The Stormlight Archive, #1 – The Way of Kings (BOOK REVIEW)

“A story doesn’t live until it is imagined in someone’s mind… The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think , but to give you questions to think upon. Too often, we forget that.” Well, Brandon Sanderson, it’s hard to forget that after reading The Way of Kings, the first in a planned series of 10 epic fantasy novels encompassing the Stormlight Archive. It’s a world, a religion, a people, a culture so enthralling and rich you’ll find yourself trapped in its magnitude. At over 1000 pages and 387k words, it’s a book so long you’ll actually be upset to have finally finished it, but thrilled to note that the second installment (Words of Radiance) is already available, and there will be eight other installments just as hefty in the (not near enough) future.

The story revolves around 3 main characters, and one lesser character, and how their different personalities, storylines, and backgrounds drive the plot forward. Their viewpoints and ideals change how you look at events and actions, and seeing how they fit into the history of this strange and foreign world does the storytelling excellent justice.

  • Szeth-son-son-Vallano is the first introduced, yet the least utilized. A slave with extraordinary powers who must do everything his masters require of him (except of course kill himself), we find that he sets the stage for the entire series – killing the King in the very first chapter, a literal and moral tempest raging inside him. The rest of the book takes place 5-6 years later.
  • Kaladin, a darkeyed soldier, who, as honorable as he may be, has the worst luck and finds himself at the lowest rung of slavery – a bridgemen. His tale is the most focused upon in this book, a story about hitting rock bottom and finding a way to reclaim honor. He is followed by a strange spren (a fairy-like creature), and together, along with other bridgemen, they realize that Kaladin is more than just meets the eye.
  • Shallan Davar, a minor lighteye (nobility) who has the uncanny ability to capture images in her mind and draw them later, sneaks her way into wardship with purportedly the most powerful woman in all of Roshar so as to steal something from her for her own family’s well-being. Shallan has the least important role in The Way of Kings, but a sudden revelation down the line leads us to assume she will be one of the most important players in the long run.
  • Dalinar Kholin, a highprince of Alethkar, is the brother of the now-dead king, and uncle to the now-reigning King. An older man of immense honor and moral code, Dalinar is essential to the story, as he frequently has visions of a now forgotten past that may help save the future.

The world Sanderson has created is unlike any I’ve visited – where highstorms come often with a fury stronger than hurricanes, where grass sucks itself into the earth when you get too close, where eels fly instead of swim, where thousands of types of spren live and thrive alongside humans but are a complete mystery… Yes, Roshar is a dangerous beautiful place. One I cannot wait to revisit. Often I asked myself “how well would this scene translate to television, or a movie?” Well never once did I feel it wouldn’t work in such ways. It’s written in the style of a grandiose film, particularly with its effortless use of flashbacks and cinema-scale battle sequences.

The story is very long. It is not meant for the amateur reader. But although there is a lot of padding, it never hampers your enjoyment of the plot. Seemingly pointless and often tedious plot points eventually lead to one of the greatest literary climaxes I’ve ever read. Seriously, once you reach the end of the story and all the primary puzzle pieces are in place, it’s amazing how Sanderson is capable of impregnating the antidote of it all into your mind before it’s even written on the page. When it all coalesces at the end – then you will understand true honor.

And really that’s what the book accomplishes most. It makes you truly understand honor, like little else in fiction actually can. You will rejoice for the characters, and you will feel sorrow for the characters, but most importantly you will love the characters.

The great thing about Sanderson is that you can be confident subsequent installments in the Stormlight Archive will be released on a timely basis. Not only is he focused on writing this series, but a quick look at his blog shows that he’s currently in the process of writing multiple series at the same time. He will release 3 novels this year alone. How he keeps it all organized and doesn’t mix things up is beyond me. He must have excellent spreadsheets. Where some authors you can tell are making the story up as they go along, it’s clear from the start Sanderson has already mapped out his ten novels before putting the first words onto the page. I previously gave Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind a 9/10, and although I will admit that book is more entertaining, I give this book a 10 due to its overall grasp on the epic scope of everything. This book is scary good. And if this is any indication as to how the rest of the series will play out (which I’m sure it is), rest assured this’ll be one for your personal library.

