Review: The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Title: The Way of Kings
Series: The Stormlight Archive, #1
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: August 31, 2010
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Rating: ☕☕☕☕☕ (6/5)
Content Warning: highlight to view {severe depression, suicide, war themes, violence, gore}

BLURB

I long for the days before the Last Desolation.
The age before the Heralds abandoned us and the Knights Radiant turned against us. A time when there was still magic in the world and honor in the hearts of men.
The world became ours, and we lost it. Nothing, it appears, is more challenging to the souls of men than victory itself.
Or was that victory an illusion all along? Did our enemies realize that the harder they fought, the stronger we resisted? Perhaps they saw that the heat and the hammer only make for a better grade of sword. But ignore the steel long enough, and it will eventually rust away.
There are four whom we watch. The first is the surgeon, forced to put aside healing to become a soldier in the most brutal war of our time. The second is the assassin, a murderer who weeps as he kills. The third is the liar, a young woman who wears a scholar’s mantle over the heart of a thief. The last is the highprince, a warlord whose eyes have opened to the past as his thirst for battle wanes.
The world can change. Surgebinding and Shardwielding can return; the magics of ancient days can become ours again. These four people are key.
One of them may redeem us.
And one of them will destroy us.

THOUGHTS

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

Make no mistake: The Way of Kings, the first book of The Stormlight Archive series, is slow-burn as slow-burn could get – which is understandable because the beginning of an epic needs a lot of exposition for it to work. It takes a while before you get to immerse yourself and not pull yourself back – and now? All I think about is this series.

Written in alternate POVs (sometimes, multiple POVs in a chapter) and divided into five parts (consisting of chapters, prelude, prologue, interludes, and an epilogue), The Way of Kings follows three main points of view: Kaladin, a spearman turned slave/bridgeman with an uncanny tendency to always save the people around him and is weirdly infused with luck; Shallan Davar, a young lady with a mysterious past, seeking to be a ward of the renowned heretic, Jasnah Kholin; and Dalinar Kholin , the Blackthorn, brother to the assassinated former King Gavilar – one of the most important Alethi highprinces and was formerly known as a war general but for some reason finds himself obsessing over the book that his brother was taking to heart before he dies, The Way of Kings (I know, it IS meta), as his taste for battle wanes.

Cover Art by Michael Whelan

The beginning was intriguing, yes – especially the Prologue, that fateful night when the King was assassinated. It took not later than the Prologue for me to realize that I am really in for an epic journey. With roughly 1,200+ pages (I got the mass market paperback) and 380k+ words, this stands to be one of the longest books I’ve ever read, if not THE longest. This is the first book from Brandon Sanderson that I’ve ever read,  but there is just something about his writing that is just so… accessible? This may be a case of expectation-vs-reality at work, of course, but I find the writing very easy to read, which is surprising for epic fantasy.

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon. Too often, we forget that.”

Though most of the chapters after the prologue follow a linear narrative, there are also so much history and flashbacks that made for a really believable world. The lore of this book was just downright astonishing. The culture, the characters, the magic system, the history – they were all so fully realized. I’ve always viewed writing fantasy stories as an extraordinary feat because of how many elements you need to pin down and perfect before you can craft even just a half-decent world. There’s a different kind of thrill when you read an epic fantasy of this proportion. It’s something that can’t honestly be at par with the fantasy books that I’ve read so far this year, YA and Adult fantasy alike. The world of The Stormlight Archive was done in such masterful stroke that it leaves me in awe thinking of how this was structured and plotted in Brandon Sanderson’s head.

One downside of epic fantasies is that it has so many characters and so many subplots. But if handled carefully, by a master, it turns into an upside. Brandon Sanderson, based on reading this book alone, is one such master. The effectiveness, I think, is mainly attributable to how the chapters were laid out. The non-linear storytelling and alternate POVs were utilized to great effect, multiplying the power of an already amazing and ambitious narrative. The plot twists in this book alone came in waves.  The narrative started slow, moving in a constant pulse – building and building then it accelerates to a crescendo along with the later parts of Part 4. The last 200 pages of this book alone, as some of the people I’ve talked to noted as well, were so fast-paced and stunningly-written; it won’t let you catch your breath.

