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The Way of Kings

January 23rd, 2011

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Widely acclaimed for his work completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, Brandon Sanderson now begins a grand cycle of his own, one every bit as ambitious and immersive.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 soilless 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.Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.The result of over ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.Speak again the ancient oaths,Life before death.Strength before weakness.Journey before Destination.and return to men the Shards they once bore.The Knights Radiant must stand again.


Book Review

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Science Fiction Widely acclaimed for his work completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, Brandon Sanderson now begins a grand cycle of his own, one every bit as ambitious and immersive.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 soilless 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.Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.The result of over ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.Speak again the ancient oaths,Life before death.Strength before weakness.Journey before Destination.and return to men the Shards they once bore.The Knights Radiant must stand again.
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  1. Michaela Martin
    January 24th, 2011 at 07:45 | #1

    Rating

    By far my favorite Sanderson work has been Mistborn, though Stormlight Archive will probably come to supplant it. I’m now on my second read-through, having been so captivated by the book that I read it very quickly the first time. It is far too complex, however, to pick up all the details of character, plot, and world when you read it that fast. (There are also clues that you won’t recognize as clues until the end of the book!) I find that I’m enjoying it as much, if not more the second time.

    As with Mistborn, Sanderson does an excellent job writing powerful, relevant women who lack some of the more annoying traits other fantasy writers mistake for strong female qualities. (Though I sympathize with other reviewers’ complaints about his reliance on “wittiness.”) It will be interesting to see how some of these characters’ storylines become entangled in later volumes. ( Sanderson resists the temptation to start off with a group of heroes that is later separated, reunited, separated, etc.)

    By the end of the first book, Sanderson has given the reader a sense of where the series is going and what the stakes are. Anyone who has read Mistborn knows, though, that these expectations will likely be thwarted. (This is part of the fun of reading Sanderson.) Sanderson has a clear understanding of the conventions of the genre he is writing in. At times, he’ll embrace them, at other times, he’ll subvert or put his own spin on them, though never gratuitously. In the same way The Wheel of Time dominated my 20′s (yes, I started late), Stormlight Archive will dominate my 30′s. Eagerly awaiting the next installment.

  2. Alisa Kester
    January 24th, 2011 at 12:18 | #2

    Rating

    Brandon Sanderson fills me with awe. He’s so prolific, so inventive, so exactly what I want to read. I was lucky enough to receive an advance reading copy of The Way of Kings, and from the very beginning I was completely enthralled by this new world he’s created. It’s gritty, realistic, thought-provoking, completely unique, and fascinating. I enjoyed reading every single character’s viewpoint, and that’s a rare thing; usually in books of this length, there are the necessary but somewhat boring chapters woven cleverly in with the exciting ones to keep you reading. This wasn’t at all the case with The Way of Kings; every character was one I was eager to spend more time with. Also rare, Sanderson managed to completely stun with a twist near the very end – one of those perfect twists that are so logical and fit so perfectly into the story that you wonder why you never saw it coming. I love that kind of storytelling, and if you can’t tell, I loved this book. It’s going to the very top of my “Best Books of 2010″ list.

    This is a must-read, folks.

  3. Brandon Phillips
    January 24th, 2011 at 17:01 | #3

    Rating

    At 1k pages I was a little apprehensive to dive into a book like this. I am very glad I made the plunge after completing this latest work from Mr. Sanderson. My impression while reading the book was that it felt like A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin but with a magic system. Im not saying anything was taken from it but it had the same kind of feel to it which is a good things. Brandon Sanderson creates a very diverse world that is deep in religion, ethnic differences, history, magic, and even their own traditions. The more I read the more I appreciate authors that spend time on their characters and the world to create depth. This is one of the shining features that The way of kings does. This is supposed to be the first of 10 books that will follow after. I would recommend this book for anyone who likes creative worlds with deep characters. The writing is excellent and the characters feel real. One can put themselves into the position of some of the characters and say “Yeh I would have done the same thing”. There were even parts where I could not read fast enough I was so excited to see what the next page had for me. I am excited to see where this series goes in the next decade.

  4. John Wolfe
    January 25th, 2011 at 00:12 | #4

    Rating

    Brandon Sanderson has never let me down and this is certainly his best book yet. It didn’t take me long to get sucked into the characters lives and the world. For me personally Kaladin’s viewpoint was the most interesting. In the beginning I wanted to read about him the most but eventually as the other viewpoints got going I enjoyed them all. I spent the most time reading this book than I have on most in quite awhile. I recommend this book to all fantasy fans and of course those who are already Brandon Sanderson fans.

    Sanderson has started something truly epic and beautiful and I’m sure will be continued to be read and loved through out the years. There is only one evil thing: time. We fans must wait for the next book! This is certainly not going to be an easy thing for me.

  5. The Mad Hatter
    January 25th, 2011 at 09:33 | #5

    Rating

    The Way of Kings is the first in a multi-volume Fantasy Epic from New York Times best-selling author Brandon Sanderson, now known best as the author chosen to finish out one of the most beloved series known to modern Fantasy, namely The Wheel of Time. However intimidating it must have been for Sanderson to take over WoT, he knowing only committed himself to two or three volumes, but with The Way of Kings he has already stated it will be at least ten volumes. Is this the first case of an author ever realizing from the start how long it may take to tell a story properly? If so Sanderson is in a class all of his own making.

