By Chet Yarbrough
Words of Radiance
By: Brandon Sanderson
Narrated by: Michael Kramer, Kate Reading
Brandon Sanderson (Author, fantasy and science fiction novelist, former BYU student majoring in biochemistry.)
“Words of Radiance” carries the same fantastical experience a reader/listener envisions when listening to “Eye of the World”. Brandon Sanderson’s “Words of Radiance” illustrates why he was chosen to finish Robert Jordan’s posthumous work. Sanderson’s book is long and may take many chapters for one to become engrossed in its story.
Brandon Sanderson finished Robert Jordan’s “Eye of the World” after Jordan’s death. “Eye of the World” is a story of imagination about the experience of a young boy in a fantasy world imagined by Jordan.
There are a great many characters in Sanderson’s story. The characters represent disparate cultures that have different societies that seem destined to compete until the end of time. Each culture is hierarchal with kings, armies, citizens, and slaves. A singular king believes all these cultures must come together for peace, and tranquility because a storm, an Armageddon like event, is coming. The goal of unity seems unlikely as the story develops. Interestingly, this king is far from perfect despite his prescient vision. He is drunk near the end of the story when all appears to be lost.
Characters in Sanderson’s story are not just kings but people who have supernatural abilities. One former prisoner in this world has those abilities which he is only beginning to understand. Sanderson adds a third principal character, a 17-year-old seer who is also only beginning to understand her powers.
Sanderson creates a white clothed antagonist with supernatural ability who is killing leaders of this fantasy world.
The most interesting innovation by Sanderson is the invention of “spren”; i.e., spren are “ideas” who accompany characters in his story. Spren show themselves as symbols, figures, or lights. They offer guidance to the characters they follow. Spren guidance comes from their ability to slyly spy, modify their form, unlock doors, and inform their companions. There are spren who accompany both sides of the pending battle for the future of the world. The spren recognize life is driven by lies and truth, concluding both can have ethical value. Ethical value comes from lies that mislead miscreants and truths that help the helpless.
God is dead in Sanderson’s story. How or why God dies is undisclosed. The only remainder of God’s existence is a spren (the idea of God) which chooses a hero to defeat the Armageddon that is coming. The spren’s choice of heroes and heroines manages to defeat the coming storm and offers hope for world unity in the future.
The devil is called Odium.
After the storm passes, God’s spren suggests if God can be killed, so can the devil. Odium’s possible death is “hope” for those remaining after the storm.
Loss of species are noted in Sanderson’s world because of overhunting and ignorance, a reminder of today’s culture with degrading water and land environments.
There are storms in Sanderson’s story that remind one of the cataclysmic age in which we live. Great winds, lightning, and flooding threaten nations.
At the end of Sanderson’s story, a listener recognizes this fantasy is a mythical representation of this world, i.e., good and bad leaders, poverty, environmental degradation, and ethnic inequality.
Sanderson leaves listeners with a laugh by resurrecting a character who is thought to be dead, i.e., not a God or warrior, but a seer. There remains some hope in Sanderson’s imagined world, but it is cloaked in hardship and toil.