the story was and as thrilled as I was to see my favorite characters getting more page time again, I just wasn’t a huge fan of the pacing. While parts of the story had the perfect mix of intriguing plot and gut-wrenching character interactions, others dragged or felt needlessly rushed. Sometimes, characters would disappear for hundreds of pages at a time, only to be reintroduced in scenes that were somewhat anti-climactic after all the build-up leading up to them. The ending had so much stuff going on at once that I was struggling to keep up, and I found myself wishing that we had gotten a bit more time to process all of these world-changing new developments.
Still, all of this is whining at a high level. Brandon Sanderson is so good at coming up with mind-blowing plots that will keep your eyes glued to each of his thousands of pages that I am probably much more nitpicky when it comes to issues with his pacing than I am with other authors 😁 I nonetheless enjoyed Rhythm of War a lot and would highly recommend this series to any fellow fantasy lover out there!
SOME GENERAL INFO:
Title: Rhythm of War
Series: The Stormlight Archive, #4
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Page Count: 1230
Publication Date: November 17th, 2020
Date Read: December 4th – 8th, 2021
Rating: 4/5 Stars
My In-Depth Thoughts
WARNING – MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
I’m going to warn you – this section is probably going to be even more all over the place than usual 😅 Even though it might not seem like it, I usually try to give my book reviews at least some semblance of structure, but since there is so much to discuss when talking about the book and my feelings fluctuated a ton while reading it, I’m going to be jumping around a lot here, too…
Starting with the characters, there is already a noticeable structural difference between Rhythm of War to the previous three books in this series. While those all had a clear main protagonist – The Way of Kings was Kaladin’s book, Words of Radiance was Shallan’s, and Oathbringer was Dalinar’s – I don’t think it’s that simple to say whose book Rhythm of War was.
Of course, an argument could be made for Venli. We got way more chapters from her point of view than in any of the previous installments, and I was absolutely thrilled about it! I’ve been asking for more background on the parshmen, Parshendi, Listeners, Singers, and the Fused from the moment they first appeared in Way of Kings, and by getting Venli’s perspective, we finally understand so much more! We get to see these people as people – varied in their traditions, beliefs, and personalities, subject to a hierarchy that they might not all agree with, with their individual hopes and dreams for the future and their own personal agendas.
And I loved seeing Venli grow so much as a character! Honestly, when we first saw her from Eshonai’s perspective in The Way of Kings, I was kind of hoping her sister would finally snap and strangle her. Venli was bringing so much pain and destruction to all of Roshar, and she didn’t even think to consider that her actions might have dangerous consequences! In Rhythm of War, though, Venli has come far from the young woman so desperate for glory that she would do anything to bring back the old forms. The title the Fused have given her, Last Listener, only serves as a reminder of what happened to her people as a consequence of her actions, and Venli regrets it bitterly. She sees the injustice of what the Fused are doing, and she no longer believes the humans necessarily have to be her enemies. She values her bond with Timbre above everything, but she is also scared to step into her role as a Knight Radiant. But that slowly begins to change, especially when she learns that she is not, as she had thought, the only Listener left.
Honestly, Venli’s character arc was so interesting that I was a little disappointed that she didn’t seem to be getting quite as much attention as Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar had in their books. Like, yes, we got flashbacks, but they only started about halfway through the book and didn’t tell us all that much beyond what we already knew! And I really would have liked to see a bit more of her interactions with the other characters, especially since Venli had such an interesting in-between position. I loved getting her thoughts on Leshwi, Raboniel, and the rest of the Fused, I loved watching her meet Rlain and help save Kaladin, but I just wanted more!
Still, I guess I can’t complain because less Venli also meant that there was more time for other characters – most notably, Kaladin, Navani, and Shallan.
And of course, you guys know how much I love Kaladin! Which is why seeing so much of him in this book was one of my favorite things ever 😍🤩🥰
Although I must admit, I wasn’t completely sold at the beginning. The first 100 pages of this book felt a bit meh, since I just wasn’t that invested in all of the fight scenes 😅 BUT THEN THINGS SUDDENLY GOT SOOO GOOD!!! The character interactions that I had missed in Oathbringer were back in full force, and I was so invested! There was Kaladin’s complicated relationship with his father. Kaladin falling back into depression after everything he had seen in battle and the toll Moash’s betrayal had taken on him. Syl, Adolin, and Shallan trying their best to look out for him.
“Tell me honestly,” Adolin said. “With an oath, Kaladin. Tell me that you should be left alone tonight. Swear it to me.”
