Oathbringer is, in a word, epic. So much happens in this book, with so many plots interweaving, especially toward the end, that it’s like 5 intense movies vying for your attention at the same time. There’s so much, in fact, that it read like a series finale rather than a mid-series novel. It wasn’t until after I finished the book that I discovered it wasn’t the finale! Reiterating what others have suggested, I recommend reading the Edgedancer novella before picking this one up. It’s a short read (by comparison) and gives more color to 3 characters who don’t get nearly enough screen time in this book, especially Lift, and will make those chapters more enjoyable.
Oathbringer picks up where Words of Radiance / Edgedancer left off. It follows the same format as the first 2, broken in 3 parts with interludes from random character perspectives. The interludes were easier to relate to the main plot than previous books and felt more relevant, which was refreshing. The story follows the same characters from previous books: Dalinar, Kaladin, Shallan, Adolin, and to a lesser extent Szeth. Each has a unique character arc and struggles, which are satisfactorily advanced, while leaving plenty of questions about where and how they’ll end up.
Thanks to the Oathgates, we also get to see a few new settings. Urithiru, the mysterious tower above the storm, is explored in more detail. Shadesmar and its strange spren inhabitants become first-class citizens. Queen Fen’s Thaylen City is the stage for an epic battle. Kholinar, Dalinar’s home city, is besieged and explored from within by a daring rescue party. We also learn more about what life was like in Alethkar before and after Gavilar’s reign via a detailed dive through the Blackthorn’s sordid history, also giving color to his reputation and deepening our understanding of his conflict, and what the Nightwatcher did to him.
As with many epics, this book suffers from the occasional slowdown or (seemingly) irrelevant history when, really, you just want to know what happens next, but his skillful setup pays off in the end with a dazzling if overwhelming weaving of plot and action that kept me turning the pages, and for me was well worth the investment. The ending itself was a bit confusing and left me unsatisfied, unfortunately, but the events leading up to it were so spectacular that it’s a very minor gripe.
I don’t give 5-star ratings often, but in this case, Mr. Sanderson has earned it.