“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.