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Multi-Book Review


The Way of Kings – Part One by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings – Part One by Brandon Sanderson
Book Name: The Way of Kings - Part 1
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher(s): Tor Books
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book / eBook
Genre(s): Epic Fantasy
Release Date: August 31, 2010

We’ve all heard of Sanderson. We’ve all encountered his books, whether in a curious flip-through or in a one-weekend devouring of the Mistborn series. We’re fully aware of his staggering capabilities as a world-creator and epic yarn-spinner. I am pleased to admit, The Way of Kings does not deviate from this reputation one bit.

The Way of Kings is the first volume in a planned ten-novel series called the Stormlight Archive. It is based in the world of Roshar. A world shaped and dominated by frequent storms, called highstorms, which are basically vicious land-based hurricanes. The highstorms dictate the placement of cities, flora, fauna, and society. From the very start, it’s a very intriguing characteristic to build into a world, and the intrigue doesn’t stop there. There exists in the world unique sets of armour and weapons called Shardplates and Shardblades. The quote from the blurb is that kingdoms have been traded for such things, wars fought, and lost for them. They’re pretty hardcore, to say the least. Shardblades are summoned in ten heartbeats and can cut through any material, while Shardplate makes a wearer almost invincible. Magic in the world centres around Soulcasting – the manipulation of materials via gemstones, called fabrial arts, or Surgebinding, a lost art that can bind objects in different ways, almost like manipulating gravity and momentum, which is very elegant, and relies on Stormlight. The creatures in the world are mainly crustacean, due to the way they can survive storms, and even plants in the world can draw their branches and leaves into shells to protect themselves, which I thought was a stroke of genius.

Roshar is unique to the very core, an element that Sanderson is famous for. He has conjured out of thin air and pure imagination a rich smorgasbord of races, creatures, currency, places, names, characters, religions, politics, social structures, beliefs, histories, and even plants. Somehow, he has created a world so rich that half the time you believe you are reading a historical account rather than a fantasy book. Each page introduces you to something new about Roshar, whether it be a social convention, a simple drink, or a piece of history. This is Sanderson’s gift: creating brand new worlds that supersede anything that have been imagined before, and including tiny little nuances and details that add such a richness. It’s mesmerising to watch such a feat.

In creating a brand new world, an author always runs the risk of either losing the reader in an avalanche of details and education, or basing the impetus of the storylines on such outlandish aspects that the reader finds it hard to empathise. For instance, as humans in the real world we can understand the motivation behind money, or the nuances of familiar politics, but when the motivation of fictional characters rests on imaginary things such as gemhearts or Shardblades, or spheres, things we have no concept of, sometimes we can’t understand the motivation or the problem, and end up not caring. It’s a thin line, and Sanderson manages to tread it very carefully. Information is cunningly drip-fed so that the reader is not overwhelmed at the beginning. The reactions and beliefs of characters, like the reactions to Shardplate for instance, are used to convey importance and gravity. Overall, you feel you’ve been given a sneak peek behind the scenes, and that’s what’s magical about this book. To make it even more believable, Sanderson has worked to have lots of maps and sketches created for the book, which means almost every other chapter there is an illustration to lose yourself in. A great aspect that adds volumes to the book.

The main story in The Way of Kings is based on the events several thousand years before, when the Heralds and the Knights Radiant, the original bearers of Shardplate and blade, are fighting a race of monsters called Voidbringers. Having had enough of thousands of years of war and suffering, they abandon their calling and disappear into history, leaving the Knights to die away and eventually abandon humanity. The main story focuses on four characters, thousands of years later, who lead seemingly unconnected lives: Kaladin, a surgeon-turned spearman who has fallen on hard times and is now a slave; Shallan, a young woman scholar plotting to become a thief; Dalinar Kholin, a light eyed highprince wrapped in war and yet losing his thirst for battle due to strange visions; and Szeth, a mysterious Shin assassin who is Truthless, meaning whoever holds his Oathstone controls him. Szeth is also a Shardbearer and a Surgebinder, which is an art long lost with the Radiants.