– Rhythm of War, p. 166 –
That scene where Kaladin completely broke down in his room? It was one of my favorites in a very long time, and when Syl decided to fetch Adolin, I just about teared up 😭 I love how fiercely protective Adolin and Syl are of Kaladin, and how much Kaladin, who trusts almost no one completely, is able to trust them. I love how much Adolin cares about Kaladin, leaving aside the jaunty “bridgeboy” when he knows it truly matters. I love how Syl wants to help and understand Kaladin so badly that she goes to Dalinar and asks to experience the kind of pain Kaladin is in. And I love how Adolin and Shallan don’t judge Kaladin but try their best to cheer him up, tease him, and keep his mind off things. This friendship is so precious, and I want more of it!
In addition to that, I really appreciated how Kaladin’s mental state was finally showing the toll war takes on people. The characters in this series are always such incredible fighters, always able to keep going even when the most horrific things happen, and they somehow always come out perfectly fine out of the most dangerous situations. And here, finally, this didn’t happen! We have a character dealing with a ton of trauma who is not functioning perfectly. A character who is devastated when the commander he admires so much takes his life’s purpose away from him. A character who is already suicidal having even more shit thrown at him and yet still tries his best to help those around him when he sees they are suffering.
I JUST LOVE KALADIN SO MUCH!!! 🥰 Which actually caused me a great deal of anxiety in this one, let me tell you. Seriously, Brandon Sanderson, how can you make Kaladin nearly die so many times, huh?? It was beyond cruel! That scene in the well, where Kaladin was separated from Syl and almost drowned? My heart nearly stopped, and it didn’t fare much better later, either. We had Kaladin narrowly avoiding capture, almost falling to his death, being battered by a storm, until even the remaining (and conscious) members of Bridge Four were almost convinced he wasn’t going to make it.
“The story wasn’t about him trying to be a hero,” Wit said. “It was about him trying to be a dragon. In which, pointedly, he failed.”
– Rhythm of War, p. 919 –
Thankfully, though, he did make it. And along the way we got a hilarious psychotherapeutic session with Wit that summed up Kaladin’s way of thinking so well – and that was definitely a million times better than the ones by fat fictional Jorge that I was forced to read last month 🙄 Wit’s story and its stupid ending made me, if possible, love Kaladin even more, so that I was even closer to tears when Kaladin finally woke up and was reunited with Rlain, Dabbid, Teft, and his father. And Lirin eventually forgiving his son and seeing how much he had to offer their world made me sniffle even more.
But of course, it was all too good to last. Because after I defended him, after I said he was misguided and just trying to deal with the pain in his past, Moash did what I thought would be impossible and made me truly HATE him. How could you, you absolutely treacherous piece of garbage!?! I was willing to forgive you for Elhokar, but Phendorana and Teft? NEVER! How could you do that to them? Teft was your friend! He was one of the best people ever and finally starting to recover from all the horrors he’d faced! Even if Odium took away all of your pain, wouldn’t you at least still remember the friendship you’d shared?
And before that, a terrible sound. It had pushed away his Connection to Odium, forcing Moash to feel pain for the things he’d done – pain he didn’t want. Pain he’d given away.
That pain seethed and spread inside him. He’d killed Teft.
He’d. Killed. TEFT.
Get out, get out, get out! he thought has he tore through a hallway, uncaring whether he hit people with his Shardblade as he passed over their heads. He needed it ready. In case Kaladin found him. In case he hadn’t broken.
– Rhythm of War, p. 1169 –
I still haven’t given up on Moash getting that redemption arc – Because boy, do I want that man to face the consequences of what he did! – but now I want it to be much, much more painful. I want him to truly feel the pain of what he did, to feel remorse, to suffer. The pain he felt when he briefly lost his connection to Odium was nowhere near enough! He literally said he wasn’t sorry for what he’d done, only for the pain it made him feel. Well, Moash, I need you to feel more pain, then. I need you to understand what you did to your friends, and to spend your last moments trying to make it up to them. I want you to die a very, very painful death trying to save what is left of Bridge Four while begging them for forgiveness. (Did I ever mention that I can be slightly sadistic sometimes? 😇)
Thankfully, though, Moash didn’t manage to do what he’d set out to do. He attacked Kaladin where he knew it would hurt him most, but despite the pain, Kaladin didn’t break. And him finally swearing the Fourth Ideal, after he had failed so crucially when Adolin needed him in Oathbringer, was epic!
She held to him, and shook as she spoke. “I’ve forgotten the Words. I’m supposed to help you, but I can’t. I…”
“You are helping,” Kaladin said, “by being here.” He closed his eyes, feeling the storm as they broke through the moment between and entered the real world.
