Brandon Sanderson is finishing the acclaimed Wheel of Time series. That fact alone, has essentially granted him the position of super hero. It comes as no surprise that his newest novel, the first part in another epic series, was hyped long before it was even published. Every self-respecting fantasy website has reviewed the book. We haven’t yet. But what more can we add, other than giving the book some stars and calling it a day?
The series is called The Stormlight Archive. The book is none other than The Way of Kings. And one thing is certain the moment you pick up this book: publisher Tor has done its best to live up to the hype. This book is a beauty! A multitude of illustrations, beautifully colored end pages, and a truly epic cover.
Learned from the best
More important than the cover, however, is the first thing a reader – and fan of The Wheel of Time – will notice: Sanderson has learned from finishing The Wheel of Time. There is no strange prologue that takes us back thousands of years, but a “Prelude to the Stormlight Archive.” Brandon Sanderson has clearly learned from the mistakes of Robert Jordan, but kept those elements that made the man a genius. He still takes us back thousands of years in the prelude, but we will be spared the mightily long prologues we know from Jordan’s books. They have been replaced by nice, short interludes throughout the book, giving us insight to what happens in the rest of the world during the main story.
The main story, meanwhile, would take an entire review to explain. I’ll try to summarize, though. The setting for this story is the planet Roshar. Mankind has been banished from the heavens to this barren rock, plagued by mighty storms, many ages ago. All they have left from that time long past are shardblades and –plates: priceless, magical weapons that grant the bearer great powers. Kings and queens will scheme and wage war to lay their hands on just one of these weapons.
Three intriguing characters
On this world, we follow three people. One is Dalinar, the brother to the assassinated king and uncle to the new king, leading one of ten armies waging war to avenge his brother. When he is granted visions of the past, however, he loses his faith in this war and tries to unite the ten armies. Another is Shallan, a girl with a dark past, who is on a mission to apprentice the heretic sister of the king at all costs. However, the most important character is Kaladin. Once a military leader, he has been sold as a slave and is sold to one of the ten armies, where he is forced to run at the front of the army, unarmed and unshielded.
All of these characters have one thing in common: they have been extremely well written. When reading The Way of Kings, it was very obvious to me that this is the point where Brandon Sanderson has grown most during his work on The Wheel of Time. Where his characters, in previous books like Elantris and Mistborn, were his greatest – and pretty much only – flaw, they were one of this book’s two greatest strengths. I found myself loving each point of view, and that is exceedingly rare.
The other great strength is, just like in all his books, Sanderson’s world building. The world of Roshar is perfectly thought through with a great eye for detail. Don’t expect a world that’s like ours save for a few differences. This world is completely new and will not feel familiar at all, nor will the magic system. Or perhaps I should say magic systemS since there are hints to at least five different types of magic.
In this, however, also lies the only flaw of The Way of Kings. At certain points, Sanderson focused too heavily on building this world. With a series of ten books, I would have thought some details could have been moved to future installments. However, this doesn’t slow the book down much, and it sets the stage for an even better and more epic series.
Why should you read this book?
Why shouldn’t you, really? If you are a fan of epic fantasy, you will most certainly love this book. If you don’t read it, you will regret it. This book has been hyped, and for good reason. The only reason for not reading it, in my opinion, is the promise of having to wait at least ten more years to read the ending.