my stormlight archive collection
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The Stormlight Archive Review: Possibly the Greatest High Fantasy Series of All Time

I haven’t been reading Brandon Sanderson very long – the first book of his I read was Yumi & The Nightmare Painter in December 2023. From there, I have fallen down the Cosmere rabbit hole and I have been reading every Brandon Sanderson book I can get my hands on. 

Most recently, I finished reading The Stormlight Archive – at least, I have finished reading the four books and two novellas that have been released so far. With a combined total of 5087 pages, this fantasy epic is a daunting undertaking for many readers – myself included! So, was it worth it? This in-depth Stormlight Archive review will break it down for you. (Spoiler-alert: It is SO worth it!)

Disclaimer: There are Amazon affiliate links below, which means if you click on one and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Full disclaimer here.

My collection of Stormlight Archive books

Read if You Like

  • Epic fantasy

  • Lots of lovable characters and POVs

  • Political intrigue 

  • Complex magic systems 

  • Excellent character development

Pass if You Don’t Like

  • Complex stories with lots going on

  • Occasionally frustrating romantic subplots

  • Books that aren’t constantly fast-paced

What is The Stormlight Archive?

The Stormlight Archive is a series in the epic fantasy genre by Brandon Sanderson. It is a series that takes place in the Cosmere, a universe that is home to several other series and standalones. 

Sanderson intends for the series to be ten books long, broken into two main story arcs of five books each. (Excluding novellas.

There are currently four books and two novellas released, with a fifth book slated for release on December 6, 2024, and a third novella expected December 2026:  

Title Release Date Character Focus
The Way of Kings (Book 1) Aug 31, 2010 Kaladin
Words of Radiance (Book 2) Mar 4, 2014 Shallan
Edgedancer (Novella) Nov 22, 2016 Lift
Oathbringer (Book 3) Nov 14, 2017 Dalinar
Dawnshard (Novella) Nov 5, 2020 Rysn
Rhythm of War (Book 4) Nov 17, 2020 Venli
Horneater (Novella) Not released – ETA Dec 2026 Rock
Wind and Truth (Book 5) Not released – Dec 6, 2024 Szeth

My Stormlight Archive Review

Reading Order and Reading Experience Overview

Because The Stormlight Archive takes place in the same universe as several other Sanderson series, many readers wonder what series they should start with. Each of the series are separate from each other and can be enjoyed on its own, but there are lots of elements and even some characters that tie the books together.

And so, if you’re just getting into Brandon Sanderson, I would not start with this series, partly because it is a more daunting prospect than his other works. But also, you will get more out of the books if you start with The Mistborn Trilogy. (Not to be confused with the Mistborn Era 2 series!)

I also recommend reading Warbreaker before the Stormlight Archive. 

I had read these books before starting this series and I’m so glad I did. Even though I was obsessed with this author by this time, I was still scared to start the first book, The Way of Kings due to its hefty size. 

Admittedly, these books do contain a lot of characters and have a lot going on. The plot definitely isn’t simple. However, it is not a hard read in the least. In fact, none of these books felt like 1000+ pages to me. Indeed, the last 300-400 pages of every book flew by because I could not put any of them down! 

Writing Style

Part of the reason these books are so fun to read is because the writing style is impeccable. The writing is incredibly accessible and easy to understand while remaining poignant and descriptive. 

With this series, Sanderson taught me that beautiful, powerful writing doesn’t have to be complicated or full of big words. Some of the lines in this series gave me literal chills

The style is not dissimilar to V.E. Scwhab; it’s moving without being complicated, but descriptive enough that you can clearly picture the things you’re reading about as though you were watching a movie. 

Action scenes are one of Sanderson’s strong suits, with Words of Radiance, in particular, having the singular best action scene I’ve ever read, bar none!

Themes and Motifs

Character growth is a major focus point in the Stormlight Archive, and there are a lot of characters that get their turn in the spotlight! As a result, there are a ton of themes that get explored throughout these books, and all of them are expertly done. 

Slavery and the dynamic between different “classes” of people across Roshar is a recurring motif throughout the books – not unlike Mistborn. 

Self-improvement and redemption is another theme that shows up time and time again in the books. Each of the three most prominent characters (Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar) have events in their past they regret, and each book follows the characters closely as they learn to cope, face, and overcome their personal demons. 

