In a short story set within the fantasy epic of Brandon Sanderon’s world, Edgedancer reminds us of the significance of even small characters’ stories, that no beginning is too unimportant, that no character is unworthy of happiness or incapable of greatness. Edgedancer gives readers of the Stormlight Archive the unique perspective of Lift, a girl that doesn’t want to grow older, doesn’t want to be tied down or beholden to anyone or anyone’s ideas of her. The characters we follow in the book are introduced in the interludes of Words of Radiance and go on to have a far more significant role in the subsequent books. It is a tale that gives us a different point of view for characters in Roshar, to the events of the changing word with the arrival of the Everstorm, Edgedancer provides the bridge between books that feels irreplaceable after reading.
The novella is set against the grand epic that is the Stormlight Archive, which has moments large and small for the primary point of view characters. Edgedancer follows Lift, a character we first met in Words of Radiance, and an emerging Edgebringer, a surgebinder with the ability to heal and slick her body. Beginning with the interlude from Words of Radiance when we first meet Lift as an introduction, it gives the reader information about her and what she can do when we start the story. The introduction is a nice addition, particularly if the novella is being read individually, and not as a part of a series read-through. Edgedancer follows Lift and her spren after the events in the Bronze Palace and the appointment of the new Prime, beginning with her flight from Azimir after a self-described stifling experience within the luxury of the palace. The story is her journey of finding her place within the world, watching as the world changes and her along with it (to her dismay), and her struggle to understand what she really wants. Lift’s views of herself, honest and otherwise, are put on display, as well as her worldly and personal aspirations. Her carefree, devil-may-care facade is juxtaposed with her reality, as Lift’s fears are manifested in Darkness, a man bent on pursuing her. Faced by the events of the world, Lift finds herself pushed towards something greater.
The novella, originally published with Arcanum Unbounded, an anthology of Sanderson’s cosmere, was published individually a year later. It contributes little to the greater narrative of the cosmere, but it instead bridges a gap for the characters in Roshar. Set within the Stormlight Archive, Sanderson recommends reading it before reading the third book in the series (this being Oathbringer). The value of the story is that it is able to authentically underscore significant character development that is necessary for future books within the narrative, when that growth would have been “off-screen” without Edgedancer. Sanderson notes that there are continuity issues without the perspective granted in Edgedancer, and he thought it would be better to use a novella to explain the shifts in certain characters, as well as give an opportunity for their growth to be seen and not merely referenced. We follow Lift, who has grown from the street urchin with her awesomeness to the beginnings of a Knight Radiant, observing some of those key moments that shape her as well as prompting her to say the Words, speaking her Oaths. Darkness, also known as Nale, stalks opposite Lift throughout the novella. His character shifts from Book 2 to Book 3 in the Stormlight Archive are significant as he realizes that his long-standing goals are irrelevant. As he is not an insignificant character, I think the decision to provide a narrative opportunity to see that shift in goals and motivations was a spectacular one. Both Nale’s and Lift’s character developments with the novella bring the reader a particularly valuable perspective through which they can view the events of subsequent books.
I really enjoyed reading this book, as much as I have enjoyed any of Sanderson’s work in the Stormlight Archive. As a novella, I almost expected it to feel abridged or truncated, but it felt fully complete. Sanderson’s craft as a writer really shines in how he adds subtle nuances to each point of view character. Through his use of language, prose, and the character’s own vernacular and internal dialogue (or with their spren), the reader gets to know the character. We understand what they feel, how they see the world, how they see themselves. He does this through the entire Stormlight Archive and Edgedancer is no different. Lift’s observations about the people and places she sees are very blunt and simple. The way she thinks about the world is very child-like, and the way Sanderson writes from her perspective stays true to that. He uses her conversations with Wyndle as much as he does his control of the prose of the story to show us how Lift sees the world, he doesn’t have to tell us. It is a beautifully simple and effective method of storytelling, and for the format of a novella, it serves the dual purpose of keeping things concise.
Edgedancer accomplishes exactly what was intended by Sanderson, providing answers to potential continuity issues and key character development, within the written narrative. It grants context that would have otherwise been missed, possibly to be excused, within the grand scale of the series. Keen readers will definitely note the intent and significance of its addition to the greater story, and the intent behind it. For anyone reading the Stormlight Archive, there is no question as to the value of Edgedancer. As a fraction of the length of any of the main books, it is a relatively short and contained read, with its own journey and character arc that is followed nicely before leading back to the events of Oathbringer and the rest of the series.
Edgedancer is written by Brandon Sanderson, and is published by Tor.
Want to pick up a copy of Edgedancer for yourself or someone you know? Purchase a copy through the link below, and you will help support the Writer in White with your purchase.