The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is the first volume in a projected ten book epic fantasy series, set on the world of Roshar where constant storms have caused the ecology to evolve into something resembling a rock pool or a coral reef. This 1000 page door stopper is a large undertaking for many readers, and with the second book not even out yet I can understand why people would be hesitant to read this book just yet. But I'm going to recommend that you do read it anyway, that way you can join the rest of us in speculating about what might come next.
I am completing this review after my second read through of The Way of Kings, and given that Josh has already reviewed this story (please see below) I will try to keep things short and to the point. The Way of Kings follows the stories of three primary protagonists: Kaladin, Dallinar and Shallan. Each one has their own story to tell (which could probably be told in their own novel), with each story slowly helping to unveil the mysteries and secrets that define the world of Roshar. The Way of Kings is very much a journey of discovery, and the more carefully you read it, the more you will learn.
If you have read the Mistborn series, you will know how things Sanderson briefly mentions in the first chapter of the first book are actually key parts of the mysteries unveiled in the final book. You would also be familiar with Kelsier and his favourite saying - "Every secret has a secret." The Way of Kings is no different, with seemingly random sentences scattered through the book meaning absolutely nothing unless you know the context to which they apply. I am still trying to process the amount of information I learned during my re-read of The Way of Kings. The knowledge you gain during your first read in the latter parts of the book, like knowing how long it takes to summon a shardblade, will actually reveal hidden secrets about different characters during your re-read of the early parts of the book. If you loved this book and you thought you knew exactly what was going on, I implore you to read the book again and see if you change your mind. I know so much more than I did before, and it has made me realize just how little I know.
You probably noticed that both Josh and I are very vague in our description of what this book is about. The reason is that there is so much going on that you can't really describe it without making this review at least triple the size. In short, there is magic, there are swords, there are battles, there are assassins, there are giant crustaceans, there is the threat of the voidbringers who will destroy the entire world, and there are the connections between the world of Roshar, the world of Scadriel (Mistborn), the world of Sel (Elantris) and the world of Nalthis (Warbreaker). The density of material that Sanderson communicates in these 1,000 pages is immense, the learning curve is steep, but the pay-off is deeply satisfying.
So should you read The Way of Kings? It is a daunting proposition, and honestly, I would not recommend it if you are new to fantasy or new to Brandon Sanderson. Read one of his shorter works first like The Emperor's Soul. Read the Mistborn trilogy first. Read Warbreaker first (it is available as a free download from Sanderson's website). If you are an epic fantasy enthusiast and you have not read this book, finish whatever book you are currently reading and make this your next book. It is a unique experience that you should not miss out on, but only if you have done some prior preparation.
Ryan Lawler, 9.5/10
On the 15th of January, 1990, a book entitled ‘The Eye of the World’ was released into stores by an author by the name of Robert Jordan. I sometimes wonder whether people who started reading that book knew exactly what they were getting themselves in for; whether they knew that twenty years later the series still will not have finished and would, in fact, have to be finished by another author.
I also sometimes regret not being a big reader (or in my case, being able to read) when Eye of the World came out. I wonder what it would have been like to begin the journey that followed.
Thankfully, now I don’t have to wonder what it’s like any longer, for ironically, the man who is finishing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series has given me the chance to wait a decade or more for a new series to fill out.
Brandon Sanderson, heir apparent to the Robert Jordan throne, has just released ‘The Way of Kings’, his first book in The Stormlight Archive series.
It is, in every sense of the word, an epic beginning to what I can only guess (and hope) will be an epic story told over, apparently, ten books with the second one nowhere near being published. In essence, Sanderson has just begun the next Wheel of Time-like series.
I wasn’t even a quarter of the way into this book before I realized I was beginning something impressive. Sanderson writes as if for his life, knowing just when to leave a point of view for another, when to bring the character back from the brink and when to test a character’s mettle.
From a purely writing standpoint Sanderson is showing himself to be one of the best. Not only is his grasp of his characters impressive, but the way that he imparts that to us is stunning. Every character seems to be intricately carved into what we read, with a mixture of flaws and qualities that make them figuratively jump off the page. The action scenes – whether they be from the lowly servants to the mystically enhanced generals – are nothing short of spellbinding and leave you breathless with anticipation throughout.
