Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: The Stormlight Archive #1
Genre: High Fantasy
Published: 1st August 2010
Source: Personal copy
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First SentenceKalak rounded a rocky stone ridge and stumbled to a stop before the body of a dying thunderclast.
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.
It has been quite a while since I read and reviewed an adult epic fantasy – and I believe I’m come a fair way since then – so excuse me a moment of nostalgia before I begin. deep breath in, deep breath out Okay good. So first of all, many of you reading this will be thinking “1,001 pages?! Sod that!!” but wait. Don’t be put off by the size. Though it takes you a little while longer than usual to read The Way of Kings, as can be said for a lot of epic fantasy to be honest, you honestly won’t notice the time passing because you’re enjoying the book so much. Yep. That good.
So, okay.. I’ll admit that not very much happened in The Way of Kings yet somehow it doesn’t drag. This is book 1 in a planned-to-be 10 volume series called the Stormlight Archive and as such, you can expect that it is the build up book. It is full of glorious world building, the introduction of characters that you’ll fall in love with (I’ll come to them in a moment), and a magic system that left me floored by the end, but not a whole lot of story-moving action. Saying that, it’s the best not-very-much-happens book I’ve ever read and I heartily recommend it to all fans of fantasy fiction because of the very easy style of writing Brandon Sanderson uses. You find yourself caught up in the flow of words and before you know it – oh my, is that the time?! Better get some sleep.. Okay so I wasn’t so fond of the flashback chapters but overall, the story they told was detrimental to Kaladin’s character building. They told us about his past and how he became the man he is.
As for the story, well.. a world of storms beset by wars ruled by High Princes who care nothing but for their own personal gain while a young man tries to overcome those who have wronged him? It sounds good but it’s not exactly eye catching at first glance. I can assure you that the wonder of this story is more than that. Its uniqueness comes from its world building, and the story itself is building to something truly massive. There were moments reading The Way of Kings that gave me chills and had me jumping up and down in excitement and it is official now, I’d thought it after reading the Mistborn trilogy, but now I’m certain: Brandon Sanderson is the God of fantasy book endings. It is worth reading his books for the endings alone and I am entirely jealous of those of you who have yet to experience them for the first time!
The characters are wonderful and flawed. Kaladin contains the most build and exploration of any of the characters with his own flashback chapters and self discovery, plus a hefty amount of the chapters being dedicated to him. He is a fantastic character who you want to see win in the end, but he also goes through fits of despair when he feels he is doomed to fail his bridge members and occasionally the “woe is me” mentally can get a little old. However, through those parts are these fabulous side characters. Syl the spren who follows Kaladin around, Teft the older guy who turns out to be the most trustworthy of them all, Rock the Horneater who has the biggest heart and made me laugh whether he meant to or not, I don’t know, but it was a nice bit of comic relief amongst the depression.
We also follow the perspective of Shallan, ward to Jasnah who is sister of the King and a so-called heretic. She was another of my favourites. She’s smart and willful and duly takes care of herself. Shallan comes from a family who I very much despise, a family purely out for their own personal gain but Shallan is a little light within them. Though she is sent to steal Jasnah’s fabrial, a priceless piece of jewellery which allows the user to use magic known as ‘Soulcasting’, she finds herself falling in love with this world of research and education and she is as smart as Jasnah. These characters are the closest we come in Roshar ((the name of the world the novel is set in)) to strong female characters. Thanks this world’s theology, women in Roshar are repressed. Women are the writers, the artists, focusing on the creative arts where men focus on the fighting and the heavy lifting. It works well as a way to show us Roshar’s culture, but I am very much hoping to see women bare their hands (currently they must cover their “safehand” in a sleeve or glove in public) and sit at the men’s tables at dinner later in the series as it hasn’t always been this way.
Dalinar, brother to the murdered King and uncle to the current sovereign, and Adolin, his son, deserve a mention too. Dalinar is one of the High Princes at war on the Shattered Plains fighting against the frightening Parshendi army, and the only one we really find ourselves respecting. He experiences dreams, or more likely flashbacks to a forgotten time, during Highstorms and people around him believe him to be losing his mind. Adolin was supposedly given a viewpoint to showcase Dalinar a little more clearly and I’m very glad he exists in this way because it gives us a chance to see what’s really happening with Dalinar without the worries of a potentially ‘unreliable narrator’ and the other High Princes.
Altogether, we get the viewpoints of royalty and nobility, women, and a slave-turned-Bridgeman, seemingly somebody unimportant. This gives such a well rounded view of the story that it leaves no page unturned. If I had even half of Brandon Sanderson’s talent and imagination, I’d be a very lucky little writer-type indeed.
Highprince of War, book 2 of the series, is currently being written and it is hoped that it might be released later this year. I really cannot wait! The Way of Kings made its way onto my list of favourite books within about 10 minutes of reading and if you like fantasy and haven’t given it a go yet, you’re missing out on something great.
Oh, and one last thing? I recommend you buy/borrow parts 1 and 2 rather than the whole book in one, unless reading an ebook, because this book is way too heavy to carry around, and you’re going to want to.
The Stormlight Archive:
1. The Way of Kings
2. Words of Radiance