The Way of Kings (review)

Saturday, January 17, 2015



Title: The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Rating: 5 Stars

“Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soiless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

The result of over ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.

Speak again the ancient oaths,

Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before Destination.

and return to men the Shards they once bore.

The Knights Radiant must stand again.”
RELATED: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) | The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2) | The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3)

I picked up Way of Kings for three reasons.

  • I was told to- This is the real secret of twitter: having book recommendations shoved at you at lightning speed.
  • It was free via iTunes - I had no reason to say no. (Even though I ended up buying my own copy before I ever touched the ebook. What can I say? I'm 'physical book preferred' reader.)
  •  I LOVED his Mistborn series - Since I loved Mistborn so much, I asked which of his series to try next. The answer was unanimous, The Stormlight Archive series.
Even though the book was a trillion pages, when I actually managed to sit down and read, they flew by. It may have taken me exactly one month to finish this massive book, but that was including time spent on vacation, with family for the holidays, and finishing up other books that I was concurrently reading.

The world-building is what you would expect from a Sanderson book: EPIC.

Seriously, you won't even realize how these seemingly insignificant details from the beginning turn into these massive themes and plot-points. Was that a random backhanded complement, or a prelude to something more?

There is a lot thrown at you early on. When the book first starts, in the prelude, you are watching men fighting a war you don't understand, abandoning a cause you have no prior knowledge of. Then we jump a huge period of time and watch a king we never met be attacked. And you are filled with questions and confusion, and the only answer you have is to keep on reading.

So you do. 

From there, oh boy, does the world get complex. Brandon Sanderson builds this world from the ground up. We have several different countries with their own customs and traditions. The world around them bends to the fury of the Hightstorms, and from creatures to plants, you see plenty of evidence of this as our heroes fight on the Shattered Plains. It might not seem like much, but these tiny details flesh out the world and allowed me to completely envision the unfolding events in my mind.

Everything from people's daily lives to their gods/mythology they believed in is unique for each culture, and yet, you begin to see how each one connected to truth from the past. As time passed, truths changed and evolved as the people lived and died, until no one alive now knew what truly happened thousands of years ago. Just who were the Heralds really? And what about the Radiants, did they truly betray mankind? Then there are the Soucasters and Shardbearers running around with their fantastical abilities and highly coveted pieces. But where did the swords, plates, and Soulcaster devices really come from? How do they work?

One of the things that won me over in The Final Empire was the world he created. It felt real, it felt believable, and I think he may have outdid himself with The Way of Kings.

There were a trillion characters, to match the trillion pages, in this book. There were probably closer to a dozen point of view characters alone. Normally, I'd back away in fear because so often writers fail at simply having two, but I had faith. And my faith was rewarded. With different cultures woven into their backgrounds, each character came from a different kind of place and Sanderson pulls those different threads together and proves he is a master of characters and point of view. Add in some personality quirks, and some backstory horrors, and you are left with quite the collection of characters.

I could go on and on about all the characters, but there were two (well, three if we count Wit, but he is still such a mystery) that I absolutely loved.

Kaladin: I knew I was going to love him from the conversations fellow bloggers were having about him on twitter. And then he swooped down to the aid of a young man and I worshiped him from the then on. Kaladin was such a fascinating character. He has this power and charm from the beginning, he made you want to follow him. Then things happen, and he had a lot to overcome. You don't know for sure what happened in that key moment until pretty late in the book, as his past storyline was something of a subplot with it's own chapters mixed in throughout the story. By time you learn the truth, you have already guess at some of his scars and have refallen for the man who struggled to rise again. You feel his anger, and you get his devotion to his people. It's that 'ah' moment where the reader finally, truly understands his mind.

My other big favorite is Dalinar. Dalinar started out, at least by the time we meet him, as this sort of by the book, chivalrous knight. Honor, trust, loyalty, those things are all big with him. At first you think Dalinar is going to be obnoxious and self-riotous, but then we see him in action. And if that man demanded I wore my uniform all the time, I'd sure as heck wear it- part in awe and part in fear. And then there are his visions. Oh, I loved his chapters. I loved learning more about this world and the past as he struggled to understand what was happening to him.

And Wit! I mentioned him, so I should talk about him right? I loved his humor, and I loved the way he saw things no one else did or in a way that makes you as the reader start to think about their world, as well as ours.

A five star rating, you say. But surely no book is perfect?

And, no, I cannot say that this book is. In all seriousness, my paperback copy is 1252 pages long. And there were several chapters in the middle with new characters, far outside of the bubble the main guys lived in. Yes we learned some important information regarding the past, and yes, these events were connected to the main plotlines. But I found myself less interested in these chapters. Maybe it was because they were slower compared to say Kaladin's chapters, or maybe it was because I already found my favorites to root for, but I kept wanting to return to the characters I already knew and loved.

Does that mean I hate those chapters? No. Does that mean they are less important than the main guys? This is Sanderson we are talking about. The last time I assumed something was insignificant, well, I was very wrong. You know what happens when you assume something right? (You make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me.' Thank you math teacher for your corny joke that will forever ensure I know how to spell assume correctly.)


Words To Live By

“Sometimes the prize is not worth the costs. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.”

“Sometimes we find it hardest to accept in others that which we cling to in ourselves.”

“Words aren’t meant to be kept inside, you see. They are free creatures, and if locked away will unsettle the stomach.”


Overall


Brandon Sanderson tosses you into The Way of Kings alone, and leaves you set adrift in a Highstorm. But as the pages go by, you start to realize that he didn't abandon you. Lifelines are scattered about the pages, and by the time you read the end of the novel, you will wonder how you ever lived without reading this book. My notebook is full of quotations, whether humorous or inspirational, from this book because it both entertains you and makes you question your own beliefs and assumptions.

While The Way of Kings is not technically a YA novel, I see not reason that an older teen cannot enjoy this book. Therefore, regardless of your age, if you are a fan of fantasy novels with detailed worlds, and a spectacular cast, READ THIS BOOK.

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