Title: The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive Book 1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publication date: August 31, 2010
Genre: Adult High Fantasy
Synopsis: Kaladin Stormblessed has had many roles in his life. He’s been an aspiring surgeon, common solider, respected squadleader, and a slave. In all his roles Kaladin has tried to save people but ended up enslaved for his effort. Kaladin is about to give up hope when a mysterious spren starts speaking to him and urging Kaladin on. It would seem Kaladin is not done being a hero yet.
Shallan Davar has just arrived in the city of Kharbranth. A noble woman of a minor house, this is Shallan’s first time away from her father’s estate. Unfortunately, Shallan isn’t here for the sight seeing. Shallan’s mission is to steal one of Princess Jasnah Kholin’s most prized possessions to save her family from financial ruin.
Brightlord Dalanar Kholin and his son, Adolin, must investigate the attempted murder of Dalanar’s nephew, the king, and the mystery behind the previous King’s murder by the “Assassin in White” five years before. All the while Dalanar is having visions and needs to determine if he is going mad or has been sent messages from the Almighty whom the Alethi people worship.
Review: Even though I loved Brandon Sanderson’s original Mistborn Trilogy I was still hesitant to pick this book up. It starts with a prelude which is followed by a Prologue. As far as I know I’ve never read a book with both of those before, and lets face it, prologues are hard to get right. Then there is the matter of this book’s length. It is over a thousand pages long. Until I read this book’s sequel, Words of Radiance, this was the longest book I’ve ever read. Despite this initial hesitation all of my expectations were more than met. To put it simply, this book is amazing.
It turns out that I had actually listened to the first several chapters of this book about a year ago on a car trip where there was an audio book playing. I remember liking what I heard, but forgetting to ask what book it was we were listening to. As a result, I never finished. It wasn’t until I started listening to the book that I realized I had heard this somewhere before and made the connection.
This book is narrated from many different point of views. It is clear the focus in this book is on Kaladin, but Shallan, Dalanar, and Adolin also narrate a considerable portion of the story. Kaladin has the most drastic character development in this book. We jump between his present life as a slave, and is past life as a surgeon in training/ army squadleader. It is not revealed until late in the story how Kaladin sunk so low in society from such a respected position. Shallan, a noble girl of a minor House who is trying to steal a princess’s most valuable possession to save her family from financial ruin, also develops significantly. The focus is not on her as much as Kaladin, and the two never cross paths in this book, but I still found her story intriguing and felt no urge to skip. Dalanar and his son Adolin are members of the royal family, the current king’s uncle and cousin. Their characters took me a little warming up to, but by the end of the book I really liked them.
I could easily tell Kaladin and Shallan’s narration apart, but had difficulty when Dalanar or Adolin was narrating at first because I had trouble remembering the royal hierarchy. Brandon Sanderson did a good job keeping all of the perspectives interesting especially considering how much time the narrators spent great distances from one another.
The world building was also very well done. Every culture in Roshar appears fully developed even if only one member of that culture is featured in the story. The small details about how Roshar and it’s peoples have adapted to deal with the devastating highstorms, that destroys everything in its path and makes gemstones glow, make everything seem more realistic. Sanderson even went so far as to create his own flora and fauna illustrations of which are placed in the book. The architecture has also been modified to withstand the storm’s winds, and their currency uses glass spheres containing gemstones because the fact that they glow due to the stormlight stored within them allows a person to prove easily whether or not they’re real.
Brandon Sanderson’s writing is known for it’s magic systems, and for good reason. There is not much to say about it without spoiling anything, but it fits into the world Brandon Sanderson has created very well. Learning about how the magic system worked with Kaladin was never dull because I was so interested in how it worked.
Though this book was long, and it did take me more than a week to get through (which is an extremely long time for me when I’m reading a book I enjoyed this much) I feel there were plenty of stopping points that at time I felt like the individual “books” within The Way of Kings could have stood on their own. Anyone who didn’t want to read the book all at one could stop at one of those points, read something else, then come back and finish The Way of Kings.
What readers should know: This book is mostly free of language. The characters are at war and participate in battles so there is a lot of violence and death. This book does contain magic, but it is of a less conventional variety and there are no “witches” or “wizards,” and is so logically explained by the author it is almost as if the universe the book was written in has separate laws of physics rather than a magic system.
Rating: This book contained awesome world building, magic system, and characters. My only possible complaint is that it could have probably been edited a little shorter, but I enjoyed the reading experience so much that once I finished reading this I still couldn’t wait to pick up the sequel.