The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Series: The Stormlight Archive #1
Published by Tor Books
Published on: August 31 2010
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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.
I have a new favorite author. His name is Brandon Sanderson.
This book . . . made me curse like a sailer.
If I had tried to read it in public, at the very least, I would have been banned from the property. More likely, I’d have either been locked up for 24-hour observation at the local mental health ward or at the local precinct for Disturbing the Peace, but only after having passed numerous drug tests, proving that I wasn’t Drunk and Disorderly.
If you think I’m exaggerating, check out my status updates on Goodreads.
I am not exaggerating.
Honestly, in a book this large, it’s nearly impossible to touch on every highlight, so I’m left trying to decide which are the best . . . it’s a thankless task, but here goes:
If it’s been done before, I haven’t read it, and like Wit said, it’s novelty we humans appreciate most.
The majority of the world in THE WAY OF KINGS is like a tropical ocean habitat on dry land. Plants retract completely into the ground before a wagon wheel or foot can tread upon them. Instead of cows or oxen pulling those wagons there are “chulls” which are over-large hermit crab-sounding things. The monstrous “chasmfiends” the nobility hunt for sport are basically giant badass lobsters. Instead of ants or beetles scuttling on the ground, there are “cremlings” that sound an awful lot like crawdads.
It’s kind of awesome.
More awesome than that are the people groups.
While there were separate and distinct cultures, that wasn’t the focus of the differences. The focus was on their Extras: the Alethi who fall into a kind of Berserk warrior state they call the Thrill when they are in battle. Purelakers who can communicate with the fish that fill the waters of their home. Parshendi who grow their own carapace-like armor and have legs strong enough to jump chasms in the Shattered Plains that everyone else needs a bridge to cross. Horneaters who have a kind of fairy sight that allows them to see elemental spren whether the spren wish to be seen or not.
I absolutely loved it.
There are so many great characters that I can only give you the gist. These people . . .
I wept, but not from sadness, not from loss. I wept b/c my heart could not contain my awe and gratitude and respect for these men, these dregs of society, who one man and one spren had bound together into something so valiant, so courageous, so honorable . . . that I could do nothing but weep.
Some people shy away from that sort of thing, and being the kind of person that I am, I view that as its own tragedy. Suffice it to say that if you are a character-driven reader, you will leave this world with a much expanded family.
Master of Misdirection:
I read this as part of a massive group buddy read (SHOUT OUT to my peeps at Fantasy Buddy Reads! View Spoiler » « Hide Spoiler). Several members achieved “Master of . . . ” titles during the read, and I’m granting Sanderson Master of Misdirection status.
Not only did he expertly paint characters as non-threatening nonentities so that your mind was blown when their nefarious true natures were revealed, but he stealthily laid the groundwork consistently throughout the story, making it utterly believable.
But he didn’t limit himself to grand scale misdirection, no, he did not. He also regularly made your heart stop for the three seconds it took to get past the obvious reaction to the reality of the situation that was entirely different from the path he had lead you down.
*salutes* *fights urge to gesture rudely once back is turned*
The singular complaint I saw voiced during the BR was that there wasn’t an identifiable Great Evil that Good needed to triumph over.
By the end of the book that was no longer the case, but even before that I didn’t mind, b/c Sanderson constantly makes you question: what is right? What is good? It’s a deliberate tactic to both make the reader really think about right and wrong, good and evil, and also to eventually make the difference abundantly clear.
So if you’re the kind of reader that needs that distinction, don’t give up, b/c, man alive, you will get it.
The last 10%:
Sanderson followed a strict formula for the last 10% of his book. It goes like this:
1. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Let’s do that.
2. How can we make it even worse? Let’s do that too.
3. Now let’s make it look like—despite overwhelming odds—everything will work out fine.
4. Now let’s crush that hope.
Rinse, wash, REPEAT.
Part IV will leave you emotionally wrung-out (in a good way), and Part V will give your FEELS a chance to recover whilst blowing your mind (really, your mind should be in pieces by the time you finish).
Having just finished yesterday afternoon, I’m surprised that I’m not still in some kind of stupor, but I’ve prevailed. I did have to step away several times during that last 10% to give myself a chance to recover. I used that time to: order paperbacks of both installments for my dad and hardbacks for myself, b/c these books . . . they deserve shelf space.
What kept THE WAYS OF KINGS from being a 5.0 star read were a handful of issues in the beginning of the book. I’ve been told that WoK was shoved through the editing process to get it into bookstores quickly, and it shows in the repetition of phrases, especially in the prologue. The third time Someone came at Someone Else with “broad, sweeping strokes” (of his sword), I was over it. And when an Assassin continually referred to a hallway runner as being red . . . like blood . . . well, despite how fantastic the rest of the book was, I couldn’t entirely overlook it’s less than stellar start.
However, overall . . . again I say, I have a new favorite author.
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