Friday, March 7, 2014

Review: The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
The Stormlight Archive #1
Published April 31, 2010 by Tor Books

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 soiless 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.
The Way of Kings is a gorgeously imagined, truly epic high-fantasy story unlike any other I have ever read before.  The sheer scope of the plot, characters and mythology introduced in the beast of a book - my paperback edition tips the scale at 1258 pages (which makes it the longest book I have ever read!) - are put together in a way that only Brandon Sanderson could achieve.  I was mesmerized from the first chapters by this new world, truly unique magical system  and engaging, complex characters and believe me when I tell you that my feelings for this book only amplified as I made my way through it's (many) pages...

In case it wasn't already clear: this review is going to be filled with gushing.  I will try my best to reign it in though, I promise.  So, as much as I adored it, I can see it scaring off some people; and not just because of it's size.  The Way of Kings features an elaborate world, brought to life in great detail.  There's war strategy, a complex and exciting magical system, unique currency, tons of different races and cultures...not to mention the ominous hints of a terrible past long forgotten.  It's not a light or quick read, but it's probably one of the most all-consuming reads I've stories I've ever read.  It never, ever felt slow, there are no info-dumps or lulls in the story.  The details came perfectly spread out, there was always enough plot or character development to keep the pace going.  To be honest reading this really flew by because the story was perfectly orchestrated from start to finish.

Told in alternating POV's, The Way of Kings focuses on four main characters with a few expertly chosen exceptions.  This is one of those cases where alternating between characters was necessary to the plot and honestly, the story just couldn't have worked otherwise.  The characters in question were all part of the greater story arc but not necessarily in the same area when the story kicks off.  Truth be told, I adored getting to know every single main and secondary character Sanderson threw at us.  I certainly had favorites among them: Kaladin, the surgeons forced to become a soldier and Dalinar, a high prince with a strong connection to the past. Kaladin especially is the kind of protagonist I tend to all-out obsess over.  Like: if he was real, I'd the first to rally behind him.  Or stalk him, whatever works. Nonetheless the other character's held my attention just as much and each and every one holds a special place in my heart.

Plot wise, I have no complaints either.  The big picture was obviously vague in the first parts there, since we still didn't know all that much about the world or characters in question but the intrigue was high and so were the stakes. The whole thing just grabs your attention from the start and does.NOT.let.go. It helps that there's a steady stream of action with plenty of jaw-dropping twists that were sure to turn around in my head for days and days after I'd read them.   Putting the elements of this story together was a truly satisfying experience, every single layer revealed new twists and new questions that needed to be answered.  At about the mid-way point, a lot of seemingly separate elements begin trying into one another in a way that truly blew me away.  It's so exciting to read something just so freaking good!

It's impossible to read an epic fantasy like this without talking about the action: the fight scenes, the battles, the full blown wars and the tactics and plotting in between.  And like the author's other epic series Mistborn, the action in The Way of Kings was absolutely breathtaking.  One of the aspect of the special powers a few of the characters have here involves the most epic fighting skills ever.  And I don't know how he does it, but Mr. Sanderson has a way of unravelling a fight scene in your mind; just like watching a movie with the most amazing moves ever. I'm not talking special effects and explosions here.  I'm talking about mind-bendingly well choreographed martial-arts style stuff that defies gravity and leaves you picking your jaw up off the floor.

I realize I've dissolved into a gushing fangirl right now, so I'll wind it down.  Suffice it to say I was blown away by the utter magnitude of  both the story and the world brought to life in The Way of Kings.  This wasn't just just a new world but it was filled with new races of people, new religions and beliefs.  It was filled with a new ecosystem, new weather, a new energy system (Stormlight!!) and new foods!  We're talking truly EPIC world-building, character evolution and plot development.  I'd highly recommend this one to any and all high-fantasy readers.