The story itself begins to challenge Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen for depth and scope. The prologue isn’t there just to pamper the author’s desires but really sets the scene for what is to come, so many years later. The technology, armour, weapons and magic of this world bear the standard Sanderson touch, intricately detailed to the nth degree and utterly believable, a combination that many fail to achieve.
Maybe the area in which Sanderson achieves his highest praise is in the manner with which he depicts the headspace our characters live in. Not only in their reaction and understanding of the world around them and the manner in which it reacts and has reacted to the continual storms that batter its landscape, but also in how the characters seem to be baffled by concepts that to us are normal, but in their world are foreign. Their bafflement leaves the reader similarly baffled, all too great effect.
I would love to go on about The Way of Kings, ensure that you realize this book is one that simply must be on your shelf, but I need to finish up and let it be. In the end, this book will go down as one of the best of 2010.
Joshua S Hill, 10/10
All reviews for: The Stormlight Archive
The Way of Kings
The Stormlight Archive: Book 1
Roshar is a world of stone swept by tempests that shape ecology and civilization. Animals and plants retract; cities are built in shelter. In centuries since ten orders of ...
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The Way of Kings reader reviews
Jake from USA
Amazingly well thought out,and thoroughly enjoyable.
Isaac from US
Astounding!!! The world-building is so rich and beautiful, a real pleasure to read. The best part is the relationships between the characters. There are scenes, especially in the second book, that REALLY make you feel. A must-read for anyone who enjoys absorbing worlds and highly memorable characters!
Evan from Ireland
It's been a long time since I read a book which was so gripping, exciting and invigorating throughout! Absolutely loved the book and was even happier to hear there will be 9 more. Well done B. Sanderson.
Andrew from USA
**“The Way of Kings” is tedium defined.** What novel is everyone else reading? My objections to this tome are almost its equal in length. I wish to be fair, and mete out credit where due and marshal criticism only when I think it justified. There are really 4 main characters in this novel of 1000+ pages, one of whom has myriad lengthy, unnecessary flashbacks (not little flashes, mind you – dozens of chapters). The world is at war with a nebulous enemy, lots of weird generic-sounding prophecy is bandied about, and everyone is a Mary Sue. To be very direct, my opinion is as follows: **Good stuff:** 1. The storms. Although this borrows from ASOIAF, having a world besets by extreme meterological conditions is plausible and relatively fresh. It seizes on the unpredictability of medieval conflicts, and how they may be decided by factors beyond human control (e.g. the Battle of Hastings). 2. Action. I don’t need much of this to be satisfied with sci-fi or fantasy. In fairness, “The Way of Kings” has far too little physical combat when compared to its ridiculous dialogue and long expositions. But often BS does a nice, clean job with the combat and the magic system (certain swords take time to be conjured when starting a battle or when dropped, for example). 3. Gender roles. Only women are literate in this world. It’s an interesting dynamic with lots of possibilities for narrative subtlety, deception, or mechanisms for keeping the societies coherent. Ultimately, this falls through because nothing interesting ever happens vis-à-vis this huge difference in education between men and women. Men fight and run armies, women manage lands and letters and books and so on. That is the literal and dull extent to which BS takes it. These strengths I do admit. Alas, they were superseded by the mediocre, tired, and unremarkable, as I will now argue. **Show>Tell** Whenever a character or place is introduced, Sanderson proceeds to explain him/her/it to us directly, immediately. Soulless infodumps abound, nothing is ever shown to the reader. There is no personality and no flavor to any of the narrative. No land or culture means anything to me, except that the Parshendi are “bad” and “violent” and paint their faces. I’d say the entire novel is unadulterated narrative -- unthinking, unflinching, pleased with its details merely because the details exist. It is insufficient to have maps and character names and lengthy dramatis personae. If everyone is a milquetoast shadow of a human being, things get tedious fast. That tribe? They paint their faces. That one? They have such-and-such religion based on XYZ, explained immediately after some dialogue about their religion. It is all babble. Already forgotten. **Every single character is impossibly daft and literal, and is a major noodge.