Edgedancer | Book Review
Updated: May 3, 2022
Ok, so I'm neck deep in Stormlight Archive right now in preparation for 2023 aka the "Year of Sanderson". I realize I haven't made reviews yet for Way of Kings or Words of Radiance—and I'm still planning on doing that—but I just finished Edgedancer, and I figured I'd make a better review if it's fresh in my mind, so here it goes!
Edgedancer is a Stormlight Archives novella that is meant to be read after Words of Radiance and before Oathbringer. It is included in 2016's Arcanum Unbounded, which is an enormous collection of Sanderson novellas and short stories all taking place in the Cosmere. It has also been published as a separate novella, but I opted for the Cosmere collection.
If you haven't read Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, you will want to read those before Edgedancer and probably before going forward with this review. It will contain major spoilers for Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Edgedancer.
One of my favorite parts of Words of Radiance was Lift's storyline in the interludes. I've heard Sanderson refer to the Lift interlude in WoR as a "novella", and I suppose it is.
Lift was such a refreshing character, and I love the way that Sanderson made her storyline fun and immature, even though it dealt with arguably some of the darkest and most central moments to the overarching plot that we've seen in the Stormlight Archives so far.
When her interlude ended, I was left with a feeling of excitement at the thought that there is no way this is the last we've seen of Lift. By the sheer genius of her character and the importance of her storyline to the overarching story, it seemed a sure thing to me that I would get more Lift at some point. Little did I know that there was already a full novella focused on Lift, and picking up right where we left her (well, almost).
Edgedancer started off with Lift and Wyndle making their way toward Yeddaw, for reasons unknown—at least to begin with. Lift gives some obviously dismissive answers to that question when Wyndle interrogrates her, citing her need to try all ten different types of pancakes that the city is famous for. Wyndle knows this is untrue. So do the readers. This is just part of Lift's charm. She tends to evade questions, never allowing herself to be nailed down or committed to anything or anyone.
Upon her arrival, she does a handful of things that seem to be almost accidental, but as you get to know Lift more and more, you realize that this is a deeply intelligent, observant, and reflective girl who prefers not to let her actions shine—she'd much prefer to play off her actions as some happy accident.
She speaks to Wyndle several times about how letting people see you and get to know you is bad because then they'll begin expecting things of you, and you'll be stuck. This goes against the very nature of Little Miss Friction-Bender, and this is apparently why she left her privileged new lifestyle with Gawx at the palace in Azimir.
Yes, she was treated like royalty, allowed to do whatever she wanted—allowed to miss class even, and play pranks on the nobility with no consequences—yet, Lift refuses to be tied down. She is very rough around the edges and deflects Wyndle's concerns with offhand remarks to make it appear as if she doesn't really take anything seriously.
If you read carefully though, you begin to notice that she really does consider things more than she cares to admit, and acts on the impulse to do what is right, but again deflects whenever Wyndle questions her about any of it. Wyndle begins to pick up on this and starts to read between the lines when she says she just wants to snatch Darkness’ lunch, and Wyndle realizes what she really means is that she wants to save the budding radiant that Darkness came to Yeddaw to murder.
The way Sanderson blasted this character with humor bursting out of every sentence, while at the same time, tackling some of the most troubling and difficult topics I've seen yet is incredible. Lift deals with her own mother's death, with the cruel reality of mothers abandoning their developmentally disabled children at an orphanage, where the hard-hearted woman who runs it simply uses the children as a front for laundering money to criminal organizations, and she once again watches the shockingly apathetic Herald Nale (or, Darkness, as Lift has dubbed him) give no thought to shoving his shard blade through a young girl's chest and tossing her aside like garbage.
There is some seriously dark stuff in this story, and we begin to see that Lift's immature way of speaking is more a defense mechanism than a sign of immaturity. This is a young woman who has lived a very difficult life thus far, and who views the world accordingly.
Lift's character arc in this is so well done. Not only does this short chain of events change how the reader views and understands Lift, but it also changes how Lift sees herself, Wyndle, and everyone around her. Without outright spoiling it, I will simply say that there is a major theme of listening to those who have been ignored, and for an orphan who has developed a sort of stockholm syndrome for the short end of the stick, this is an oath that hits particularly close to home. By the end, Lift makes a conscious decision to stop slipping out from the grip of her own destiny, but to be brave and to listen to those who have been ignored.
This is my favorite Stormlight story so far, and one of my top stories I've ever read. My love for Edgedancer probably a lot of that has to do with the pacing, Lift's unique viewpoint, and the very real threat of Nale/Darkness, who pulls no punches and sheds new light on the Skybreakers. It seems that Dalinar is going to have his hands full when he eventually crosses paths with Lift and Nale. This is a must read for Stormlight Archive fans, and sits nicely between Words of Radiance and Oathbringer.