Brandon Sanderson is a fantasy author in a million -- he crafts complex, intricate fantasy worlds, and gilds them with exquisitely evocative prose. But his greatest challenge thus far has to be "The Way of Kings," an older manuscript that he apparently dusted off, rewrote, and is now expanding into a vast fantasy epic. This is only the first book, and it's over a thousand pages long.
It's pretty difficult to sum up the plot, since the cast is huge and aren't even in the same place. But long ago, the Radiants (sort of divine knights) once were sent by the Heralds to destroy the demonic Voidbringers. Then they turned against humanity, and begin warring over their godslaying Shardblades.
One part of the story follows Shallan, a desperate young noblewoman who is trying to save her family from ruin. So she seeks out the heretic princess Jasnah in hopes of becoming her attendant... but of course, she has her own secret motives to restore the family fortunes. Another follows Kaladin, a man enslaved in another land and with a shash glyph branded on his forehead.
And then there's Szeth, the "assassin in white" who killed Jasnah's father with a Shardblade, and Dalinar Kholin, the king's Highprince brother whose visions compel him to unite his people before the unthinkable happens. The oathpact has been shattered, and disaster is coming.
"The Way of Kings" is the sort of book that Robert Jordan should have written. The story is filled countless alien animals (they ride GIANT CRABS), mythologies, languages, magical systems and cultures, all with their own distinct quirks and characteristics. But Sanderson doesn't allow his story to be bogged down by the details -- instead he embroiders his elaborate plot with them.
The plot itself is almost confusingly complex, but slowly gels together as the story winds on and things start to make sense. And Sanderson paints the entire story in vivid, powerful prose ("His dreary feelings were like a black eel, coiled inside of him"). The one problem: it's so long and complex that casual readers will probably crumble after the first couple of chapters. This one needs some dedication.
And Sanderson shows his rare skill with characterization. He carefully fleshes out the main characters -- an aging warrior, a slave/soldier and a determined teenage girl -- and makes them all seem real and plausible. Kal is especially strong as a character, since Sanderson carefully develops the clash between his medical upbringing and his current job.
And there are countless striking supporting characters -- the young prince Adolin, the prickly and ruthless princess Jasnah, clever priests, and the acrobatic assassin Szeth, who is torn by his own crimes and sins.
"The Way of Kings" is a true epic -- grandiose, expansive, beautifully written... and only just the beginning of what is sure to be a vast, impressive series. It's a bit hard to just casually dip into, but the commitment is worth it.
on October 7, 2010
It's so hard to know whether a series will be good after only the first book. Sometimes a story takes a book or two to hit its stride, and other times the first book is the only one worth reading in a series. I can't predict what The Stormlight Archive's final legacy will be, but the first installment is undeniably fantastic.
Brandon Sanderson, the book's author, has made a name for himself as an imaginative fantasy writer with Mistborn and Warbreaker, and of course his contract to complete the Wheel of Time. All were good books, but The Way of Kings is something else, something rarer. It's a great book. The prose, worldbuilding, characterisation, dialogue, and plotting are all Sanderson's finest. The Way of Kings is without a question the best book he has ever written.
The book follows three main plotlines, as well as several minor ones. All the plotlines are balanced beautifully, and while you may find a particular one most fascinating, none of them are weak. The story is interjected with flashbacks and interludes, but they are done well and don't disturb flow. The pacing is brilliant, slow enough to lay the groundwork for a grand 10-volume epic, while still remaing exciting and action packed enough to make The Way of Kings by itself a great read. And while there are no guarentees, it certainly looks as though Sanderson has set the series up to succeed well beyond the first volume.
Besides all that, the book looks beautiful. There are very few fantasy books with covers so attractive, and the artwork goes way beyond the covers. From Shallan's sketchbook to gorgeous maps, the artistry surpasses any competition in the genre.
Only the smallest of criticisms can be leveled at this book. It is perhaps bloated, and undoubtedly could have been 100 pages shorter without losing any quality. But you will probably enjoy it so much you won't care and will almost certainly be wishing for more at the end. As for the actual content, some of the witty dialogue can be a bit cringe worthy at times, but these incidents aren't common and do little to detract from the book as a whole.
