The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Book one of the Stormlight Archives


Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

War rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his late king brother, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he doubts his sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure as she plans a daring theft. Her research for Jasnah hints at the Knights Radiant’s secrets and the war’s true cause.

The Way of Kings is a book people talk about and almost worship as the pinnacle of epic fantasy. Certain fantasy books can be a daunting rite of passage into fantasy. I can think of a few others I’ve read: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, and, of course, The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. Others that yet await me, like N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, beckon me to be read but also scare me in their substance, hype, and grandeur. That doesn’t even touch the world of social media-influenced books and whether they hold up to the hype. So yes, I hesitated to jump into The Way of Kings, an unfinished epic series everyone had an opinion on and spoke about. It all seemed too much.

“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”

My first foray into Mr. Sanderson’s work. This chunky book packs a lot of plot, detail, and other information into hundreds of pages for which the genre’s noble, bright/epic fantasies are known. I liked how the story ties together at the end as the plot slowly speeds up, and Mr. Sanderson spins us through his world. It’s planned out and amazing in depth and scale, not seen often in books. The Way of Kings demands attention and time away from screens and other outside influences and rewards readers when they get those moments during their busy lives. There are multiple POVs, flashbacks, interludes, and breaks in the plot that nearly all come together at the end until it ends, leaving myself and everyone else wanting the next book immediately.

One of the main characters, Shallan, gets lost 3/4 through the book as her plot ends, only to be lightly picked up at the end. The women in the book feel slightly underrepresented in a book over nine hundred and something pages long, but it’s the first in the series, and I’m sure the world does nothing more but expand and grow from here. I’ve managed not to spoil anything for myself so far, so like Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, I have no idea what to expect moving forward. Overall, the details are immense, and I am waiting until I pick up the sequel to see if they are all necessary. Maybe it could have been two hundred pages shorter and still exactly what the reader needed. It’s hard to judge without reading the other books in the series yet. 

“You must find the most important words a man can say.”

Mr. Sanderson’s prose was relevant for the work he’s put in. It’s detail-oriented and speaks towards the world-building he wishes to create. It took me a while to find a sentence that I wanted to repeat out loud and felt like the weight of the world he formed, but that sentence had marrow and blood in it. 

Would I reread The Way of Kings? No, but I would listen to it on audiobook, so yeah, it has my attention, and I want to pick up the next in the series in the coming year. I dog-eared pages (yes, I am that type of reader) and quoted passages to my friends and family (after several hundred pages, I found several great quotes), which are marks of a book I enjoy. That feeling of finishing a book and wanting to gush over it to anyone who listens is a sign it’s an enjoyable read, and it did its job and shook my imagination of the possibilities of how a story can be built and written.

One last thing, the book within the book, that type of world-building I adore. It may be a cliche, but I don’t care. As a writer and reader, I love literature, stories, and lore, so falling into a book spiral in another book will always do it for me. Read The Way of Kings by Bradon Sanderson if you want to see how modern epic fantasy is done and know this is the first of many such books creating an addiction that is good for your mind and hard on your wallet.

I read a hardback edition of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. It had colored maps (yes, please) and several illustrations throughout the book. The Hardback version comes in at around 383,389* words and about 1007* pages. It’s a magnificent shelf piece and will gladly be represented on my shelves for years to come.