My girlfriend is currently reading the book, and wants to catch up so we can read the second book, Words of Radiance, together. Soooo… I’ll be revisiting Ender’s Game instead, until she catches up. Until then, thanks for reading.

16 thoughts on “The Stormlight Archive, #1 – The Way of Kings (BOOK REVIEW)

  1. Hey! Read both books of the Stormlight Archive- and whilst I will definitely be getting the third when it comes out, and continue to support Sanderson- I almost found the dialogue and general writing too… light-hearted/simple to fully probe the deep subject matter’s he raises; loyalty, love and duty. What are your thoughts? Thanks!!


    1. Hmm. Well, I haven’t read the second book yet. So I can’t say much about the contents or the language and/or dialogue. One thing that I found a little underdeveloped was the creativity of the curses. It was all “storm this” and “storming” that. I prefer that as apposed to the cursing in A Song of Ice and Fire, however I wish there were a wider range of expletives. It’s a common issue I have with most fiction however. As for general dialogue, I never felt that the speech didn’t feel wholly genuine, but I understand your sentiment of it not having as much depth as it probably should have. I felt what wasn’t said vocally was expressed in other ways though.


      1. Yeah, fair point. The curses don’t really change all that much in 2nd book, but you can make up your own mind. Ok, we’ll continue this when you have read this! Enjoy.


  2. I flew through the Mistborn series and its subsequent novella, and I really would like to start this series. But I’m impatient and it being only 2 books into the series is making me hesitant. Are they okay as stand alone novels or am I going to go crazy over cliffhangers and unfinished storylines?


    1. As far as this goes it’s a very coherent and complete storyline. He does leave it ripe for a sequel, but doesn’t leave the story hinged at the point of you feeling completely obliged to read the next.


  3. Dude, Words of Radiance is going to blow your mind. It’s literally Brandon’s best book to date; he normally almost always has problems with fight scenes or certain characters. That one? That book is the first 1000 page behemoth I’ve ever read where, not once, I can honestly say I was even slightly bored. It’s INSANE. I’m going to be re-reading the entire series each time there’s a next one coming out, and thankfully that’s really close; Sanderson’s starting it soon as he finishes what he’s working on currently, Rithmatist 2. So we’re getting it March 2016!


      1. I’ve read most of his stuff, and I’d have to say that after Stormlight Archive, Mistborn is his next best series. Because of the type of magic in those books, the action can come off a little technical at times, and most of the characters are going to try your patience. BUT. Stick with it, and that series delivers in so many ways I cannot begin to explain. I found the first of the trilogy intriguing but on the whole not living up to the hype, and the second was tedious with an epic ending. And then came the third. In the third book, Sanderson literally brings it all together, minor events from the very first chapters of the very first book suddenly have big impacts, and there’s so many revelations and plot twists in every single chapter your brain is going to fry. It was the third book, the Hero of Ages, that I finally bought into the Sanderson hype.

        I’ve also read Warbreaker, which you can download for free from Sanderson’s website, it’s the entire book and he’s giving it away for free to fans under a Creative Commons License.

        Click to access Warbreaker_hardcover_1st_ed.pdf

        Warbreaker is good, but average by Sanderson standards, in that it has complex magic, interesting characters and a unique story. There’s a lot of memorable things going on there, and it’s definitely worth the read now that the Cosmere has come into play. Characters from it appear in Words of Radiance; you don’t need to read it beforehand to enjoy WoR, but if you read it afterwards, stuff’ll click.

        Other than those, all I’ve read are his novellas, The Emperor’s Soul and Legion, which are both really good. The Emperor’s Soul in particular. Before WoR was released, The Emperor’s Soul was definitely Sanderson’s best book to date.


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