There's little else to say. If you like high fantasy, you will like The Way of Kings. Give it a try.
on November 19, 2010
This is definitely my favorite fantasy book yet, and I've been going through quite many series. The scope, the writing style, the characterization, the suspense & action, the innovative systems of magic, the mysterious world & lifeforms, etc., all make this book shine forth as an "oeuvre d'art" of fantasy literature. Also, this Bible-sized hardcover edition is beautifully put together with maps and drawings at the beginning of each chapter. I've heard there are to be 10 books in the Stormlight Archive series, and I really can't wait for the second. Meanwhile, I'll be reading the author's Mistborn trilogy.
on October 14, 2010
I am absolutely stunned at how good this actually is. For me this compares to Wizards first Rule by Terry Goodkind, which was always my favorite fantasy debut. The Way of Kings is at that level. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and I can't believe I will have to wait for the 2nd novel! This will become one of the great epic fantasies of all time.
Brilliant! I still can't sleep thinking about what will happen in book 2!
on August 15, 2014
(a few minor spoilers)
This is an epic and classic fantasy tale by Brandon Sanderson. This is not Game of Thrones. Outside of the violence in the book this would be rated PG as there is no swearing and no sex. I call it a classic fantasy as it has mystical elements, strange creatures, magic, gods, religion and the characters are largely black and white. The good guy IS a good guy, much like The Lord of the Rings. I don’t have a problem with this. While it’s not a gritty tale it’s a very interesting one. There are two things I desire when reading a fantasy book – interesting characters and mystery. This book has both while maintaining a good and believable story (within its context). While many characters seem unconnected initially you start to see the web as the book rolls on and the mysterious events start to make sense.
This book is long at just over 1000 pages but I wouldn’t have cut any of it. I don’t like it when a book feels rushed. There are plenty of action scenes and while there are large stretches without battles the interactions, characters and story were more than enough to intrigue me. I finished this book in two weeks and really enjoyed it. While there are plenty of characters I never felt confused like some large ensemble books can be.
So what is this book actually about? One set of characters (Dholin family) focuses on the assassination of their King, the vengeance with regards to his death and finding out why. One main character (Kaladin) details his life and how he is betrayed by a superior and forced to live out a miserable life while trying to realize his potential which is great. One girl (Shallan) is trying to save her family and stumbles into something she doesn’t expect – mystery, magic and scholarship with an interesting tutor (more interesting than Shallan actually). One man (Szeth) is an assassin who uses magic to kill with special powers (I envision Neo in the Matrix at times) against his will as he must follow his master’s orders. All the characters are interesting. The history and legends of the Gods and protectors of this world are intriguing and there is so much left to explore after this book despite a satisfying ending.
Magic system? There aren’t wizards running around with magic wands but some people have Soulcasters that allow them to change things from one form to another. There are magical swords and armour that have great power. Some people have the ability to absorb Stormlight which gives them greater strength and abilities to fight. This is secondary to the characters and plot themselves imo.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. While nothing completely blew me away I couldn’t stop reading. The second book is a must read for me.
Having not picked up a Sanderson book since his debut with Elantris (which was a good first novel, but nowhere close to as good as "The Way of Kings"), I was pleasantly surprised at how much this author has developed.
The Way of Kings is the brilliant beginning to what could be the best epic of our generation if the focus, character development and quality of writing in this book are carried through this series. The Way of Kings is a hefty read at over 1000 pages, but I promise, once you begin you will not be able to put it down.
The chapters in Way of Kings are broken up by different character perspectives. We have Shallan, Kaladin, Szeth, Dalinar Kholin. Shallan is a young woman trying to do dubious things to save her family from ruin. Her father has died, but left them with great debt, and she begins the story, attempting to become princess Jasnah's protegee in order to steal something very important to restore her family. Kaladin is a brave, honorable, slave who was once a soldier, but was betrayed and sold into slavery. Szeth is a Truthless and is bound to serve whoever holds his oathstone. Dalinar, is uncle to the king (and Jasnah). An honorable man, he suffers from visions of the past.
It's difficult to summarize the plot of this novel. Once the "Radiants" served the people, protecting them from the voidbringers. Long ago they abandoned their roles and enough time has passed that the people believe the danger has passed. Now, only their armour and weapons (Shardplates and Shardblades) remain - magical weapons that are prized and fought over.
In the beginning of the novel, Szeth assassinates Dalinar's brother, the King. Now his son, the new King, and his high princes are at war to avenge his father. Dalinar, the former king's brother, suffers from visions that urge him to unite the people before it is too late. The desolation may be coming and, this time, there are no Radiants to protect the people.
