Review: “The Way of Kings” by Brandon Sanderson

I’ve read–and reviewed–quite a few book series over the past few years. Usually my modus operandi is to read the first book in the series with no intention of continuing the series. That’s because I either wasn’t thoroughly entertained by the first book, or because I’ve become convinced that sequels are generally not as good as the original. And sometimes I read first books in series just because I’m curious, and with my curiosity sated, I move on.

This time, I’m amazing myself. The Way of Kings was almost one of those books I didn’t pick up, especially in the middle of a school year, simply because it’s 1,258 pages long. That’s four times as long as the books I typically write. It’s a major commitment, especially if you have other things going on in your life, like working a full-time job, for example. And when I started reading it, I had the mindset that I would never, never want to read the rest of the series. Well, I’ve changed my mind.

Here’s the Amazon synopsis:

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.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, 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 brother, the late king, 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 has begun to doubt his own 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 secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

The result of over ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.

Speak again the ancient oaths:

Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before Destination.

and return to men the Shards they once bore.

The Knights Radiant must stand again.

This book is massive, not only in the number of pages, but in scope. I came across a student here on campus reading as well, and I asked him how he like it. The word he used to describe it is: “immersive.” And it is. As the synopsis says above, this was ten years in the making, and it shows. The world is elaborate, believable, exotic, original. And you invest yourself in the characters as well. The closest similarity I can think of is Game of Thrones.

If there were anything negative I could say about the book it would be that I think the book didn’t actually have to be 1,200 pages. There were some chapters included that introduced characters that didn’t lend themselves to anything else going on in the storyline, and didn’t seem important. And with a book this size, it’s easy to lose track of minor characters. I could have easily cut out 200-300 pages. But I’m sure other readers savor the richness that comes with 1,200 pages of living in another world. I have other things to do.

But I do intend to read the other two books in the trilogy.

I give this five stars out of five.