Did I mention: Epic? ;-)
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

16 comments:

  1. I have been dying to read Brandon Sanderson's books!! I just recently went out and bought the Mistborn series, which I'm super excited to start reading and now that I've read your review on The Way of Kings, I'M SOLD!!!
    Book Hangovers Blabs Books

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    1. Awesome! I hope you ADORE the Mistborn books just as much as I did and YAY for picking up The Way of Kings too!! Haha, happy reading & thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Big yes to this entire review!! But especially this, re: Kaladin: "if he was real, I'd the first to rally behind him. Or stalk him, whatever works." TRUTH!! XD

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    1. Woot! Thanks Nikki and YES we have to start a Kaladin Fanclub...or something XD

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  3. Great review! I LOVE the fight scenes that Sanderson writes, they are just so freaking amazing. When you read Words of Radiance, that show down with Kaladin and Szeth was downright mindblowing!

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    1. Thanks Nyx! Agreed: he writes some of the best fight scenes I've ever even heard about XD aaahhh omg I want WoR NOW! O.O

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  4. The size of this book o.O I don't shy away from big books, but this is HUGE. The world-building sounds amazing! That's one of the things I always love about fantasy books and it seems like he knows how to write it. Plot development, character evolution: this story seems to have it all! I'm very interested to read something from him, but I might go ahead and try something shorter first, haha.

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    1. Right? haha, I actually owned my copy for a good year before joining a read-along for it in January XD It was totally worth it though, the world-building, plot and character development blew me away! I hope you read this one eventually and that you manage check out Sanderson's other works in some way soon :) xx

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  5. This sounds so AMAZING, and I'm so glad you loved it, Micheline! 1200+ pages is so intimidating to me right now; at my current reading rate, it'd probably take me a year to get through this, lol. I know how much you love Sanderson, and I loved your fangirling! :D

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    1. haha it definitely was intimidating for me as well - I think I'd owned my copy for over a year before I joined our read-along in January. And I literally read nothing else until I finished a few days ago D: But it was totally worth it, I don't think I've ever read anything like it!! It truly was AMAZING though, thanks Lee :D

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  6. Heh, no need to reign in the gushing! I love plenty of gush in reviews :) It only occurs to me now that Brandon Sanderson should have made my list of Top Ten Popular Authors I've Never Read last week - forgot to include him! It's unbelievable how prolific he is and how totally involved and epic all of his stories sound. I have to say that a 1,200+ page book definitely has me quaking, but all the rest of it sounds just SUPERB. I MUST see what all the raving is all about because I totally trust your judgement here. Hopefully I can get to one of his books before the year is up. I think I'll start with Mistborn! Absolutely fantastic review, girl! Perfect amounts of gush.

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    1. LOL ok good, I felt like I was kind of going a bit overboard...but I couldn't help it XD Yeah, his stories are definitely all epic and involved but I can totally understand how 1200+ pages could give you pause. Plus he used to only write adult fantasy and I know you usually stick to ya/kids fantasy. Mistborn is the one I started out with and I think it would be the perfect start for you too: it's adult but it could work as a YA fantasy too - just with deeper characters, plot and world-building! I might just have to send a copy your way if you haven'T managed to get a hold of it before the year's out ;-) Thanks for the awesome comment girl ♥

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  7. Great review! I can see why Brandon Sanderson is keen on this series being his opus (so I've read somewhere--but that was a very old article so I'm not sure now), it really combines all of his strengths as a writer and his superb imagination. You really feel the complexity of his worldbuilding skills here (as we've mentioned previously). How he keeps track of everything, I don't know!

    I really enjoyed reading your responses during the readalong. Hope you enjoy the second novel when you get your hands on it :)

    - Lianne @ caffeinatedlife.net

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    1. Thanks so much Lianne, I adored reading all of your responses throughout the readalong too ♥

      And yes I can totally see this series being Sanderson's opus - it has the perfect mix of all the things he excels at as a writter. I can NOT wait to get my hands on WoR :D

      Thanks for wonderful comment xx

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  8. Brandon was in Seattle a couple of weeks ago and I took my daughter up to meet him. She practically needed a massage after lugging her books in line! What a great guy though, so nice. He said something that I loved too...basically, he writes 75% of the book, if that, the rest doesn't come alive until the reader opens the book and fills it in with their imagination.

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    1. Yes, I remember your daughter being as obsessed with him as I am haha! I'm so thrilled she got to meet him - and get all her best books signed :D Oh and I love what he said to you guys there ♥ I agree though, he was so cool and nice when I got to meet him last year!!

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