The story begins with Szeth assassinating the high king of a powerful nation, Dalinar’s brother Gavilar, which sets the rest of the book in motion. All four characters are surrounded by many others, such as Dalinar’s son Adolin and Shallan’s heretic teacher and target Jasnah, which only adds to the richness of the storyline. All the characters seem to have some great trouble, or conflict, in their lives, which provides plenty of weight to their actions and makes the reader eager to find out what happens next.

The Way of Kings is a book split in half. I understand that when Sanderson wrote it, he realised it was too big and had to be halved into two books. The place where he splits the books makes a lot of sense, and is well done. A word to the wise however, make sure that Part Two is within reach when you finish, because you’ll want to dive straight in.

Overall, Sanderson has done it again. He’s created yet another rich world that is full of believable and motivated characters, intrigue, mystery, and five-star fantasy. His writing is succinct and elegant in places and his dialogue is brilliant to say the least, if not a little stiff at times. On an editing and OCD note, I have to point out there are a few punctuation errors throughout the book, but they hardly spoil it. I suppose it’s no mean feat editing a book of this size.

The main vein of this book is its unconnected storylines, and how they are slowly weaved into one throughout this part and the second. I instantly ordered the second part when I finished it, and I think that alone is a success. I like to think I’m pretty good at figuring out mysteries, but I have to say this one has left me stumped for now. I highly recommend it. Whether you’re a fantasy reader or fantasy author, the Way of Kings is a quintessential read and a valuable example of quality worldbuilding, character interaction, and mystery. Five stars from me.



  1. Avatar Jamie Gibbs says:

    Thanks for the review Ben! I admit I skimmed it in case there were any spoilers (Part 1 is on my shelf begging to be read as we speak). I’m quite excited about reading it – it’ll be my introduction to Sanderson and from what I’ve heard it’s going to be a journey.

  2. Avatar Khaldun says:

    As much as I hate to say it, I couldn’t finish the WoK. I absolutely loved Elantris and Mistborn and Warbreaker, but I just couldn’t get into this one. No doubt I’ll give it another chance sometime, but I couldn’t help but think it would be better just to re-read ASOIAF for the fourth time.

  3. The Way of Kings is definitely Sanderson’s greatest work to date, imo. None of his previous works can compare to the sheer density, span, and intricacies within.

    And as always, he really knows how to make the last 25% of the book count. I zipped through those pages in no time, engrossed and entranced the entire way.

    Thanks for the review. 5 stars indeed.

  4. Avatar Mark says:

    I couldn’t finish the book. I thought the Shallan faux-logic diatribes were awful. The book in general was just too much Sanderson. I had enjoyed Warbreaker and Mistborn, but couldn’t finish TWoK or Elantris.

  5. Must admit, I never read Sanderson. I have a feeling I will need to turn in my fantasy geek card now. I’ll have to see what I can do to remedy this situation. Thanks for the review, much appreciated!

  6. Avatar Murray Naish says:

    I struggled with Way of Kings initially. I don’t know why – it just seemed to start slowly. I came at it straight of the back of the Mistborn trilogy, and thought it suffered in comparison. The Shardblades felt a bit anime-like (due to the size and glow), which put me off, and I felt that the complexities of Stormlight and Lashings overwhelmed the prologue to the extent that I couldn’t get caught up in the narrative.

    However, with a little perseverance I was soon hooked! I couldn’t get enough of Kaladin’s storyline – in fact, I almost skim-read other sections in my eagerness.

    I did, however, find the flashbacks frustrating and largely unnecessary, and the cameo chapters from other characters (Szeth excluded). I appreciate the value of Kaladin’s history, but I think a single flashback could have dealt with the pertinent areas, or Sanderson could have come up with some way of working it into the main storyline. Shallan’s story arc also grew on me as time went on – perhaps, as Mark notes above, because her “faux-logic diatribes” either decreased, or simply got swept up in the tempo of the story.

    All in all I’d thoroughly recommend it to any fantasy fan, albeit with a warning to give it some time, and I’m frustrated that Sanderson’s site shows a big fat “0%” as his progress on book two!

  7. Avatar Kavin says:

    Great book and I can wait for the sequel which seems to be scheduled for late 2013.
    (http://stormlightarchive.wikia.com/wiki/ The_Book_of_Endless_Pages )

  8. […] reviews of The Way of Kings can be found on Fantasy Faction, Drying Ink and Escapism Through […]

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