“Besides,” he whispered, “I know the Words.”
– Rhythm of War, p. 1140 –
But enough about Kaladin. I could ramble on about him forever if you let me, so to make sure the other characters in this book get some appreciation as well, let’s talk about Navani instead.
To be honest, I’m not super invested in Navani as a POV-character. She’s kind of like a female Dalinar – annoyingly perfect and strangely emotionless considering everything that is going on around her. I mean, this woman just lost her son in the most brutal way possible, her daughter is off struggling to hold a collapsing kingdom together, and her new husband ran off to fight a war, leaving her behind to deal with a siege all by herself, and she barely seems to bat an eye??? I wanted more emotion from you than that, Navani, and I wanted you to make more mistakes and be less perfect! Like, couldn’t you maybe have blamed yourself a little more when those scientists died investigating your weird rock, or when people stormed into battle for you and ended up dying? I wanted you to actually feel stuff!
However, what I did absolutely love about the Navani chapters were her interactions with Raboniel! Their dynamic, with them simultaneously being enemies but also sharing a passion for science and discovery that also made them friends of a sort, was super interesting, and I loved reading about their shared research! Maybe all the music theory stuff wasn’t 100% physically accurate, but I was so thrilled about having music play such a big role in this book that I completely lapped all the explanations up anyway. It’s magic, guys! 🤷♀️ And I was obviously obsessed!
And the Sibling! They’re such a cool character and I loved them from the minute they started telling Navani off for imprisoning spren. (Which, by the way, is yet another reason why I don’t like Navani much. Why did she just shrug off what she was doing to those spren without even considering there might be truth to those warnings?? That is torture, Navani!) I’m very excited to see how this second Bondsmith business is going to play out, although I’m also really mad about the injustice done to Rlain by having the Sibling bond with Navani. Rlain deserved that bond way more!!! He was robbed!!!
And speaking of being robbed, can we talk about that Shallan and Adolin storyline?
Don’t get me wrong – I was super invested in what we got to see of it. In my opinion, Shallan’s dissociative identity disorder (or whatever fantasy equivalent she has) was handled much better in this book than the previous one. The switches between the different alters felt a lot more natural, as did the backstory that had led to Shallan creating them in the first place. Even Veil, whom I’d wanted to slap multiple times in Oathbringer, really started to grow on me when I saw how much she cared about protecting Shallan. So much so that I’m almost sad she’ll no longer be around.
From deep inside, Shallan whimpered again. But Veil, Veil had been created to soldier through moments like this. She ignored the profound sickening feeling. Pattern was lying to her.
Pattern was lying.
– Rhythm of War, p. 461 –
And let me tell you – I nearly had a panic attack myself when Pattern started seeming more and more suspicious! I don’t think I could have taken it if Pattern’s goal had truly been to betray Shallan. He has the best sense of humor I’ve ever encountered, and he’s so clueless, loyal, inquisitive, and sweet that you can’t not love him 🥺
Also, there were so many interesting reveals regarding the spren in Shallan and Adolin’s part of the story! The whole expedition to the Lasting Integrity and the history of the honorspren already had me engaged, and then so many other things that I’d been dying to get to finally happened!
First, we got to see Shallan’s original spren! Up until this book my theories were split 50:50 between Pattern being Shallan’s first spren and him having forgotten everything along with Shallan or Shallan having had a different spren before Pattern. And then, once Pattern started behaving so suspiciously, I also briefly wondered whether he might be Shallan’s original spren and know way more than he was letting on. But once we saw that Cryptic deadeye, I just knew. And I was so thrilled I was right!
And second, Maya was back! And she talked!!! I already said in my Oathbringer review that I would be very mad if Maya didn’t eventually return back to life, and now it looks like that might actually be within reach. So I’m very happy 😊
BUT. But, but, but. Despite all of the wonderful things in Shallan and Adolin’s arc, the way it was handled is actually one of my biggest complaints about this book.
Like, Shallan and Adolin finally get to the Lasting Integrity, with that chapter ending on a huge cliffhanger, and then, WE GET NOTHING FOR ABOUT 500 PAGES? Seriously, Brandon Sanderson?? That’s almost half the book!! And then when we do finally get back to them, everything seems super rushed and very anti-climactic after all the drama leading up to it. We barely get to explore the Lasting Integrity and the traditions of the spren who live there, no time is taken to introduce new characters like Blended or Sixteen, the build-up to the trial is over in a heartbeat, we barely get any details on Shallan’s mission and her trying to fulfill it, and, also, despite Shallan having learnt that there are apparently strange other places out there, she doesn’t even wonder about it for more than two seconds? What is this? Are all these characters somehow more aware of the Cosmere than I realized? Nobody seems even slightly surprised at all these hints about other planets, and I want to know why! Can’t these characters be a bit more mind-blown for my benefit? Because I really need to know more about how all of this stuff is connected!