** A conversation with one of the cleverest heroes is presented below, and there are dozens of similar quality: [Conversation between a male merchant and Shallan, a female character, about buying used books. Shallan speaks first.] “Is ambition such an unseemly attribute in a young woman?” “Well, no, I suppose not.” He smiled again—the thick, toothy smile of a merchant trying to put someone at ease. “I can see you are a woman of discriminating taste.” “I am,” Shallan said, voice firm though her heart fluttered. Was she destined to get into an argument with everyone she met? “I do like my meals prepared very carefully, as my palate is quite delicate.” “Pardon. I meant that you have discriminating taste in books.” “I’ve never eaten one, actually.” Groan. Fucking groan. **Nothing funny happens, ever.** No one has wit, even a character named Wit who the narrator tells us incessantly is ... witty. Everyone has the same emotional sophistication: that of an obnoxious 6th grader. **No cursing or any adult situations of any kind.** Perhaps because of the author’s Mormonism (although ‘tis egregious regardless) there is no adult dialogue or adult situation to be found in the 1,007 pages herein. When people curse, they say “storm you!” which slaps me right out of the story. There is no sex or romance or even a hint of one adult interpersonal dynamic. This is a tribal medieval society with tensions over land and religion and power, albatrossed by a Sunday-school content filter. Why is this author so stultified when it comes to real adult fantasy? The Wheel of Time is practically pornographic next to Stormlight, which should be in the YA section. Of course fantasy doesn’t need to be dirty or violent to be good, but the absence of any naughtiness and the profusion of awkward workarounds, particularly for sexual tension, is conspicuous. There is mild violence and a touch of blood, again consistent with a predictably American pattern of cultural conservatism. When a middle-aged couple finally realized their mutual love after many years and began "courting" I shuddered at the Terran creepiness. **Atrocious writing and shameful world building** This is not a new or particularly interesting world. Everything is on loan. Characters spend their lives studying the infantile philosophy of the world, which is hammered into the reader again and again. Sanderson has also famously said he tries for “Orwellian” prose. I think he thinks this means compound words: Sword moves: Windstance, Smokestance, Stonestance, etc. Magical nouns: Shardplate. Shardstone. Voidbringers. Oathpact. I repeat: oathpact. Magic happenings: incredibly literal and boring. When someone is mad, “angerspren” (small magic beings) spring out of the nearby rocks/trees/landscape/objects. When a character is afraid, “fearspren” sprout. Passionspren. And so on. Horrible. Creatures: Chasmfiend. I kid you not. Characters: one major character is a great swordsman, uncle of the young king, and is nicknamed “The Blackthorn”. More-than-merely-borrowed from ASOIAF. The cousin of awful: derivative. Chapter intros: Every chapter is preceded by an excerpt of historical text, syllogisms, or lore from within the Stormlight universe. Which would be cool if it was cohesive (it isn’t) or lead to a reveal (it doesn’t) or wasn’t part of the Elantris or Mistborn novels (as it was in all cases). Think about Frank Herbert’s Dune, where those excerpts were utilized to terrific effect, and a reader immediately sees BS’s chapter intros as perfunctory and pointless. Clichés: Downtrodden, ripped warrior slave is slow to accept his obvious Superpowers. No main character is ever in real danger. Everyone is hot and brilliant. The nefarious enemy race turns out to have a hive mind. Economics: This has been pointed out elsewhere. There exists the ability, not uncommon at that, to Soulcast/transform one material into another. Stone into gold, or food, or anything. This abnegates the material concerns and need for forced labor/feudal systems/farming that animate much of the conflict. Not thought out and rings false. Let’s be clear. The unimaginative isn’t a crime because it is merely boring. This giant novel is, after all, a poor but earnest attempt at world building. Rather, the problem is this: as soon as my eyes pass across “fearspren”, suddenly I’m in a café. When they see “Oathpact” I’m groaning in my bed watching the ceiling fan. Feats by the “Blackfishthorn” remind me I’m on the train and a little thirsty. Extreme, self-conscious, unedited prose plucks us from our fantasy world and deposits us unceremoniously back in our own. Nonsense like “The Way of Kings” is a disaster for epic fantasy, and reaffirms its reputation as a lowbrow genre. I am shocked that this is the minority opinion among readers of such a disastrous novel. And finally: **The author has explicitly stated it shall be a 10-volume series.** This is the kiss of death. No one could conceivably make such a preposterous estimate of length except to impress us with page count ab inisio (“so epic!”). Also, BS updates his readers on his writing progress on his website. We can objectively say that he has not outlined or planned ahead, and is therefore not justified in promising TEN novels. By committing to a 10-book series, he has made a cardinal sin of fantasy: Thou shalt not have epic length without epic content. It pains me to say this, because at times I felt that The Hero of Ages and Elantris were decent stories. I still do. I daresay that The Gathering Storm was one of the best entries in the Wheel of Time Series – my heart was rattling in my chest when Egwene was defending the White Tower. Here, I borrow from Mark Twain in calling this what it is: chloroform in print.