    Sanderson has given his fans exactly what they wanted: a book filled with a new magic system, a wondrous and violent world, and characters you’ll grow to cherish like old friends. I managed to finish The Way of Kings over a few long days staying up well past midnight more than one night because it was that captivating. Sanderson clearly has been thinking about this world and its races for some time and his love of them shines through to the reader.

    The Way of Kings is sprawling in every way that is good and epic to its utmost. The world-building is immense to say the least, but Sanderson smartly decides to focus on the characters while still slipping in facts about the world, history, and the cultures. At a few points the narrative turns into an info dump, but that feels like what is needed to flesh things out a bit more as the desire for more knowledge of this world and its deep mythology infects you.

    War between the Alethi and Parshendi has been on-going after the Parshhendi killed the Alethi King Galivar. The two sides have been fighting daily to a stalemate for many years on the Shattered Plains, which is one of the most fractious battlefields found in Fantasy. The very land has been split like a puzzle with deep chasms separating one plateau from the next. In order to move troops from one plateau to the next movable bridges are needed. The swiftest bridges are carried by slaves known as bridgemen.

    The Way of Kings is about the truth and how it becomes legend, which changes and gets reinterpreted with time. Heroes become heretics, the lawless become laws givers, and once great places become shattered. The world is known as Roshar, which suffers highstorms that are so violent and frequent that the very ground is eroded away and life on the planet has evolved to survive. Think land creatures that have shells and plants that close up. The flora and fauna were at first very difficult to picture, but some art strewn through the book helps visualization. These highstorms also somehow distribute energy known as Stormlight that is involved in the magic of the land, which I found to be a great concept.

    The story is told from 4 main character points of view, well, really 3 and the son of another from time-to-time. There are also a couple sections known as “interludes” told from characters not involved in the main action. The inclusion of these sections puzzles me a little, but Sanderson is likely laying the groundwork for the introduction of characters in future volumes to tell the story from more points of view as the telling grows and action varies from region to region.

    The two most prevalent characters are Kaladin and Dalinar. Kaladin is a fearsome warrior whose luck ran out after he pushed it a few too many times. His story splits between present day and flashbacks all the way to his childhood leading up to his fall from grace and eventual slave life as a bridgeman in the Shattered Plains. The divergent storylines never appear unnecessary, but Kaladin’s back-story does go on too much. Sanderson hammers home just how much Kaladin suffers and what brought him to his bridgeman status, but does so to a degree I found a bit repetitive. Two or three flashbacks could have been eliminated and still had the same effect. Also, one flashback that was built over the course of half the book, which seemed to shape Kaladin so much from his early warrior years felt underwhelming when finally revealed. Kaladin’s present story were the sections I most look forward to as his abilities shine even when covered in dirt and we get to see a broken man become whole again.

    Dalinar a High Price of Alethkar is Uncle to the current King of the realm after his brother Gavliar was murdered. Much of what Dalinar does is driven by his need to do what is right, which is not always seen as what is best for him politically. Because of this he comes off a bit flat, but his action sequences were some of the most edge grabbing parts. Dalinar’s scenes of prophetic/ecstatic visions don’t make much sense at first, but when the last two comes they are humdingers. Dalinar is a Shardbearer like his son Adolin(another point of view at times). Both wear Shardplate and have a Shard blade, which are incredibly durable and enhance the wearer’s strength and stamina and therefore make them the most formidable warriors around. (And yes all the capitalization do get tiresome after awhile.) The Shards are a relic from a time now gone into myth and are coveted by all. At first it seemed like the Shards were very rare, but as more pop-up their lustre is somewhat dimmed yet when they get involved in a melee things pick-up. There are promises of even great power and magic coming back into the land.

    Shallan is the third main view and her storyline while the most sedate in comparison to the battle laden Kaladin and Dalnar was also the most intriguing and played out very much like a spy thriller. Her story takes place away from the Shattered Plains, but does involve some overall intrgue that will propel the series forward. She is trying to save her family by becoming an apprentice to Jasnah the sister to the King, but she clearly had a lot happen to her in the past most of which is only alluded to. Shallan grows so much in the pages that she became the character I wish I could speed ahead in the series in order to find out what is in store for her in the next volume as she will be in the thick of the march soon enough.

    At more than 1,000 pages The Way of Kings does come off as slightly bloated, but keep in mind there are around 30 pages full of art as Tor spared no expense in bringing us a book that nearly rivals a Subterranean Press edition. Plus, The Way of Kings has a surprisingly complete narrative as both the characters and storyline move forward. There were some expected coming together of characters in the end, but they were all ones I had been hoping for. The aspect of the spirit-like spren seem mostly window dressing that didn’t add much to the story at this point except for one very odd one. There were too many types of spren that kept popping up in nearly every chapter to the point they lost their allure for me. Deathspren, windspren, painspren, rotspren, joyspren, etc. Maybe they’ll turn out to be more in later volumes. But all flaws are minor quibbles and hardly detracted from the enjoyment factor.

