Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive and the wider Cosmere is a fabulous creation interweaving various worlds into a universe with a coherent and cohesive magic system… if magic be the right word for the investiture process which borders on the scientific. It is certainly more precise in application than most magical powers in fantasy. As a rule, however, the Stormlight Archive for me has been dominated by rather gloomy characters: Kaladin, plagued by guilt for the death of his brother and betrayal by the ruling light-eyes characters who sold him into slavery; Shallan, whose multiple personalities and personae struggle to accommodate each other; Dalinar, who broods and doubts, bound by out-of-date codes of honour and plagued with yet more guilt and an added touch of alcoholism. There’s a lot of brooding.
So Lift, introduced in an Interlude in Words of Radiance, was a breath of significantly fresher air: a child street-thief with a wilful streak, an insatiable appetite and a quick wit – and with a slightly skewed perception of what is valuable. And bonded to a vine-like spren called Wyndle. The relationship between Lift and Wyndle was a delight in Words of Radiance: bickering whilst being warm and close; hectoring whilst being subservient; frustrated whilst being patient. In short teasing and good natured in both directions.
But she was also very young, inexperienced and weak despite her surgebinding powers or, in her words, her awesomeness. When she re-appeared in Oathbringer, there was a much more assured character, breaking as many of the apparent rules of the Knights Radiant as she broke human laws, appearing in Dalinar’s visions apparently unbidden.
So this book was intriguing, bridging that gap from cocky kid to assured youth.
It also emerged at the end of a long and heavy term at work and the familiarity and – to be frank – the brevity of the novel was very appealing.
And we get to witness the emergence of Lift as a true Knight Radiant, initially pursuing “Darkness”, the constable we first met in the Interlude in Words of Radiance – which also forms Chapter One of Edgedancer. In that, we see Darkness pursuing Lift to Azimir where she was attempting to burgle the palace, along with a number of other street thiefs. Bound by his own adherence to law, he releases Lift instantly when she is pardoned by her fellow thief, Gawx, who has been proclaimed Prime Aqasix after being “miraculously” healed.
It was joyous and fun to see Lift use and enjoy her powers as she learned to develop them – although her (and Sanderson’s) insistence on referring to her surgebinding as her being “awesome” every single time became a tad annoying. Think Michelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Cowabunga, dude! Had the novella stretched longer, it could have grated.
Lift’s love for – and willingness to take almost sacrificial risks for – humanity is what raises above the annoying rapscallion category: her initial care for Gawx, for the poor in Yeddaw, for the nascent surgebinder being sought by Darkness, for orphan children. There was something almost reminiscent of Doctor Who in her: more alien and less bound by traditional roles than the other Knights Radiant, but deeply humane. As she herself says,
Someone has to care. Too few people care these days.
And the words of radiance that she speaks, the oath to make her a true Knight Radiant in the finale to the novella, surrounded by the red lightning of the Everstorm,
I will listen to those who have been ignored.
Lift’s investiture is also vastly different to other Knights: rather than absorbing stormlight from spheres, she metabolises it from food, creating her own stormlight even without a storm. How or why this is the case, the novella doesn’t clarify – not does it clarify the issue of Lift’s age which seems to have been stopped or slowed after a visit to the Nightwatcher – but it is clearly a feature which is going to become relevant if not critical. And I believe that Sanderson intends Lift to become a point-of-view character in a future novel.
In brief, therefore, a good fun diversion within the world of Roshar with some nice character development for both Lift and darkness who is revealed to be Nale, one of the Heralds. A perfectly enjoyable and light-hearted read which did exactly what was needed at the time.
Thank you for that, Mr. Sanderson.
Plot / Pace: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Date: 18th October 2018