Chrissy from Australia
Wow that was certainly a journey! It's my first Brandon Sanderson book and I like it. It creates a whole new world to go to although you do have to concentrate to read it. It is not a book to read when you just want some mind numbing escape. Looking forward to reading the next one.
LT from Canada
Greatest high fantasy book I have ever read. Sanderson is so unique in his style, and really makes the adrenaline run during action scenes. He still is the master of that.
Darren from England
This book should be without a doubt #1 in the top 100 list I have never read a book that opened and introduced a world like this one other than Wheel of Time. The balance in this book is simply breathtaking, the world building, magic mechanics, character building and depth is awe-inspiring. Makes me feel ill at times when I read the top 100 you have here and have things like "Harry Potter" @ 26 and Wheel of Time @49, I seriously wonder at times just how these lists are made up (and sorry to upset a LOT of people but Lord of The Rings doesn't deserve to be top 20 anymore). Brandon Sanderson has his flaws but with every book he is tightening up his style and narrative and to be honest he has thrown down the gauntlet with this book and I cannot see many people being able to top this in a good while.
Dan from Canada
Great book, looking forward to book 2.
Jacob El Rodriguez from Zimbabwe
The Way Of Kings is officially my favourite book. No question.
Philip from Cambridge, UK
I can't recommend this book highly enough. It has all the aspects of Sanderson's writing which have made him my favourite fantasy authour - a fascinating and logical magic system, characters who develop and change (rather than just being a standard RPG character profile), well-paced & gripping plot with stunning twists, and a wonderfully original world (which only forms part of the 'cosmere' inhabited by all his adult fiction). If this series fulfills the promise of its first book, it may well replace Mistborn (which itself supplanted WOT) in the no. 1 spot on my book list.
Gunnar from USA
For all those readers out there who don't know this, all of Sanderson's books are connected in the same "cosmere". Try to find the similar characters in the novels. This epic is only the beginning of an epic beyond all others...
anggy from Indonesia
just some I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E Brilliant Fantasy
Jake from United States
Great characters, interesting mystery and mythology, fascinating cultures and magic system (which we only partially see). It's long, but well paced, and instantly re-readable. It could even rival George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" for my favorite series if it lives up to its full potential.
Mark from Ireland
Quite simply the best book I have ever read. You will be hooked from the opening couple of pages. Stunning... 3 of the best characters I have ever read and after every chapter I kept changing my mind as to who I loved most. Finished it 3 months ago and am still thinking about it. You need to do yourself a favour and read this. Please hurry with book two Mr Sanderson. This was in top 10 list. Must be a mistake on the site as I can't find it now for some reason...
Darrell from USA
I like the book, maybe the series will be great, but come on, Number 2, I just don't see it. Frankly, way too premature to make this book number 2.
Joe from Manchester
Best book I have read in the fantasy genre. Suitable for teens (I read the book at 16 years of age) and paced perfectly.
KC from Colorado
Amazing book, can't wait to read it again and continue this series... I know someone has posted this already but I agree so I am saying it too... the worst part of this book is that the rest of the series is not completed!
Tyler from US
The only thing bad about this book is the entire series isn't out yet. Book is a very fun read with a nice world to go with it.