Mental health is another subject that comes up a lot. Kaladin and Shallan both struggle with mental health issues (though in different ways) and as someone who has struggled with mental health in the past myself, I thought this aspect of the books was expertly done. 

World Building

When you read Stormlight Archive, you aren’t just reading about Roshar, the mega-continent on which the stories take place; you’re practically living on Roshar! By which I mean, the world-building is incredibly detailed and immersive. 

Roshar is made up of multiple nations, races, and religions. Every book contains multiple maps and illustrations that help you get familiar with the culture, peoples, and creatures on Roshar. 

Roshar is an interesting world that is hit with vicious “highstorms” on a regular basis, and most of the land is upon rock and the vegetation has adapted unusually; trees pull in and the grass and animals hide whenever a high storm rolls by.

There is also no shortage of magical creatures and elements throughout Roshar, including spren (mysterious, spirit-like beings that seem to respond to human emotions and concepts), axehounds, larkins, shardblades and shardplates, and so much more. 

I don’t want to explain too much more lest I give anything away, but suffice it to say that the fantasy world is remarkably detailed to the point where you will find yourself contemplating it even when you’re not reading the book (and long after you finish reading them, too!)

Magic System

Sanderson is known for his detailed, near-scientific magic systems, and the Stormlight Archive is perhaps his best example of this. The magic system, which in this book is referred to as surgebinding, is something that you learn more and more about as you progress through the books. 

In order to tap into surgebinding – and become a kind of superhero known as the Knights Radiant, an individual must bond with a spren from one of the ten orders. Each order can tap into two different Surges, of which there are ten. 

There are five levels within each order known as “Ideals,” also known as The Immortal Words. 

I absolutely love how complex and cool the magic system is; guaranteed, by the time you finish reading these books you will be going around saying things like “Strength before weakness,” and you won’t even feel nerdy doing it. (Well, maybe a little nerdy.)

Plot

The plot is complex and sweeping, and easily one of the most impressive things about the series. Sanderson clearly had the series planned out in great detail before even writing the first book, as there are seemingly small details in The Way of Kings that come into play much later on in the series. 

Each book begins with a prologue (sometimes there’s a prelude before the prologue!) with five parts and three-chapter interludes between each part. The book is told across several points of view as well.

If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is! There is a lot going on in these books, but the genius of it is it’s told in a way that is not overwhelming. You will have questions for the first few chapters of The Way of Kings (well, you’ll have questions throughout the whole series) but you’ll have a good grasp of what’s going on by the first third of the book and more details continue to poor in as you read on.

Each of these books has absolute dynamite endings – known affectionately by the fan community as the “Sanderlanche.” 

I don’t know how he does it, but the last third of the book is always super exciting, and you get slapped with plot twist after plot twist. It’s one of my favorite things about these books!

Characters

As I mentioned earlier, there is a massive cast of interesting characters in the Stormlight Archive. The primary three are:

Kaladin Stormblessed – The main character is a surgeon-turned-soldier-turned-slave who, while grieving the death of his little brother, is befriended by a mysterious windspren while being put to work as a bridge runner in lord Sadeas’s army.

Shallan Davar – An untried young woman and minor noble with a trouble past seeking mentorship from the brilliant and notoriously stubborn Jasnah Kholinar, princess of Alethkar. It soon becomes clear that her motives involve committing a daring theft.

Dalinar Kholinar – Alethkar’s warlord brother to the king who seeks to bring honor and unity to the nation. He suffers over powering visions during the high storms that leave others – and himself – wondering about his sanity.

But there are many, many more characters who get time in the spotlight – sometimes for as little as a chapter, sometimes much more. But each character – regardless of how much air time they get – is delightfully unique and complex. Some of my favorites were:

Adolin – son of Dalinar and champion duelist

Pattern – Shallan’s curious spren 

Jasnah – Dalinar’s niece, princess of Alethkar, and a headstrong scholar

Wit – The mysterious “King’s Wit” who has a penchant for hurling insults and showing up when you least expect him

Certainly, you’ll develop your own favorites as you read through the series. 

My Pet Peeves with The Stormlight Archive

I’ve spend the last 1500 words or so gushing about this series, and I mean every word of it. It is one of my favorite fantasy series of all time!

However, it’s not perfect and I do have a few pet peeves about the book:

The Romantic Subplots

I get that these aren’t “romantasy” books, but I still feel that the romantic subplots could be stronger in some instances – as I have found to be the case with pretty much all of Sanderson’s books. 

