Goodreads: The Way of Kings
Series: The Stormlight Archives #1
Published: August 31, 2010
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.
Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings is the start of an epic fantasy masterpiece. A shrouded past, a world at stake, and a plethora of character who barely realize their own power make the world of Roshar a frightening, fascinating place to visit. Sanderson’s characteristic attention to detail and insight into human nature add to the immersive experience.
The book is complex, divided into multiple points of view. There are, of course, the four main characters, but intermittent chapters are also narrated by other characters, some of whose perspectives obviously are not going to be of primary importance until later in the series. Personally, I did not find the number of points of view overwhelming; however, the book does suffer from the usual annoyance that as soon as I would get into one character’s story, the book would be off to another. The perspectives switch chapter by chapter and it is rare to stick with any one character for any length. Also, I enjoyed some characters more than others; it was not until nearly the end of the book that I was particularly interested in Shallan’s chapters, though she did grow on me and I would like to see more of her in Words of Radiance.
The sheer number of characters and plot lines, which begin to converge only in the final chapters, also mean the pacing is slow. Again, however, I have no issue with this. I am deeply invested in most of the characters, their stories, and their struggles. Sanderson does a masterful job of creating characters of great nobility and great potential who still have fears and flaws. So while the overarching plot progressed somewhat, the main attraction of this series is going to be watching it unfold slowly from many perspectives. As the saying goes, journey before destination.
The pacing also means that there are not quite as many wild plot twists in this particular novel, something I have come to expect from Sanderson’s books. There are a couple unexpected turns—again, near the end of the book—but I suspect the series will have to get a bit further before Sanderson really throws my predictions on their heads. Right now, I know some things are not quite what they have seemed, but do not really know what the implications of these revelations are. Of course, this is not a bad place to leave readers at all, if an author wants readers to keep reading the series!
Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors, and The Way of Kings does not disappoint. Vivid, imaginative, wild, and wise, it is all the things I could hope for from an epic fantasy—or just a good book. Highly recommended.
Have you read The Way of Kings? Tell me who your favorite character is in the comments!