    Is it Dune as the back cover of the galley suggests? Well, no. And that’s an unfair comparison to make. Was Dune as revered when it first came out? Or The Wheel of Time? No. They earned their place after years, if not decades, of growing fandom and buildings of their worlds. But Sanderson has laid the groundwork for a series that has the propensity to be up there with the other giants if he can develop what he has begun into something just as memorable. The Way of Kings contains characters who you’ll miss when their section ends and a setting that begs to be explored. The Stormlight Archive series could quite possibly be up there with Jordan, Eddings, and dare I say Tolkien when all is said and done. This is without a doubt the most epic Fantasy novel of the year and should not be missed by any fans of the genre.

    I’ve only scratched the surface with this review as there is plenty of political backstabbing, great battles, secret organizations, details on the magic system, and intrigue happening as well. As a whole we only get an inkling of what this series has in store for us, but it is more than enough to leave me satisfied. Sanderson is at the top of his game and on to something with this world known as Roshar, which however inhospitable is a place I hope to return to over many, many years to grow alongside the characters. I give The Way of Kings 9 out of 10 hats. Also, be sure to re-read the prologue about a third of the way through. It will make much more sense and help things click into place a bit better. The follow-up to The Way of Kings will most likely not be out until at least 2012 as Sanderson has pledged to finish the last WoT book before beginning work, which I can’t fault him for wanting to do. Why haven’t we just figured out how to clone this guy yet?

  6. Bryce Cundick
    January 26th, 2011 at 12:37 | #6

    Rating

    I had the opportunity to read an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of a book a lot of people out there probably want to get their hands on, and I thought, “Hey! Here’s a chance to review something in a timely fashion.” So I read through all 1000 pages of said book, and I’m here today to review it for you. Aren’t you lucky?

    What is it?

    It’s the first book in a planned ten (count ‘em, ten) book epic fantasy by Brandon Sanderson, fantasy author extraordinaire. He’s well known for his Mistborn series, and much better known for being that guy who’s finishing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. (The next book’s out in November, folks! Excited much?) This isn’t just any ol’ epic fantasy series, either. The back of the ARC says “What Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time has been to the fantasy genre for the last two decades, The Stormlight Archives (the name of the series) will be to the next.” And while Sanderson persuaded Tor to keep that wording off the final, published book, any which way you look at it, the gauntlet was thrown. Sure, some of it could be an attempt at hype, but the thing about hype is that sooner or later, you can evaluate for yourself whether it’s earned or not.

    I’m here to tell you that in this case, the hype is earned.

    I still vividly remember seeing Jordan’s Eye of the World on the shelf at the library for the first time. I was at an age where I was choosing what to read based on book thickness alone. If it was really long and heavy, and it had something remotely related to fantasy on the cover, I checked it out and read it, usually three of those a week. Jordan’s book stood head and shoulders above the other stuff I was reading. It was long, but fast paced. It had fantastic characters, and even though it was the first book in a series, it had a distinct beginning, middle and end. It was a series started with an entirety in mind, and it’s gone on to be the most successful fantasy series in the past two decades. It’s been mimicked many times in many different ways. It redefined the genre.

    For The Way of Kings to do that, it was going to have to break new ground–not just traipse along in the wake of other books. That’s just what it did.

    The book tells three separate stories. There’s Dalinar and his son Adolin, two nobles embroiled in a six-year old war. There’s Shallan, a young woman who’s doing her best to save her family from ruin. There’s Kaladin, the one-time war hero and current slave, battling inner demons. These are roles we’ve seen before in fantasy, yes, but Sanderson breathes new life into them. They’re full-fleshed characters, each very well done. My personal favorite was Kaladin, and it’s his storyline that takes the bulk of the book. I’d delve into more of the plot, but I read it spoiler-free, and I’d like to give you the chance to get to know it that way, too.

    For me, what really made this book stand out from the crowd was the world-building. Most fantasies these days share fairly similar settings. Yes, they each of some funky animals and strange demons or mythical beasts, but the technology level’s usually about the same (fairly primitive), the cities all feel like they’re out of medieval Europe, and the various climates are all very Earth-based.

    Sanderson’s world feels more like something from a science-fiction book. It’s a world ravaged by regular super-storms. Storms so strong they can pick up boulders and hurl them through the air. Storms that have had a huge effect on the ecosystem of the planet. For example, they have something they refer to as grass, but it’s far different from the green stuff we know. This grass is more of a living creature, able to suck itself into the ground when danger appears, then emerge again once it’s gone. And that’s just one example. The animals are also almost wholly different and alien: more like land-crustaceans than mammals. It’s hard to describe this just right, but it feels very natural in the book. Sanderson came up with a unique, new world, and it plays a very big role in the story.

    Technology plays a role in the setting, as well. The world has scientists devoting themselves to the study of magic, putting it to new uses that have a very steam-punk feel. These people don’t view themselves as primitives: they look at their lives in much the same way we do, feeling like they’re living at the best of times, where technology has developed far enough to make their lives easier and give them hope for continual new developments in the future.

