Friday, August 22, 2014

5 Star Review - The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Title:  The Way of Kings
Series: The Stormlight Archive #1
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Release Date: 2010
Pages: 1007
Goodreads Rating: 4.6/5 Stars
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
My Content Rating: PG-13 (Some violence and small references to sex)

Summary from Goodreads: 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.

I am ashamed to admit that this was my first Sanderson novel (unless you count the final books of the Wheel of Time series, which I don't).  It definitely will not be my last.  This book is HUGE at over 1000 pages, but it's definitely worth it - plus I got a workout just holding it!  Thanks so much to Kritika over at Snowflakes & Spider Silk for organizing a read-a-thon because I don't know when I would have braved this book if I was on my own and I would have been completely missing out!

There is so much to this book that I don't even know how to begin summarizing it - so I'm just going to leave it to the synopsis to do that.  Suffice it to say that there is a lot going on and that it's all fascinating!

  • The worldbuilding.  Sanderson is a master - he has created a complex society with its own unique rules, norms and peoples. I especially loved how Sanderson attacked gender roles and turned them upside down in some ways while keeping them familiar in others. His society also had its own set of racial prejudices that were explored (and often debunked), which I loved. Then there was the rich history and mythology of this world, which was all woven into the story so expertly - I never felt overwhelmed or overly confused (even though there were definitely some mysteries that unfolded throughout the book).
  • The magical elements.  This goes along with the worldbuilding, but I thought it deserved it's own category. Like any good fantasy, there was lots of magic in the world that Sanderson created. Little sprite like creatures called spren that gathered whenever there was an abundance of a specific emotion or element (one of whom becomes an important character in the book), suits of armor that give the wearer incredible strength and speed, swords that slice through any substance as though it were butter (except flesh - which it doesn't cut, but "deadens" instead), soulcasters that can transform objects into almost anything, magical storms that kill but can also be used for power ... I could go on and on. There were so many fascinating details that I couldn't begin to name them all!
  • The characters.  I fell in love with nearly all of the characters in this book. I was drawn in by the fact that they were all flawed in some way, but they each struggled to make their way in a world that strove to destroy them. There were quite a few characters that we got to know well. Shallan, who struggled between rescuing her family from destitution and holding on to her own dreams and to her sense of right and wrong. Dalinar, who strove to bring honor and unity to his kingdom, but struggled constantly with the fear that he was losing his mind. Kaladin was definitely my favorite character - I loved how he slowly regained his faith in humanity after it had been nearly obliterated. His journey and growth was probably greatest, and I loved every minute of it!
  • The ending.  Sanderson threw in quite a few huge revelations at the end of the book and I am excited to see where they lead!
The negatives:
  • The interludes.  I have to admit that I get antsy when a book moves away from the main characters and tells us a side story from a new perspective and this book was no exception. There were a few short interludes that took us away from the main action and I found myself a bit bored and ready to get back to the meat of the story (with the exception of Szeth's interludes).  This happens to me often in fantasy novels - I chalk it up to my short attention span - but at least Sanderson's interludes were short!  :-)
    I can definitely see how Sanderson has earned his place as one of the greatest fantasy writers of all time.  There is no doubt in my mind that I will be reading more of his books. I give The Way of Kings 5/5 stars.

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