Have You Read “Rhythm of War” or “Dawnshard”?

First, before I jump into my thoughts on these books, I just wanted to share how elated I am that President Biden and Vice President Harris are now sworn in. There’s a lot of long-term damage to fix, but I’m excited to finally have solid leadership at the helm, particularly in terms of the pandemic.

On to lighter matters for today! The last two books I read were in the Stormlight Archives series by Brandon Sanderson. One, Dawnshard, is a 208-page novella, and it’s followed by a novel, the1212-page Rhythm of War.

If you haven’t heard of any of these books and you’re looking for a deep, immersive, fresh epic fantasy series, this is the one. This might even be the quintessential epic fantasy series of the decade based on most metrics.

Personally, I’m still really enjoying the series, even after I didn’t quite enjoy book 3 (Oathbringer) as much as books 1 and 2. In the first few books, some of the main characters are consistently leveling up in terms of knowledge, skills, and magic…and that doesn’t happen much in Oathbringer. Rhythm of War mostly continues that trend (and even goes the opposite way), but it does some really cool things in the meantime, including a deep dive into mental health and quite a bit of information about the group of people who have previously been considered the “enemy.”

However, I’m going out on a limb here to say that I enjoyed Dawnshard more than Rhythm of War. I’m sure Sanderson isn’t paid by the page, but Rhythm of War feels like that at times. I’d go as far as to say that Sanderson knows his publisher will accept any length of book from him at this point, and without any restrictions, he takes his time. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing…but it also isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Dawnshard, however, is just over 200 pages. It’s laser-focused, and every aspect of it benefits as a result. Instead of using hundreds of pages to get you to connect to the characters, Sanderson does it in just a few dozen. The plot is tight, the mystery is compelling, and the stakes are high. It’s excellent.

Overall, this is a great reminder to me–especially as a game designer–that constraints are really important, even if they’re self-imposed. I’ll gladly read the next 1000+ page book in the Stormlight Archive, but I’m way more excited about the next novella.

How did you feel about these books? Can you think of other examples where you enjoyed a shorter, more focused book in a series than a much longer tome?

5 thoughts on “Have You Read “Rhythm of War” or “Dawnshard”?”

  1. I feel like my thoughts on RoW would probably fill more space than a comment on a blog should be.

    I’ll say that I like RoW more than Dawnshard. Dawnshard was good in the same way that Edgedancer was. It revealed some lesser characters and some small facts about the world. But RoW was perfect. I’m a huge fan of the greater Cosmere, so the things that it revealed about how the world and the Cosmere work were awesome. It let Navani shine in a way she hasn’t in other books. It revealed some things about Hoid/Wit that allowed a cameo character to become a major player. Also, it’s probably the only book that I’ve had to stop reading because I was crying too hard.

    As for Oathbringer, I will say that I agree that at first, it feels like nothing happens, but then I think about Dalinar and everything that happens to him during the book. His personal growth is tremendous. Shallan too. It’s certainly a transitional book, as you’d expect from part 3 of 5 in a sub-series. 1 and 2 accelerate fast, 3 moves you towards the climactic build, 4 and 5 crescendo to the climax. But I think the hardest part for a reader is that Oathbringer ends in a pretty dark place, and RoW picks up from that place. The darkness is necessary, but hard to read.

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  2. I’m only about 2/3 of the way through Rhythm of War and haven’t read Dawnshard yet, but so far my experience is an improvement over Oathbringer.

    My personal take is that Sanderson was in a bit of a slump with Oathbringer. Calamity was a bit of a mess and he wrote another entire YA novel he had to throw out because it just wasn’t up to par.

    As far as related shorter fiction being better, I tend to want more of something if I’m really into it. However, I do experience this pretty frequently in story focused video games. Dragon Age Inquisition had about 10-15 hours of really good story, but it was spread out around 50+hours of addition “filler” content. That’s common in video games and I’d often rather play a 15-20 hour game with a compelling story than a much longer game.

    Perhaps the question is whether the additional pages are adding to the story for you. The pages of the 2/3 of Rhythm of War that I’ve read so far have done that to me, but in a more introspective way for various characters. Oathbringer did, too but there were times where the choices characters made didn’t match with the characters I felt Sanderson had presented, and so it struggled with believability to me.

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    • I’m glad you’re enjoying it and that those additional pages are adding to the story for you! For me, I think if Sanderson had been given, say, an 800-page limit, he could have delivered an equally compelling story in a tighter, more satisfying package (like he did in Dawnshard). But I still think he did some really cool things in the book, and I’m happy to have read it cover to cover. 🙂

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  3. I think that rythm of war was too dark and depressing and made me feel like drowning, but the scene with kaladin in the tower is one of the most powerful things I have read in my life and also what happens to the villain… OMG!! I can’t wait for the 5th book!

    I loved dawnshard also, it is impossible not to love the Lopen

    Reply

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