    Another way the book stands out is in its art work. Full color maps appear in the front and end flap, each chapter gets its own illustration (similar to the beginning illustrations that start each chapter in The Wheel of Time). More fully drawn maps dot the text itself, accompanied by pages of illustrations of the various creatures and items that appear in the book. No expense was spared on the development of this novel, and it shows. You get more than your money’s worth from this one. Three separate interior artists in addition to the cover artist. When’s the last time you saw that in an epic fantasy? Have you ever? I haven’t.

    Was there anything I didn’t like? Well, as the first book of a ten book series, it doesn’t exactly hurl you into the full climax right off, but that’s to be expected. The book has plenty of action and plot turns, but at the end of the day, it’s still the first step in a long journey. It has a lot of promise for things to come, but it pays you in full upfront, too. Does that make sense? Better yet, the book’s written by a man who’s proven he can keep up the pace of a huge epic. Sanderson is a prolific writer. He churns out words like a machine, and he’s devoted to his craft. He has a very transparent writing process, willing to communicate with his fans extensively through his Facebook and Twitter accounts and his blog. I’m not worried that we’ll go through three or four (or five!) year droughts between books with him. He’s not just a fantasy author, he’s a fan, and he knows how frustrating that can get. So while I approach many fantasy books with caution (10 books? Really?) I don’t feel that way about this one.

    My only other frustration came from something typical to epic fantasy: with three separate stories to tell, I’d have to leave one plot and go to another after each chapter. Of course, I think it’s a great sign when I’m upset the chapter ends–each time. There wasn’t a plot line that I didn’t look forward to reading. I’d get into one, then be disappointed when it ended and a new one started, but I was disappointed again when that new one ended and I got back to the old one.

    Perhaps the highest compliment I can give the book is that I spent most of my Saturday reading it. I think I blazed through the last 750 pages in a day, and it’s been years since I read that much that fast. In fact, the last time I remember doing it was with Robert Jordan.

    ‘Nuff said.

  7. Stefan Raets
    January 27th, 2011 at 23:09 | #7

    Rating

    Here we go, folks: The Way of Kings, at over 1000 pages, is the first volume of Brandon Sanderson’s projected ten-book series, THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE. At one book per year, we probably won’t see the end of this series before 2020, especially given that Sanderson is first planning to finish up Robert Jordan’s WHEEL OF TIME. So, if you’re looking for a new series to read, this one has some advantages and disadvantages: on the plus side, there will be a lot of reading material coming your way; on the other hand, it’ll take quite some time for all of it to get here. Luckily, The Way of Kings is a very promising start to the series. Unlike what seems to be most of the fantasy audience, I haven’t been a huge fan of all of Brandon Sanderson’s work so far, but The Way of Kings is easily his best work to date.

    The book has three main characters (Kaladin, Shallan and Dalinar) and a host of side characters, who occasionally also have chapters or “interludes” written from their point of view. The main story focuses on Kaladin, a surgeon’s son forced to become a bridgeman — a form of military slavery that involves carrying siege bridges in Alethkar’s ongoing war with the Parshendi, who at the very start of the novel assassinate Alethkar’s king. Dalinar is the late king’s brother (and uncle of the current monarch), who along with nine other High Princes is running the war effort against the mysterious Parshendi. And finally, on the other end of the continent, there’s Shallan, a young noble girl who wants to become the apprentice of Jasnah, a princess and famed scholar — although Shallan’s motives for seeking this position are not what they initially seem…

    Of these characters, Kaladin is the most fascinating and well-rounded one. Brandon Sanderson does a fantastic job building up his history and explaining his motivations in a series of flashback chapters that gradually ratchet up the dramatic tension and turn Kaladin into his most memorable character to date. On the other hand, the witty, independent Shallan was a bit too recognizable: add color-changing hair and you could almost confuse her for one of the sisters in Warbreaker. The heroic Dalinar falls somewhere in the middle: he’s the lone wolf warrior noble, the only High Prince to follow the ancient Alethi Codes of War, and someone you can admire — while at the same time being able to predict what’s going happen to him in the midst of nine other, less noble High Princes.

    The book’s blurbs inevitably point out that there’s yet another main character, the world of Roshar — but in this case, there’s really something to this. It’s hard not to be excited about a brand new fantasy universe at the start of such a long series. Brandon Sanderson performs a fine balancing act here, showing enough hints of the vast history and depth of this new world without revealing all of it. From the mysterious “prelude”, showing events that happened 4,500 years before the start of the story, to the intriguing fauna and flora, to the nature and origin of the High Storms, to the question of what exactly a “spren” is… you’ll end up with more questions than answers by the time you turn the final page, but you’ll be intrigued and eager to read more. A testament to the quality of this book: it’s rare for me to read a book that’s more than 1000 pages long and still wish I could immediately read more.

