Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: August 2010
Series: The Stormlight Archive (#1)
Audio or Book: Book
Reason for Discovery: the Internet
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.
The Way of Kings is the first book in a ten-book epic, high fantasy series entitled The Stormlight Archive. The books follow multiple characters; however, one character will be the focus of each book. In The Way of Kings, a handful of characters have POV chapters; however, Shallan, Dalinar, and Kaladin are the primary characters in this book with Kaladin being the character of importance. Shallan is a young woman who wants to work with Jasnah, a respected scholar; however, Shallan also has other nefarious reasons for wanting to get close to Jasnah. Dalinar is a high prince of the realm and is fighting in the great war on the Shattered Plains. Dalinar is beginning to have strange visions that are encouraging him to find a way to create peace. Finally, Kaladin is a former soldier who is now a slave and working as a bridgeman. He and his fellow bridgemen are required to carry heavy and massive bridges that the soldiers use to cross the large gaps between the Shattered Plains. Kaladin is desperate to protect those he loves.
The Way of Kings is a long book. It is over 1000 pages. Unlike other epic fantasy books that I've been reading for months (*cough* A Dance with Dragons *cough*), I gobbled this book up. I read the majority of the book in under one week. Let me tell you why this book is so much fun. First, the world building is well done and unique. This magical realm doesn't look like Europe, have dragons, or enchanted forests. Okay, I like all of those things, but it can get a bit boring (yes, even dragons). This world has huge monstrous creatures with mighty exoskeletons and dangerous sand storms that can appear at a moment's notice. In addition to creating a rich world, Sanderson does a brilliant job of avoiding the major info dumps and gives you just enough information to understand what is happening without having you feel like you are reading a textbook. There is a small appendix in the back of the book with some facts, if you so desire.
Second, there was no graphic physical or sexual violence in this book. Although I do enjoy reading A Song of Ice and Fire, I don't like reading about torture and rapes every few pages. I realize that this makes the series gritty and realistic, but it is something that I prefer to get in small doses or not at all. I really appreciated being able to read Shallan's chapters and not feel like she was suddenly going to be raped and have it described. There are battle sequences and a few fights in The Way of Kings, but these scenes are described sparingly. I would feel comfortable giving this book to the right young adult reader (i.e., one who wants to read a 1000+ page epic fantasy).
Third, the female characters are interesting. Sanderson has given the men and women some traditional roles, but he has also given them some unique roles as well. Men, in this world, are fighters, rulers, and business owners. Women, on the other hand, are the readers and scholars. This divide gives both sexes an opportunity to be respected experts in their fields. Of course, these roles are not perfect by any means, but it was wonderful to see a large number of female characters having agency in an epic fantasy series. I am particularly enamored with Shallan. I am so excited that she is the focus character for Words of Radiance (book #2).
I really have only one complaint about this book. I felt it was a teeny tiny bit too long. Kaladin's story seemed to drag on a bit too long at the beginning. It seemed like Sanderson wanted us to really feel for Kaladin and to see how low Kaladin could get. I could have done with the first few Kaladin chapters being cut down a bit, so we could have gotten to the action a bit sooner. Maybe if I had liked Kaladin more, I would have enjoyed these chapters more. Kaladin is a nice enough character. He is just a bit too paladin-y for me. I like good guys, but paladin angst is tiring for me.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, and it has gotten me excited for what is to come in Words of Radiance. I am so excited that I discovered this series earlier in its publication, so I can eagerly await each coming book. I cannot wait to find out what happens next.
I give this book a 4 out of 5.