Review: The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive Book I) by Brandon Sanderson

This book is a fucking monster. I spent entire days wandering – earbuds jammed into ears, The Way of Kings playing seemingly endlessly – only to come home and still have 20 odd ours of narration remaining. It was nuts.

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.

Bit of backstory: I actually read the first half of this book last year. i don’t know what its like everywhere else, but here the mass market paperback is split into 2 books – Volume 1 and 2. So, on completion of Volume 1, I decided I needed a break and, as these things go, never continued.

Briefly, The Way of Kings introduces us to several seemingly independent characters – a soldier, a brightlord and a scholar (that was totally plagiarized from the back of the book).

“Here, in Alethkar, men often spoke of the legends – of mankind’s hard-won victory over the Voidbringers. But when weapons created to fight nightmares were turned against common soldiers, the lives of men became cheap things indeed.”

Anyone who has been Sandersoned will tell you that no-one writes a prologue like Brandon Sanderson. We are even luckier in this as it had a prelude AND a prologue. And, the prelude may be some of Sanderson’s most profound writing ever. Its short – four pages. But those four pages introduce us to a desolate place of rock and stone (pretty sure that’s the same thing) where enormous stone creatures are held at bay by the Ten Heralds of the almighty who are on the verge of disbanding, bringing about the end of the Oathpact, and sacrificing one of their own in the process. It’s a lot, and I still barely understand it. Just four pages.

“Life before Death.
Strength before Weakness.
Journey before Destination.”

Skip forward to a prologue that sees the assassination of a king and goes on to show us signs of a long ago war which still holds sway over the lives of all – a long ago enemy that threatens return, and the loss of The Knights Radiant – the heroes who had saved them before.

“Journey before destination. There are several ways to achieve a goal. Failure is preferable to winning through unjust means. Protecting ten innocents is not worth killing one. In the end, all men die. How you lived will be far more important to the Almighty than what you accomplished.”

Shit. I’m confused. High fantasy confuses me and I’ll tell you why. MULTIPLE POV, MULTIPLE PLOT LINES. 45 HOURS audio (or 1007 pages in print). Add to that, high fantasy always  has extremely detailed world building with entire countries, races, religions and magic systems explained in minute detail (which I’ve obviously forgotten). Sanderson also puts those little WTF mini stories at the beginning of all his chapters that don’t click or make any fucking sense until 7/8 of the way through this huge ass book. But fantasy is fantasy and if there is one thing you can nearly always rely in with Epic Fantasy it is this: an evil that was thought banished is returning and needs a hero – likely or unlikely, normally both – to stop it.

“Somebody has to start. Somebody has to step forward and do what is right, because it is right.”

I once had a twitter war with a journalist who indicated that the final Hobbit movie sucked because there was no obvious hero. I offered him several options which he said was contradictory since there could only be one protagonist. I therefore deduced that he knew naught of fantasy and chose not to continue wasting my breath with an uncultured swine such as he. He also thinks that ‘hero’ has the same definition as ‘protagonist’. Worst journalist ever. Anyways, that leads to my point that fantasy very often has several ‘hero’ type characters all working to achieve the same, or a similar goal. In The Way of Kings, we have Kaladin, Dalinar and maybe Shellan, I’m not sure about that gal.

“Men had always told Kaladin that he fought like nobody else. He’d felt it on the first day he’d picked up a quarterstaff, though Tukks’s advice had helped him refine and channel what he could do. Kaladin had cared when he fought. He’d never fought empty or cold. He fought to keep his men alive.”

There is also a fringe cast that is unexpectedly memorable (I almost always forget characters in high fantasy by about the half way point), some good some bad, some fucking infuriating.

“Roion, we cannot continue to treat this war as a game.”
“All wars are games. The greatest kind, with the pieces lost real lives, the prizes captured making for real wealth! This is the life for which men exist. To fight, to kill, to win.

I understand why people don’t love this book and read halfway but don’t continue. Given it’s size, and that it is very much a set up book I don’t blame them. Hell, I almost didn’t go back to it. And my life would have been infinitely poorer for it. I’ve spent way too much time obsessing over Dalinar – wondering what sort of dog I should buy to be his namesake – googling fan art, wondering if it would be presumptuous of me to add ‘Shardbearer‘ to the end of my display name on Goodreads – I mean, what is the criteria? Can anyone do it? How do I qualify? do want – and I am already several hours into the audio of Words of Radiance thanks to A LOT of driving lately. Seriously, I’m worried about what is going to happen to my life when it is finished. When is the next book out? WHEN???

“Those candle flames were like the lives of men. So fragile. So deadly. Left alone, they lit and warmed. Let run rampant, they would destroy the very things they were meant to illuminate. Embryonic bonfires, each bearing a seed of destruction so potent it could tumble cities and dash kings to their knees.”

So, despite the glacial slow moving plot and my constant ‘bloody hell get on with it Kaladin’, I AM OBSESSED. My Sandersonitis is at an all time high, and I would never have guessed I would suffer any more than I had after finishing the Mistborn series (reviews forthcoming – I’m trying to get them all in before Book 5 is released next month). Fortunately, it is a sickness I am more than willing to suffer from. Goodness, I feel sorry for people that don’t read.

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