    Part of the reason for this is Brandon Sanderson’s completely transparent prose. Some authors write prose you need to savor slowly — Guy Gavriel Kay, Catherynne Valente, Janny Wurts. Their prose invites contemplation and appreciation of the rhythm, rhyme and sheer elegance of the words on the page. By contrast, Brandon Sanderson’s prose has very little artifice to it: it just exists to tell the story. It’s plain as can be, doesn’t draw any attention to itself, and rarely if ever stands in the way of the story. However, it would be a mistake to underestimate how difficult it is to write a novel in such a way that you sometimes completely forget that you are, in fact, reading. Sanderson’s prose never stands in the way of the reader’s complete immersion. As someone who is usually very aware of what I’m reading and how many pages I’ve read, I often was surprised to look up and realize that I’d just read 30 or 40 pages without even being aware that I’d been reading. There’s a real art to writing a compulsive page-turner like this, and Sanderson, who teaches Creative Writing at BYU, is becoming an expert at it.

    Not that The Way of Kings doesn’t suffer from some of the same flaws as Sanderson’s other works. Characters are often still a bit one-dimensional, and some of the plot devices the author uses are too predictable and transparent. The start of the novel, describing the assassination of the Alethi king, reminded me strongly of some of the action scenes in the MISTBORN novels, with the assassin using his magic to perform gravity-defying stunts, but fortunately the rest of the novel doesn’t read like a video game’s magic system turned into a story. It’s also written more tightly and with less filler (which, again, comes as a surprise given the length of the book). The end is filled with rousing heroism and a moving, truly exciting climax, but after the Big Final Battle, there are a few big revelations crammed in a few short pages, and while those were fascinating and definitely sparked my interest to read more of the series, they also felt a bit rushed and anti-climactic. Still, The Way of Kings is, in almost every way, a better book than anything Brandon Sanderson has produced so far, and if the rest of THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE keeps up this level of quality, we may end up looking back on the MISTBORN trilogy as an early practice run leading up to a work with better balance, better writing, and a much larger scope.

    Finally, The Way of Kings is also a lovely book in terms of artwork. From the stunning cover illustration by Michael Whelan to the interior artwork, this book simply does everything right. Every few chapters, you’ll find a full page of artwork, e.g. some pages from Shallan’s sketch book showing Roshar’s native animals and plants, or an illustrated page from the Alethi Codes of War. These aren’t just beautifully done, but also relevant to the story. I’ve never really seen an epic fantasy integrate art into the novel in quite this way.

    The Way of Kings is an excellent start to a promising series that’s sure to dominate sales charts and bookstore shelves for many years to come. If you’re already a Brandon Sanderson fan, this book will blow you away — and if you’re new to the author, you now can get started with the author’s finest work to date.

  8. Ross Soyka
    January 28th, 2011 at 18:58 | #8

    Rating

    So after I read the first three chapters as a preview I was NOT looking forward to this book. However, I’ve read Sanderson’s other work, been a long time fan of the Wheel of Time, and figured I’d go ahead and give this “over-hyped” thing a chance.

    Holy Moly, wear a diaper while you’re reading this book…

    It was very well paced, good characters, interesting world, and a neat story all rolled into one. The pacing and “readability” of Sanderson’s style is what sets him apart. You don’t get that from a 3 chapter preview but when you plunge into the whole book you’re finished with 1000 pages before you know it. I like to sit down with heavy prose every once in awhile, but it’s just as rewarding an experience to get a great story like this that’s so smooth it basically reads itself.

    I’m that guy who claims he has read “a few thousand books” but I swear its true :) . Anyways, its hard to impress me these days but I consider this book to be rock solid.

    Here’s a summary on what I think:

    Most epic thing I’ve ever read? (NO)

    Best book by Sanderson? (NO, in my opinion, The Gathering Storm was strictly better)

    Best Fantasy book this year? (YES)

    Did I enjoy this book? (YES)

    Do I recommend it? (YES)

    Would I read the sequel? (YES)

  9. Mark R. Myers II
    January 29th, 2011 at 19:50 | #9

    Rating

    I enjoyed this book very much. It’s not quite as action heavy as his other reads but the world building is outstanding! I am extremely excited to read the next books!

  10. JoR
    January 29th, 2011 at 21:28 | #10

    Rating

    The Way of Kings is a good epic fantasy. There were some things I really liked about it, and some that bothered me no end. I bought the hardback the day it was released but found it hard to read almost at once, and had to purchase the audio version from audible to get through it.

    I wrote a review of it early on, before I had even reached part 2, and realized it was an unfair review now that I’ve completed the whole thing. So this review is to balance the previous one.

    I’ll start with what I didn’t like, because in the end, I did like the book, and so want to end my review with positive comments. First off, I hated the made-up curses. Storm you, Storm it all, Storming this or that. It sounds silly. There were a few instances where I didn’t laugh out loud, but for the most part, I was scoffing at the curses. They make sense in the world Brandon has created, but I can’t help feeling like I’m reading YA fantasy when the worst swearing starts with storm. I find most strong language offensive, but isn’t it supposed to be? I wish Brandon had the guts to write adult language for an adult book… or not have his characters use strong language at all; I’d be fine with that.

