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Read Lately: The Way Of Kings

October 5, 2010

Note: No spoilers.

Let me just preface this by saying I don’t read a lot fantasy, and I certainly do not consider myself an enthusiast of the genre as I get through only about a handful of fantasy-themed books every year. I find my preferences gravitate towards historical fantasy, but I’ve pretty much given up on the magical, heroic, or epic sub-genres. Maybe I’ve just had bad luck choosing titles on my own, but most of what I’ve read have either made me sick or bored me to tears.

Not so with The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. In fact, I was overcome with a sense of contentment soon after I turned the last page. It’s the sort of feeling you get after finishing a satisfying read, complete with just the hint of sadness at the fact the book has finally come to an end. That’s saying something, seeing as the hardcover version of the book is a whopping 1008 pages. And this is just the first of what is planned to be a 10-novel series! Considering the author has other projects to work on, including finishing the Wheel of Time series, I’ll probably be in my early 40s by the time the last book comes out. Ah well, I’ve always known that committing myself to an epic fantasy series often means a whole lot of waiting.

The Way of Kings takes place in Roshar, a land affected by powerful weather phenomenons called Highstorms, which are pretty much hurricanes on steroids. The flora and fauna have all adapted to these conditions, resulting in bizarre creatures like heavily-shelled animals or plants that can suck themselves back into the ground when disturbed. All around the world are also these spirit-like things called spren, which are either caused by or attracted to emotions or particular circumstances. It is a fantastical setting, but one that is still very believable at the same time. Sanderson spends the time to craft an in-depth environment with his writing, and it’s clear the ideas for this world weren’t just thrown together overnight.

The book has four main characters who are all connected in some way — Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar and Adolin, though there’s a rather large cast of other background characters to get acquainted with. Kaladin is the most prominent protagonist, and his story almost feels like a comic book hero’s journey. Indeed, he reminds me of Peter Parker/Spider-man in many ways — a young man in bad times who has had to deal with the deaths of people close to him, who’s constantly struggling to save everyone around him with his big heart that cares way too much for others when it should be caring for himself. That said, at times the characters in the book can feel a bit one-dimensional, but this is made up for by some interesting plot turns and the great lead-up to the novel’s climax. Towards the end I could scarcely put the book down, when all the story groundwork that has been laid down finally comes to fruition.

I also appreciate the author for his efforts to constantly keep the reader in the characters’ heads. I felt that this aspect was a huge improvement over his Mistborn series that I couldn’t get into, even though I tried. In those novels, it got too tedious to read pages upon pages of description about the gravity-defying stunts, which would have been much more captivating if I was watching it happen on-screen in a movie or video game. But the nice thing about books — and their greatest strength — should be the way they allow you to peer inside a character’s head to see what they are feeling or experiencing. Without that emotional aspect for me, reading about the combat or action-filled scenes simply feels bland. However, I never once felt this way while reading through The Way of Kings‘ many battle scenes, and I realized it was because Sanderson has managed to keep me sufficiently in touch with the characters this time around.

And while we’re on the subject of Sanderson’s writing, I have to say I enjoy his style. He’s a good storyteller, and his writing, while not too terribly elegant, is straightforward and undisguised without being too simplistic. I mean all that as a compliment; sometimes you just want to get to the meat of the story without poring over a page multiple times to contemplate all its artsy-ness or symbolic meanings. That stuff is for another time, another book. But when all I want to do is sit back and relax to enjoy an epic fantasy with a good story, The Way of Kings delivers.

20 comments

  1. Very nice review, well done. I picked up that you liked getting to know the motivations and way of thinking of various chars. I think you will love David Gemmell. I wonder which of his many characters you will really dig. The remorseful Waylander the Slayer, Druss the Legend, Skillgannon the Damned… or my favorite, Bane the Bastard.

    I already told you I have trouble recommending you a particular book or series. I did not enjoy his final series, the “Troy” books, that much. Lion of Macedon or the Rigante series are probably good starters. The first two novels of the Drenai Series are not the best Gemmell ever produced, but they are IMO necessary to enjoy Waylander and the later Druss novels. David Gemmell has quite a good entry at Wikipedia with even better links if you want to do some research of your own.


