- Series: The Stormlight Archive (Book 1)
- Hardcover: 1008 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books (August 31, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765326353
- ISBN-13: 978-0765326355
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 49.3 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4,975 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive) Hardcover – August 31, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
This massive tome is the first of a 10-part epic fantasy series from relative newcomer Sanderson (Mistborn), best known for his efforts to complete the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. In a storm-swept world where history has dwindled into myth, self-serving aristocrats squabble over mystical weapons that render their bearers immune to mundane attacks. The ambitious scholar Shallan learns unexpected truths about the present, the virtuous aristocrat Dalinar reclaims the lost past, and the bitter and broken slave Kaladin gains unwanted power. Race-related plot themes may raise some eyebrows, and there's no hope for anything resembling a conclusion in this introductory volume, but Sanderson's fondness for misleading the reader and his talent for feeding out revelations and action scenes at just the right pace will keep epic fantasy fans intrigued and hoping for redemptive future installments.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This colossal volume opens a fantasy saga clearly influenced by the Wheel of Time, which the author is in fact finishing. It’s a classic story of intrigue, magic, and war, with a large cast of characters and multiple settings lovingly detailed in a way only possible in volumes of this size. Two characters stand out. One is Shallin, a young woman seeking to enter the household of a royal princess so that she can steal a magical talisman and restore the tattered fortunes of her family. The other is Kaladin, a gifted young soldier enslaved for desertion, who fights his way back to freedom in battles on the Shattered Plain. There’s wit (Shallin’s amiably unscrupulous sailor protect Yod is a gem), magic (the weather is almost a character in its own right), and erudition (if the fighting on the Shattered Plain doesn’t owe something to WWI, this reviewer would be surprised). Readers will plunge into it, even as they send up cries for a glossary and cast of characters. --Roland Green
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Top Customer Reviews
I do not think you will be disappointed with this book or the time spent reading it. And I suspect many of you will feel just as I do as to its place as one of the great fantasy novels of our time.
That journey lies within the pages of Brandon Sanderson's novel, "The Way of Kings".
There are a couple bottom lines I'd like to make clear before I discuss this book in more depth, and I'll go ahead and set them up here to prevent anyone from unnecessarily spending their valuable time.
1. "The Way of Kings" is the best book I've read in a while. 9.5/10 on my scale.
2. I've noticed a lot of reviews draw comparisons between "Kings" and Robert Jordan's "The Eye of the World" / "The Wheel of Time" series. This got me thinking - it's probably good that I make clear what I think of the three prevalent fantasy-series touchstones before I discuss this book so whoever reads this knows how my mind works. This reader loved "A Game of Thrones" as well as the subsequent series, but found books 4 and 5 quite tedious. My reactions to Robert Jordan's WoT series are lukewarm at best - I found "The Eye of the World" to be derivative, predictable, and a lot of the time very poorly written. This being said, yes, I enjoyed it for what it was. I loved "The Lord of the Rings," but have clearer and fonder memories of "The Hobbit".
3. Books like "Dune" tax my patience. Heavily.
4. I hate reviews with spoilers. Be at peace, wary reader. Here, there be no dragons.
5. This book is over 1200 pages long. I've spent about three weeks reading it. This review is going to be long as well, and arguably nowhere near as well written.
6. Did I mention that I didn't like "Dune"?
Now that we've gotten the introductions out of the way, on to "The Way of Kings" itself. I'll go ahead and call it TWOK from here on out. It sounds cool and it's easier to type. So. Here we go.
ATMOSPHERE: As I think I already made clear, this book absolutely blew me away. Carried me away might be a better phrase, actually, or transported me Elsewhere with a capital E. It did everything I want a fantasy book to do - took me out of my world and introduced me to one so fantastic, so alien, so unforgettable and yet so believable that I found myself thinking about it...well, all the time. I would describe the world in detail, but so many other reviews have beaten me to it I'll skip that and relegate myself to saying this - imagine an ocean floor without the ocean. I think someone may have actually already written that. Well done, anonymous person. You hit it right on the head.
There are more mysteries in this world than there are answers, and whenever one question is answered another four sprout up in its place. The nature of the highstorms (and their somewhat ominous sounding "Origin") was of particular note to me, not to mention the nature of "spren," the strange spirits that accompany basically everything in the world. If I were to pick a character to fall in with, I'd roger up with Axies the Collector, a side character from one of the Interludes who I sincerely wish Sanderson would make into an entire storyline. When you find yourself fascinated by the daily life of characters that have no bearing whatsoever on the overall storyline, you know the author has done something right with their Worldbuilding. This, actually, brings me right into my next point of review.