Do You Know the Words? by Ari Ibarra (ArtStation)

Kaladin‘s storyline, I feel, formed the majority of the plot line in this book. It was so rewarding (and heartbreaking at places) reading about him being this hopeful battalion leader, to losing it all and turning into a wretch of a human being without any purpose… then owning his narrative once again by forcibly bringing hope to this new group of misfits that he randomly found himself in. And finally making a disciplined, loyal bunch out of them – a found family that is so hard not to love. It’s was also satisfying to read his storyline converge with Dalinar’s near the very end of the book. Dalinar‘s POV has been my favorite ever since his POV chapters started appearing in Part 2 of Kings. But the precious last moments of Part 4, his interactions with Kaladin, and him gaining his resolve and purpose once again was a thing to behold. Shallan‘s POV on the other hand had been a more mellow pace of surprise and mystery. The very nature of POVs, something that is told in the perspective of one character, means that, one way or another, what we see on page may be unreliable. And with Shallan’s matter-of-fact attitude, this fact can be hard to miss; only for us to be confronted by the very end with the truth of the lies she tells, even to herself. It was a definite bomb, and I’m curious as to the implications of such revelations to her narrative. We also have Szeth, the assassin-in-white responsible for the death of Gavilar Kholin at the beginning of Kings, whose POV chapters only appeared in Interludes but have some of the most curious plot twists in this book. Some characters that I find interesting as well are Jasnah Kholin (I spent most of Shallan’s POV chapters being in awe of Jasnah, honestly), Navani Kholin, and Wit. The epilogue ended in a way that (kind of) ties the whole book together, answering a question posed in my mind in the Prelude but also, somehow, raising hundreds more. With the way Kings ended, it’s difficult to feel anything other than excitement and having your mind blown.

The Way of Kings Characters by BotanicaXu (DeviantArt)

And so I declare this: The Way of Kings is my number 1 read for 2020, so far. The last time I felt this way, I was throwing my paperback book across the bed after I read about that infamous Chapter 51 of A Storm of Swords. A Song of Ice and Fire series (which I read in its entirety back in 2012) has always been my hallmark epic fantasy series since I read it. And after reading the beginnings of The Stormlight Archive, I feel like I’ve found a new favorite: one that could proudly stand side-by-side with ASoIaF, if not above it (I’m guessing it totally can, given that I’m already feeling this way and it’s just the freakin’ first book).

Now an apt question would be (one that I just noticed when I reread the blurb after finishing the book): who will redeem? and who will destroy?

I’m so excited to dive in and start Words of Radiance next.

RATING

I feel like a 5-star rating is not even enough.

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QUOTABLE QUOTES

“Sometimes the prize is not worth the costs. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.”

“And so, does the destination matter? Or is it the path we take? I declare that no accomplishment has substance nearly as great as the road used to achieve it. We are not creatures of destinations. It is the journey that shapes us. Our callused feet, our backs strong from carrying the weight of our travels, our eyes open with the fresh delight of experiences lived.”

“Sometimes we find it hardest to accept in others that which we cling to in ourselves.

“ah,the outdoors,” Shallan said. “I visited that mythical place once. It was so very long ago, I’ve nearly forgotten it. Tell me, does the sun still shine, or is that just my dreamy recollection’

BIG 2020 MOOD. LOL.

“That was horrible,” Shallan finally said, hand still held to her breast. “It was one of the most awful things I’ve ever experienced. You killed four men.”
“Four men who were planning to beat, rob, kill, and possibly rape us.”
“You tempted them into coming for us!”
“Did I force them to commit any crimes?”
“You showed off your gemstones.”
“Can a woman not walk with her possessions down the street of a city?”
“At night?” Shallan asked. “Through a rough area? Displaying wealth? You all but asked for what happened!”
“Does that make it right?”

Honestly? There’s still a lot. I might need to make a separate post out of it. 🙂

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Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at https://pagesandcoffeecups.com/ .

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