Dawnshard Book Review | Long Novellas and Legendary Islands

Hello, dear readers,

You know what I love about epic fantasy?

Among many other reasons, I love that we get “novellas” the size of novels. Seriously, it makes the long waits between books much more bearable.

Dawnshard by Brandon Sanderson weighs in at 209 pages, once again making me wish I possessed Sanderson’s talent for churning out stories at an incredible pace. Oh to accidentally write a new novella in a couple months. Again.

Anyway, enough of my writing woes. Let’s move on to the actual review!

Dawnshard shares the same pattern as Edgedancer, centering a story around an interlude character from the main Stormlight Archive books. Chronologically, this novella takes place between Oathbringer and Rhythm of War, and I would not recommend reading it out of order because there are massive spoilers.

It follows Rysn, a merchant who is grappling with the fact that she is now wheelchair-bound. When Radiants begin losing their powers whenever they near a legendary island, Navani Kholin decides to send a non-Radiant expedition to explore the phenomenon. Rysn accepts the task, hoping that the island might also hold answers about the illness her pet larkin is suffering from. But someone on the ship is determined to prevent them from reaching the island, even if it means resorting to sabotage.

What I Liked

First and foremost, I loved seeing Rysn along with the cameos made by some beloved characters. I also appreciate the disability representation, as you don’t find many paraplegic main characters, especially in high fantasy. It never felt like it was included only to check a representation box, and it truly impacted the narrative to make a unique, layered story. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the disability depiction, but I can say I thoroughly enjoyed how Rysn contrasts the conventional fantasy hero, using brains rather than brawn to overcome the countless challenges she faced.

The world building, as expected, was fantastic in this novella. We got to see different aspects of Roshar that enhance this already expansive world. Naturally, I have decided I want a pet larkin. A personal-sized, carapace-d dragon? Yes please! Hearing the wisdom of Rysn’s mentor was also neat. Funnily enough, it mirrors a lot of what my writing mentor says about business. It’s almost as if it’s good advice or something… 😉

The last thing I have to mention is the larger, in-world implications of Dawnshard. Often times, side novellas are fun but don’t impact the main plot much, much to my chagrin. I thought Dawnshard walked a perfect line– readers who don’t pick it up will not be lost in the narrative of the main books, but it does move things forward for those who choose to read it. It’s not just a fluffy chance to see characters interacting, like most spin-off novellas are. The events will effect future books (and I’m guessing the cosmere at large, too). I imagine this is a difficult balance to pull off, so I applaud how well Sanderson managed it.

What I Disliked

There aren’t many technical issues I spotted with this novella, aside from the occasional overly-simplistic sentence. However, my biggest critique is that it seems to lack… soul. The main character is great, the side characters are wonderful, the world and plot are stellar, but it still lacked a certain depth. There wasn’t a deeper, emotional core to the story. In fact, the most moving scene was for a side character. **Spoilers are in white, so highlight to read them**

The scene I’m referring to is when Lopen realized Huio swore “I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right” while looking at him. Then, when Lopen swore the Third Ideal to protect people from himself.

**End of spoilers**

Novellas can deliver an emotional punch, and in my opinion, they should. A great example of this is The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson, which I reviewed earlier this year. The opportunity for a powerful arc was there, but I feel like Brandon Sanderson missed it.

Final Thoughts

At this point in my reviews, I usually discuss what I believe is the main theme or deeper meaning of the story. Like I said, however, I felt the novella lacked this. If forced to choose, I’d say it’s accepting who you are and where you need to grow, even if it’s different from other people.

Still, Dawnshard is absolutely worth picking up, especially if you’re a cosmere fan. It fleshes out characters we’ve met, introduces some for Rhythm of War, and reveals tantalizing information about the shattering of Adonalsium. Even if it lacks emotional depth, it’s a treat for those who want to fall back into Roshar and perfect for preparing to dive into Rhythm of War. If you’re not a cosmere fan, I hope this piqued your interest in the Stormlight Archive.

4/ 4.25 out of 5 stars.

Have you read Dawnshard? If so, what did you think of it? Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts? I’d love to discuss it with you in the comments! Also, expect a Rhythm of War review soon. I’m in the middle of it right now and can’t wait to share my thoughts with all of you.

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