The one that frustrates me in particular is the love triangle that becomes evident in Words of Radiance. Without revealing any spoilers, I will just say that I felt that two of the characters had far better chemistry, and I was disappointed when it went the other way later in the series. 

Also, there are a couple of other romantic subplots that do have good chemistry but there’s just not as much of it as I would like! 

Character Time in the Spotlight

I get that there is a huge cast of great characters and that each can only get so much air time per book. However, it is mildly frustrating that some of my favorite characters in the series get very little airtime. 

For instance, Jasnah Kholin is one of my favorite characters and I keep waiting for her to get “her turn” as a character of focus, but she has very few chapters compared to the other primary and secondary characters. 

Also, I love any chapters with Wit in them and wish he was in the books more! I know he is purposely kept as a mysterious background character but I still wish he were in them more. 

Perhaps Jasnah, Wit, and others I like will get more time on page in book five and onwards, so this may not be a legitimate complaint. For instance, I was going to include Szeth as a character that didn’t get enough focus, but book five, Wind and Truth, is supposed to focus more on Szeth. 

Series Review by Book 

Clearly, I hold this series in high regard. But sometimes, not every book in a series pulls its weight. Is that the case with The Stormlight Archives? In short, every single book in this series is amazing, but the novellas are weaker, in my opinion. 

Here’s the (spoiler-free) breakdown by book:

The Way of Kings – 5 Stars

The Way of Kings is essentially an enormous prologue for the rest of the series – the “opening movement” if you will. But it doesn’t read like its over a thousand pages! Every chapter is engaging.

This first book mostly focuses on Kaladin Stormblessed and his rise from a depressed slave, to the leader of the most tough-as-nails crew you’ve ever read about. He gets put to work as a bridge runner, a dangerous occupation reserved for slaves and undesirables in the raging war against the Parshendi on the Shattered Plains.

I never thought I would be so enraptured reading about a bunch of ragtag dudes schlepping a bridge across a plateau.

The character work is what makes this series so entrancing, and by the time I got to the end, I knew this was going to be one of my favorite series fo all time. TWoK is many people’s favorite book in the series, and although it is not mine, I give it a very solid five stars. 

Words of Radiance – 6 Stars

I know the six-star rating does not officially exist, but I bestowed it upon Words of Radiance anyway because it’s just that good.

This book is especially exciting because we’ve already spent a lot of time getting to know the character and the world in the first book, and it makes room for a lot more action than in the first book. We also splend a lot more time getting to know Shallan’s story and get introduced to a few new characters. (Pattern is my favorite spren ever!) 

Without giving away any spoilers, there are two scenes in particular that blast this book into the six-star stratosphere. The first is an action sequence involving Adolin, the duel-master and son of Dalinar Kholin – and if you’ve read the book, then you’ll know exactly what scene I’m talking about!

Normally, I am not much of a fight-sequence reader – my eyes tend to glaze over if it goes on for too long. But this one was written so brilliantly I had to go back and reread it. 

The second scene is toward the end of the book and introduces a love triangle between three of the characters, and let me tell you, I was invested! 

Let’s also not forget the killer reveals that happen in the last 15% of the book!

Edgedancer – 3.5 Stars

This first novella in the series is a very quick read at just 268 pages, and is about Lift, a side-character that is introduced in one of the interludes of Words of Radiance

The story isn’t super relevant to what happens in the Stormlight Archive, but does give some helpful background info about LIft, who Sanderson says becomes a more important character later in the series, and answers a couple of questions that one might have had going into Oathbringer

Lift is a funny character – she is fiercely independent and has a childlike, silly way of speaking and looking at things. She kind of gives of Lila Bard vibes, but is less cutthroat. 

However, the story is pretty slow-paced and it was my least favorite read of the series. I still enjoyed it overall and would recommend you don’t skip it. 

Oathbringer – 5 Stars

Oathbringer centers more around Dalinar Kholin, the former warlord turned political figurehead. This book delves into his surprising past and really explains a lot about what is going on with his character. 

Some readers find this book to be a big of a slog compared to the previous two books because there is a lot of political maneuvering and meetings in this book. However, I absolutely loved it and there were some golden scenes in this book that are among my favorite in the series.

As well, the reveal in this book is the hardest-hitting out of all four books!

