Rhythm of War is a big step for Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive Series. Sanderson has a reputation for writing very long books, as well as very intricate rule-based magic systems. At over 1,200 pages, many of them focusing explicitly upon characters researching the systems in this setting, Rhythm of War stays very true to form in that regard.
Sanderson has always approached his magic systems in a much more detailed and rule based way than many others. Indeed an argument can be made that his work uses alternate natural laws instead of what some readers would see as miraculous magics. In the case of Rythm of War there are great expansions to this. As human forces and those of the Fused enter into a kind of magical arms race, seeking to underatand the long present tower, and the differwnt kinds of light, such as the Stormlight the books are named for or the voidlight their enemies often use. The new discoveries on this front alone are impressive, serving to escalate conflict time and time again, and raise the stakes so high that an eternal war might just become something capable of having an end.
Racial tensions are present in both traditional real world terms, eye color having an association with class, as well as the attempts of different types of beings to coexist or make war upon one another. Even entities allegedly made of ideas can prove to be very different than expected. The idea of Honor, and how it exists in multiple different ways and fashions, and like any virtue can be corruptable and twisted.
While there are a number of characters in the book, male, female and not entirely corporeal but gendered, one of the major draws when dealing with the work of Sanderson comes in his rich world building. There are many characters but none is the focus, and indeed, some of the most interesting characters are introduced in this book and die in it.
A word of warning to potential readers, this is a book that should not have been a single volume, or perhaps it just needed better materials and binding. By the time mine arrived, the binding already was strained, bordering on broken. As enjoyable as these books are, it is questionable releasing something that is going to fall apart this quickly.
Rhythm of War is easy to recommend other than that, although probably not as a first read in the series or a first book by Sanderson. It contains a number of interesting characters, a well-thought-out magic system, and a setting that is different from our world in many ways while remaining believable.