Gabe from Oregon
This book was magnificent! Occasionally it slows but not enough that you put it down. The slower parts encourage you to read to the next chapter where something great is bound to happen. The end is unexpected, provides some answers and leaves the reader wanting more. Sanderson does a great job in growing his characters throughout the books! It's a must read. I'd give it 9.5/10.
Erik from Norway
This book is one of the best modern high fantasy books I have read, only to be toppled by the Malazan series. The characters are so real you can almost hear them talk when you read the dialoges. The magic system is a fresh addition to a otherwise quite stale system in fantasy and i find the tadbits of cultural knowledge that we get here and there very good. All in all this is a book anyone who has any sort of interest in fantasy or good fiction must read!
Lewis from Somewhere Safe
I read the first chapter of this book and was hooked for life, it's authors like Brandon Sanderson that inspire me to keep on writing fantasy styled stories because of the immense detail and effort devoted to writing this kind of epic fantasy. I must say this book is legendary and kept me hooked from the very start to the very end for the next three days. And when I finished I couldn't help it but hunger for MORE!
Roble Ahmed from London
Great book, one of the best epic fanatsy books. A great start to a series, Sanderson beautifully sticks to the epic root with twists and turns that have you reading more. It was really a gripper and he wrote the story so compelling that you feel you're actually the character, only great writers can make you imagine such characters. Lets' hope the second in the series is written just as good, don't think he can do any better or anyone in fact.
Marius from Norway
Amazing book! Ive read some works from Brandon Sanderson from earlier (Mistborn and Warbreaker) and I couldn't stop reading them when I first started. This book is no exception, can't wait for the next one!
Priyanka from Australia
It is quite simply brilliant. I am certainly no stranger to SFF having read the Wheel of Time, the Kingkiller Chronicles and countless others, but Way of Kings is right up there with the best of the best. I absolutely cannot wait until the next book is released!
Chance from America
Once again Brandon Sanderson stuns with this amazing book. Just take a look around some of the the reviews to see what a fantastic book this is. The only bad review is some idiot who wouldn't even give the book a shot. One word of warning though, the book is absolutely brimming with masterful foreshadowing and even the small pictures at the beginning of chapters are full of hidden meaning. Once I finished the chapter "Recorded in Blood" I felt like a pawn in some huge game played with remarkable cunning. The epilogue blended the normally humorous dialogue of wit seamlessly with, not nearly so much of a cliffhanger as a taste of whats to come.
Zach from Georgia
Dan from England
Amazing book - Just finished reading it my second time and I must say it is one of the best books I have read. It has a slow start but it had me hanging onto the edge of my seat by time I finished. Can't wait for the next book in the series, I want to read it now, but we all know it'll be years.
Ronny from Hamburg
Amazing work as always. I just got into reading epic fantasy last year and haven't stopped ever since. I got to know Brandon through the Wheel of Time and right after I made a little research on him. I immediately moved on to Mistborn and then after Elantris. Now it the Stormlight Archive. I really love it. The amazing part is that last month I was burning Pewter the whole time, last week I was drawing Aons and now I just cant stop summoning my Shardblade.... :D Brandon pls pls pls hurry!!!!
Daniel Elizaga from Germany
Hated myself reading it till the wee hours, reading it while eating my dinner just after work. I'd probably hate myself even more had I not done so, just so to avoid the sleepless struggle in anticipating the next storyline. I've never read so steadfast and driven as before like being chased by the stormfather himself. Now, the wait till every next sequel, I would say is the real taste of true desolation.
Lee from Abercynon, Wales
I loved this book, can't wait to read the next in the series. The characters were believable and very well written. I could not put the book down, please Brandon Sanderson, hurry up with book #2!
Peter from Australia, Brisbane
One of the best starts of a Epic, just hope the release of each book is not year apart.
Shell from Winchester
Don't usually buy hard backs - got into Brandon after reading his contribution to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series - phenomenal - rare originality. Can't wait for the next book.
Hamit from Australia
I have been reading scifi fantasy books for 20+ years, and I can honestly say that this book is amongst one of the VERY best that I have ever read. I will place it amongst my other favourite books, such as DUNE, Dark Elf series, LOTR, and more recently others like The Name of the Wind, The Painted Man (or the Warded Man in US), and others.