    The second thing I didn’t like was it was too long, meaning the plot didn’t move along at a good pace. Usually I’m a fan of long stories, i.e. A Song of Ice and Fire, or The Wheel of Time. Each of those great series, though, suffer from whole sections of slow plot. I’ll point out that Brandon’s earlier books all suffer from slow middles as well (I liked them all though). The problem with Kings is that it is slow from the very beginning. The prologue and first chapter are great, then it’s like hitting a big stone wall, and the rest of the book plods along at a snail’s pace until the exciting ending. I would compare it to books 6-10 of The Wheel of Time. I love those books, but they were middle books. It’s not as big a deal for middle books to move slower… most readers like all of the extra info at that point. Kings could have moved quicker if 300 pages had been edited out.

    The last thing I had trouble with was how it was organized. There were whole parts where I didn’t get to read/hear about my favortie character, Dalinar. I wish Brandon would have written Kings like his previous books, where he was cycling through all of the characters regularly.

    Okay, on to what I liked. The world creation was amazing. Brandon has a very creative, smart mind. His fatastical world makes sense; it doesn’t ever contradict itself. The landscapes he creates (or I created, since it took place in my head) are original and intriguing. I can’t even begin to imagine how long he spent creating Roshar. He did a great job.

    Next, the magic systems are cool and creative, and obviously well thought out. Brandon is known for his magic systems and he doesn’t disappoint in Kings. Some reviewers have commented on wanting more magic in the book; I think he put just enough in for the first book. Think of how little of the Power we saw in The Eye of the World.

    Another good thing is that Brandon’s character’s diologue improved vastly over his previous novels. Even Warbreaker, which only came out last year, suffered from juvenille diologue. In Kings, I finally believed his people were grownups (except for the swearing). I think working on The Wheel of Time helped him grow as a writer much faster than he would have on his own. He’s truly starting to fill out his much talked about “the next great fantasy writer” shoes. Well done.

    Brandon has obviously created something epic. I believe that the Stormlight Archive really will inherit the epic fantasy crown, passed on from The Wheel of Time. Will it ever be better than WoT? Maybe… Brandon has learned a lot from it and may improve upon it… who knows? Only time will tell. For now, Jordan’s epic still stands as king (with Martin’s the angry Duke that wants the crown but can’t manage to musture enough energy to declare war).

    Buy The Way of Kings. I bought it twice. I don’t regret a penny of my money. This series is going to be big. It would have been nice if the first book had given us more, but I can tell that there will be much more to come. I only hope that after a few books Brandon really shows that he deserves twenty years or so of our readership as we follow him through this massive tale. Kings is a good, if flawed, start. Health and luck to Brandon; you can do it!

  11. Benjudah Feinen
    February 1st, 2011 at 23:23 | #11

    Rating

    I just finished this book tonight! This was really an engrossing book, and once it takes off, it really takes off! As usual, Brandon does a great job at creating a unique and vivid world in which to tell his story and he has this wonderful knack for hiding secrets in plain site. I’m constantly going back through the book, worried that I’ve missed some vital clue to the story.

    Something I thought was really telling is that as I finished each POV chapter, I was always sad to leave that POV and temporarily leave that part of the story, but then I page into the next chapter (and next POV) I would already be fully enveloped into that character’s story, and not want to move back to the other once I finished that chapter! A never ending cycle. Even after 1000 pages, I did not want the book to end, especially with how many new questions come up in those final chapters. I eagerly await the next in the series!

  12. Steven Diamond
    February 2nd, 2011 at 14:42 | #12

    Rating

    We just posted this review over at Elitist Book Reviews. Go check out our other reviews!

    ***The Review***

    From the very beginning you know THE WAY OF KINGS is a novel by Brandon Sanderson–you would know it even if his name wasn’t imposed over a Michael Whelan cover. Sanderson has made a name for himself through his imaginative magic systems, and TWoK is no different.

    He starts with the pacing set at a sprint. Following a series prelude (yeah, there is a prelude, then a prologue), we are put right into the action of things with a mysterious assassin, Szeth. Right from the onset of the novel we get hints of political intrigue, and of shadowy organizations pulling strings like puppeteers. What it seems to us is that Brandon is trying to start faster than his previous novels. His habit has been the slow burn in pacing followed by an explosion of craziness. Not so much here. Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Really it will depend on your personal taste.

    Ah but we get ahead of ourselves.

    TWoK is a hard book to summarize. The worlds that Brandon creates are always well envisioned. Effort is made to make them stand-out. That said, there is usually a bit of familiar in them. The best way to describe the world in TWoK is to say it feels like a rich sea floor…but without the sea. Huge storms ravage the surface of the world of Roshar regularly, and that surface has adapted to them. Plants and animals retreat into hardened shells for protection. Cities themselves are built only where there is a measure of safety. There is a very alien feel to it all, and for the most part, Brandon makes it vivid and easy to visualize. It also helps that there are some seriously incredible sketches of the various creatures of the world come to life. We love interior art work.

