Sometimes it takes me a while to gain momentum reading a book, but not the case with this one. I was supposed to be reading something else, in fact, but I thought I'd just peak at it. And then I was hooked. It picks up right where The Way of Kings leaves off, without slowing down. There was a little bit of rehashing but he didn't let it bog things down too much. Do people really pick up middle books in series often enough for this to be necessary? I've heard people say that books in a series should be able to stand on their own, but that has never been a concern of mine at all. Plenty of great series can be counted as essentially one book, most famous example being Lord of the Rings.
This book focused on Shallan's past, as the previous one focused on Kaladin's. Shallan's history was more heartbreaking than Kaladin's, to me. I had some ideas and guesses about it, but the story still managed to surprise me. Several completely unexpected events happened in this book, and I'm very interested in seeing what the ramifications of them will be.
I don't think this is a huge spoiler, but it's a minor one. I'm going to compare this, favorably, against Song of Ice and Fire at this point, in which characters spend entire books headed somewhere but never arrive, where fans wait for a payoff, to see certain characters meet, and it never happens. People get places in this book. People meet and it is awesome.
There were some frustrations in this book for me. I felt like Kaladin spent the majority of the book being stupid. I knew he was bound to eventually stop, but it was frustrating waiting for him to come around to his senses. I'm not sure about some of Shallan's choices either, for that matter, but I can't say for sure that she's wrong. She just makes a lot of decisions that make me very nervous for her.
The end of this book felt a little cheesy. Very high powered. Some people would not like this, I think. I'm ambivalent about it, but I consider the series well worth it for the complex cast of characters and their development.