    • It is frustrating me that Amazon has such a poor selection of David Gemmell books. I had decided I wanted to read Legend, the first of the Drenai series to get a good feel of his work. It’s a pretty well-known book as far as I know, so it baffles me that it is not available at the Kindle store. I think I found a decent digital copy at another ebook site though, so we’ll see how that goes.


      • you could always buy one of those old fashioned dead tree books…


      • After many moves and having to transport or throw out boxes and boxes of books, I’ve resolved to never buy another dead tree book again if I don’t have to. Digital is just so much easier especially when you have a nomadic life like me πŸ™‚


  2. Interesting review. I haven’t read any of Sanderson’s book, though I have been tempted to ever since the WoT thing came up. I might have to give this a shot.


    • Sanderson really just hooked me with this one. Mistborn was all right, but I was able to take my time with those books. And strangely, I have no interest in his WoT work. Guess it stems from not having read the other books in the series first, but I’ve read samples of them by Robert Jordan, I don’t think I can get into his writing style.


  3. […] Way of the Kings – It was funny to see MMO Gamer Chick write about this, because I’m in the middle of reading it as well.Β  Brandon Sanderson has quickly risen to […]


  4. How would you compare this book to George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series (if you’ve read it of course)?


  5. ps. thanks for updating your blogroll πŸ™‚


    • I’m actually reading A Game of Thrones right now πŸ™‚ This book has opened my eyes to epic fantasy again, so many people have recommended the Song of Ice and Fire series, which I really should have picked up a long time ago. I’m liking it, though I’m not that far in yet. But if I’m to compare what I’ve read so far to TWoK, I would say AGoT is darker and more adult in content, if that makes sense. To me, that makes it a bit more fun to read, because I actually like it grittier. TWoK has some pretty depressing parts too, but not so dreary as some of the situations in AGoT. AGoT also seems much heavier on the political intrigue, and while there is some of that in TWoK as well, I think it has more of battle and magic.

      And no problem, I updated as soon as I saw your new blog πŸ™‚


    • “I would say AGoT is darker and more adult in content, if that makes sense. ”

      ~ makes perfect sense and it’s why I like it so much. Martin doesn’t hold back! I also picked up on, and very much dig, the political intrigue. It only gets better. And I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, HBO has picked up the story and has already produced an original series based on the books. It’s set to air sometime next year. From what I’ve seen, it looks to be very well made, as most HBO series are. Sean Bean is playing Eddard Stark.


      • Yeah it was weird, around the time I was first contemplating reading AGoT, I started seeing these neat HBO teasers on some fantasy series that’s going to coming out next year…I actually didn’t make the connection right away that they were related at all, let alone that the latter was based on the former πŸ˜› Anyway, it looks really interesting, and the more I read the more I think the story is just perfect for HBO, so it should be good!


  6. I currently 1/3 of the way through The Way of Kings and have trouble putting it down. I read the Mistborn series and Elantris. Warbreaker couldn’t grab me. I didn’t realize the The Stormlight Archive was supposed to be a 10 book collection!!


    • Yep, we’re all in this for the long haul now πŸ™‚

      And just wait until you get to the last 1/4 or 1/5 of the book or so, it gets even better. That was when I really couldn’t put it down. πŸ˜€


  7. Still torn on whether or not I want to give TWoK a shot. I’m looking forward to your thoughts on AGoT though and how the two books compare.


    • Sure, after I’m done I’ll be sure to write up something on Goodreads if not here. Btw, several people have asked for a comparison, and I was just wondering, why is that? Has there been a lot of comparing of TWoK to GRRM’s series around? I guess I’m curious because I’ve seen more talk comparing the Stormlight archive to Robert Jordan’s WoT more than anything.


      • I’ve not read the WoT series so I can’t speak to that. For me WoK and GoT left me in the same kind of mood, at least from the sample chapters that I read in WoK.


  8. You make me want to read. This looks awesome Most of the time I read new books because they have fancy pictures, but I might have to actually read this book πŸ˜›


  9. […] with George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. My interest in epic fantasy has been rekindled after reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, and I brought the first novel A Game of […]


  10. Yeah I really enjoyed that book to bad that its 2 years to the next one, it reminds me alot of The Wheel of Time series.

    Since you are a female I can strongly recomend that you read The Deed of Paksenarrion, it has a strong female main character. Its one of my favorites when it comes to fantasy books.



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