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By Jessica Brister On 12 Nov, 2017 At 04:09 PM | Categorized As Books, Editorials, Featured, Opinion, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarWhen looking at epic fantasy series, many times a first book can be a little slow, typically concentrating on a lot of set-up for later books.  Initially, when I heard about The Way of Kings, the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series, the most talked-about feature was the one-thousand plus page length.  When my husband brought home the hard-cover edition, I took one look at that thing and immediately put the title on the back-burner.  I went through Sanderson’s Mistborn series and liked it, but I thought that I was going to have a hard time getting into a first book that long.

I was totally wrong.

 The Way of Kings is one of the best fantasy books that I have ever read.  Actually, it is probably one of the best books I have ever read period, and I don’t say that lightly either.  As a former English teacher, I have many wonderful titles on my list of must-reads.  I have to say, though, The Way of Kings really is a fantastic read.  Here’s why:

Despite the epic length of The Way of Kings, the story is extremely fast-paced.  Sanderson is an expert at dangling little pieces of information at the right points to make the reader want to keep reading, despite the daunting size of the text.  The story revolves around a handful of characters living in the inhospitable land of Roshar, a land of storms and stone.  This book focuses on Kaladin, a former soldier turned slave, as he struggles with his purpose in life and the group of slaves he adopts as his own.  They truly are dealing with horrific conditions as the kingdoms of Roshar battle a mysterious enemy who killed their High King.  But as Kaladin tries to keep his men alive, he begins to realize that they are not much more than cannon fodder, and the righteous war that they were supposed to be fighting is beginning to turn into nothing more than a petty political scheme.

The nobility of the kingdoms in Roshar are obsessed with money, power, and Shardblades and Shardplates—extremely powerful weapons and armor from a different era, one which is lost in the echoes or Roshar’s distant history where the Knights Radiant protected the land from true horrors.  One book that recounts some of the former glory of these guardians is The Way of Kings, a text that Brightlord Dalinar Kholin is obsessed with.  The brother of the slain king, Dalinar believes that the book has some secret meaning that may affect the future of the kingdoms.  Not everyone around him is so sure, since many doubt Dalinar’s sanity.

Meanwhile, in a seemingly irrelevant but extremely important side story, a young woman named Shallan must figure out a way to steal an enormously valuable item from Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah, in order to restore her family’s position in society.  While getting close to Jasnah, Shallan soon discovers that Jasnah’s research may hold the key to the Knights Radiant and the real reason behind the war.

The Way of Kings covers everything from political intrigue to the horrors of war to racism and inherent bias.  There’s something for everyone.  Despite being such a lengthy novel, there’s not any filler.  Everything is important and as the story unfolds, the details masterfully build upon each other.  The story is also beautifully written.  Sanderson is an accomplished writer who creates prose that is truly an art form.  I do not say this about many contemporary authors.

One of the best aspects of The Way of Kings is the setting itself, which has a unique feel from most standard fantasy novels.  Roshar is a weather-beaten land where plants retract in and out of the rocks and most typical animals are crustacean-like beings with tough shells to withstand highstorms, which are fierce hurricane-like tempests that will destroy anyone and anything in their path.  Cities and towns are built specifically with these storms in mind, and travel can be a quite rough.  The lore and history as well as the cultures and people of Roshar are fascinating and add depth to the marvelous world Sanderson has created.

The main characters are memorable and relatable.  I happened to really connect with Kaladin, and I ended up learning a few things about myself through his eyes.  All of the main characters have multiple flaws but also many redeeming qualities, making them believable and realistic.  The reader is drawn in to their plights and is concerned for their well-being, wanting them to succeed.

There are multiple conflicts: some from other characters, some from the war, and some that are internal struggles, which creates a well-rounded story line.  Yes, it might be a hefty read, but everything pulls together so nicely that most readers probably won’t mind.  I certainly didn’t.  In fact, I felt a bit lost after finishing it.  I got that let-down feeling after I finish a book when it is so good that I never want it to end, and when it does end, I get depressed.  The Way of Kings did that to me.  Luckily, I was a little late to the game when I read it, so it didn’t take me very long to get my hands on the second book, Words of Radiance (review coming soon).

The Way of Kings did come out in 2010, so this review may appear to come out at an odd time, but don’t forget that the third book of the series, Oathbringer, will be out November 14, so this is a great time to play catch-up if you haven’t started on this series yet.  I cannot praise these books enough.  They really are the next great fantasy series of our time.

Oh, and those who enjoy listening to their books, the book tape version of The Way of Kings is amazing.  I did one read through and one listen through of the book and cannot say enough about the production of the audio book.