‘Dawnshard’ is a Stormlight Archive novella set between ‘Oathbringer‘ and ‘Rhythm of War’. Like ‘Edgedancer‘, the novella between ‘Words of Radiance‘ and ‘Oathbringer’, it focuses on minor characters from the main series – in this case Rysn, a Thaylen merchant briefly introduced in ‘The Way of Kings‘, and Lopen, a member of Bridge Four. It tells an intriguing story with great potential implications for the overall series and wider Cosmere, but unlike Edgedancer it doesn’t stand up quite as strongly on its own.
An accident in ‘The Way of Kings’ left Rysn a paraplegic, but also gained her an animal companion, Chiri-Chiri. Chiri-Chiri is a larkin -a species that survives by ingesting stormlight and was once thought to be extinct. However, Chiri-Chiri has fallen ill, and her only hope for survival is to visit the ancestral home of the larkin – Akinah, a mysterious island half-thought to be a myth. None have ever visited Akinah and ever come back alive. When Navani Kholin announces her intention to send a crew to Akinah, Rysn doesn’t hesitate to volunteer herself and her ship. Aided by Windrunner Lopen, his cousin Huio, and the Horneater Cord, Rysn sets out on a quest that may spell her doom – but is the only chance of saving Chiri-Chiri.
My main issue with this book is probably Rysn. Rysn is a smart, capable tradeswoman with a great deal of loyalty to her crew and Chiri-Chiri. She resents her disability for how it restricts her freedom, but she doesn’t let this rule her and is always striving to try new things. However, for me her character just falls a bit flat. She solves problems too easily, often off-page, and she doesn’t feel quite distinct and three-dimensional enough. Most characters in the Stormlight Archive are unique, with a great deal of depth and their own voices – Rysn’s never quite shines through.
Everything else about ‘Dawnshard’ is excellent. Lopen – known as the Lopen; he’d consider the title important – is a silly, light-hearted character, but also one with a huge amount of optimism and compassion that’s needed amongst the struggles of Bridge Four. His sections are fun, but also have a great deal of depth. Lopen is silly but he knows he’s being silly – he just wants to make others happy, and isn’t afraid to come across like an idiot to do so. For a short novella he undergoes a lot of character development, and his interactions with Huio and Cord are sweet.
Cord is one of my favourite characters from the novella and I hope she’s granted some point-of-view chapters at some point in the series. One of Rock’s children, she gives a fascinating insight into Horneater beliefs and culture – along with some other well-kept secrets – but she also proves herself to be a fierce, determined woman in her own right who both loves and resents her father. Her and Rysn strike up a lovely friendship, and there’s definitely potential for her to play a larger role at some point in the future.
The plot is simple, with most of the novella taking place on a ship. The superstitions and beliefs of sailors are explored in intriguing detail, along with the complexities of ship politics. Certain twists are a little too obvious, and the ending could be more satisfying, but overall the story is solidly worked and fits the broader ethos of the series.
‘Dawnshard’ is a great novella with large potential implications for the series as a whole, but it’s probably the weakest entry so far. Given that ‘The Stormlight Archive’ is such a brilliant series that still makes it a strong story, but it’s one that lacks a little extra polish.
Published by Dragonsteel Entertainment
eBook: 10th November 2020 (due for paperback publication in 2021)