Nic from Vegas
Amazing book. Just finished... and I think I'm going to read it one more time before I hit something else. I love how Brandon Sanderson can always create a system of magic that is incredibly unique and well thought out.
Monty from London
I've read lots of fantasy and sci-fi books, including The Wheel of Time, and none compare to this book. It's fab, I just hope the author doesn't take too long for the next book and doesn't mess it up but this might just be my favourite book ever ;)
Meir from NY
The best debut book I have ever read, might be my favorite book of all time.
Edgar from London
One word- AMAZING! This book at first seemed a bit boring but once I got into reading it i didn't sleep for 2 days - it is a masterpiece. Where is the next book :(
Jensen from Vermont
I don't believe in a perfectly written story, but Sanderson has managed to get as close as I have seen in any book.
Richard from London
First, I hate the person who voted this book down because he doesn't want to start reading it next. This book is the best book I have ever read EVER... This book is as good as all the Harry Potter books, I can't wait for the next book to be released
Steven from California
I'm a high school student, one of the few that reads high fantasy books, after finishing the newest Wheel of Time I sought out another series to start and I found the Stormlight Archive. All I can say is: "Why only a thousand pages", and "How can Sanderson write something this good WHILE working on Wheel of Time..." This book is amazing, the world is well thought out, full of life, with it's very own ecosystem that bares only the slightest resemblance to our own. It is full of lore, and past history, a world already full of strife and conflict, hope and despair, when the read comes in, there is no one part that makes this book instantly amazing, it's the combination, a well thought out plot, as well as character growth, the world itself, and how interact a culture each civilization has, as well as the limits as well as the resourceful use of magic, and how ell expressed the characters inter-thoughts were, to see a writer putting so much effort into the fine details, each page is so exciting, the end of one character Point of few links to another, the transition isn't fluid, but it still feels, right. I only regret having found this book now, I have this dreaded feeling the next book in the serious will not be arriving soon, and a book as great as this makes the wait all the more painful. But, for any fantasy reader, who seeks a book that will, kill your schedule, and leave you wishing for more, read this book, hell, ANY fantasy read should read this book, it's THAT good.
Ursula from Alberta
How a thousand page plus book could seem short to me, I have no idea. But I finished it and had myself a moment of horrible dispair at the realization it would probably be a couple of years, minimum before I would see a sequel, seeing as he's off finishing AMoL. I then cursed him repeatedly for dragging me into another fantasy epic, when I thought I'd be done with them after the Wheel of Time was through. He is extremely skillful at leaving just enough information back, leaving you just at the edge of figuring it all out, but not quite there. We ride around the story looking out from other's eyes, and we share their emotions, and their gonfusion at what is going on. My only complaint was that there was not enough from the viewpoint of the major female character. Everytime we left her I wanted to go back. Given Sanderson's high rate of output, I have high hopes that we won't have to wait too long between books.
Alysha from North Texas
I have been invested in WOT the last decade, and I'm now a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson. I know he started off a little shakey, Elantris was not great. But I really liked Mistborn. I can say that "The Way of Kings" has now become one of my favorite fantasy novels at this point. Since I have finished with this book I keep wanting to go back and pick it up, but I'm trying to avoid stalking it. Bravo Mr. Sanderson!
I am not going to start reading another series of novels where the author dies before he finishes the series. Even if you pay me! I personally thought the Wheel of Time series was bloated beyond repair and never wish for anything like it again. So, the heir apparent can wait another 10 years to write a sequel.
Jake from Idaho
Very well done, the whole concept was very well thought out. I wasn't sure how having so many character stories going on at once was going to work, but they all are great to read about, and bring essence to the overall story. The magic is awesome, and is structured. I hate when authors allow the magic to do anything and everything and has no limits. Sanderson is so good with charactrr development and keeping to a interesting story line, it's never dry. I wish I would've stumbled on this book ten years from now, now I have to find something else to read, just to fill the time until the following books release. I recommend this book to everyone.
9.6/10 from 46 reviews
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