CHARACTERS: The book focuses on four main characters, or maybe it would be more accurate to say three and a half. Kaladin, Dalinar and Shallan account for the majority of the book, and though he appears far less frequently, Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar (Yes, that's his name) accounts for what remains. There are a smattering of side characters, some utterly forgettable and others utterly unforgettable (Axies the Collector, for instance, who travels the world studying spren) and they form the interludes between parts. In the end, you'll care about some more than others. Fortunately, Sanderson did this on purpose. The result is that when one chapter ends, you're angry because you don't want to leave their storyline. And then you finish the next chapter, and feel the same way. And so on and so forth. It's similar to what Martin did with his Song of Ice and Fire series, except without the Sansa chapters.
I noticed that one of the chief complaints about this book was that it has a lack of gray characters. This fascinates me, because gray characters tend to grate on me after a while. Again, I'll go ahead and reference that Other (pun intended) epic fantasy series, "A Song of Ice and Fire," for a reference point here. I love it when characters surprise me. I don't like it when there aren't really any heroes I feel like I can root for. George Martin, I'm talking to you here. But I digress. Are the characters in TWOK relatively one dimensional? I suppose maybe they are.
There are others who suggest the characters found in this book are largely derivative. I disagree, except to say that they are very typical heroes. I think I like that, though. I like that Sanderson has heroes who are capable of heroic things. Who else would a fantasy writer choose to follow? The uneventful people? Would that be like Holden Caulfield goes to Middle Earth? I don't know. Maybe it could work. The point is that Sanderson has characters I can get behind, characters I can fall in love with, who I can fear for (I'm thinking of one character in particular here) and who when they are in genuine danger I can start gnawing my fingernails. I thought the characters in this were great, for what they were. And let's be honest here. The last 75 pages have more twists and character revelations packed into them than the other 1125 pages combined. This brings me around to the next part of my thoughts.
PLOT, PROSE AND PROGRESS: One of the chief complaints about "The Way of Kings" is that nothing much happens in it. I blame this sentiment (and yes, I use the word blame because I think this is a shortcoming of us as readers) on the fact that we live in a largely instant society. We want everything NOW. Take, for instance, the adoration a lot of people have for "The Eye of the World". Things start happening pretty fast in that book and they don't really let up. For a reader like me, that's boring. TWOK is more about setting up a storyline. It's a 1200 page introduction to a 10 book mega-epic that demands an enormous setup. It's the kind of book that has a prelude and a prologue, lots of interludes and lots of parts.
This being said, I never once felt like the book was lacking in action. There are battles galore, intrigues, mysteries, romances and failures. There's a real sense of wonder and mystery in this world - its inhabitants are as baffled by it as we are as readers. This comforts me. I liked that I didn't feel stupid reading this book. A lot of the time, I was sitting there going "Wait, what's this now?" only to discover a character a few pages later going "So wait...what was that, then?" Sanderson is trying something interesting here, introducing a world where characters don't know what's happening. Unlike most other books, which have the standard Wise Old Person to tell them exactly what is happening, this book doesn't have one (yet). The characters, readers and story wander around in the dark with a candle, looking for something while hearing frightening sounds coming from the shadows. The Alethi Kingdom is at war, and yet everyone has a strange sense of creeping dread that we the readers are infected by. We know SOMETHING is coming - we just don't know what. Something called the Night of Sorrows. The True Desolation. What that means and who its bringing, we never do quite figure, but it sure doesn't sound like they're bringing sweeties.
Brandon Sanderson has a strange way of writing. I say this fondly. His prose is never astonishing. When I read George Martin, for example, I usually come across a paragraph/line or two that I savor in my mouth for a bit before carrying on. Patrick Rothfuss does this too, and so does R. Scott Bakker. There are always those zingers that I text to my friends, often annoying them with my enthusiasm. Sanderson has none of that. His paragraphs are simple, his words elemental. He sets out to tell us a story, not wow us with his language. I'm wowed anyway. Prose this transparent, this clear, this unpolluted and convincing...it's a gift. In other words, his writing is deceptively intelligent. I was in awe for reasons I've never really been in awe before. In fact, when someone asked me for a good quote from the book, I was genuinely stumped. The book itself is a quote. It cannot be separated from itself.
OTHER FACTORS: One of the things that impressed me most about this book was the storyline of Kaladin. Kaladin himself may be your run of the mill hero (the general who became a slave, the slave who became a gladiator, the gladiator who defied an emp - oh, wait, wrong movie, I mean book, I mean - aw phooey...) but he's approached differently than I've ever seen a character like this approached in fantasy. Here, Kaladin earns his place as a leader by a painstaking process which unfolds over literally hundreds of pages. Leadership isn't a microwave meal, and neither is Kaladin's story. His struggles, his dilemmas, his obstacles and solutions are all strikingly realistic. As a current United States Marine, I found myself thinking a lot about some of the people I serve with while I read this. The portrayal of what it means to be a leader that Sanderson has created here is uncannily accurate, and really gives some good guidance on what it means to be a better leader. This, needless to say, is quite impressive.