    As for the plot itself, we’ll give you the basics without spoiling the details. War. Lots of wars and battles that are treated almost as competitions, and an excuse for personal gain. For greed. It becomes quickly apparent the level of stagnation that pervades the armies through these motivations. Brandon does seem torn throughout the course of the novel. At times the story is purely setting based, and yet at others it focuses exclusively on the characters. A smoother blend may have been nice, but really this is just a quibble.

    Characters. We know Brandon, and we know how much effort he puts into making characters unique and likable. While not quite as good as his MISTBORN trilogy (yet), the characters in TWoK are pretty solid. Kaladin is a promising general on the rise who ends up a slave. Dalinar is a commander of one of the various armies fighting for honor and riches, but he has begin questioning the motivation behind it all while suffering vivid dream-visions of the past. Shallan is an artist whose goal is the theft of a priceless magical conduit. All-in-all, they are great characters. Except…

    Look, we like shades of gray. There is none of that with the main characters. They are all good guys, regardless of some of their misleading attitudes and actions. We just wish there were less black-and-white characters in his novels. This isn’t really a major criticism, just more of an observation. Brandon’s characters in TWoK tend to go pretty emo as well (if we are honest, it caused some facepalm moments). Either that, or they are tough as nails. There isn’t a lot of in-between. Most people won’t have issue with this, but we felt we should bring it up. We ARE honest after all. It’s our third best quality.

    As we mentioned earlier, the pacing starts out at full-speed. It serves its purpose in hooking the reader–and it does that extremely well. Things are crazy early on. We get assassinations, epic battles, solitary heroic feats, dramatic failures, terrifying situations and awesome magic. We get all of this FAST. There is a full book’s worth of awesomeness in the first third of the novel (which we guess is the actual size of a normal novel…TWoK is a 1000+ page behemoth). The issue with this? The middle third of the novel. When you start the novel with a peak, and end it with one as well, there is bound to be a valley in the middle. That middle 400 pages, while extremely interesting, can drag for less-than-patient readers…especially when that first part is so fast and breathtaking.

    As we mentioned, this is the first book in a series. A BIG series. Ten books big. As a result, there is a lot of set-up here. It is done as well as can be, but it is very noticeable that we are embarking on a long, long trip. Our personal hope? That it is broken up a bit like Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series. What we mean is that the first few books become effectively a trilogy or quadrilogy. Then two more sets of three. Reading a straight ten book series feels daunting. Not knowing the end until at least 2020? Yikes! Again, just being honest.

    We don’t want to make it seem like we are bashing TWoK. We aren’t. These issues are pretty small-time, and won’t matter a bit to the very large majority. So we’ll end with what we DO like. We love the learning curve. This has a much steeper one than any of Sanderson’s prior novels. We like authors in the fantasy genre to challenge us, and to make us think for ourselves. Now this isn’t quite at the Erikson Learning Curve level, but it is still fairly high. We can’t stress how happy we are that Brandon is doing this. We’ve been begging him since ELANTRIS was released to go this route.

    TWoK is also better than his previous novel, WARBREAKER. The writing is better, the story is better, and the characters are better. In our opinions, of course. Which are fact. Really, we liked this better than ELANTRIS too. TWoK is right there with his Mistborn Trilogy. We haven’t read a Brandon Sanderson novel we didn’t like (a trend unlikely to change over the next decade or two), and the Mistborn trilogy is high on our list of GREAT books. So when we say TWoK is almost (juuuuuuuust below really) as good as MISTBORN, it is a compliment. High praise indeed. And this was just the first book. This series has a HUGE amount of potential. This could very well turn into one of our favorite fantasy series ever by the time it finishes.

    Brandon’s chapter leads, though always great, are freaking awesome in TWoK. Once you get to the end of the novel, suddenly they take on a whole different meaning. This is how chapter leads should be done. We’re not sure where they have been done better. Ever.

    We love the clarity of the action sequences. The Bridge Crew scenes (especially the first few) are gripping, chaotic, and terrifying. The Shardblade duels and battles are artistic and flashy. Everything truly has its own unique flavor. While the very end seems like it is a little less than it could have been, the final section of the book (originally conceived as a series of epilogues, but now its own section in the novel) is fantastic. It really is a moment where, as the reader, you say, “Oh crap. Everyone is soooooooo screwed!” Love it.

    THE WAY OF KINGS, Book One of the Stormlight Archive, is a fantastic opening entry in a truly epic (in every sense of the word) fantasy series. Every reader of the fantasy genre should buy this book immediately. Fans old and new will enjoy all 1000+ pages, and will be anxiously awaiting the sequel. We sure are. Of course, we’ve already been waiting for the sequel for a year now…`cause you know, we did read this last year.

    Recommended Age: 15 and up.

    Language: Not really. Made-up oaths and such.

    Violence: YES!! Have we mentioned how much we love Brandon’s action sequences?

    Sex: Noppers.

  13. E. A Solinas
    February 4th, 2011 at 05:52 | #13

    Rating

    Brandon Sanderson is a fantasy author in a million — he crafts complex, intricate fantasy worlds, and gilds them with exquisitely evocative prose. But his greatest challenge thus far has to be “The Way of Kings,” an older manuscript that he apparently dusted off, rewrote, and is now expanding into a vast fantasy epic. This is only the first book, and it’s over a thousand pages long.