5 stars. Everything is aligned in this novel. The characters are fascinating, the writing is excellent and the plot is intriguing. There is certainly enough material in this world for an epic series. In this, we get a glimpse into the history of the world and the history of the main characters (and are introduced to many more who may prove to be major players in later books). Brandon Sanderson - I want more of this and fast! I can't wait to see if the rest of this series lives up to the promise of the first.
on September 30, 2010
Brandon Sanderson has quickly risen to become one of the best new fantasy authors. His writing skill has increased steadily since Elantris, and culminates with the Way of Kings. This book is a pleasure to read. There is scarcely a dull moment, and the characters are presented in such a way that they are developed reasonably while retaining an element of mystery to be solved in later books.
Some of the characters engage in behaviors that may be seen at face value by some as "cheesy." However, they are written in such a way and presented in a manner in which those potentially cheesy events become pillars of true heroism. Such a thing, I feel, is testimony to the superb writing and character development of this novel.
Whether you are in search of a new fantasy novel to consume your time, or simply curious about the new author of the beloved Wheel of Time series, The Way of Kings delivers on all fronts.
A must read for any fantasy fan.
Also see Brandon's other fantasy works:
Mistborn Trilogy Boxed Set
on October 7, 2010
After reading the Mistborn trilogy, I did not think that Sanderson could top that. Obviously I was wrong. Mistborn in comparison to Way of Kings is child's play almost. That is a difficult thing to say for me, as I have only read book one of a 10 books series to be. However, after only 1 book, and a starting book at that (which normally are very boring), I can see that this is too true. The epic scale of Mistborn kept my eyes wide open the whole time. Times that by 10 in Way of Kings. You can tell that Sanderson's skill in writing has VASTLY improved. Sanderson himself said that he knew it had to since he was given the Wheel of Time series to finish. Well done Mr. Sanderson, keep this up, and you will be considered by many (already by me) to be the best fantasy author of all time.
on January 25, 2015
I almost never review anything I buy. It's a flaw, I know. Authors depend on reviews to sell books, so any book I like, I feel almost obligated to leave some sort of comment. Almost. And yet, for some reason, I never get around to doing it. It should say something that Sanderon's the only author I've actually sat down and taken the time to actually review.
The Way of Kings is set an intricately carved world. Sanderson is a master of worldbuilding, and here, it definitely shows. Every culture encountered is fleshed out, and presented in such a way that you know that there's much more than meets the eye. Each people have their own traditions, traits, and customs. Characterization, a problem with previous Sanderson novels; especially for secondary characters is a strong point of this novel; even lesser characters who are introduced in the narrative off-hand are unique, and memorable. The storyline is thrilling; with only a few lulls here, and there, which only serve to help the build-up to the "Sanderson Avalanche" climax of the novel. The magic-system, another one of Sanderon's strong points, is both mysterious, and well-formed, contributing significantly to the novel's narrative without getting in the way.
If you're looking for yet another grimdark fantasy novel, à la George R.R. Martin or Joe Abercrombie, this may not be for you (although I enjoy those authors too; it's just very different). The characters, while still quite human and flawed, are fundamentally good people. They're heroes, rather than anti-heroes. If you're the type that likes a more optimistic view of the human condition, with characters who fight to overcome their internal conflicts to become better people, then hopefully you should enjoy this book, and the rest of Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere sequence.
All in all, if you're going to read any epic-length fantasy novel, read this one.
on May 22, 2014
I was skeptical coming into this. My first taste of Brandon Sanderson was the Mistborn trilogy. It was really good and I thought, 'he can't top this'. I'll reduce the suspense a bit here, he didn't but the story is definitely not over yet and I have a feeling it could surpass Mistborn.
The character development is so detailed that even though there were drawn out portions where I thought I knew the point of the excercise, I really didn't. That was a classic Sanderson for you - as I've learned from the forums – he gives you a nibble of brocolli and then pie's you in the face with Strawberry Rubarb. So unexpected but by the end you're laughing along with the private jokes.
World building is another one of Brandon Sanderson's feats. It began a little confusing at first, then it all unfolded within a few short chapters (and pictures!) as a new, unique world. I wish I would have read “Warbringer” before this one so it's on the “list” as I'm told I should keep an eye out for a certain witty individual.
Like Mistborn, this isn't disappointing though I hold a special place in my mind for Vin and her comrades. I'm very pleased that, I think, Kaladin and Shallan will be favorite characters very soon.
(Full Review on The Reader's Hollow blog)