The Way of Kings

So after posting a quick update Monday about my blog’s anniversary and my bowling from last weekend, I decided it’s time to sit down and write up reviews for the books that I’d read during the 2 week hiatus that I had without posting.  I was reading during that time, as I almost always am, I just didn’t post a review of a book, and there’s a simple explanation for that.  I was reading 2 very big books, and I thought that I had already had a review up for the first book, only to find out that I was sadly mistaken in that regard.  That book of course is The Way of Kings, the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, and it’s a doorstopper like no other.

Book StatsThe Way of Kings

1003 pages

Fantasy

First book in a 10 book series

Setting

I’m going to start with the setting for this book, because it’s one of the most unique settings in any book that I’ve read, and also one of the most well thought out settings.  I talked about the setting in the list of questions that I had for my 30-day book list (I wrote about this book for topic #19, Most Interesting Setting).  Along with the things that I mentioned in that post, I have to talk more about the depth of the world.  Re-reading this book showed me just how well thought out the history of this world is.  Through the conversations that the characters have, you learn so much of the subtle history of the world, especially the differences between the cultures.  There are huge differences in how the different cultures view warriors compared to scholars and craftsmen.  But the best part about the depth of the world is that you’re never beaten over the head with it.  The differences in the cultures of the world also lead to dozens of conflicts between the characters.  Even if the characters and the story in this book weren’t as strong as they are, the setting depth alone would make it worth reading, and that’s very hard to do with a novel this big.

Characters

The book follows 4 main characters, within 3 primary storylines.  The main character of the book is Kaladin, a young man who has become a soldier despite having trained under his father as a surgeon.  Kaladin is a very rebellious young man, who sits on the border of respecting authority while constantly chafing against those above him.  I think that every young person (especially young men) can identify strongly with Kaladin and his struggle against authority.  Dalinar is a highprince who spends the larger part of this book going through a midlife crisis because of visions that he has been seeing.  He doesn’t know what the visions are, only that they are showing him scenes from the past that he believes are relevant to the conflict that his country is engaged in as the book goes on.  While Dalinar believes in his visions, his son Adolin believes that Dalinar is going insane.  This creates an interesting conflict as Adolin is torn between upholding his father’s honor while questioning his sanity.  The fourth main character is Shallan, a young woman who is a skilled artist and aspiring scholar.  Shallan’s story is the most different of those in this book, but it was still interesting to me as it worked largely to build the depth of the world that I talked about earlier.

Plot

6 years after King Gavilar is assassinated, the war to avenge his death has stagnated.  The highprinces who have agreed to destroy those responsible have settled into a familiar rhythm of seeking wealth rather than vengeance.  But while they play games, a much larger threat looms over the world.  Yeah, that sounds generic, but I don’t really want to spoil the plot too much.

Enjoyment

There’s an awful lot going on in this book, and while I talked in very vague terms above to try and avoid spoilers, it’s all very fun to read.  Another interesting thing about this book is the structure of the novel itself.  The book is broken into 5 sections, and between each section we’re shown several Interludes, smaller stories that feature various characters throughout the world.  The most interesting of the Interlude characters is easily Szeth-son-son-Vallano, the assassin who is responsible for Gavilar’s death.  He is a Truthless from Shinovar, a slave to whoever holds his Oathstone, and at the beginning of the book at least, the most skilled warrior on the planet.  Szeth is bound to do what he is told, but he resents his actions more and more as he is forced to kill most of the monarchs around the world.  As much as he’s a minor character, Szeth alone makes this book worth reading.

Along with the quality of the story, there are also illustrations throughout the course of the book.  Many of these are Shallan’s sketches of the world around her, while others are maps of the areas in which the story takes place.  The illustrations are all wonderfully done and add another layer of depth to an already wonderful book.

Arguably the only downside to the book is that it ends with several very big cliffhangers, but since the second book is out as of two or three weeks ago, it’s really not that big of an issue.

Overall Grade

An amazingly deep world filled with realistic characters, relatable conflicts, and a strong story makes this book a wonderful beginning to a series that I’ll be looking forward to reading every time a new book comes out.

10/10

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7 Comments

  1. Hannah Bassett

     /  March 19, 2014

    Ahh! I just bought this and I am super excited to finish up some other books and get to this one. I’m happy to see you thought highly of the book, because I’ve heard some doubters say it wasn’t up to par with his other work. My excitement level is back up to 10 now.
    Have you read Words of Radiance?
    Have you heard that Sanderson plans to bring all of his books together, because they take place in the same world? How crazy is that!

    Reply
    • I just finished reading Words of Radiance last Saturday. I re-read this book before reading WoR because it had been a while, I thought that I already had a review up for this book, so I actually finished both before writing this review. I’ll try to get my review for WoR up by Saturday or so, but since I bowl the next two nights I make no promises about that.

      His books aren’t actually all on the same world, more like different planets within the same universe. He has an overall structure to all of his books, with the magic on each planet being related to some supernatural beings (gods basically) who kind of hang around each planet and affect the people on the world. The Stormlight Archive deals with a large portion of this, but he said that the place where everything is going to come together is in the third Mistborn trilogy, the first trilogy being the one that is already completed, with the second and third to come. The Alloy of Law isn’t part of the second trilogy, it’s just a side project that he wrote.

      Reply
      • Hannah Bassett

         /  March 23, 2014

        More Mistborn? That’s exciting. Thanks for clearing that up! Still a cool and ambitious idea to claim this this early on in his career. I’m excited to read whatever he puts out there. Any idea if the Infinity Blade stories are in his world as well? I like the way he constructed the gods in Awakening, but have yet to read Redemption.

      • I haven’t read his Infinity Blade stories (although I have played the first game on my iPod, it’s fun). I don’t know for certain, but I would guess that those stories aren’t part of his Cosmere simply because they weren’t originally his. Elantris, Mistborn, Warbreaker, and the Stormlight Archive all exist within the Cosmere. The Emperor’s Soul is set on the same planet as Elantris. Legion is set in our world, so is his Alcatraz series (middle grade books), Steelheart is set in a variation of our world, as is The Rithmatist, none of these books are part of the Cosmere. I think that’s all of his books/series and whether they fit into his larger overall story or not. Also, that’s off the top of my head, so there’s a chance I could’ve placed something in the wrong group, but I think they’re all right.

      • Hannah Bassett

         /  March 25, 2014

        Well it certainly sounds right. Isn’t Firefight coming out this year? I’m ready to read more about that varied world, then.

        The first Infinity Blade story is quite short, but decent.

        I forgot he wrote Warbreaker! I haven’t heard much about it. So much Sanderson, so little time.

      • I haven’t heard anything about a release date for Firefight, but I’m looking forward to that book, along with everything else that he’s announced for the near future.

  2. I also enjoy this book quite a bit. And the art work that went into this book – the inside covers, the chapter headings, etc. is just fantastic.

    Reply

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