First of all, let me say that the voice acting and foley/music is so great in this series. In this third installment as characters reveal their true natures we end up with different voice performances from the actors. Very good job.
That out of the way, onto the review. It’s possible if I were more familiar with fantasy tropes I might have seen the twists coming, but I was caught completely by surprise as more and more of the story unspooled. In the best cases, I was only one step ahead of Sanderson while I’m often able to spot all the Checkov’s Guns (or wands) in literature, TV, and movies. As is always the method of a good writer, it was all there. Even the prologue gives a hint as to who Vasher is.
The key to making the story work, especially this third part, is that this is where all the characters grow up. While Vivena spent the entire book being confronted by the truth that the Hollandrens are not as evil and different as she’d been taught post-schism, this is the section where she grew as a person. She learns not to be quick to judge others. She learns a lesson that we could all learn about how poverty isn’t always a choice and how morals can quickly erode when you need to evade starvation. She basically learns that you shouldn’t judge until you can see through the life of another.
Light Song also levels up in this section of the story as his investigations have awakened a purpose inside of him. He starts taking things seriously. He also has another growth moment after he finally learns of his previous life and how Laramar knew him before he was returned. Interestingly, in his section we learn something about the returned and why they come back that isn’t shared with others, including Vasher.
Vasher didn’t grow much, but it wasn’t his story. He’s integral….especially so in this section of the book, but it’s not his story. We’re really seeing just a chunk of a very long journey for him. However, though him we get the remaining information we need on how Awakening works and Nightblade’s history. Nightblade’s sections here were the best in the book and I LOVE the voice they gave him in the GraphicAudio narration.
I don’t want to spoil the rest of the book, even if it came up quite a while ago. But I’ll definitely say that I didn’t see it coming on who was the true employer of certain characters as well as who was orchestrating the things that set the plot of the book in motion. I will say that I loved the title drop at the end. (So rare for it to be so late in a book) It really did bring a lot of meaning to a certain character. Sanderson then TOTALLY leaves it open for a sequel. But then he went to work on some of his more famous works. I think I’d love to see a sequel following the two characters at the end of the book. I’m not sure how that would work in the meta-context of storytelling since they may not have much more growth left as characters, but this book definitely did leave me wanting more.