I was initially disappointed with the direction that Sanderson took with some of the character relationships, but I got over it by the time I finished book four. 

Danwshard – 4 Stars

This is another short novella about a minor character named Rysn and her larkin, Churi-Churi. The humorous and lovable Lopen from Bridge Four also gets a lot of time on-page, which is always fun. 

Again, this novella helps plug some holes that aren’t covered in the main books, but it is not as strong a story overall. Still, I enjoyed it and it earns a solid four stars. You definitely don’t want to skip it!

Rhythm of War – 6 Stars

I was afraid to read Rhythm of War because many of the reviewers I watched online said this book was their least favorite of the four, so I was preparing myself for a slog. I was very pleasantly surprised to absolutely love this book!

You can really tell this book is setting up for an explosive fifth installment, and the tension really starts to build. The mental health motif is also a heavy focus in this book, as two of the main characters wrestle with their internal struggles in a way that is poignant, heartbreaking, and inspiring all at the same time.

Also, my favorite Wit scene from the series is in this book!

If I had to guess why other readers don’t like this book as much, I would say it’s because there is also a heavier focus on the magic system than in past books; one of the main POVs of the story is exploring the “science” of light and surgebinding, and while they were interesting enough, they weren’t my favorite chapters of the book.

As with all the other books, the last 300 or so pages were completely un-put-downable. It felt like every single chapter was slapping down revelations, and I ate up every bit of it! For that reason, this book reaches six-star status – although I’m not sure if I would put it above Words of Radiance. 

Final Thoughts and Rating

As you can see, my Stormlight Archive review is overwhelmingly positive, and that’s because it is simply one of the most amazing series I have ever read and I absolutely love every single book in the series. (It is right up there with the Mistborn series, which is another Brandon Sanderson series.) 

Again, don’t let the size of these books daunt you; they are fun to read and you will grow to love Roshar and all its inhabitants. They are the kind of “Roman Empire” books you can’t stop thinking about long after you read them.

I hope you enjoyed this book review and found it helpful. In the meantime: Journey before destination! 

FAQ

Why do people like The Stormlight Archive so much?

It’s an extremely immersive reading experience, with a whole world of complex characters, feuding nations, scientific-like magic systems, and unexpected plot twists. What makes it even more fun is the series that has the most connections to other books that take place within the Cosmere universe, like Mistborn, Warbreaker, and Elantris

Should I read Mistborn or The Stormlight Archive?

Read them both! But I would recommend reading Mistborn first; it’s a bit more accessible than The Stormlight Archive and a good entry point into the world of the Cosmere. There are also connections you will make when you go to read The Stormligh Archive next.

Is The Stormlight Archive long? 

Very. Including Wind and Truth, which is slated to release December 6, 2024, the series is over 2 million words long! But it is definitely worth the investment of your time and you’ll be sad when its over. 

How many POVs are there? 

More than I can count. The main characters are Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar, but there are many others including Adolin, Navani, Jasnah, Wit, Taravangian, Szeth, Lift, and just about every member of the Bridge Four crew gets a chapter or two at some point. There are many others as well! 

How does Mistborn compare to Stormlight?

Mistborn is a more self-contained series and although epic, it isn’t quite the sweeping fantasy that Stormlight is. The first book reads like a heist novel in a fantasy setting whereas Stormlight Archive has several plotlines that all weave together. Both series are excellent but I would not say that one is better than the other.

What’s the deal with Hoid?

Hoid is a character that can be found in nearly every Brandon Sanderson book that takes place in the Cosmere. He’s a mysterious character who appears to be a friend, but most of the protagonists don’t quite know what to make of him. As you read through the books, you slowly learn more about Hoid and his motives; his mysterious and humorous ways make him one of my favorite characters in the Cosmere! 

Where do the book titles come from?

Each title of the book is in reference to a text that is relevant to the book’s events. For example, Dalinar becomes obsessed with an ancient text called The Way of Kings when he starts experiencing visions.

What are Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere books?

Aside from the Stormlight Archive series, there’s also the Mistborn series (eras 1 and 2), Warbreaker, Elantris, Tress of the Emerald Sea, Yumi & the Nightmare Painter, a graphic novel series called White Sand, and several novellas that can be found in the Arcanum Unbounded collection, including Secret History, The Emperor’s Soul, Sixth of the Dusk.





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