Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson debuted at #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover fiction and #2 on the overall USA Today list.  It’s the second book in his Stormlight Archives series, which began with The Way of Kings. I re-read/listened to the first book shortly before the new one came out, so that it would be fresh in my mind.  It also allows me to compare the two books, and in my opinion, while The Way of Kings was very good, Words of Radiance is even better.

A few years ago I was discussing Brandon’s books with an LDS friend, and he pointed out that Brandon’s books all* dealt with the concepts of people becoming gods or being in the city of the gods.  It wasn’t something that had occurred to me before, but I realized he was right:

  • Elantris — Elantris was the city of the gods, and people who became gods went there.
  • The Mistborn Trilogy — The Lord Ruler had become an (evil) god living in the city of Luthadel, where much of the series takes place. Other characters achieve godhood.
  • Warbreaker — In the city of Hallandren they worship the Returned, people who died and came back with godlike powers, including the God King.

I was kicking myself for not having picked up on such story elements as having clearly been derived from Mormon theology.  Naturally, I looked for that motif while reading The Way of Kings, but it wasn’t there in an obvious way, although there were a few possible hints at it.  I wondered if maybe Brandon was moving away from that motif in his writing.  However, those hints grow stronger in Words of Radiance, so I think it may still end up playing an important part in the series by the time he finishes it.

Anyone else spot any LDS-related themes in the Stormlight Archives so far?


*All his books for adults, not his books for younger readers.

About Eric James Stone

A Nebula Award winner, Hugo Award nominee, and winner in the Writers of the Future Contest, Eric James Stone has had stories published in Year’s Best SF 15, Analog, Nature, and Kevin J. Anderson’s Blood Lite anthologies of humorous horror, among other venues. One of Eric’s earliest memories is of seeing an Apollo moon-shot launch on television. That might explain his fascination with space travel. His father’s collection of old science fiction ensured that Eric grew up on a full diet of Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. While getting his political science degree at Brigham Young University, Eric took creative writing classes. He wrote several short stories, and even submitted one for publication, but after it was rejected he gave up on creative writing for a decade. During those years Eric graduated from Baylor Law School, worked on a congressional campaign, and took a job in Washington, DC, with one of those special interest groups politicians always complain that other politicians are influenced by. He quit the political scene in 1999 to work as a web developer in Utah. In 2002 he started writing fiction again, and in 2003 he attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. In 2007 Eric got laid off from his day job just in time to go to the Odyssey Writing Workshop. He has since found a new web development job. In 2009 Eric became an assistant editor for Intergalactic Medicine Show. Eric lives in Eagle Mountain, Utah.
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4 Responses to Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

  1. Wm says:


    Steelheart also features a form of deification.

    Two important themes that I’ve noticed:

    1. How to balance idealism and a strong moral code/ethic with pragmatism and the realities of evil in the world.

    2. Leadership and what it means to lead without exercising unrighteous dominion while still being an effective leader.

    • Scott Parkin says:

      Which argues a bit for the value of critical discussion of themes of specific interest to the Mormon mind—aka, thematically Mormon if not explicitly (culturally) so.

      To me this is one powerful way that deep Mormonism is made real. Never a tract for or against either the institution or its teachings. Rather, a creative exploration of questions of deep interest to the author…who happens to be Mormon, and thus whose in-most questions are heavily informed by topics of specific concern to that part of his being.

      Neither mantic nor sophic in the traditional Mormon critical definitions, yet every bit as Mormon in theme and relevance, and worthy of consideration in those terms. In my opinion.

      • Jonathan Langford says:

        I’d go further and say this is one of the reasons why some of the most interesting stuff being done in Mormon literature is happening in genre fiction. Those who view only fiction about explicitly Mormon characters and settings as having central importance in discussions of Mormon letters are in this sense missing the boat, I feel.

  2. Andrew H. says:

    Publishers Weekly review: “Kaladin’s situation echoes the Parable of the Faithful Servant and while most readers will miss the significance, both the myth behind the ascension of the lighteyes and certain aspects of the Parshendi recall the Curse of Lamanites, a now obscure bit of American folklore. Those elements aside, the novel is weighty without being ponderous, and delivers a satisfactory story despite being part of an episodic secondary world fantasy series.”
    Library Journal (Starred review): “Sanderson’s skill at worldbuilding is unmatched, and in the “Stormlight Archive” series he has developed an innovative magical system and combined it with rich, complex characters to create a compelling story. His eagerly awaited sequel to The Way of Kings exceeds expectations. This developing epic series is a must-read for all fantasy fans.”


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