    It’s pretty difficult to sum up the plot, since the cast is huge and aren’t even in the same place. But long ago, the Radiants (sort of divine knights) once were sent by the Heralds to destroy the demonic Voidbringers. Then they turned against humanity, and begin warring over their godslaying Shardblades.

    One part of the story follows Shallan, a desperate young noblewoman who is trying to save her family from ruin. So she seeks out the heretic princess Jasnah in hopes of becoming her attendant… but of course, she has her own secret motives to restore the family fortunes. Another follows Kaladin, a man enslaved in another land and with a shash glyph branded on his forehead.

    And then there’s Szeth, the “assassin in white” who killed Jasnah’s father with a Shardblade, and Dalinar Kholin, the king’s Highprince brother whose visions compel him to unite his people before the unthinkable happens. The oathpact has been shattered, and disaster is coming.

    “The Way of Kings” is the sort of book that Robert Jordan should have written. The story is filled countless alien animals (they ride GIANT CRABS), mythologies, languages, magical systems and cultures, all with their own distinct quirks and characteristics. But Sanderson doesn’t allow his story to be bogged down by the details — instead he embroiders his elaborate plot with them.

    The plot itself is almost confusingly complex, but slowly gels together as the story winds on and things start to make sense. And Sanderson paints the entire story in vivid, powerful prose (“His dreary feelings were like a black eel, coiled inside of him”). The one problem: it’s so long and complex that casual readers will probably crumble after the first couple of chapters. This one needs some dedication.

    And Sanderson shows his rare skill with characterization. He carefully fleshes out the main characters — an aging warrior, a slave/soldier and a determined teenage girl — and makes them all seem real and plausible. Kal is especially strong as a character, since Sanderson carefully develops the clash between his medical upbringing and his current job.

    And there are countless striking supporting characters — the young prince Adolin, the prickly and ruthless princess Jasnah, clever priests, and the acrobatic assassin Szeth, who is torn by his own crimes and sins.

    “The Way of Kings” is a true epic — grandiose, expansive, beautifully written… and only just the beginning of what is sure to be a vast, impressive series. It’s a bit hard to just casually dip into, but the commitment is worth it.

  14. BookReviewer
    February 6th, 2011 at 06:29 | #14

    Rating

    If you have read Sanderson before, you know to expect excellent characters, an inventive magic system which complements rather than overshadows the characters, and an engaging story.

    This book delivers a fantastic reading experience on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin. Sanderson’s knack for telling a desperate but triumphant story certainly shines through in The Way of Kings. For every jaw-droppingly cool concept explained, there are a half dozen tantalizing mysteries left for later books to explore. Despite the ongoing story arc, there is excellent resolution of some of he major threads and conflicts in the book. For every twist or stunner one comes across – and there are a few! – others are foreshadowed.

    This book puts Sanderson in serious contention for my favorite fantasy author of all time – and I have read a large breadth of extant fantasy over the last 4 decades.

    One of the final blessings of this book is value. This book could have easily been a trilogy. You pay one time for content that might have been charged for 3 times. At no point does this story drag; you simply read it with joy at how much you still have yet to read. The size of this book is not due to lazy editing; there is just so much high end, tight content that it is surprising and gratifying as a consumer.

    As a final thank you to Tor and Mr. Sanderson, thanks for leaving Text-to-Speech on for the Kindle. I didn’t use it for this book, but I am always appreciative that you wish to distinguish yourselves from the stingy publishers that block this feature. I preferentially buy from publishers that do not disable this feature.

    This book is a tour de force. Whether this is your first Sanderson book or you have read all of his prior works, I give this work my highest recommendation and envy you for the new experience of reading it.

  15. D. Lewis
    February 6th, 2011 at 17:39 | #15

    Rating

    I read a lot. I have dabbled into virtually all of the best in the fantasy genre. After reading so many series and authors, I consider myself a very jaded reader. Its hard to surprise me, I try not to be overly critical. I don’t like toxic people that are difficult to please, but I know good work when I see it. I went into reading Way of Kings with Brandon’s own words in mind. He told me himself that he was excited for this new series. It was going to be big.

    It is. Its epic. And that’s a good thing. Without spoiling anything. I can say it is well thought out, well written and it makes me care, which is important. I want to find out what happens to these characters, although I admit it was hard to care about Shallan at first. There is plenty of heroism, it comes close to being over the top, but not quite, leaving me shocked and excited. I even cared about the assassin. This is epic, its a really good story. Its also only the beginning of Brandon’s series.

    This is not without its flaws, sometimes I felt the characters sounded a little unrealistic and somewhat cliche at times, the story almost predictable, though there were twists that I wasn’t expecting. I think Brandon needs to flesh out his characters and story more, but wow its good! If there is nothing else you get from reading this review… This book is good and the ending is well worth it, even if it may be a long series by the time its done. Its probably Brandon’s best so far. Its epic.

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