I first became acquainted with Brandon Sanderson when he was drafted to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I had read all of the books and was disappointed when Robert Jordan died before completing the series. Enter Brandon Sanderson and the last three amazing books of the Wheel of Times Series. I’d slogged through all the previous books, enjoying the story but deploring how long it kept going, like an Energizer bunny. Brandon Sanderson sped up the pace while staying true to the story and just in general proving to be a great writer. Amazing. Style wise, the last three were my favorites.
Because I enjoyed Sanderson’s Wheel of Time work so much I began to look for books with his original ideas. If he can make someone else’s work better, what would he do with his own? I found The Way of Kings (Book One of the Stormlight Archive) ages ago at the library, but never checked it out because of its length. Its 1001 pages didn’t intimidate me; I was more worried about being sucked in and being unable to surface for several days. It’s hard to be a wife and mother if your nose is stuck in a book all the time. When my husband left for a week trip I knew the time was right to finally check it out.
My timing was impeccable. The second book just came out in the last few weeks. I managed to read it and still be a mother in the three days it took me. Word of warning, it really does have 1001 pages, and the print is very small. It will take time to read it. But take the time. When I wrote this review it was discounted to $2.99 for the Kindle version.
I am not a huge fan of fantasy in general. I have read some, but people who live for it would probably think I am woefully under-read. I haven’t read most of the authors out there. In fact I would not have read The Wheel of Time series if I hadn’t been introduced by my boyfriend and his roommate my first year at the University of Oklahoma. With this in mind, you may take me next statement with a grain of salt.
Roshar, the world that Sanderson has created in The Way of Kings, is different from any other fantasy that I have read. It is harsh and stony with crustacean creatures that are quite terrifying in their ability to destroy. It is so inhospitable that the plants have all adapted, with the ability to draw within themselves at the approach of people or storms. The animals have done the same thing. The weather patterns are erratic, and seasons are only weeks long. And always there is the threat of horrific storms that destroy life, but also provide for it. It is so inhospitable that cities and homes are build inward and downward instead of on the surface of the ground.
Like other series I have read there are a variety of intelligent races, although I’m not entirely sure they are all humanoid. There are people who can wield special powers, with or without devices. Society is similar to medieval times with kings, knights, workers, slaves, etc. It wouldn’t be complete if there weren’t some kind of special weapons involved.
Unlike any other fantasy series I have read this book contains quite a bit of art, from digital designs to hand drawn samples of some of the creatures found in Roshar. These are amazingly detailed and are beautifully drawn. The art drew me in and kept me there as it popped up in unexpected places.
I’m not even going to touch the plot since there are 1001 pages of it. It took me about a third of the book to comfortable in the setting and different people and their values. That is half the battle for me with fantasy series that have fundamental changes in their world structure. Speaking of battles, the story is centered around a war.
My favorite character is named Kaladin. He trained as a doctor and surgeon before becoming a soldier. How he becomes a slave is a mystery that I had to know the answer to. Throughout the book he faces challenge after challenge. Sometimes he fails, but something keeps him going, until he becomes a hero. Of all the characters, and there is a good handful to choose from, he called the most emotional response. He, in contrast to the supposed leaders of the world, is a true example of effective leadership.
I read somewhere that this book was a masterful lesson in leadership. Several different methods of leading were explored in the story, with varying degrees of success. There are the one or two who lead by example and really care about their men. There are a few who spend their time conniving and plotting for advantage while their men die. I suspect most readers will respond better to the ones who show true leadership qualities.
Sanderson also offers an examination of lives lived with honor versus lives lived for the moment and pleasure. I don’t know if this was conscious decision on his part, but there is quite a contrast between the two. The struggle of two characters in choosing between the two opposites is quite compelling. One can’t help but hope that they choose the better part.
And women, don’t despair with the idea that is is only a man’s world. There are three strong capable women center to the plot. I enjoyed their characters and strength and wisdom they represent. Women are the ones in this book with all the learning and knowledge. Men depend on them for all sorts of details, like bookkeeping, reading, letter writing, etc. A nice turn around from women being the ignorant ones.
One word of advice, when you finish the book, go back and read the prelude over. It explained my question at the end of the novel.
I really enjoyed this book. In fact I have already ordered the second one from Amazon and am impatiently waiting for it to come. I don’t think I will be able to wait for an opportune time to read it…