Friday, 8 July 2011

Review: The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson [Part One of the Stormlight Archive]

This is the first book I read by Brandon Sanderson, about whom I’d heard good things. I’ll try to avoid serious spoilers in the review, but obviously there’ll be some small ones.

The Way of Kings is a mighty tome, just edging over a thousand pages (it can be bought in two smaller paperbacks) in physical format.

After the departure from my usual fare with The Night Watch, The Way of Kings is a return to the kind of thing I typically go for. It’s set in a fictional world, has an epic feel to it, and has some interesting touches.

As is quite common, Mr. Sanderson has a number of main characters from whose perspectives the world is experienced and the story advanced. These are interrupted occasionally by short but interesting interludes from minor characters (most of them only appear once, though one is of greater importance).

The Way of Kings tells the tale of what happens after the murder of a king, Gavilar. It leads to war between his kingdom and that of the people who hired the killer, which soon settles down into a war of attrition and stalemate. The nobility bicker and plot and experience little hardship, excepting Dalinar and Adolin, the brother and nephew of the late king. Almost alone of the lighteyes (higher caste members of society) they display a sense of honour and conscience.

If a single character could be said to be the protagonist it might well be Kaladin, whose early success in war and subsequent fall into slavery is the backbone of the story. We also see flashes of his past which help flesh him out as a character. Kaladin’s a capable and intelligent chap but suffers abysmal luck and struggles between doing his best and sinking into despondency.

The world of The Way of Kings is very enjoyable to read about. Mr. Sanderon’s crafted a full-blown history, from mythology to early history through a theocratic dictatorship to the modern era. He also has an interesting approach to magic, and makes an integrated magic system that involves money, elements of history/religion and technology.

Soil is uncommon, and most of the world is stone. Plants, accordingly, have some motion with which to avoid the highstorms, tremendous storms that can recharge the spheres that are used as money. Although the majority of the story takes place on the Shattered Plains and much of it in the city-state of Kharbranth, there are brief glimpses and hints of numerous other lands, and I hope we get to see them in later instalments.

The characters are generally good and three-dimensional, Shallan (a young lady in Kharbranth) and Sadeas standing out in this regard. I found Dalinar to be a little too good. The world is well-described and the flashbacks of Kaladin’s history are well-spaced, but I think a little more pace and urgency here and there would have added to the book.

The story has a great beginning and quite a number of excellent twists at the end (some that are possibly predictable, others that are very hard to foresee). Whenever the second part of the Stormlight Archive comes out, I’ll be buying it. [Cunning research has revealed that the series is intended to be a 10-parter. Blimey].

The Way of Kings has also won the David Gemmell Legend Award.

A lengthy interview with the man himself was recently conducted on, and is available here:


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