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The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson - Edit 1

Before modification by Rebekah at 15/08/2010 04:35:06 PM

The Way of Kings
by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings is the first book in The Stormlight Archive, which Brandon Sanderson has described as his 'magnum opus'. With the success and popularity of the MISTBORN trilogy and his work helping to complete THE WHEEL OF TIME, Sanderson now delivers the first book of what could be his defining work. That is a lot of pressure and expectation. How does The Way of Kings hold up?

The Way of Kings is the story of a nation at war, a war for revenge and for wealth. This is story of politics, philosophy, and loss. This is a character-driven story.

The story focuses on three primary characters:

Kaladin: a young man, a warrior, and a slave.
Shallan: a young noble woman, a scholar, and a person desperate to save the fortunes of her family.
Dalinar an older soldier, a general, the king's uncle, and who is struggling with visions and episodes that suggest everything is about to change... or that he's going insane.

Each of these character's narratives are handled in slightly different ways, some through the use of flash backs mixed with the current story, another using a second PoV to show a different side or tone of the character, and another that uses bits an pieces of the narrative to tie into some of the greater story. Sanderson manages these three narratives deftly. The result is that the story is character driven, and populated with complex, interesting characters. Even the secondary characters have a greater depth to them.

The Way of Kings shows us Brandon Sanderson at the top of his game, continually developing his style, approach, and scope... becoming a better writer and storyteller with each novel. This novel is easily Sanderson's strongest book from that standpoint. The Way of Kings also features Sanderson's best characterizations to date. The primary, and many of the secondary, characters feel fully realized, deep, flawed, weak and strong. The feel and tone of this novel... epic, truly epic.

Thematically, there are a lot of elements from all of Sanderson's other stories woven together here, especially from ELANTRIS. Familiar readers will recognize many of the central themes and ideas that compose this novel. One can tell that this story, THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE, has been the central story of Brandon's creative life. I think, especially after reading the first novel, that he was right when he claimed that his work on his other books has equipped him to finally tackle this one. This project promises to be very ambitious, but Brandon Sanderson has shown himself to be up to the task with The Way of Kings.

With The Way of Kings, Sanderson has again created a unique world and new magic systems. There isn't too much that I can say without really talking about elements of the plot and story that are best left to you to discover when reading the novel. Other than some unique uses of powerful items, like swords and armor, which is really very cool, magic seems to be something not common in the world. In fact, magic might be coming back to the world, for better or worse, and I feel that this will become a growing theme as THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE continues.

There will be people who complain that not much 'really' happens in this novel, even at 1000 pages, and that a great deal of the larger story hangs on the last few pages which set up the themes and story lines for down the road. Where the first MISTBORN novel worked both as a good introduction as well as a good, complete story, The Way of Kings reads as an introductory story. Sanderson is setting his world, his primary story, by telling the stories of his three primary characters, along with a handful of short chapters that set up ideas or different plot elements. Some people might also complain that there doesn't seem to be as much action or time spent or displaying Sanderson's trademark magic systems. They are there, don't worry, but they aren't to focus of this book.

The Way of Kings is a very good, engaging, satisfying, and well-crafted story, but it is one that is only just getting started. After the absolutely kick in the gut last 200 pages, and the startling last 30 pages, I've been left with the very strong desire to continue on with the story. Having to wait for more might be the only real negative that I'm left with.

Hey, Brandon, can I take a look at your notes for the next one? Please? Oh well.

The Way of Kings is the first book in what will be a very long, 10 book, series. It is easily my favorite of Brandon's novels to date, which says a whole lot if you've followed my reviews over the years. I could not put this book down. The characters were believable, the tension of the plot is palpable, and the story is just consuming. All in all, The Way of Kings has met and surpassed my expectations, and they were already high. If you're already a Brandon Sanderson fan, or simply just a fan of epic fantasy, or in need of a great read, I have no problems recommending The Way of Kings.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
TOR Books: August 31, 2010

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