One of the most frustrating things, as a reader, is a half-finished series. Sometimes when I’m browsing around libraries or bookstores, I won’t start a series if it isn’t finished and there are long gaps between each book. I love finding new books and authors, but not every book is worth the agonizing wait for the next part of the story. This is why I laughed so much at the Sanderson book signing when he made fun of George R. R. Martin, and said that fantasy fans must be extremely patient. But this time, because I’ve loved everything Sanderson has written, I started a new 10-book series that will probable take more than 10 years to finish. I just hope he follows the time line he laid out!

 

The Way of Kings

 

The Way of Kings: Book One of the Stormlight Archive , by Brandon Sanderson, is the 1,000 page first novel of a new epic fantasy series. The organization of the book is slightly weird at the beginning, as there is a prelude to the entire Stormlight Archive series, followed by a prologue to The Way of Kings (which takes place 4,500 years after the prelude). After that, the book is divided into five parts, starting five years after the prologue, that follow various main characters (not every main character is in every part, which annoyed me to no end because my favorite characters was in there the least!). Each of the five parts are separated by brief interludes that tell the stories of new characters in other parts of the world; Sanderson explained that these short stories are intended to give readers a more complete view of all the events taking place in the land. The book ends with an epilogue, an endnote, and an Ars Acrcanum (brief explanation of the magic system and table of elements). Confused yet? I think Sanderson went a little overboard in his enthusiasm to finally be writing the epic fantasy series he’s thought about for years!

The Way of Kings is set in the war-torn land of Roshar, a land controlled by the deadly cycle of highstorms. Years ago, so long that history has turned into myth that many believe are more legend than truth, the ten orders of the Knights Radiant fell in their battle against the Voidbringers and plunged the world into darkness and betrayal. Although mankind still possesses their nearly invincible plate armor and swords (powered by magical crystal Shards), constant war and civil unrest over the Shardplate and Shardblades have torn nations even more apart since the fall of the Radiants. The prologue tells of the assassination of King Gavilar Kholin, king of the nation of Alethkar. The actual body of the book, which takes place five years after the assassination, follows a war as the nation of Alethkar tries to get revenge for the slain king.

There are three main characters followed throughout the book. Kaladin, a youth who has gone from training to be a surgeon, to soldier, to slave; Shallan, a young woman whose dedication to saving her struggling family has led her to embark on a dangerous plan to steal a valuable artifact from her idol; and Dalinar Kholin, brother to the slain king, and Dalinar’s son Adolin, both of whom and helping to lead the vengeance war.

My favorite character was Shallan, an incredible intelligent but naive woman. After her father’s death (a closely held secret Shallan and her brothers are trying to hide from debtors), Shallan and her brothers create a grand plan to enroll Shallan as a student to Jasnah, daughter of the slain king Gavilar. As her student, Shallan would win her trust and then steal a magical Soulcaster to pay back their debts. Yet she falls in love with learning and the freedom being away from her controlling family brings, and begins to doubt herself and her plan. Yet her story was given the least amount of attention, as Sanderson instead focused on Kaladin and Dalinar. Kaladin’s history is explained in a series of flashbacks that lead up to the death of his brother. As a youth Kaladin enlisted in the army, but was captured and sold into slavery. Now he works as a bridgeman in the war camp, leading one of the crews that carry bridges into battle so the soldiers can cross the many deep chasms in the battlefield. Dalinar is one of many highprinces in Alethkar. He has recently begun to suffer from visions during the highstorms, seeing into the past when the Knights Radiant still lived, and follows the Codes, or moral rules the Knights followed despite opposition from his family and the other highprinces.

This book was a great start to what should be an exciting epic fantasy series. The characters are interesting, and I cannot wait to see what happens next in each of their lives. There are two systems of magic: the crystal Shards which power the magical plate and swords, along with transforming materials into other thing (stone into wood, wood into food, ect.). The second magic system, which was barely touched upon in this book but should to be explained in the second, uses some sort of manipulation of gravity to bind objects to other things. Yet while I love Sanderson’s writing style,  his frustrating lack of solid and detailed explanation of the magic systems and social order in his worlds drives me crazy. I understand that this was just the first book out of ten, but the same lack of detail that mildly annoyed me in his other books was highlighted in The Way of Kings because of its length.

Despite minor issues I have with the writing style, this book was extremely enjoyable. I could easily read for hours at a time, and cannot wait for the rest of the series. Overall, a must-read by a great up and coming author.

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