I noticed some complaints that the women have hardly any role in this book. This is true. Only one of the three main characters is female, and she only has one of the biggest character twists in the story. (If you haven't caught the sarcasm dripping from my words, here's your cue to chuckle.) Look, I'm not going to deny that the women in this book are pretty much the same spunky independent females you get in most fantasy books, but I think that can boil down the fact that it's surprisingly difficult to write a female character everyone can get behind. The closest thing I can think of off the back of my hand is probably Katniss from the recent "Hunger Games" trilogy, and even she had her nay-sayers. Plus, she was written by a woman, which definitely helps. This is a story about war, and the women in it are certainly subject to a patriarchal society. I for one have a hunch they will play a bigger role later on in the series (in fact, the twist I mentioned in Shallan's storyline basically assures this).
Magic is used in a way unlike anything I've really seen before. Rather than dying out in the world of Roshar, it's coming back, and no one really knows what it is or how to handle it. The result is exhilarating - magic feels mysterious, dangerous and intriguing. Exactly the way magic should feel, in my opinion - unless its in "Harry Potter". For example, in TWOK, gems hold stormlight in them which is used to power magical armor called Shardplate or to light a street. Different colored gems means multicolored lanterns. As a result, streets at night turn into little disco parlors. This is just one of the many ways Sanderson uses magic in this world.
Most importantly, I think, is the sense of wholeness that Sanderson's world has here. The amount of detail with which he can see the imaginary is nothing less than astonishing. The book comes with a copious amount of artwork inside it, which adds to the story in a way I've never seen used before. The art is beautiful and masterfully done, to the point that I want to buy the hardcover edition of this book just so I can have larger copies of it.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Not much. I mean that honestly. I noticed one of the chief complaints amongst readers was that the book was too long. This made me chuckle a little bit. It reminded me of when I went to see "The Return of the King" in theaters, knowing full well that the film was going to run over three hours, and yet my friends still complained about how long it was. Friends and fellow readers. Please, for the love of everything that is holy, don't pick up a book that is 1200+ pages and then complain that it is long. Yes, it is very long. It was intended to be. It's a comprehensive, detailed look at a magical world. Not every moment is going to be spent in swashbuckling glory. There are going to be times when characters need to sit around campfires discussing the strange natures of markings on other character's chests. This book didn't come out of a microwave. Someone sat down and wrote out 1200 pages of great material that culminated in a great book with a distinct beginning, middle and end. I dare you to try the same.
Are there some parts of the story where the language gets carried away with itself? Sure. As long as I'm being honest, I actually had to put down the book a couple times to rub my eyes when a couple of the characters had incredibly emo moments. I also had to put a belt between my teeth early on to avoid breaking all my molars at the shockingly immature use of the word "storm" as a swear word. It's funny - the story addresses mature themes such as suicide, murder, rape, the controversy of religion - and yet when it comes to swearing, characters say things like "Storm you!" or even "Storm off!" I think my favorite was "Storm off!". I wondered the first time I read that if I had made a terrible mistake.
Are there slow parts? You bet. There were a few slow parts in a couple other books that come to mind, such as "War and Peace," "Anna Karenina," "The Brothers Karamazov," even "East of Eden". "But Sanderson is neither Russian nor a Depression era Californian!" some people cry. Sure. He's not. He's a 21st Century American writer who wanted to tell a story about a war and a whole lot more than that. A few slow parts in a 1200 page book really isn't that bad. If you are looking for instant gratification, STAY AWAY FROM THIS BOOK. If you're looking for a world to roll around in and delight in, please, buy it and encourage this man to write more. I honestly don't know what I'm going to be doing for the next year.
Last but not least, the real subject matter of the book - namely a couple of the twists towards book's end - made me hesitate. Understand now that this book has a very serious undertone to it, and when it hits you what this series is really about, you'll know. I can think of another fantasy trilogy which addresses themes Sanderson brings up late in this book, but I'm willing to operate on a little faith here. (For those who have read the book, you'll get the pun there.) The twists are great. A couple of them I genuinely didn't see coming, and they blew me clean off my rocker. One was underwhelming. One was genuinely bewildering. So it goes.
In the end, I can't recommend this book enough. It's got great - albeit one dimensional - characters, an utterly original storyline with just enough of the familiar fantasy trope to make us feel at home in our own genre. The world it introduces to us is breathtaking, one which we will have no problem whatsoever spending 10 books frolicking in. The questions it raises at books end are tantalizing, not to mention dangerous. It is very well written, and the best thing I've read since I first met the Others north of the Wall over two years ago, shivering in the snow.
Bravo, Mr. Sanderson. Bravo.
**EDIT: Upon re-reading "The Way of Kings" in preparation for "Words of Radiance," I feel confident in its original score. I will keep a tally of the overall series here as it comes out, as well.**
Book 1: The Way of Kings - 9.5/10
Book 2: Words of Radiance - 8.8/10, Excellent but unfulfilled due to pacing issues. My full review can be found here on Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/review/R2GY81SK3HT0F/ref=cm_srch_res_rtr_alt_1