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The everstorm comes
on October 14, 2010
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.