Rhythm of War - the biggest book yet in the Stormlight Archive
The Stormlight Archive continues with Rhythm of War, which is unbelievably even bigger than the first 3 books, both in number of pages (1,232) and scope of story. The war between humanity and the Dawnsingers has been waged back and forth for millennia in waves known as Desolations which are separated by centuries of rebuilding for the human civilizations that always get ravaged. This time around is different though as the Heralds who always lead humanity against the Dawnsingers are no more. They declared victory after the Last Desolation and have lain down their weapons for good. Of course the Dawnsingers were not defeated and now that they have returned yet again they find their human opponents woefully unprepared. Despite this disadvantage, Dalinar Kohlin has managed to lead a coalition of forces to keep them at bay but in his heart he knows he can't win a traditional war. Therefore he is looking for a way to strike a killing blow that ends this endless cycle of war for good, but unfortunately for him, so is the enemy, and they know a lot more about this conflict than he does.
This book focuses on different characters than the prior books, with Eshonai and Venli taking center stage on the Dawnsinger side of things, and Navani stepping into the spotlight for the humans. Navani has been leading a team of scholars to advance technology on Roshar and her efforts are providing Dalinar with options no leader of the past has ever had at their disposal. Flying vessels capable of transporting troops great distances are now a reality but such advances catch the eye of other entities on Roshar, including the Dawnsingers. With traditional warfare (and Dalinar) pushed off to the side for much of the book, scholarly pursuits and the challenge of mental health issues take center stage. Kaladin spends more time focused on the inner struggle of his own mental health than he does on the outer struggle with the Dawnsingers, but things do eventually get back to the big battles and Radiant powers that make this series so engaging.
As was strongly hinted in the last book, the battle for Roshar is just a small piece of a larger struggle, and by the time this one is over the story is elevated to one about immortal beings and multiple planets. Rhythm of War is a good book, but it is not a great book, and that makes it stand out when compared to its predecessors. Bigger isn't always better and for the first time ever I find myself feeling like Sanderson has delivered a bloated end product that ultimately only moves the story forward a small amount. Before Rhythm of War I could recommend this series without hesitation but now I wonder if Sanderson just rode his motorcycle over the proverbial shark. Only time will tell and I will eagerly pick up book 5 and hope my concerns are unfounded. Don't let me down Brandon.