“Nalthis. Scadrial.” He spoke the words with a different accent. “Where are they. That’s an excellent question, Radiant. Suffice it to say they are places in Shadesmar where our Stormlight – so easily captured and transported – would be a valuable commodity.”
– Rhythm of War, p. 187 –
However, my biggest gripe concerning this particular character arc has nothing to with the Cosmere, but with the terribly sloppy execution of the development of Shallan and Adolin’s relationship. I mean, Shallan tells Adolin about her past OFF-PAGE! WTF, Brandon Sanderson?!!!!! I have been waiting for this moment in their relationship forever, and then you don’t even show it?! You were supposed to be making me root for these two as a married couple, but apart from them watching some weird starspren glow, you gave us nothing! Shallan and Adolin spent this whole book acting the same way they did when they had only just met, and to top everything odd, you leave out the one truly emotional, relationship-changing scene between them?! Seriously????
I am beyond upset about this, especially since I think diving deeper into the Shallan and Adolin arc and stretching it across the whole book could have done a lot to fix pacing issues. Because quite frankly, Part Three of this book, a.k.a. The Part Where Everyone Is Locked Up In Urithiru and Sits Around Waiting for Things to Change, dragged like anything.
I don’t know why, exactly, because so much that was going on was interesting. We had the introduction of the Sibling, Kaladin going into hiding and trying to save Teft, Dabbid gaining a lot of self-confidence, lots of Navani and Raboniel content, and, best of all, the well scene. Still, something about this part failed to keep me engaged. We got many of the same types of scenes over and over again, and apart from Navani and Raboniel plotting with and against each other, the relationships between the different characters were barely developed. Including more of Shallan and Adolin’s mission would have been a great opportunity to break up the monotony of the Urithiru siege!
And also, what about the other characters?
I mean, Dalinar has always been kind of boring, but still. Since he’s off fighting a war, maybe we could have seen at least a few of those developments before he comes back rushing to save the day at Urithiru?
And what about Jasnah? What is up with making everything that happens to her occur off-page? Like, when did she swear the Fourth Ideal, and how did that that affect her? How in the name of the Almighty did she end up in this seriously weird relationship with Wit? Jasnah is not the kind of person I picture being in relationships!!! Couldn’t she and Wit just have been friends? And how did she become accepted as Queen when she is such a controversial figure? How is she dealing with the death of her brother? Honestly, considering Jasnah was one of my favorite characters in book one, she has kind of become beyond boring. But it’s not her fault! Give important events in her life page time for once!
And speaking of characters who have next to no page time, why was there so little Renarin? I love Renarin! And he’s gotten even more interesting, what with the way Odium can’t see him and those around him! I’m sure Renarin will end up having a central role, which hopefully won’t involve him dying…
No! “Listen,” Taravangian said, going off script, ignoring the orders of his smarter self. “Give Dalinar the sword. Dalinar is taken to Odium’s vision sometimes. It should travel with him. Do you understand? Odium thinks the sword is in Urithiru. He doesn’t realize you’re here. He can’t see it because of Renarin.”
– Rhythm of War, p. 842 –
Also, Taravangian figuring out where Odium’s weakness was was so cool 😊 I love how much more complex Taravangian and his motives became in this book, and I actually really started enjoying him as a character. When Szeth left him behind without listening, I wanted to scream in frustration!
In general, so much happens during this ending that, despite me thinking that it felt rushed, I am dying to see where it all leads! I’m still puzzled why Odium allowed himself to be roped into that weird deal with Dalinar; we now have two Bondsmiths; Moash went full-on psycho; Kaladin has epic new Fourth Ideal powers; the Listeners are back and possibly willing to ally with the humans; and to top it all off, Taravangian became Odium 2.0! On the one hand, I’m disappointed how fast everything happened, but on the other, I’m really excited for what this means for book five 🤗 I’m expecting epicness. I’m expecting death. I think there’ll be a big show-down, and I can’t wait for its implications!
Anyway I think I’ve rambled on for long enough 😅 If you’re still here and could make sense out of any of this, feel free to tell me your own thoughts on Rhythm of War down below. Do you agree with my opinions? Which Stormlight Archive book is your favorite one so far? Do you have any theories for book five? I would love to chat down in the comments!