Book Review: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Posted November 19, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 4 Comments

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The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings

by Brandon Sanderson

Series: The Stormlight Archive #1
Publisher: Tor Books on August 31, 2010
Genre: Fantasy
Target Age Group: Adult
Rating: ★★★★½

Check out this book on Goodreads

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.

 

I see why people enjoy Brandon Sanderson as a fantasy writing, but I’d be lying if I said I was quickly immersed into The Way of Kings.

I do blame this partially on the narrators.  Both of them were a bit dry (I don’t care for Kate Reading in particular, and she narrates a lot of books I read!) and I had to speed up the narration just to feel like they were talking at a normal pace.  But also, The Way of Kings falls prey to a common pitfall in fantasy books (particularly epic fantasy).  It flounders.  It takes the scenic route of telling the story.  Backstory is in numerous flashback that, retrospectively, added nothing to the actual book for me.  This is a weakness of epic fantasy, but it’s also a strength.  It’s part of the genre.  Once I was invested in the characters I didn’t mind so much, but at the beginning, it was rough going.

I don’t think I was invested in The Way of Kings until I’d listened to ten hours of material.  And ten hours is a commitment!  This is a 45-hour audiobook, and it had been on my TBR for years and on my “holds” for a long time and I was determined to understand why it – and Brandon Sanderson – are so loved by readers.

And, okay, I get it now.

Because Sanderson evokes a traditional fantasy world with sold magic rules and a code of conduct and a plethora of different peoples and personalities and there is mystery and sorcery and history.  It’s a complete world, and worthy to stand by other masters of the genre like Tolkien and Rothfuss.  That is the gift of epic fantasy – the complete immersion.  Additionally, he writes his characters well.  I immediately loved Kaladin and Syl.  Jasnah, too, intrigues me.  And while I didn’t fall for Dallinar’s storyline, I respected him as a character.  Also, Wit/Hoid?  There is a bard in these books y’all, telling the story as bards are meant to do.  He is there in the sidelines, not interrupting but you know, you know he is a mentor and a trickster and a tale weaver and I was so excited when he first appeared.

Other than the long-winded storytelling style – which is so aligned with epic fantasy it’s almost not worth mentioning – I can’t find a single thing wrong with this book.  It’s creative but familiar.  It’s a perfectly built fantasy world.  Even when there are divides between races and genders, each has a certain hand above the other (honestly, I could write a whole post about the professions of men and women in this book, and I really think the women got the better end of the bargain).  The characters are deeply imperfect, but also beautifully written.  There are stories wrapped in stories.

I really liked it.  It took a trek to get there, but once I did, I was a fan.

You have to be prepared to commit if you want to pick up The Way of Kings, but I think it’s completely worthwhile.  And it seems to be an excellent introduction to Sanderson’s writing, with a character or storyline that almost anyone will adore.  I’m very much looking forward to Words of Radience.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★ 1/2
Narrator: ★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★

4.5 stars overall rating

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If you started having visions during storms (like Dallinar), how would you react?  A good amount of the story dances between whether these are real or not, but for me, the timing was too convenient for them to be not real.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments!

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4 responses to “The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

  1. Love your review ? If I had those visions, I’m positive I would panic! I had the same problem as you in the beginning of the book, because it takes a while for the book to be engaging and to give you enough information so you can fully understand the world, but once you’re in, it’s an amazing story!

  2. I too have just managed to finally get through Way of Kings. I tried the audiobook but just couldn’t get on with the narration, so I plodded through the ebook. I struggled to get into it as well, but once I did, I found the world was just really immersive. 🙂

    • Amber

      Yeahhh the narrators were not my favorite. I sped the narration 1.5x and that helped a bit, but the beginning certainly plodded on. I’m glad you were able to get into the ebook! The world is really interesting. 🙂