There are some warning signs. Sanderson is adding too many characters who get their own third person limited chapters. It’s not George R.R. Martin levels, but it’s also not being used the same way. Martin uses the massive scope of the characters to illustrate the gray morality of the world (yes, Jamie crippled Bran, but Jamie did it to protect his own children and the people he loves, which is surely understandable, if not exculpatory), but this is epic fantasy that is much more black and white – which is not a criticism, but part of the genre. As a result, the accumulation of characters starts to feel more like clutter.
I’m still not sure about Sanderson’s insistence of unique magic systems (and if a key part of it is going to be faerie like creatures called ‘spren,’ you can’t make some of them evil and expect me to frightened of them if they’re still going to be called ‘spren;’ too close to ‘sprite’). It’s impressive world building, in one sense. In another sense, sometimes it’s okay to write, ‘the wizard raised his wand and then something cool happened.’ It’s magic. I don’t expect it to be science. He did reduce the number of key locations, so the new ecosystem he build for his world didn’t throw me off as much.
Like it’s predecessor, The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance culminates in a big ol’ action set piece. Unfortunately, it’s not as cool as the one its predecessor ended with. He also likes to load players up with suffering, but I just finished reading Balzac, so I read and I think – that’s not suffering! You want some mystery, pick up a book by a nineteenth century French novelist! Balzac! Hugo! Zola! And in the meantime, bring it on – pile on some misery on those barely suffering bastards, Sanderson!
But… despite all my criticism. I liked it. He’s a good writer. He’s caught me. I’m going to be excited to read the next book in the series. Sanderson, you win.